Bishop Richard Stephen of the St. Nicholas Eparchy      Patriarch Sviatoslav of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church      Bishop Kevin Vann of the Fort Worth Diocese      Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Dallas Diocese      Benedict XVI, Pope of Rome
September 4th, 2018

Bishop’s Special Appeal

Steier Study GraphicBishop Benedict is launching a fundraising planning study in cooperation with the Stewardship Committee and their consultants, the Steier Group. The study will help the
eparchy test the case for Bishop Benedict’s Special Appeal and gather information necessary to conduct a successful campaign.

The campaign seeks funding for the following goals:

  • restoring our Cathedral by addressing structural issues and repair water- damaged ceilings and walls;
  • strengthening our parishes and missions by allowing them to address their individual issues and needs;
  • supporting seminarian and diaconate formation and ongoing education of clergy;
  • growing the Eparchial Share program, which supports Eparchial administration and operations and develops our ministries such as religious education programs for children, teens and adults;
  • developing an endowment to sustain the long-term viability of our churches and our Eparchy.

Parishioners received an email link to a quick survey. Please fill it out. The Steier Group is also conducting phone calls with similar questions. You can learn more about these needs in the Steier Study fact sheet by reading the attached Steier Study Graphical Fact Sheet.

August 30th, 2018

Bishop responds to “Scandalous and Unacceptable Situation”

AleksiychukAugust 24, 2018

Glory Be to Jesus Christ!

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last year having started my episcopal ministry in the United States I encountered a new culture and religious situation, in particular relating to the Catholic Church in the United States. There are many new challenges and problems. Recently I learned about the scandalous and unacceptable situation about which I, as well as all of you, are equally very upset and outraged. I have in mind the information of recent weeks about the sexual scandals committed by the clergy.Even one instance of sexual abuse is inadmissible, and we have learned from reliable sources of allegations in isolated cases more than once. It seems that thereis a deep and systemic problem with sexuality among those who promised to live a chaste life. Likewise, it is a great evil to conceal scandalous situations, which wound thousands of innocent souls. The same as you, I am experiencing moments when I’m completely shocked by the thought of the prevalent nature of this problem.

The question is: how do we deal with this scandal? My advice can be found in the Gospel pages when St. Peter walked on the water towards Jesus, he was safe as long as he kept his gaze on the Lord and trusted Him completely. As soon as he turned his attention away from the Lord and looked upon the threatening wind and waves, he began to sink in the dark and turbulent waters. This is the answer for us in this time of darkness. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, not on all of this evil that threatens us and the Church at large.

I want to assure you that our Eparchy takes any substantiated accusations of abuse by clergy most seriously. For this reason, we have invested a great amount of energy into an effective Safe Environment Program. If you have been the victim of any past or present abuse by a member of the clergy of whatever rank, please report this to the civil authorities and notify the Eparchial Office for Safe Environment. In such cases there can be no talk of any cover up, nor can any abhorrent behavior be tolerated. We can also expect various enemies of the Church to create false claims and fill the headlines with reports aimed at destroying the Church. At the same time, I want to assure our faithful that the innocent will be vigorously protected immediately to the full extent of our power.

During this time of darkness, we need to walk the path of light and we will find this path through prayer and fasting. Please utilize all the prescribed times of abstinence: Wednesdays and Fridays, the four fast periods of our liturgical year, and other prescribed days of abstinence. Prayer and fasting is our weapon against the Evil One; and make no mistake about it, the Evil One has infiltrated the Church, hoping to undermine the Church from within. Let us remember that our Risen Lord is infinitely more powerful and through prayer and fasting we permit the Lord to empower us, protect us, and render us ready to do battle with Satan and his forces. Christ is Risen, and He has defeated all the powers of Hell. We shall stand firm in our Lord Jesus Christ, and through Him, together with His Eternal Father and His All-Holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit, to Whom be glory now and forever and ever.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you

MOST REVEREND BENEDICT (ALEKSIYCHUK)
Bishop of St. Nicholas Eparchy


Venedykt Aleksiychuk24 серпня, 2018 р. Б.

Слава Ісусу Христу!

Дорогі Браття і Сестри,

розпочавши минулого року своє єпископське служіння на теренах Сполучених Штатів Америки, зустрівся із новою культурою та релігійною ситуацією, зокрема щодо Католицької Церкви в цій країні. Багато є нових викликів та проблем. Останнім часом довідався про скандальну та неприйнятну ситуацію, яка мене, як і Вас усіх, дуже засмутила та обурила. Маю на увазі інформацію останніх тижнів про сексуальні скандали скоєні духовенством. Навіть один випадок сексуальної непристойності недопустимий, а ми довідуємось про достовірні докази про більше ніж окремі випадки. Виглядає, що існує глибока й системна проблема з сексуальністю серед тих, які повинні були жити в чистоті. Рівно ж є великим злом приховування скандальних ситуацій, які глибоко ранять тисячі невинних душ. Так як і Ви, я переживаю моменти, коли цілковито приголомшений думкою про те, якою поширеною являється ця проблема.

Стоїть питання: як нам дати собі раду з цим згіршенням? Моя порада знаходиться на сторінках Євангелія – коли св. Петро ішов по воді до Ісуса, він лишався в безпеці так довго, як він вдивлявся в Ісуса й вповні Йому довіряв. Як тільки Петро відвернув увагу, поглянув на вітер і хвилі, то почав потопати в темній і розбурханій воді. Це – відповідь для нас у цей час темряви. Вдивляймося в Ісуса, а не у це все зло, яке загрожує нам і всій Церкві.

Хочу запевнити Вас, що наша Єпархія дуже серйозно трактує будь-які обґрунтовані звинувачення щодо надужиття членами духовенства. Саме тому, ми доклали великих зусиль щодо ефективної Програми Безпечного Довкілля. Якщо Ви стали жертвою будь-якого сексуального надужиття, в минулому або теперішньому, заподіяного членом духовенства будь-якого рангу, прошу це повідомити державним органам влади, а також поінформувати Єпархіальний Відділ Безпечного Довкілля. В таких випадках не може бути жодної мови про якесь приховування чи прикриття. Не можна толерувати таку мерзотну поведінку. Також можемо очікувати, що вороги Церкви старатимуться наповнити пресу заявами, спрямованими на знищення Церкви та її авторитету. Водночас, запевняємо вірних єпархії, що у випадку звинувачень справи будуть розглядатись негайно і невинним буде надано захист в міру наших сил.

В цей час темряви необхідно іти дорогою світла, а цю дорогу знайдемо через молитву та піст. Прошу Вас використовувати всі приписані пости: середи та п’ятниці, чотири посні періоди нашого літургічного року, та інші приписані дні повздержливості. Піст та молитва – це наша зброя проти лукавого. Нехай ніхто не сумнівається, лукавий просочився в ряди Церкви, хотячи її підірвати з середини. Та пам’ятаймо, що наш Воскреслий Господь є безмежно могутніший, а через молитву й піст, ми дозволяємо, щоб сила Господня увійшла в нас, охороняла нас і озброїла нас на боротьбу зі сатаною і його посіпаками. Христос воскрес і всі сили пекла він розорив. Ми встоїмося у Господі Ісусі Христі та через нього, разом з безначальним Його Отцем, і Всесвятим, Благим і Животворящим Духом, яким належить слава на віки віків.

Благословення Господнє на Вас!

ВЕНЕДИКТ

Єпископ єпархії св. Миколая

Download the bishop’s statement in an English PDF
Download the bishop’s statement in a Ukrainian PDF

April 20th, 2017

Welcome Bp. Venedykt!

Venedykt AleksiychukHis Excellency Msgr. Venedykt (Valery) Aleksiychuk, M.S.U. has been appointed as the Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Nicholas of Chicago for Ukrainians.

Active in children’s and youth ministry, monastic spirituality and reform, liturgy, psychology and spirituality, His Excellency has a breadth of experience spanning parochial, consultative, administrative, and monastic leadership. He is sure to be a blessing to our eparchy and to our nation.

У четвер, 20 квітня 2017 року, у Ватикані повідомлено про те, що Папа Франциск поблагословив рішення Синоду Єпископів УГКЦ про призначення дотеперішнього Єпископа-помічника Львівської архиєпархії владику Венедикта (Алексійчука) Правлячим єпископом єпархії Святого Миколая УГКЦ з осідком у Чикаґо, США, перенісши його з титулярного осідку Германіціяни.


Born on 16 January 1968 in the village of Borshchivka in the region of Rivne, Ukraine, the bishop began his post-secondary studies at the Rivne Medical College, completing his degree in 1987 as a Physician’s Assistant. After graduation, he worked as an Emergency Medical Technician at the ambulance station in Kostopil. From 1987 to 1989, he served in the military. Afterwards, he worked as a Physician’s Assistant, initially at a city clinic and later at a sanatorium in the city of Truskavets.

After attending the major seminary of Drohobych from 1990-1993, he was ordained a deacon by His Beatitude Phylymon (Kurchaba) on October 9, 1991 and a priest by His Beatitude Myroslav-Ivan (Lyubachivskyi) on 29 March 1992. A year later, on 13 May 1993, he joined the Univ Holy Dormition Lavra of the Studite Order–the only lavra (monastic hermitage) of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. He accepted tonsure on 13 October 1993 and received the little schema on 31 December 1995.

In 1996, he completed a Masters of Theology degree at Lublin Catholic University with a thesis on the topic of “Christian spirituality according to St. John of Kronstadt.” Later that year, he was transferred to St. Catharine’s in Canada with the aim of founding a monastery there. At the time, he also served at the parishes of Grimsby and Beamsville for the Toronto Eparchy of the UGCC. He returned to Ukraine in April 1999 after being elected hegumen of the Univ Holy Dormition Lavra. In May 2000, he was re-elected hegumen and he was then elected for a third term in May 2005.

He went on to continue his theological studies at Lublin Catholic University with a licentiate degree in 2006 and a 2008 Doctorate of Philosophy with a thesis on “The Superior as a Spiritual Father: Investigation in the light of the works of Saint Theodore the Studite.”

Picking up the thread of his work as a Physician’s Assistant, he focused his studies on psychology from 2008-2012, completing a course of Practical Psychology at the European School of Correspondential Education (Kharkiv), Propaedeutics of Mental Disorders with the Ukrainian Community of Psychiatrists, and Pedagogy and Psychology at the Ignatianum Academy in Krakow, Poland.

All this was accomplished while he:

  • was an assistant priest at Holy Trinity Church in Drohobych,
  • was responsible for children’s ministry within the Drohobych deanery,
  • worked for the Patriarchal Catechetical Commission where he was responsible for the organization of mission work in Eastern Ukraine,
  • was a member of the Patriarchal Commission of Monasticism,
  • was the administrator of St. Nicholas parish in Peremyshlyany,
  • worked on the renewal of monastic life and the restoration of the Monastery of Borys and Hlib in Polotsk (Belarus) while simultaneously serving at the parishes in Polotsk, Vitebsk, Gomel, Mogilev, and Brest (Belarusian Greek Catholic Church),
  • was the spiritual father of the Christian Youth Community in Minsk,
  • was the head of the Secretariat of the UGCC Council of Monasticism,
  • was the head of the UGCC liturgical council on preparing texts of divine services,
  • was the head of the Council of Higher Superiors of Monasteries of the UGCC,
  • was a member of the Secretariat of the Patriarchal Sobor,
  • was the head of staff of the Lviv Archeparchy Curia,
  • was the head of the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission of the UGCC,
  • was the chair of the Synodal Committee on Liturgical Issues,
  • and wrote four books: A Superior as A Spiritual Father, Spiritual Instructions, Be Saints, and Borshchivka – A Pearl of Polesia.

His episcopal ordination was held on 5 September 2010 at St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv with Archbishop Ihor (Voznyak), the Metropolitan of Lviv, as the main consecrator and Bishop Yulian (Voronovskyi) of Sambir-Drohobych and Bishop Pavlo (Chomytskyi) of Stamford as the co-consecrators. On 3 August 2010, His Beatitude Lyubomyr (Husar), Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Galicia, by general consent of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC, appointed hieromonk Venedykt (Aleksiychuk) the bishop-auxiliary of Lviv Archeparchy with a titular see in Germaniciana.

From 2014-2016, the bishop studied in the Key Executive MBA Program at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv and obtained a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. During this time, he also published two books (Reflections on the Liturgical Reading of the Gospel and Reflections on the Liturgical Reading of the Apostles), was awarded the Cross of Military Chaplain, and named a senator of the Ukrainian Catholic University.

On 20 April 2017, the synod of bishops’ election was confirmed by Pope Francis, appointing him Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Nicholas of Chicago of the Ukrainians in the United States of America. We welcome him warmly to the eparchy!

Довідка про єпархію. Єпархія святого Миколая в Чикаґо входить до Філадельфійської митрополії та є її найбільшою частиною з огляду на територію, охоплюючи території північних, центральних та західних штатів країни. Вона була заснована 1961 року та згідно з даними «Annuario Pontificio 2017», станом на минулий рік нараховувала приблизно 50 парафій, надаючи духовну опіку понад 10 тисячам вірних. Цей осідок став вакантним 16 серпня 2016 року після відходу до вічності четвертого Єпарха Чиказького владики Річарда (Семінака).

December 23rd, 2016

Excerpts: Encyclical on Danger of Gender Ideology

Read the full Encyclical on the Danger of Gender Ideology

Prot. N. ВА 16/562 ENG.

ENCYCLICAL
OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
OF THE MAJOR ARCHBISHOPRIC OF KYIV-HALYCH
OF THE UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC CHURCH
CONCERNING THE DANGER OF GENDER IDEOLOGY

Dearly Beloved in Christ!

Introduction

1. In the twentieth century, the people of Ukraine suffered from a godless Soviet regime that attempted to forcefully tear people from the roots of faith and impose an atheistic worldview. Presented as the only “scientific” one, this worldview denied human persons’ freedom of conscience and deprived them of the right to freely profess their religious beliefs. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the world stands before similar challenges, which, however, are not accompanied by open and bloody persecution, but rather are served by hidden ideological means of destroying Christian faith and morality, as well as universal human values. Some of these challenges relate to areas of human sexuality and family life, and are not new to Ukraine; rather, they are accented or presented in public consciousness in a new manner. Others are entirely new and even far removed from the Ukrainian context, but certain forces are attempting to artificially impose them upon us.

3. Under these circumstances, the Church-Mother seeks by means of this Encyclical to warn the faithful and all people of good will of the threats that are hidden behind gender ideology and similar worldview systems, and recall the traditional biblical, Christian, and universal values upon which interpersonal relationships and the way of organizing social life are based.

Creation of Eve

I. Human Dignity in God’s Plan

4. The whole history of salvation attests to the incredible love of God for the human person. From the very first pages of Holy Scripture we learn about the extraordinary greatness of the human person. While everything else arose from only one word of God, Church tradition speaks of a Divine “meeting” that preceded the creation of the human person: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’” (Gen. 1:26). Particular attention should be given to the phrase “in our image, after our likeness.” This is the basis of the concept of human dignity, which in the New Testament is emphasized in the Incarnation of the Son of God in human nature. The image of God is integral to the natural dignity and spiritual beauty of every human person, from the moment of conception until natural death. This is a common feature of all people that reflects their equal and infinite value.

6. Sexuality, as a gift to be man or woman (cf. Gen. 1:27) given by God during creation, integrally covers all the natural dimensions of existence of the human person: body, soul, and spirit. A person is called to accept God’s plan for themselves as expressed in their sex—because sex does not depend on human choice—and to embody it in their lives. Sexuality can only be comprehended in light of the Christian understanding of love as a vocation to the communion of persons and the self-giving of one person to another. “In marital life, a man and a woman open themselves to God through mutual love, which becomes the foundation of their indissoluble union, fidelity, and fruitfulness. In the virginal state of consecrated life, sexuality is transfigured in the Holy Spirit in order to serve God and one’s neighbour in love for the sake of the heavenly kingdom (cf. Matt. 19:12). Any selfish exploitation of another person as a means for obtaining sexual pleasure contradicts God’s gift of love, deforms the essence of sexuality, and deeply wounds the person.”[1]

9. One of the features inherent in God’s image in the human person is free will, by which it can freely choose the good; however, it is also able to choose another way: “The most profound dimension of human freedom consists in being able to freely choose God and to be with him. This is the good. Yet with this same freedom, we can also reject our relationship with God—and this is evil.”[2] “The devil in Paradise lured Adam with a vain hope for divinization, proposing that he consider the measure of goodness resides not in God but within himself…The deceit of the Evil One is based on the premise that God is deceiving humankind with his commandment, thereby undercutting their freedom…”[3] From the biblical account of the fall of the progenitors, we conclude that a sinful choice has serious consequences for the person—the loss of paradise as a state of blessed communion and life with God and other creatures (cf. Gen. 3:4–14). The sin of the progenitors also obscured the truth about the human person as the image of God. Since then, human nature has also been marred by sin. The brokenness caused by sin continues in history, appearing in a variety of abuses in the area of ​​sexuality.

II. The Concept of Gender

13. Over the course of millennia, humankind has recognized the existence of two sexes based on biological criteria—male and female. Recently, worldviews that are contrary to the Christian faith, objective scientific reality, and natural law have become widespread and influential, namely theories of gender. Their basis is the distinction between biological sex, given to the person from conception, and gender, a certain personal choice of sexual behaviour. Consequently, gender identity is no longer considered a gift from God, but rather declared a matter of individual choice for each person. The person ”no longer understands its deep calling to eternal love, but considers it as a temporary diversion.”[4] While sexual identity is based on a biological, psycho-physical reality, gender identity abandons binary gender (male or female) in favour of a broad and free range of self-identification. Thus, sex is a natural phenomenon, whereas gender is the reality of psychological self-understanding often caused by social influence. Gender ideology insists that a person is free to choose and implement their sexual identity regardless of their biological sex. Such separation and opposition of sex and gender is dangerous, because it distorts the traditional foundations of society based on divine and natural law.

16. Of particular concern is the fact that gender ideologies are not just virtual worldview systems—they are aggressively imposed on public opinion, gradually introduced in legislation, and made ever more forcefully visible in different spheres of human life, especially in education and upbringing. “If these ideas circulated only in theory, they would not go beyond the right to private opinion and the possible existence of different philosophical views. The danger lies in the fact that such anti-human theories are trying to become the ruling ideology and be put into practice, sometimes by means of international pressures on the global community.”[5] Pope Francis states that “today a world war is being wagged to destroy marriage,” referring to the theory of gender as “destructive ideological colonization.”[6] That which was until recently considered sexual deviation is today proclaimed by gender theorists as not only normal, but as a rule of life to be followed under pain of ridicule, censure, and even punishment.

III. Destructive Outcomes of Gender Ideology

20. Gender ideology, which denies the existence of objective human nature, the complementarity of man and woman, and the values of marriage, actually denies the existence of the Creator and negates the truth of humans in his image. In such ideologies, there is no place for God, and therefore there is no place for the person in their uniqueness and dignity, because human uniqueness is grounded in its connection with the Creator. The biblical doctrine of the person, created by God, emphasizes the greatness and dignity of its origin and calling—from God and eternal life with him in holiness (divinization), while, according to gender theory, the person has a base origin and lowly potential—from itself and for temporary life, with a goal of its own pleasure. Therefore, one can say with conviction that gender theory is destructive and anti-human.

21. In addition to the fact that gender ideology clearly contradicts the teaching of Holy Scripture and Christian anthropology, it also does not correspond to objective scientific data, and is instead based on subjective hypotheses and pseudoscientific assertions made by interested parties. Objective researchers have concluded that gender ideologues ignore results of scientific research, medicine, psychology, anthropology, and bioethics that show the difference between men and women is based on the difference between the structure of the brain, hormonal balance, psychological nature…

IV. Proclaiming the Truth of Christ in the Context of an Expanding Gender Ideology

27. All people of good will should work together to defend the dignity of each person, to affirm their natural and God-given characteristics and freedoms, and also for the full protection and development of the family community on the foundation of God’s revelation, which is the real guarantor of human society’s development and worthy future. “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.”[7] At the same time, it is necessary to show greater vigilance and responsibility in order to prevent the spread of pernicious theories, which are the latest forms of ideological enslavement and destruction of the person, the family, and society as a whole.

Conclusion

29. The Lord calls people to salvation and the fullness of happiness, giving his Commandments as a guide on our earthly journey. We call the UGCC faithful and all people of good will to value and protect human dignity in the face of new ideological challenges and threats. Each of us is called to this, no matter what our position in society.

For this reason:

    • we call to mind that “individuals should be endowed with this virtue [of chastity] according to their state in life: for some it will mean virginity or celibacy consecrated to God…. For others it will take the form determined by the moral law, according to whether they are married or single,”[8] and therefore should be properly and responsibly prepare for the choice of their state of life, based on the solid foundation of faith, morality, and divine and natural law;
    • we encourage parents to lead a good Christian life that will be an example for their children. Please take care of the Christian education of future generations, not only by transmitting the foundations of faith, but also through all manner of encouragement that they live a life in Christ and by warning them against the dangers of the false exercise of one’s free choice. Parents “are called to be gentle and wise guides. It is they who must lead the child on its path of discovering God’s gift of sexuality in himself or herself, revealing its nature and meaning in a manner appropriate to the age, needs, and depth of the child’s inquiry”;[9]
    • we appeal to workers in the field of medicine, remembering that “the most important point of a physician’s oath is to serve human life from the moment of conception and to defend its health,”[10] to promote the dissemination of a culture of life, defending in particular the life of unborn children and the elderly or terminally ill;
    • we ask everyone, especially those working in the fields of information and education, to defend and disseminate traditional moral values ​​regarding ​​sexuality and the family, remembering that “nothing can justify recourse to disinformation for manipulating public opinion through the media”;[11]
    • we ask all who are responsible for developing educational curricula to prepare them on the basis of natural and divine law, respectful of the truth, the qualities of the heart, and the moral and spiritual dignity of man,[12] avoiding any propaganda against sexual purity, marital fidelity, and the true identity of the human person;
    • we call upon scientists to remember that science and technology should recognize the basic criteria of morality and be “at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, of his true and integral good, in conformity with the plan and the will of God,”[13] and also encourage them to use available means to demonstrate the truth about gender ideology and other destructive ideologies, and point to the importance of adhering to traditional moral and ethical foundations;
    • we remind pastors of their sacred duty to care for the spiritual condition of the family—a community of love and a “domestic church” (cf. Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col. 4:15; Phil. 1:2; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:8) that is “the primary cell of the Christian community” and “a school of social solidarity”[14] on which a healthy society is built. We also encourage them to accompany families at all stages of their existence, from preparation for married life, through support for young couples, diligent catechesis of families, and special care of families who are experiencing difficulties or crises. In addition, we ask pastors, while maintaining the teachings of the Church and observing a high level of spiritual and psychological maturity, to pay attention to pastoral work with people who have problems with the definition of their own sexual identity;[15]
    • we call upon all people of good will, especially government officials and legislators, to be vigilant that the legislation of Ukraine not give way to implementing uncertain and untested concepts of human identity or family, or principles of gender education, remembering that “the ruling authority has as its aim to serve the common good, to preserve and protect the natural and true freedom of citizens, families, and community organizations.”[16] Legislation will only be firm and unshakable when it is based not on temporary and dubious theories, but on the natural law affirmed by divine revelation.

30. We invite all to pray that God help us all to live according to his commandments, trusting in his Divine Providence and not succumbing to the temptations of opposing his will. The Lord, having created human beings as “male and female,” looked at them and said that it was very good (Gen. 1:27,31). May he embrace each person and family in his loving and life-giving gaze, confirm us all in his truth and love, and send down upon all his Fatherly blessing!

On behalf of the Synod of Bishops
of the Major Archbishopric of Kyiv-Halych of the UGCC

† SVIATOSLAV  

Given in Kyiv
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on the day of the holy martyrs Plato and Roman,
1 December (O.S. 18 November) 2016 A.D.

[1] Catechism of the UGCC, Christ – Our Pascha, § 862–863
[2] Catechism of the UGCC, Christ – Our Pascha, § 137.
[3] Catechism of the UGCC, Christ – Our Pascha, § 145–146.
[4] Joint Declaration of the Catholic Bishops of Ukraine Concerning the New Ideological Captivity of our Nation (25 November 2015).
[5] Joint Declaration of the Catholic Bishops of Ukraine Concerning the New Ideological Captivity of our Nation (25 November 2015).
[6] Cf. “Indifesa delmatrimonio. L’appello durantela visita alla chiesa dell’Assunta a Tbilisi,” L’Osservatore Romano (3-4 October 2016), 6.
[7] Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2333.
[8] Persona humana (29 December 1975), § 11.
[9] Catechism of the UGCC, Christ – Our Pascha, § 865.
[10] Theological Department of the Patriarchal Curia of the UGCC, Defending Conceived Life: Theological, Moral-Ethical, and Pastoral Principles of the Moral Evaluation of the Problem of Destroying Unborn Children (Kyiv, 2012), § 71.
[11] Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2498.
[12] Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2526.
[13] Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2294.
[14] Catechism of the UGCC, Christ – Our Pascha, § 656.
[15] Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (1 October 1986), § 6: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html
[16] Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, How to Build a Native Home? (1942), § 7.

September 17th, 2016

In the Beginning…

Happy New Church Year!
September 1st was the first day of the new liturgical year. A pious tradition of the Church holds that Jesus of Nazareth began preaching the good news of His mission on September 1st. When our Lord entered the Synagogue, He was given the book of the Prophet Isaiah to read and He opened it and found the place where it is written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant,
and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”
(Luke 4:18-21).

 

Tradition also holds that it was during the month of September that the Hebrews entered the Promised Land. And, the custom of beginning a new year with autumn was common in Biblical and Mediterranean lands because the summer harvest was completed, the crops were stored, and it was a time when people began preparing for a new agricultural cycle. It was an appropriate time for a new beginning. This is evident in the services for the New Year as the Church beseeches God for fair weather, seasonable rains, and an abundance of the fruits of the earth.

Nativity of the Theotokos
The first great feast of the new liturgical year, September 8th, honored the Mother of God’s birth; the last great feast of the year, August 15th, remembered her falling asleep. Between these two great feasts the Church marks 1o more great feasts as well as Pascha, the Feast of Feasts. Please check the calendar for our parish’s liturgical schedule to make sure you set aside the time to worship God through the coming year.

St. Sophia’s Catechesis Has Begun

Our new catechetical program, offered in English and Ukrainian, will be featured in the New Star eparchial newspaper this month! Be sure to join us at the next one on Sunday October 16.

This month, we were focused on beginnings. We learned how to hold our fingers when praying the Sign of the Cross, how to ask a priest for a blessing, and how to venerate icons. We discussed the first day of creation (Gen 1:1-5). This led to breakout discussions with the catechists on salvation history, the monarchy of the Father, the integration of faith and science, our salvation in Jesus who is the light of the world, our use of candles in prayer, and much more. The St. Faith/Vira class served everyone chocolate and vanilla ice cream to recall God separating the light from the darkness.

Text won’t replace the Christian fraternity and personal interaction that comes from attending class, but we do have an all-ages pamphlet to help reinforce what was learned which you can now download here. The pamphlet includes:

  • This month’s Bible verse and prayers including the new addition of the morning prayers in Ukrainian
  • Instruction on the nature of the Trinity
  • Biography of Andrei Rublev, iconographer of the famous Hospitality of Abraham icon, often called The Trinity
  • Biography of St. Patrick of Ireland who is known for his teaching on the Trinity
  • Lyrics and links to the song God is the Boss, which teaches how to make the Sign of the Cross
  • Coloring page and information on the Feast of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross
  • Information on Evolution v. Creation and Genesis
  • Instruction on pious behavior, covering the internal and external dispositions of physical movements and postures like prostrations
  • Information on asking a priest’s blessing and venerating icons
  • Instructions on praying the Sign of the Cross
  • Information on the filioque

Everyone in the parish is focused on learning the same prayer and the same Bible verse this month. If you haven’t started to integrate the recommended morning prayers, included in the pamphlet, please take 2.5 minutes from the day to start the good habit now.

Homework: Memorize the Bible verse and learn the Sign of the Cross. If you know the Sign of the Cross well in one language, please learn it in a new language and teach others in the languages you already know. (We recommend knowing it in English, Ukrainian, and Greek.) We’ll pray these together at the next catechesis on Oct 16.

February 22nd, 2014

Popular Roman Catholic Media Attacked Married Clergy

Rob Stothard/Getty Images

Ukraine, you might know, is in the middle of a revolution. The people are protesting the government’s tyranny and corruption. The Ukrainian government is responding by torturing and killing the citizens in a scorched earth policy. Numerous images of fearless priests standing between the government soldiers and the citizens, holding nothing but the cross of Christ as they call for peace, have gone viral. These images capture the manly and fatherly call of the shepherd willing to lay down his life for his flock.

The majority of the Ukrainian Catholic priests are young and married as they come from a life-filled and fruitful church, built on the blood of the martyrs. Ours is a church that has always had both celibate and married men ordained to the priesthood, a tradition whose continuance the UGCC assured when they entered reunion with Rome.

RISU

RISU

Patriarch Sviatoslav, the head of the largest Eastern Catholic Church, gave clear directions to his priests on how they’re to conduct themselves amid this revolution. His Beatitude affirmed their presence on the Maidan and their call for peace, saying, “The calling of each priest, in all frightening circumstances – is not to abandon his flock and to be with them. ‘The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. ‘ (Jn 10:11). Setting aside all fear, a priest is called ‘to be a witness to Christ and His truth.’ ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mt 24:35).”

In the mean time, Fr. Robert Barron’s popular Roman Catholic catechetical and evangelization ministry Word on Fire published a photo of one of these fearless Ukrainian priests as an accompaniment to the specious argument that a mandatory celibate priesthood is supposedly “non-negotiable” for Catholics.

As a reason given to defend this novel assertion, the blog explained: “To give a dire example, in the case of a catastrophe, I would want my priest to be at the front of the lines leading his flock to shelter. If the priest had a biological family of his own, he would first think of their safety before his flock as the natural instinct would drive his protector reaction towards sheltering his own.” They accompanied this assertion with the image of a Ukrainian priest who is most likely married as their model, on a day when married priests are literally standing between their flocks and death and many faithful lost their lives.

Word On Fire Blog Image

Image from Word on Fire blog

Not only did the blog writer appear not to know that the pictured priest was Eastern and probably married, he taught that the man’s marriage undermines and invalidates his priesthood. An outcry erupted from both East and West which led to the ministry apologizing for the use of that image, but after hundreds of messages, the requests for revision of the text remained unacknowledged and the blog post stood. The silence was interpreted by many to indicate the apparent approval of the ministry’s leader Fr. Barron for this attack on married clergy; an attack so poorly formed that it likewise undermined the sacraments of marriage and ordination, the call of vocation, and manhood, not to mention the obvious attack on the unity of the Church and the Body of Christ. That the Word on Fire ministry has a history of removing the East from it’s catechesis allowed their silence and continued support of the offensive and erroneous assertion done in their name to show how far we still have to go to leave behind the legacy of Roman Catholic Bishop John Ireland.

Fr. Roman Galadza and Family

The witness of the courageous priests in Ukraine, married and celibate, proves the blogger’s notion to be nothing more than a straw man. The Lord calls each man to his vocation–whether celibacy or marriage–and the church calls these men to ministry so transformational that they are given sacramental grace in their ordination to carry it out, as we so boldly witness in the images from the Maidan and in the loving and faithful presence of our own beloved priest and his family.

We stand in solidarity with all the married Catholic clergy and their families here in DFW, in Ukraine, and around the world. We thank the priests’ wives for sharing in their husbands’ ministries. We thank their children for being an image of the Lord’s fruitful love. We pray for the safety of all in Ukraine especially those so nobly working for peace. And we pray for unity here at home and throughout God’s Church, so that we may rejoice together in God’s plan of salvation.

Update:
Our prayer for unity was answered and we have cause for rejoicing. After this commentary was published, the Word on Fire blog post was also removed because of the sustained outcry of the faithful from across the universal church. Word on Fire explained:

Thank you for all of your feedback regarding the ignorance and error in our post titled ‘Why I Don’t Want Priests to Marry’. We regret the content, which contained some theological errors, and we also regret using a photo of a Ukrainian Catholic priest, for obvious reasons.

We’ve removed the post and the photo. The mistake was an oversight and a regrettable lack of attention to detail, and was not meant to insult any priest or any rite, most especially those who are standing in harm’s way to protect their flocks. Our most sincere apologies for any offense this photo caused. We certainly continue to pray for that priest and for all priests.

We thank all who publicly shared their support for our priests and their communities, both married and celibate. Please continue to join us as we pray for our courageous priests and their families who sacrifice their lives day in and day out for our salvation.

Update 2:
Word on Fire blog published a follow-up article about Ukraine: The Icon Corner of the World written by Andrew Summerson, a married seminarian for the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio. Please express your appreciation to them!

I Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

February 19th, 2014

What’s going on in Ukraine?

– AP photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

– AP photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

“I appeal to everyone to immediately stop the bloodshed,” Patriarch Sviatoslav admonished. “I call all the children of the Church to fasting, prayer and solidarity with victims. At this moment, when Ukraine is in danger of fratricide, let all the bells in the UGCC churches ring,” he said.

Specifically he stated,”Each night at 9 p.m. [which is 1 p.m. Central], pray one Our Father and one Hail Mary for the intention for a peaceful and nonviolent resolution to the crisis in Ukraine.”

We especially invite the community to join us at St. Sophia parish in our prayers for peace in the world this Saturday morning from 8 AM – 12 PM in our Morning with Mary.

“With a worried soul,” Pope Francis has “been following what is happening in Kyiv in these days,” Vatican Radio informs. The Holy Father assured the Ukrainian people of his closeness to them, and prayed for the victims of violence, for their families, and for the injured.

Where can you find out more?
Religious Information Service of Ukraine
Information Resource of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church
Ukrainian American Society of Texas
Euromaidan in English page on Facebook
Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine article by Timothy Snyder
Decoding Ukraine article by Anne Applebaum
National Review Online coverage by George Weigel
Bishop BORYS (Gudziak)’s Facebook coverage
Espresso TV Live Streaming Video
BBC News Europe Coverage

November 26th, 2013

Patriarch SVIATOSLAV in Rome

On Nov 25, 2013, Patriarch SVIATOSLAV led a solemn Pontifical Divine Liturgy at the altar of the Vatican Basilica of St. Peter on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the transfer of the relics of St. Josaphat, martyr for Church unity.

Speaking fluently in the pope’s native Portuguese, Patriarch Sviatoslav greeted Pope Francis by saying, “Vostra Santità, vi presento la Chiesa Ucraina Greco-Cattolica, una Chiesa Patriarcale.” “Your Holiness, I present to You the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, a Patriarchal Church.”

St. Josaphat (Kuncevych) was a Basilian monk and archeparch (archbishop) of Polotsk who lived from 1580 to 1623, which meant he faced the daunting task of bringing the local populace to accept the Union of Brest which declared the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church’s union with Rome. St. Josaphat faced stiff opposition from the monks, who feared a Latinization of the liturgy of the Church. As archeparch, he restored the churches: he issued a catechism to the clergy, with instructions that it should be learned by heart; composed rules for the priestly life, entrusting to the deacons the task of superintending their observance; assembled synods in various towns in the dioceses, and firmly opposed the Polish Imperial Chancellor Sapieha who wished to make too many concessions to the Eastern Orthodox. Throughout all his strivings and all his occupations, he continued his religious devotion as a monk, and never abated his desire for self-mortification. Through all this he was successful in winning over a large portion of the people.

St. Josaphat’s activity provoked a strong reaction. A rival hierarchy was set up by the Orthodox Church, with a monk being appointed the Orthodox Archeparch of Polotsk. Smotrytsky publicly claimed that St. Josaphat was preparing a total Latinization of the Church and its rituals. The inhabitants of Mogilev revolted against the saint in October 1618 and chased him out of the city. St. Josaphat then complained to King Sigismund who brutally suppressed the Orthodox revolt—all leaders of the revolt were executed by the king and the rival Orthodox churches were taken away and given to the Greek-Catholics.

The suppression caused the saint to be even more fiercely resisted by the Orthodox. During November 1623, despite warnings, he went to Vitebsk. There, on November 12th, the Orthodox sent to his residence a priest who stood in the courtyard of his house shouting insults like “uniate” at him. The archbishop had the priest taken away and confined to his house. In response, the town bell was rung, which summoned a mob of Orthodox Christians who rejected union with Rome. The mob attacked the archbishop’s residence, and in the course of the attack an axe-stroke and a bullet ended his life. His body was tossed into the river. It was recovered and honored, eventually transported to Rome and given the honor of burial within St. Peter’s Basilica. It was on the 50th anniversary of this transfer that Patriarch SVIATOSLAV visited Rome and held a solemn pontifical liturgy at the altar where St. Josaphat is buried. Over 3,000 pilgrims from Ukraine and Belarus were in attendance.

Pope Francis addressed the pilgrims by saying, “The memory of this martyred saint speaks to us about the communion of saints, of the communion of life between all of the people who belong to Christ.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, the best way to celebrate St. Josaphat is to love among each other and to love and serve the unity of the Church. We are supported in this also by the courageous witness of so many martyrs of recent times, which constitute a great wealth and a great comfort for your Church.”

“I hope that the deep communion that you wish to strengthen each day within the Catholic Church, will help you build bridges of fraternity also with other Churches and ecclesiastical communities in Ukrainian land, and wherever your communities are present,” the pope concluded.

Patriarch Sviatoslav St Josaphat Transfer Rome Nov 2013

Some text adapted from Wikipedia’s article on St. Josaphat under it’s creative commons license.

July 6th, 2013

Eastern Catholics Communing in a Roman Mass

Just in time for your summer travels! Those of you traveling to areas where the priests aren’t familiar with Eastern Catholicism can now print off a guide that hits all the important points about Eastern Catholic faithful communing in Roman Catholic parishes.When Eastern Catholics Commune at a Roman Catholic Mass Front

Questions answered include:

  • What should Eastern Catholics do when visiting a Roman Catholic Mass?
  • Is the Eastern Catholic held to western rules when in the Latin Church?
  • What happens when the norms contradict each other?
  • Does it contradict the Latin rite’s liturgical norms to commune an infant?
  • Is a person who is under the age of reason properly disposed to receive?
  • May the priest apply prudential judgment if he thinks the visitor is significantly lacking in knowledge or understanding of the Eucharist?
  • What if the congregation might be scandalized by a child receiving?
  • What makes an Eastern Catholic properly disposed to receive?
  • How can the Eucharist be administered to an infant or toddler?

We hope it will assist many–clergy, religious, and laity of East and West alike–in greater appreciation and participation in the universal nature of the Church. We encourage you to share it far and wide online and in person!

The pamphlet is the first major work of The Star of the East, a canonically established public association of the faithful, headquartered at St. Sophia. The Star of the East has a primary mission of disseminating reliable and orthodox material from appropriate and competent authorities to Eastern Catholic clerical, religious, and lay leaders on the topics of evangelism, catechesis, and missiology.

We want every Catholic to have free access to this meticulously accurate, easily comprehensible guide and we put in all the work to make that a reality. All that needs to happen now is to have it shared!

You can direct others to the St. Sophia website to see more about it, or to download and share the fantastic resource.

This pamphlet is offered under an “Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives” Creative Commons license. That means others may download and share the pamphlet as long as the author/publisher is attributed, it isn’t used commercially or for profit, and isn’t changed in any way. Using 2-sided printing, it fits on a single 8.5″ x 11″ paper.

March 19th, 2013

Francis, the Pope of Rome, inaugurated

Pope Francis started his inaugural Mass by praying with the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches at the tomb of St. Peter. Ukrainian Catholic Patriarch Sviatoslav is on the left in black and white vestments. Patriarch Sviatoslav concelebrated at the pope’s inaugural Mass.

 
 
A Ukrainian Catholic deacon chanted the Gospel in Greek:

March 18th, 2013

Patriarch Sviatoslav on Pope Francis

Patriarch Sviatoslav speaks highly of Pope Francis:

 
 

Patriarch Sviatoslav: Newly elected Pope knows Ukrainian Catholic Church, its Liturgy and Spirituality

RISU correspondent in Rome Oksana Shkodziska took the commentary of Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk about newly elected Pope Francis.
13-03-2013. Source RISU
Patriarch Sviatoslav With Pope Francis From RISU

“I would first like to say that the newly elected Pope Francis was mentored by one of our priests, Stepan Chmil who is now buried in the basilica of St. Sophia in Rome. Today’s Pope, during his time as a student of the Salesian school, awoke many hours before his classmates to concelebrate at our Divine Liturgy with Fr. Stepan. He knows our Tradition very well, as well as our Liturgy.

The last time I had an opportunity to see him was as I was preparing to leave Argentina for Ukraine. I asked him to bear witness to the process of beatifying Fr. Stepan Chmil, to which, he gladly agreed. The Holy Father very well knows not only of our Church, but also our liturgy, our rites, and our spirituality.

Apart from this, Pope Francis, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, was assigned as ordinary for Eastern Catholics, specifically those who at the time did not have members of their own hierarchy. Our Eparchy in Argentina is, let’s say, suffragan to the Archbishop’s seat of Buenos Aires. In this way, Cardinal Bergoglio, always took care of our Church in Argentina; and as a young bishop, I took my first steps in episcopal ministry under his watchful eyes and help. Because of this, I am positive that the Holy Father will be a great help to our Church, and I expect that great things await our Church with this Pope.

In regards to the personality of the new Holy Father – he is an incredibly modest person. For example, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he never relied on his own automobile, rather relying on public transportation, always in simple clothing. He mostly stands out in his enormous care for the less-fortunate, visiting the most impoverished neighborhoods. He is a person, I would say, of great pastoral foundation.

As a Jesuit, Pope Francis is an incredibly deep intellectual. I can attest to the fact that his homilies are quite short, sometimes no longer than five or six sentences, but he manages to fill them with such deep meaning, always leaving the faithful in silent contemplation upwards of five-to-seven minutes”.
(Translation by Julian Hayda)

July 16th, 2012

St. Sophia now has a Kroger account!

St. Sophia’s Neighbor to Neighbor Account at Kroger can be linked to your Kroger card by printing out the attached explanatory letter and taking it with you the next time you check out.

The cashier will scan the barcode on the letter and your Kroger card which will link your card to our parish account. You only need to link it once and after that, every time you use the card, it gets St. Sophia a larger share in the Good Neighbor program’s charitable donations.

Print it out now and put it in your purse or car so you can take advantage of this great program next time you’re at Kroger!

June 21st, 2012

Fortnight For Freedom Begins Today

Religious Liberty Resources:

For more info, visit www.usccb.org/conscience.

Local Fortnight for Freedom activities and resources

Fortnight for Freedom Diocesan Event in English: June 30, St. Rita, 12521 Inwood Rd, Dallas

The evening will begin with the 5:30 p.m. Vigil Mass celebrated by Monsignor Robert Coerver, V.F., followed by an educational program in Sweeney Hall, presented by Frank Valenzuela of the St. Thomas More Society, the Catholic Lawyers’ Guild of the Diocese of Dallas, and closing with the Litany for Liberty. For more information, contact 214-379-2876, info@cathdal.org.

Click here for a flyer.

Evento Diocesano por la Quincena por la Libertad en español24 de junio, Inmaculada Concepción, 610 N.E. 17th St, Grand Prairie

La tarde empezará con Misa a las 2:30 p.m. celebrada por Reverendo Douglas Zavala, seguida por un programa educacional presentado por Aurora Tinajero, Coordinadora Diocesana del Congreso Hispano de las Americas para Respeto a la Vida y Evangelización, y cerrando con Letanía por Libertad.  Para más información, contacte 214-379-2876, info@cathdal.org.

Haga clic aquí para volante.

March 1st, 2012

I Owe You an Update (HHS Mandate message from Cardinal Dolan)

Source: The Gospel in the Digital Age

Over the last six months or so, the Catholic Church in the United States has found itself in some tension with the executive branch of the federal government over a very grave issue:  religious freedom.  Can a government bureau, in this case the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), define for us or any faith community what is ministry and how it can be exercised?  Can government also coerce the church to violate its conscience?

I wanted to let you, the great people of the archdiocese, know how we’re doing in this fight.  Thank you for your extraordinary unity, support, and encouragement.  Throughout all the archdiocese, our people – both as patriotic citizens and committed Catholics — have been very effective in letting government know that we are not at peace at all with this attempt to curtail the  freedom of religion and sanctity of conviction we cherish as both Catholics and Americans.

This has not been a fight of our choosing.  We’d rather not be in it.  We’d prefer to concentrate on the noble tasks of healing the sick, teaching our youth, and helping the poor, all now in jeopardy due to this bureaucratic intrusion into the internal life of the church.  And we were doing all of those noble works rather well, I dare say, without these radical new mandates from the government.  The Catholic Church in America has a long tradition of partnership with government and the wider community in the service of the sick, our children, our elders, and the poor at home and abroad.  We’d sure rather be partnering than punching.

Nor is this a “Catholic” fight alone.  As a nurse from Harrison emailed me, “Cardinal, I’m not so much mad about all this as a Catholic, but as an American.”  It was a Baptist minister, Governor Mike Huckabee, who observed, “In this matter, we’re all Catholics.”

And it is not just about sterilization, abortifacients, and chemical contraception.  Pure and simple, it’s about religious freedom, the sacred right, protected by our constitution, of any Church to define its own teaching and ministry.

When the President announced on January 20th that the choking mandates from HHS would remain — a shock to me, since he had personally assured me that he would do nothing to impede the good work of the Church in health care, education, and charity, and that he considered the protection of conscience a sacred duty — not only you, but men and women of every faith, or none at all, rallied in protest.  The worry that we bishops had expressed — that such government control was contrary to our deepest political values — was eloquently articulated by constitutional scholars and leaders of every creed.  Even newspaper editorials supported us!

On February 10th, the President announced that the insurance providers would have to pay the bill, not the Church’s schools, hospitals, clinics, or vast network of charitable outreach.  He considered this “concession” adequate.

Did this help?  We bishops wondered if it would, and announced at first that, while withholding final judgment, we would certainly give it close scrutiny.

Well, we have — and we’re still as worried as ever.  For one, there was not even a nod to the deeper concerns about trespassing upon religious freedom, or of modifying the HHS’ attempt to define the how and who of our ministry through the suffocating mandates.

Two, since a big part of our ministries are “self-insured,” how is this going to help us?  We’ll still have to pay!  And what about individual believers being coerced to pay?

Three, there was still no resolution about the handcuffs placed upon renowned Catholic charitable agencies, both national and international, and their exclusion from contracts just because they will not refer victims of human trafficking, immigrants and refugees, and the hungry of the world, for abortions, sterilization, or contraception.

So, we have given it careful study.  Our conclusion: we’re still very worried.  There seem far more questions than answers, more confusion than clarity.

Now what to do?

Well, for one, we’ll keep up advocacy and education on the issue.  We continue to tap into your concern as citizens and count on your support.  Regrettably, the unity of the Catholic community has been tempered a bit by those who think the President has listened to us and now we can quit worrying.  You’re sure free to take their advice.  But I hope you’ll listen to your pastors who are still very concerned.

Two, we’ll continue to seek a rescinding of the suffocating mandates that require us to violate our moral convictions — or at least a wider latitude to the exemptions so that churches can be free — and of the rigidly narrow definition of church, minister, and ministry that would prevent us from helping those in need, educating children, and healing the sick who are not Catholic.

The President invited us to “work out the wrinkles,” and we have been taking him seriously.  Unfortunately, this seems to be going nowhere: the White House Press Secretary, for instance, informed the nation that the mandates are a fait accompli (and, embarrassingly for him, commented that we bishops have always opposed Health Care anyway, a charge that is simply scurrilous and insulting). The White House already notified Congress that the dreaded mandates are now published in the Federal Registry “without change.” The Secretary of HHS is widely quoted as saying, “Religious insurance companies don’t really design the plans they sell based on their own religious tenets,” which doesn’t bode well for a truly acceptable “accommodation.”  And a recent meeting between staff of the bishops’ conference and the White House staff ended with the President’s people informing us that the broader concerns of religious freedom — that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption—are all off the table.  Instead, they advised the bishops’ conference that we should listen to the “enlightened” voices of accommodation, such as the recent hardly-surprising but terribly unfortunate editorial in America.  The White House seems to think we bishops are hopelessly out of touch with our people, and with those whom the White House now has nominated as official Catholic teachers.

So, I don’t know if we’ll get anywhere with the executive branch.

Congress offers more hope, with thoughtful elected officials proposing promising legislation to protect what should be so obvious: religious freedom.  As is clear from the current debate in the senate, our opponents are marketing this as a “woman’s health issue.”  Of course, it cannot be reduced to that.  It’s about religious freedom.  (By the way, the Church hardly needs to be lectured about health care for women.  Thanks mostly to our Sisters, the Church is the largest private provider of health care for women and their babies in the country.  Here in New York State, Fidelis, the Medicare/Medicaid insurance provider, owned by the Church, consistently receives top ratings for its quality of service to women and children.)

And the courts offer the most light.  In the recent Hosanna-Tabor ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously and enthusiastically defended the right of a Church to define its own ministry and services, a dramatic rebuff to the administration, but one apparently unheeded by the White House.  Thus, our bishops’ conference and many individual religious entities are working with some top-notch law firms who have told us they feel so strongly about this that they will represent us pro-bono.

So, we have to be realistic and prepare for tough times.  Some, like America magazine,  want us to cave-in and stop fighting, saying this is simply a policy issue; some want us to close everything down rather than comply (In an excellent article, Cardinal Francis George wrote that the administration apparently wants us to “give up for Lent” our schools, hospitals, and charitable ministries); some want us to engage in civil disobedience and be fined; some worry that we’ll have to face a decision between two ethically repugnant choices: subsidizing immoral services or no longer offering insurance coverage, a road none of us wants to travel.

Sorry to go on at such length.  You can see how passionately I feel about this.  But, from what I sense, you do too.  You all have been such an inspiration, and I owe it to you to keep you posted.  We need you more than ever!  We can’t give up hoping, praying, trying, and working hard.

February 29th, 2012

Pastoral letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) to the faithful of the UGCC for Great Lent 2012

Source: UGCC.org
«Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!»
Mt. 4:17

Dear in Christ!

With these words of our Divine Savior, the Church of Christ is calling today each and every one of us to commence a blessed time of the Great Fast. The name “Great” of this fast is not accidental: it is caused by those God’s gifts and fruits for our spiritual life, which we can attain during this time, provided we spend it worthily. The greatness of this time is likewise determined by the depth of a spiritual change of our person and our life, which will be the result of the meeting with the merciful and loving Heavenly Father.

Hence, how do we live out this period worthily, so as to transform and enrich our lives? First of all, dear in Christ, we need to remember that fasting does not only mean limiting ourselves in food and entertainment. Fasting is primarily to keep away from sin, from evil habits and passions. It is also a rejection of indifference, evil thoughts and selfishness. Lent is an invitation, addressed to each of us, wounded by sins, encumbered with infirmities and depleted with the daily chores, to surrender ourselves to the Lord’s embrace.

The Fathers and spiritual teachers of the Church, urging Christians to live out the fast worthily, called it a time of spiritual awakening and renewal of man; they compared it with the spiritual spring, during which the divine life awakens in our souls: “…When winter ends and we start coming closer to the spring warmth, a seafarer takes his boat again out into the sea, a soldier cleans his weapons and trains his horse for a fight, a peasant sharpens his tools, a traveler, having felt a surge of strength, girds and embarks on a journey… And so let us also, at this time of the coming of the spiritual spring, similarly fix our spiritual weapons as soldiers, let us sharpen our tools as farmers, and, like the true leaders, let us take into our hands the boat of our spirit so as to be prepared to endure the heaps of the waves of senseless passions and, as the pilgrims heading towards our heavenly homeland, let us begin the fulfillment of our spiritual journey” (St. John Chrysostom, Word to the Antiochian People, 3).

Lent is a special time of repentance and penance. Just as in nature, a normal sign of an early spring is the awakening of all creatures to a new life, similarly the human soul, through repentance and penance, comes to life and, having been warmed by the warmness of God’s mercy and love, is freed from the dead stiffness and produces sprouts of a new life in the Holy Spirit. Whoever honestly admits his sins in the Holy Sacrament of Penance, feels the good-giving action of the warmth of God’s life-giving love. And just as spring wins over winter, so the power of the Lord’s forgiveness wins over fear, weakness and disbelief in us, proving that the Divine love is stronger than our sin and that there is no evil force, which would be able to resist the saving mercy of the Heavenly Father. That is why Prophet David, in repenting burst, sings to the Lord: “May Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight” (Ps. 119:77). Revived through repentance and penance and united with the Lord in the Holy Communion, a believer blossoms with God’s beauty of the righteous life and becomes the bearer of hope for his environs as well as for the entire society. For just as sin has a devastating impact not only on a sinner himself, but on all of his environs as well, conversion and repentance bring healing to our relationship with God, our neighbor and all of the creation.

Lent is a time of intensive prayer. Giving up during this period on entertainment, we concomitantly need to pay more attention to the communication with God: through participation in Lenten liturgical services in the church as well as through longer and more intense prayer in family circle and solitude. We cannot devoid of our attention a practice that has recently been introduced in our Church – the reading of God’s Word. Every day the faithful, whether alone or with the family or gathered in prayer groups in parishes, reflect upon and pray with some excerpts from the Sacred Scripture. In this way, the Word of God becomes for us a spiritual nourishment as well as recalls for us that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). I fervently entrust to continue and spread this pious practice. And for those who have not started doing this yet, may Lent become an opportunity to begin to get to know the Word of God as well as to live it out ever more.

Charitable deeds are likewise a necessary condition of Lenten spiritual journey. The Lord, through the words of the Prophet Isaiah, directs to all of us a special call, showing the meaning of an authentic fast: “Is this not the fast that choose? … Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Is. 58:6-7). Just as in nature, the emergence of fresh green shoots in spring exposes the life of a plant, so the Christian almsgiving is a sign of the spiritual awakening of man, his openness to God and neighbor as well as a compelling witness of the living faith, “working through love” (Gal. 5:6). All Christians are called to do the almsgiving, regardless of wealth or financial capability. St. Pope Leo the Great teaches that “nothing can get into the way of our charity, with which we fulfill a vocation of the love of God and neighbor… Not only the rich and wealthy can perform the charity works vis-à-vis their neighbor, but also those that are poor and with the limited fortunes… Almsgiving transforms inequality in terms of the earthly goods into equality in obtaining the heavenly gifts” (Word on the occasion of Lent, 6, 1-2).

Dear in Christ! The time of Lent opens for us the way to Heaven. Let’s embark on it in the spirit of repentance, prayer and almsgiving. Let us walk it together, growing in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let me remind you about the obligation to partake in this blessed time in the Holy Sacraments of Confession and Communion. May Lent grant us with the renewal of the spiritual life, the awakening of the Christian zeal and love of God and neighbor in our parish communities and monastery ambits! I implore our Father, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm. 2:4), to lovingly bring all of you closer to His merciful paternal heart and, having forgiven your sins, make you, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the partakers of the glory of the resurrection of His Divine Son.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

† SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv,
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on Cheesefare Saturday, 25th February 2012 A. D.

February 21st, 2012

UGCC begins year of Patriarch Josyf Slipyj

During the Synod of Bishops, held from February 8–9, 2012, in retreat center of the Lviv Archeparchy of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Bryukhovychi (near Lviv), began the Year of Remembrance of Patriarch Josyf Slipyj in honor of the 120th anniversary of his birth, which is celebrated on February 17. This is stated in the message of the Synod of Bishops to the faithful on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of Patriarch Josyf Slipyj, which was passed to UNIAN new agency.

In the message the bishops recall Patriarch Slipyj is a “live embodiment of the fate of the Ukrainian Church and our people in the twentieth century – he, like many others, were unlawfully deprived of liberty (18 years imprisonment). He, like millions of Ukrainians, was doomed to torture in the dungeons of the NKVD/KGB and martyrdom in the Gulag. Even if in prison he was a ‘silent witness of the Church,’ later, in the settlements (outside Ukraine), he became the voice of the ‘silent Church’ and its spiritual support, never forgetting his countrymen, who were still being punished in captivity.”

The bishops of the UGCC believe that these words are also spoken to us today. “To those who have to live in conditions of selective justice, increasingly more restrictions on the right to assembly and demonstration, to receive and disseminate accurate information, in a time when the national language and culture is being forced out from public life. In Ukraine, unfortunately, there is no stop to the troublesome tradition of abuse of power and disregard for human dignity, violation of national, cultural and religious rights, neglect by ones own, accompanied by pursuit of honors and thirst for power,” states the document of the Synod.

According to the Synod, Patriarch Slipyj’s views on national unity today “are a guiding light,” since now there is still a lack of unity and it becomes “our national disaster when people are artificially divided by regional, historical, linguistic and cultural characteristics.”

In their message, the bishops stress that thanks to Patriarch Slipyj the Church in the diaspora not only survived but has become a world Church, without which today it is difficult to imagine the landscape of the Catholic Church in the world.

“Today normative for us are the two fundamental principles with which Patriarch Slipyj described the UGCC’s church identity: the first, communion with the Bishop of Rome, and the second, allegiance to the Eastern Byzantine tradition,” said Synod.

Therefore, the bishops encourage the faithful of the Church to pray for the glory of Patriarch Slipyj and participate in festivities planned by the UGCC and the state in this anniversary year, but they say the best way to honor him is “to make Patriarch Slipyj’s ideals ours.”

Source: Feb 19, 2012 The Way

February 11th, 2012

Priestly Forums Summary

Father Pavlo held the second priestly forums giving us a state of the parish address after Liturgy last Sunday. At the well-attended event, he went over the financial committee’s report and then discussed where the parish is headed. Here is a summary for those who were unable to attend:

1. Lent/the Great Fast starts on Clean Monday, Feb. 20th. (Or, one could say, it starts the evening before following Sunday vespers on the 19th.) We will have the Rite of Forgiveness service during the Liturgy on Sunday the 19th.

2. Our full parish catechetical program will start on February 26th following the Divine Liturgy (starting around 11:30/11:45). Father Pavlo will discuss the who, what, when, where, why and how of the Great Fast in our Byzantine/Kyivan tradition. He will focus on adult catechesis and all are welcome, including interested guests. Parishioners are especially encouraged to attend.

3. Our catechetical program, Generations of Faith, will be held around every 1.5 – 2 months with a new topic at each event. Watch the bulletin for more info!

4. Childrens’ catechesis will begin in full swing in the Fall and will be held weekly once it starts.

5. Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts will be held Wednesday and Friday evenings at 7PM throughout the Great Fast. The first and fifth week of Lent are different in structure, so follow the announcements.

6. After Pascha/Easter, we will introduce more liturgical services such as Vespers and liturgy outside of Sunday. Please pray for our parish as we grow and please support Father Pavlo as he prays with and for our community!

7. We placed the property on the side of the church for sale. If you know anyone who is looking, please let them know about this fantastic location right off the tollway. We are also trying to rent the parish hall and its adjoining 2 classrooms (about 1900 square feet) for use during the week. Please spread the word!

8. Please remember to show appreciation to those who volunteer. Don’t wait until you’re asked to help. There is so much that needs to be done that you need only offer!

January 31st, 2012

“We cannot–we will not–comply with this unjust law.”

Our bishop sent a letter to all of the parishes in the St. Nicholas Eparchy and asked that the content in it be announced in all of his churches. He stands with his fellow bishops in the USCCB in denouncing the Health and Human Services department’s decision to force all American employers–including Catholic hospitals, charities, schools, and small business owners–and employees to fund and use health insurance which provides and subsidizes contraceptives, abortifacients like ella and Plan B, and sterilizations.

Bp. Richard Stephen says, “We cannot–we will not–comply with this unjust law.” Please read his letter below and then act as he directs.

January 13th, 2012

Holy Supper 2011

Holy Supper is a tradition of Slavic Christians including those from Ukraine.

It is a traditional lenten meal on the eve of the Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas Eve). Since Christmas is preceded by forty days of fasting, the Holy Supper is the last meal of the fast. The twelve fasting foods usually served are barley, honey, stewed prunes, pierogi, sauerkraut, potatoes, lima beans, garlic, Lenten bread, mushroom soup and salt. The meal begins with the singing of the Christmas troparion (a hymn) and the lighting of a candle placed in the center of the table. The candle symbolizes the star of Bethlehem. The bread is then broken by the father of the house and given to everyone present. This symbolizes Christ at the Last Supper. The foods range from bitter to sweet to remind us of the bitterness of life before Christ was born and the sweetness of life which comes after His birth. The number 12 symbolizes the twelve apostles.

The Holy Supper usually takes place in the home with the father leading the family in the prayer ritual. It begins with the youngest child reading the Nativity account from the gospel of St. Matthew 2:1-12. The father then starts with an opening prayer asking God to bless the bread, wine, and food. He then breaks the bread and passes it out to all present.

Some believers preserve this tradition by eating the Holy Supper with the parish family, having the priest, who is the father of the church family, performing the prayers. Since families no longer live close together and few have the time to cook the necessary dishes, the tradition of the Holy Supper is in danger of being lost if not for those like Ed and Stephanie Beakey who work to preserve it and pass it on. We are grateful for their tireless effort and the delicious food again this year! And also to Chris who thought to snap a few pictures and graciously shared them.

November 18th, 2011

St. Sophia’s has a “Notable Parish Website”

This Catholic Tech Talk article by Brad West lists St. Sophia’s among its notable parish websites! Just think how much better it will be when yours truly, the webmaster, figures out what she’s doing! We’re just getting started.

The Pilot New Media talk and resources on “Creating Excellent Parish Websites” that he mentioned were an amazing resource in this work. We are grateful that the Archdiocese of Boston live streamed it and even took questions all the way from Texas. St. Elias’ church in Brampton and St. Joseph’s in Chicago have also been quite helpful. We are hoping that this website will in turn pay it forward by providing content that other Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Churches can use on their sites so that we can fulfill Patriarch Sviatoslav’s call when he told Our Sunday Visitor:

…we have the right time in order to give the bread of life to those people who are hungry or thirsty for this spiritual dimension of human life. It’s why I proclaimed evangelization is our most important task.

In commenting on the UGCC synod of bishops’ recent Strategy for Development through 2020, the patriarch said, “The development of the parish community should be our priority. By fostering and reviving communities we foster and vivify the whole Church.” It is our hope that this website assists in doing so.

November 1st, 2011

Pope’s General Prayer Intention

The pope’s prayer intention for November 2011:

“For the eastern Churches, that their venerable tradition may be known and appreciated as a spiritual treasure for the entire Church.”