UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC EPARCHY OF TORONTO EPARCHIAL SOBOR
October 24, 25, 26th, 2014
St. John the Theologian Ukrainian Catholic Church – St. Catharines Ontario
Our Keynote Speaker was Very Rev. Andrij Onuferko and he set the tone for the Sobor using the “Vibrant Parish” model as set out by Patriarch Sviatoslav. At this Sobor we concentrated on the first Three aspects of the Vibrant Parish: 1. Catechesis and the Word of God. (Dobrodika Iryna Galadza) 2. Liturgy and Prayer. (Cyril Kennedy) and 3. Diakonia – Service to One’s Neighbour. (Rt. Rev. Anton Szymychalski)
The Sobor was attended by 65 registered delegates of the Toronto Eparchy as well as members of the Clergy and the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. Following each presentation there was a Plenary Session. The following is a summary of these sessions.
CATECHESIS AND THE WORD OF GOD
All groups agreed that there is a need for Catechetical programs and instruction in the parish – not only for children, but also for adults.
Homilies need to be relevant to the times in which we live and the problems and issues that we face on a daily basis.
We need more creative ways to do Catechesis, especially for those parishes where there are not enough children to hold regular classes.
How do we reach out to parents and impress upon them the need to bring their children to Divine Services?
Bible Classes and discussion groups would benefit those who are looking for a deeper understanding of their faith and spirituality.
Perhaps the Eparchy could send out simple surveys to each parish from time to time to learn the particular need of that parish.
Missions for Lent and Advent are a wonderful way to expand our understanding of the Liturgical seasons.
Parish could have “mini-retreats” and “days of reflection” from time to time.
We need a more effective and comprehensive catechetical program other than the “God with Us” series that has been used for years.
The Eparchy needs to make known and make available more material in English.
Language and varying levels of knowledge and in some cases literacy, and competing with busy schedules and activities.
All should support Eparchial and Parish programs for youth such as ARISE and BREAK FOR JESUS.
Parishes should have a budget for catechetical materials, not just for formal programs, but also for informative pamphlets and other literature that is available.
Parish bookstores could be implemented where there is a need.
Witness to your faith joyfully
Lay people are willing to be more involved but need more cooperation from their pastors
Clergy coming from Europe or other countries must be made aware that they need to learn and be willing to use English in their parish.
LITURGY AND PRAYER
All agreed that the Eucharist is central to our lives.
Many felt that the language used in our Liturgy is outdated and could be modernized.
There is a need for INCLUSIVE language.
The English Translation needs more work – the language leaves much be desired; i.e.: bending my neck instead of bowing my head and “useless” servant instead of unworthy or humble.
Bishop needs to visit more remote parishes more often despite their financial ability to pay for his visit. This helps them to feel “connected” to the rest of the Eparchy.
Incorporate other services into the Divine Liturgy such as Baptism, Great Blessing of Water with renewal of baptismal vows, and Easter Matins. Pastorally this would allow more people to participate and witness the beauty of these services.
Don’t be afraid of the Electronic Media - this is where the young people are at.
Take baby steps but move forward not backward.
Vespers should be celebrated where there is a need and the Pastor is available. Many people love this service and it is not used enough.
We need a united calendar – this can only come from the Eparchial Level.
Churches need to be accessible.
Coffee socials after Divine Liturgy are a wonderful way of building community.
There should be copies of the Liturgical Proper’s for everyone when they are attending a special service.
Many priests have to work outside the parish and cannot be available to the parish on a full time basis.
Aging populations make priestly service more complicated since the priest is involved in many other areas in order for the parish to survive financially, this can interfere with pastoral duties and in some cases lead to “burn-out.
Cultural differences between priests coming from Europe often make it difficult for parishioners and the pastor.
Bulletins need to be informative, not just schedules.
Find ways to involve children in the Liturgy.
There should be more celebrations on the deanery level.
The Eparchial Website could offer more by way of spiritual guidance i.e. – reflections by clergy, sisters, and laity.
Every parish needs prayer books for the faithful.
Need practical training for Cantors
Churches should be open during the day for people to be able to come in and pray.
DIAKONIA – SERVICE TO ONE’S NEIGHBOUR
All felt every parish should have food bins to support their local food banks, or the local St. Vincent de Paul.
Pastoral counseling needs to be available.
Visits to the sick and shut-ins are vital to keep a connection to the parish community.
Phone committees could be formed to contact people who cannot get to church but still would like to speak to their friends and know what is going on in the parish.
Collections could be taken for clothing for Ukrainian orphanages.
The parish could sponsor a child.
The Knights of Columbus do a lot of charitable work – join!
We need to set an example for our children – perform acts of charity that they can witness and hopefully imitate.
Could we televise the Divine Liturgy for shut-ins?
Be aware of local support services and guide people to the professionals if you are not capable or qualified of providing the services required.
Adopt a needy family in the parish (anonymously).
Work at the local soup kitchens or “out of the cold” programs and get involved at the grass roots level.
Eparchial assistance programs are needed for new immigrants.
Parishes should be friendly and welcoming to everyone!
Learn to accept people where they’re at and for who they are. Love them and let God do the work.
Many parishes are struggling to survive and don’t have the means to do as much as they would like.
Often the pastor parish council will not allow a donation go forward. The parish needs to have a mission statement outlining their ministry within the communities they live.
Most of our parishes support local charities.
Charitable attitudes need to be prevalent in parish life in order for all organizations as well as pastor and parishioner to work together for the common good.
At the end of the day Fr. Onuferko gave a short talk on pastoral planning….
Priests received a copy of the Pastoral planning guide a year ago
Some parishes have begun to use it, others have not
Opportunities for teaching:
Sunday of the Parable of the Talents – “Stewardship Sunday”
We need more “elected” pastoral councils and their involvement in parish affairs
Each parish should have a financial committee not with their own agenda but the needs of the parish as their primary goal.
WHITE ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM
The following issues came up in a number of group reports and I have included them here because I think these are issues we have to face and deal with.
The eparchy needs to be more transparent with regard to finances if it want support from the laity.
Detailed financial statements from the Eparchy need to be published each year in the parish bulletin. Just as the parish is accountable to the Eparchy so too is the Eparchy accountable to the Parishes.
May have left their churches for another because of a lack of trust.
Many felt there is a serious disconnect between pastor and parishioners.
A feeling in general that when problems are brought to the attention of the eparchy they are not acknowledges and often ignored.
Sometimes the pastor can come across as a “dictator” because of poor communication skills, or his unwillingness to talk to parishioners about their concerns (even if this isn’t the intention).
I would say that all in attendance were enthusiastic and shared a genuine concern for their parishes and the future. All expressed a desire for a better relationship with their pastors and would like to have more gatherings such as this Sobor; on the parish, deanery and eparchial level.
It is clear that everyone present has a love of their church and a sincere concern for the years ahead. As an eparchy we need to come up with a “Pastoral Vision” that is unique to our needs and need to define the role of our Church here in Canada and the 21st century. Everyone agreed that while we need to minister to all of Ukrainian descent it isn’t enough – we are called to something much bigger and greater.
The Holy Spirit as begun this work through the vision of Patriarch Sviatoslav and will not give up unless we choose to ignore his calling.
In the near future (2105) we should have workshops and seminars available to teach better communication skills to clergy and laity so we can work more effectively together.
We need to understand that buildings are only buildings – without the faithful they are bricks and mortar – the church is the people of God – where two or three gather, our Lord said “There I am in their midst”
The Second Half of the “Vibrant Parish” topics should be covered in another Sobor not later than 2016 so we can fully move forward with vision and commitment.