Glory to Jesus Christ!
To the Faithful of the Archeparchy,
For some time now, we have been hearing about the “vocations crisis” in the universal Catholic Church, especially here in the United States. The Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh knows this reality all too well. We are experiencing an unprecedented decrease in the number of men and women entering the seminary and monasteries to serve as priests, deacons and religious sisters and brothers.
Our monastic communities of sisters and brothers are nobly struggling to continue their vital ministries in education, healthcare and social work so that they may serve God by serving others. Our priests are remaining in parish ministries far beyond normal retirement age. Additionally, about one-third of our priests now serve two or even three parishes. We all realize the urgency facing us in 2005; however, consider how dire this situation will become ten, fifteen, or twenty years from now if we continue to neglect our collective responsibility. Without vocations, our church cannot survive.
In response to this critical need, I have appointed a Vocations Committee with whom I have been working over the past year. This dedicated group of twelve men and women – clergy, religious, and laity – has crafted and proposed “Chosen from Among the People: A Five-Year Strategic Plan for Vocations.” The plan’s mission is “to invite and assist men and women in discerning their call to discipleship in the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh as priests, religious women, monastics and deacons.”
The central focus of this diligent effort is to create and distribute information about vocations in the Byzantine Catholic Church while increasing overall awareness of the timeless need and importance of vocations in service to God and His people. Over the next five years, we will build and expand on programs currently in place in our Archeparchy as well as embark upon new vocations initiatives.
Essential to the plan is a wide range of multimedia materials and activities, with an emphasis on inviting youth and young adults to consider a life of discipleship, a life of service, a life of leading others in faith. A strong Internet presence is envisioned with the planned addition of an interactive vocations page to the Archeparchy’s official web site. Distribution of print materials will extend throughout and beyond the ranks of our Church membership, seeking also to invite others to follow Christ and experience His love through our beautiful and unique Eastern Catholic spirituality.
We will also continue a formal prayer program that has the potential to touch every home in the Archeparchy. Since September 2004, the “Pilgrim Vocation Icon” has been handed from family to family in parishes across the Archeparchy. By continuing to encourage prayer for vocations at the family level, it is hoped that this experience will in turn strengthen the parish community’s resolve to encourage vocations and inspire actions that will positively influence those who are considering such a call.
We know that a call to a vocation is a gift from God. However, one who hears that call also needs to hear the encouraging words and feel the welcoming arms of the church – that is you, the faithful, the people of God – if indeed he or she is to be inspired and confident to answer. For this reason, your full and unconditional support of “Chosen from Among the People” is vital. Nurturing vocations is not solely the work of a committee; it is the responsibility of the entire Church. We must all work together to invite and support those who will lead our Church into the future.
Realizing, valuing and affirming the accomplishments and service of those who have already chosen to answer the call is an integral part of keeping our Church strong as we invite others to say “yes” to the Lord. I therefore ask you to begin your commitment to our vocation effort by taking a moment to pause and reflect. Think about the clergy and religious who have influenced your life. Think about the priests who absolved you from your sins, gave you the precious Body and Blood of Our Lord, showed concern and gave you counsel during the difficult times in your life. Think about the deacons, sisters and brothers who taught you, encouraged you, or ministered to you in some way.
Now think about who will be there to minister to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
On August 6, 2005, the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, our Archeparchy formally initiates “Chosen from Among the People: A Five-Year Strategic Plan for Vocations.” As we work together, and with God’s help, may we create an even stronger bond in our Byzantine Catholic Church, a precious gift which we have shared for generations. Our fervent efforts to work together towards the goal of increasing vocations in our time will likewise enable us to pass this gift on to those who will continue the Lord’s work into the future.
Assuring you of a special remembrance in my prayers and bestowing my blessing, I remain
In the name of the Lord!
Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh