“Work to lift up the spirits”

Archbishop William Skurla’s talk at the Jan. 16 dinner meeting was a good way to start the New Year for the Byzantine Catholic Serra Club. Traditionally, Serrans invite the Archbishop to speak at the February meeting, but this year it was moved to January due to schedule conflicts.

The Archbishop opened his remarks by thanking Serrans for their prayerful support and “work to lift up the spirits of our seminarians, priests, deacons, and religious.” He especially recalled his own seminary days, saying “that it helped me through the tough times to know someone was praying for me and cared enough to let me know.”

While we value the Serrans’prayer support, we tend to overlook the value of pizza parties and holiday parties that help boost the morale of the seminary community, including the families.

Having lunch at the SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pa. earlier that day, the Archbishop’s traditional seminary report was fresh. He acknowledged 14 current seminarians from our Byzantine Ruthenian Churches, the Melkite Church and Ukrainian Church.

He also reported that there are more students off-campus than on-campus. This reflects the Master of Theology program and online programs. “The seminary now provides classes for students around the world and continues to grow each year,” Archbishop William said.

This growth counters a pattern of decline in North American and Mexican seminaries since 2012. “On the positive side,” Archbishop William added, “the Catholic Church worldwide continues to grow with 1.4 million baptized Catholics in 2018, one in six persons is Catholic” (quoting the Vatican’s official statistical record, the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae).

The Archbishop alerted the Serrans: “From Feb. 21 to 23, I will be returning to Rome for the 2019 Bishop’s Synod addressing the issues concerning the protection of minors. The Synod will include the leadership from all Catholic Bishop’s Conferences and all of the leaders of the Eastern Catholic Churches of the world. In 2016, the number of bishops was 5,237 worldwide. The Byzantine Ruthenian Church is fortunate to be represented at the meeting of about 300 leaders within the Catholic Church.”

Archbishop William continued: “With the other churches, the Byzantine Ruthenian Metropolitan Church has submitted our reports concerning the work that we have done and the things that need to be done to resolve the current problems in the Church. The meetings are long, but we pray that, guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church will overcome the problems that we hear about in the news every day.”

He asked the Serrans for suggestions. “Please let me know if there is anything you would like me to tell the Pope and the other bishops, and as always, remember me in your prayers.” Archbishop William concluded, “We continue to work to provide a Safe Environment for our young people, and live up to the expectations of our Church members and the world that we follow the Gospel and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Archbishop then invited questions from the Serrans, which brought the question of further importation of priests from Eastern Europe. Archbishop William responded that “we are working with the Mukachevo Eparchy on bringing three more priests to serve here.” He also implied that cultural and language barriers are not as great as they once were, especially with English as a Second Language courses offered at LaRoche.

Archbishop William encouraged Serrans with the news that 2018’s Seminary “Come and See” weekend was the largest ever. He credited The BCW’s web site advertisement for the increased attendance. Finally, he reminded Serrans of their “job”: to talk to the young, and even the older, asking if they had heard even a small voice telling them that they may have a vocation.