Wednesday, October 03, 2007

City of Interritual Love

Speaking of things local and universal, before three Western cardinals, a horde of Latin-rite visitors and a packed Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the Major-Archbishop, Synod and Faithful of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church celebrated the 100th anniversary of its first hierarch's arrival in the US with a resplendent Divine Liturgy on Sunday at the church's American seat in Philadelphia.

Begun here last week and moving to Washington tomorrow, the meeting of the governing body of the largest Eastern church in communion with the Holy See is the first-ever gathering of an Oriental synod in the States.

Before beginning their deliberations, the Ukrainian prelates -- who count just over 100,000 members across four eparchies in the US and in excess of five million faithful worldwide -- saluted their clergy and religious at a special dinner last week.

The purpose of the event, however, wasn't simply to have a rich meal but, moreover, "a rich fraternal dialogue."

As host-hierarch, Metropolitan Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia greeted the participants thus:
Our magnificent Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral complex sits on holy ground. It is the location of the first Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in America. It is where our first Bishop, the Most Rev. Stephen Soter Ortynsky, together with Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky, blessed the first Cathedral. How befitting that we have gathered here celebrating the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Greek Catholic Bishop for the USA, Bishop Ortynsky. How special it is that today’s spiritual head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Patriarch Lubomyr Cardinal Husar joins us in this celebration, in the footsteps of Metropolitan Sheptytsky....

Today, the Bishops of the Synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church honor you, my brother clergy and religious of this nation. We want you to know of our love for you. We desire you to know of our fraternal concern for your wellness, spiritual and physical. We want to renew our commitment to journey together with you in our service and ministry to the faithful of our Ukrainian Catholic Church. The Bishops want to hear your thoughts and concerns about our holy Church. Today’s luncheon format allows for us to share with one another what is important to us about our Church. It facilitates us to share our joys and our disappointments.

There is no formal program planned for today’s luncheon. There will be no additional speakers to distract our attention. We want to devote this time of sharing a meal around one table to share and dialogue with one another. Let it not become a time of question and answer with the bishop at your table. Rather, we desire that you take the time to share with the bishop and with one another your thoughts and hopes for our Ukrainian Catholic Church, universally and in the United States of America.

So often, the human tendency is to focus on differences among people and societies. I invite you to consider in your dialogue that which we have in common in our journey of faith. Consider for example, the massive exodus of young people from towns and villages into the large cities, in search of better jobs and enhanced education possibilities. This is something which the eparchies in the United States and in Canada have struggled through over the last decades. The eparchies in Ukraine, Brazil and Argentina and other parts of the world are now facing this challenge in a significant way at this time. We can learn from one another by sharing what was done well and what we failed to do in facing the various challenges we face as a Church. I invite you to make the most of this opportunity to learn from one another.

In his short years of ministry in America, Bishop Stephen Soter Ortynsky left us a monumental vision on which to build upon. He inspired the Church to minister beyond itself, with his call to “preach to all nations”. The hierarchy, clergy and religious of the Metropolitan See of Philadelphia see it as a special blessing by God that the Synod Fathers were inspired to convene the Synod of Bishops in Philadelphia. We thank God and we thank our brother bishops for your holy presence amidst us.

PHOTO: Archeparchy of Philadelphia