Clergy Chrism Conference, 2014

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Focusing again on the “Vibrant Parish” topic, the clergy of St Nicholas Eparchy met at Mundelein's Cardinal Stritch Retreat House, June 2-5, 2014. In this third look at a December, 2011 Pastoral Letter on this subject by His Beatitude +Sviatoslav, more practical emphasis was placed upon implementing the process that had been previously studied for its theoretical content.

As well, the days spent together were geared toward a broader range with a view to a more holistic approach to help realize the wide-ranging scope of our Patriarch's vision for a healthier Church in its many manifestations as a place to “encounter the living Christ.”

Discussion the first day was led by the Dean of the Chicago Deanery, Very Rev Basil Salkovski, OSBM, who recapped the introduction first delivered in 2012 by Fr. Leonard Korchinsky and the 2013 part-by-part in-depth study conducted by Fr Andrew Onuferko. With the basic concepts presented previously, it is now possible to proceed further. This review by Father Basil was followed by other programs on the schedule designed to supplement the encyclical.

Making a presentation of the ministry of service provided to the Church by deacons, Fr Deacon Michael Cook, outlined various aspects of his role as Director of the Diaconate Program. He presented his research into various training programs available. Most promising, he suggested, was that at Pittsburgh's Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Ss Cyril and Methodius: A multi-year series of intensive several-week courses as a convenient solution for those who cannot attend “full time”. Fr. Deacon Michael asked: “what parish needs a deacon?” Some discussion followed, and comments indicate that the diaconal role is open-ended. Ideally, every “Vibrant” parish needs a deacon: primarily for liturgical fullness, and optimally to provide parochial assistance in implementing the outreach of social service to the needs of the parish and the community-at-large. The pastors are encouraged to forward the names of interested candidates for diaconal studies to him.

The second day's program listed the morning session only as “health from within” with no hint of just what exactly that meant. What followed was a power-point presentation on another holistic topic: health. Presenting an approach to physical health—and thus the overall well-being of the cleric, his family and parishioners—was Dr Nick Hasenfratz. Emphasizing the God-engineered structure of the human body, and its inherent propensity for healthy existence, Dr Nick addressed the audience in a way reflecting addresses delivered to participants of any secular seminar. He noted that no matter the profession—doctor, auto mechanic, teacher—such conferences optimize the performance of the attendees by learning new techniques to make them better at their calling. His “inner health” program is part chiropractic, part pro-active attention, and spiritual focus for wellness. He provided tips for finding ways to maximize the strength of not only the priest or deacon, but how to spread it to the parishioners as well. He offered help not only to the local clergy, but, through a network of associated facilities, to priests and their families and parishioners wherever in the country we have parishes—with being “vibrant” as our goal.

The afternoon included two presentations. First, New Star was on the agenda. Managing Editor, Fr John Lucas, spoke of the history of the newspaper, which begins its fiftieth year in January. The purpose of providing a connection between the bishop and the geographically widespread faithful was the impetus in the beginning, and continues until now. Noting the bishop's response to the liturgical commemoration asking God to keep him “for many years faithfully im-parting the word of (Your) truth...” and applying a subscription to every parish family, Fr John called attention to the mission of solidarity of New Star. Donning a shirt and cap with stars in their design, he reminded each pastor of the invitation of our eparchial newspaper to use its pages as a way to report to the whole world the very “vibrant parish” life each enjoys. With examples of similar publications across the country, attention was drawn to the rather limited space now in New Star devoted to how each parish impacts its local community—whether publicized or not. Pastors are asked to share the implementation of “the Good News” each parish exudes in what we often consider everyday “not-so-special” yet important activities, and appoint someone to report on and photograph these life-involving events that witness our faith.

Following this, Subdeacon Petro Rudka addressed matters pertaining to protocol in the normal process of communication with the Bishop's Chancery. These necessary interactions are best attended to in prompt, correct and intelligible ways for the benefit of all involved. This includes announcements of eparchial programs, and, when necessary, submission of reports and receipt of funds for special collections or the SHARE Eparchial Appeal.

Concluding business for the day, the clergy were invited to dinner at a local restaurant.

The last day's schedule allowed for a meeting of the Presbyteral Council and a short wrap-up before the Divine Liturgy and panakhyda for the deceased bishops, priests and deacons that have served St Nicholas Eparchy. This was followed by distribution of the Holy Myro (Chrism) consecrated by Bishop Richard on Holy Thursday, to be used by each local priest in the Mystery of Chrismation, providing a link between the newly-enlightened and the hierarch, and the rest of the Church.

Just before leaving the chapel to have the group picture taken, Very Rev Canon Wayne Ruchgy, Syncellus, presented Bishop Richard with a large greeting card commemorating two ordination anniversaries observed in ten days. The card, signed by clergy at the conference,  noted His Grace's 47th anniversary of priesthood on May 25, and 11th episcopal ordination on June 4. Well wishes were also made by many with individual cards, imploring “many years, O Lord” for our spiritual father.

Lunch in the dining room followed—and the journeys home began after that.

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