Deacon Dennis Prestash brought his grandfather’s prayer book to Clergy Days, held May 30 to 31 at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Munhall, Pa.
As it was held high to show the assembled priests and deacons, he pointed out its pages were soiled by years of difficult work.
“(My grandfather) was a coal miner. And if you look… you’ll see the coal dust embedded into the pages,” he said.
“I can remember my grandpap several times talking with me about the Byzantine faith, about the Church and Easter. It was wonderful. And so important.”
Deacon Dennis, of St. John the Baptist in Hawk Run, Pa. wants to ensure the vitality of the Church so beloved by his grandfather continues. He is a member of the Archeparchy’s Commission for Renewal and Revitalization with others including Helen Kennedy of St. Mary in Bradenville, Pa.
The Commission was established by Metropolitan Judson Procyk in 2002. Deacon Dennis and Helen attended Clergy Days to offer an update on next May’s Assembly 2018, an initiative to ensure the Byzantine Catholic Church continues to grow into the 21st century.
It will be attended by Archdiocese priests, deacons and lay people. Deacon Dennis said the Commission was tasked with outlining the structure of Assembly 2018. Following many brainstorming sessions, it was decided it would be titled “Concern for Our Future” with the theme of “Renew, Revitalize and Rejuvenate for the Future.” He 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. “They said we have to realize diversity has to be part of our church if we’re going to survive.”
Helen has been a member of the Commission since 2002. “Throughout those years, I’ve learned a lot about our parishes…it’s been a pleasure to be on the Commission for that many years,” she said. “It is not easy to change. It is not easy to ask people to get involved.”
During an afternoon Clergy Days session, priests and deacons were asked to offer feedback on these themes and how to build and add to the ideas. Kennedy said components of technology and social media which will be examined include developing church Web sites, electronic Sunday bulletins and endeavors to explain the Byzantine Church.
Working to diversify churches is also on the agenda. “Without the growth of new members, marriages, children, we simply won’t grow. To think we would is unrealistic. Diversity has to be embraced. But how do we invite people who are diverse into our church?”
Kennedy said. As priests and deacons formed six small groups, ideas addressing the topics were written on large writing pads placed on easels. They included education and preparation for the Eucharist, growing parish hospitality and initiating a standardized RCIA program. Helen said the basic themes that have been identified are the “right” themes. “It is a daunting task. But this is the beginning of it and this is the starting point.”