“Our aim is growth in the Church”

Preparations Continue For Assembly 2018

Deacon Dennis Prestash believes the mission for the Byzantine Catholic Church in the 21st Century is clear. “Our aim is growth in the church,” he said. How this growth and vitality is achieved will be the focus of “2018 Assembly of the Clergy, Religious and Faithful of Our Byzantine Churches,” which is set for Sept. 16 to 18, 2018 at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Munhall, Pa.

It will be attended by priests, deacons and faithful of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh. At a Feb. 23 committee meeting to plan Assembly 2018, Deacon Dennis said its purpose is to ensure growth, vitality and longevity by examining the themes of diversity, education and social activities.

Parameters of the Assembly are still being worked on by the committee, which includes lay persons from various parishes: Emily Frye, Sue Snyder, Marjorie and Michelle Glaid, Cathy Crawford, Tom Prestash and Joan Walker. Each parish is expected to send two representatives, a man and woman, to the Assembly.

Deacon Dennis is a member of the Archeparchy’s Commission for Renewal and Revitalization, which was established
by Metropolitan Judson Procyk in 2002. Metropolitan Archbishop William Skurla, who chairs the Commission, directed it to organize the Assembly for the 75 parishes in the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh. Very Rev. Andrew Deskevich, Archpriest Dennis Bogda, Very Reverend Ronald Larko, Helen Kennedy, Deacon Dennis Prestash and Deacon Raymond Zadzilko serve as members.

In June 2004, Archbishop Basil Schott reached out to parishioners of the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Archeparchy of Pittsburgh asking them to complete a five-page Revitalization Survey asking about various aspects of parish life and soliciting their concerns and suggestions. The survey disclosed a Church population of almost one-half above the age of 70. Over the years since this survey was conducted, the population has continued to decline.

The current Commission reviewed the 2004 Revitalization Survey; the results of the Parish Census and Financial Reports Analysis of October 2011; the results of a Questionnaire for the Synod of October 2015; and comments from the Pittsburgh Archeparchy returned with the Questionnaire. Upon review of all of the data from 2004 to 2015, the Commission identified six topics that could be addressed at the Assembly.

Following many brainstorming sessions, it was decided Assembly 2018 would be titled “Concern for Our Future” with the theme of “Renew, Revitalize and Rejuvenate for the Future.” Deacon Dennis said surveys over the past 15 years asked families about their greatest fears for the future of the Church and what the Church will look like for future generations.

Among the topics to be addressed include: technology and social media; social activities; mixed marriages and diversity; education for children, adults and new parishioners; and formalized outreach to members who have left the church. These include:

  • Create a plan to raise awareness of Eastern Theology within the Church as a whole
  • Create ongoing education programs for all children and adults, that is life-long learning.
  • Establish social activities for opportunities to come together as a Church family
  • Develop formal methods to find new parishioners as well as bringing former parishioners back, including diversity of new members
  • Develop formal orientation and welcome programs for new parishioners.
  • Make use of technology to reach out to parish members and the community such as: parish Web pages, electronic bulletins, activities and events, and an explanation of the Byzantine Church. During a Clergy Days session at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in May 2017, priests and deacons were asked to offer feedback on these themes and how to build and add to the ideas. “Diversity has to be part of our church if we’re going to survive,” Deacon Dennis said.