The season of the Great Fast is upon us. Our liturgies, fasting, prayer and service to others remind us of our need to let go of what holds us back and do what brings us closer to God. When I have visited our parishes across the country and met with the bishops, clergy, and people of our Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States, the number one concern shared is the addressing of the need to reach out to our children, youth and young adults in our churches. We are not alone in this concern. At meetings for the Catholic and other Christian churches, all churches mention looking for ways to speak to and teach the next generation. The October 2018 Synod of Bishops will focus upon the topic “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.”
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri announced that the Preparatory Document has been presented. It includes the questions that will be considered, the procedures which will guide the process of preparation and the ways in which the Synod will proceed. The problem of gathering information from over a billion people, discussing it for a month, and then coming up with an action plan is more than a little complicated. The Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church will participate and be represented at the 2018 Synod of Bishops. We will receive a document which includes the questions to ask our people.
All Roman Catholic Episcopal Conferences and all Eastern Catholic Churches, and other ecclesial institutions throughout the world are required to respond in order to prepare for this 2018 Ordinary Synod in Rome. As soon as I receive the questions for the Synod, we will ask you what you think. Instead of mailing paper copies of your answers to me, we will collect the information through the websites of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy and our three Eparchies in the United States. The questions will be read by me and sorted into categories. You can be anonymous or give your name if you wish. I personally read several thousand of the responses from the past two Synods which were sent to me from all of our churches in the United States.
The responses came from Florida to Alaska, conservative to progressive, old to young, and from faithful to less active members. There were amazing responses. Your actual responses were used as a part of my presentation to the Holy Fathers and members of the Synod of Bishops. Some people and even I ask the question: “What difference will my response make?” The answer is that one Byzantine Catholic person’s comment to find a way to pass on the faith to our young people was the focus of mine and of and several other presentations at the Synod of the Family.
The response of a few has contributed to redirecting the entire Catholic Churches worldwide to turn toward the need of our youth. What we need now is information on what is working in your family and in parish programs which bring the faith and encourage vocations. If nothing is happening in your parish, what do you think could help bring the faith to the next generation of Byzantine Catholics. Your comments and ideas will be heard and presented to Pope Francis and the Synod Fathers. The voices of the youth are especially powerful.
In addition to providing guidance to the Synod, your ideas and successful programs will be shared with the parishes of the Byzantine Catholic Church. Please pray for our young people. If you keep them in your daily prayers, it may help to open your mind to new ideas. Also, pray for others that they may receive insights that you have not imagined. If you then spend a little of your Lenten prayer and fasting to germinate those thoughts and ideas which can make a difference for the future of our church, your Lenten ideas may bring new life for our Church.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh
Apostolic Administrator of Parma