SASKATOON — Representatives from Ukrainian Catholic parishes across the province gathered March 7 - 8 for a Sobor in Action Conference to discuss the implementation of a new pastoral vision in the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, as well as launching an Annual Eparchial Appeal to provide needed funding.
Through a multi-faceted consultation and visioning process involving clergy and laity throughout 2014, an eparchial sobor, or synod, identified priorities and produced a number of recommendations. The purpose of the Sobor in Action Conference was to take concrete steps to implement those priorities.
The conference included inspirational and challenging words from keynote speakers Rev. Gregory Hrynkiw on Living the Liturgy and MS sufferer Mark Pickup on faith and the sanctity of human life in light of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling on assisted suicide. It also included prayer and celebration of the divine liturgy.
Breakout sessions throughout the day at Bishop James Mahoney High School in Saskatoon provided information about several of the priority areas identified in the sobor process, including youth, family and life, stewardship, communications and faith formation.
Conference participants also heard details about the launch of an Annual Eparchial Appeal to provide resources for these priorities. Information about the launch of the appeal was presented by representatives of DCG Philanthropic Services, who are assisting the eparchy in the first year of what will become an annual fundraising effort.
Plans call for the Annual Eparchial Appeal to be launched in parishes across the eparchy in April 2015, with this year’s goal set at $200,000.
Funds will be directed to the eparchy’s education and faith formation programs, including the Ukrainian Catholic Religious Education Centre, as well as going toward Youth Ministry, the Family and Life Office, and the Eparchial Communications Office — all identified as priorities in the consultation process.
“The decisions you make today will shape the future of the eparchy,” said Don Gorsalitz of DCG Philanthropic Services. “What is the legacy that you are going to leave behind for the next generations?”
Morris Smysnuik, director of the Bishop Budka Eparchial Stewardship Society Inc., which raises funds for eparchial programming and projects, stressed the need for the entire eparchy to work together to revitalize the eparchy and its parishes.
The number of parish families in the eparchy has dropped significantly over the past 30 years, Smysnuik pointed out. “We have heard from eparchy ministries and organizations, information on what we can do — programs they offer, and the value of what they do in the eparchy. The work is not only valuable, but extremely necessary, if we as an eparchy are going to survive.”
It is now time to put the recommendations of the sobor into action, Smysnuik said. He noted the importance of working together collectively as an eparchy, pooling resources and programs, as opposed to each parish trying to do everything on its own.
Launching an Eparchial Annual Appeal that will now be held every year — similar to appeals in Roman Catholic dioceses in the province — has several advantages, Smysnuik said. “I believe we need to go directly to the individual faithful and parishes of the eparchy and seek help in funding these programs,” he said, noting the willingness of individuals to support many other worthy causes of many kinds once they recognize a need.
“There are lots of benefits to go this route of an Eparchial Annual Appeal: being faithful as an eparchy, working together for a common cause, finding ways to revitalize, to create those vibrant parishes, to have a positive working relationship between parishes and the eparchy — to reinforce that the eparchy and the parishes are one. Success in the eparchy means success in the parishes and vice versa,” he said. “People will also learn more about the eparchy and its programs.”
Prayer is also an important part of the stewardship path, he added, calling for “an invocation of the Holy Spirit to help us increase the number of families — to be missionary. The status quo is not an option and neither is failure.”
Bishop Bryan Bayda described how the eparchial sobor process and the testimonies of faith provided by so many during the year of consultation have filled him with thanksgiving and hope. “The challenges that we face as Christians are great, but Christ is with us in the boat, and in confidence we can follow his words in Luke 5:4; ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets.’ ”
The bishop added: “The world is hungry for the message of Jesus Christ — when we share our stories, no one is left to feel alone. God is calling each one of the baptized to take up their role as a missionary disciple, sent forth to share their encounter with Christ.” Priorities identified through the eparchial sobor will help the faithful take up that role in the world, he said.
The 2014 Eparchial Sobor, exploring the theme Families Evangelizing Families, included gatherings of clergy and laity in May and in October, as well as an eparchy-wide survey, and input from Ukrainian Catholic parishes across the province, who undertook planning sessions based on a pastoral letter from His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UCGC).