Planning for the Future
by, Brent Kostyniuk
On March 25, 2012 – fittingly the Feast of the Annunciation – the Eparchy of Edmonton unveiled its 25 Year Pastoral Plan.
Both Lungs met with Bishop David Motiuk to learn more about the Plan. The first obvious question is why 25 years? “Well, we think five years is a relatively short period of time in the life of the Church, and often brings with it rigidity, inflexibility, and a desire to maintain the status quo,” replies Bishop David. “Twenty five years, on the other hand, gives us freedom to dream, to hope, to vision, yet it is still within our reach and something to strive for in a given lifetime.”
In part, impetus for the Plan comes from Pope John Paul II who called for pastoral planning in his Apostolic Letter, At the Beginning of the New Millennium (Novo millennio ineunte). In particular, the pope turned to the Churches of the East. “I look with great hope to the Eastern Churches, and I pray for a full return to that exchange of gifts which enriched the Church of the first millennium. May the memory of the time when the Church breathed with “both lungs” spur Christians of East and West to walk together in unity of faith and with respect for legitimate diversity, accepting and sustaining each other as members of the one body of Christ.”
“The Eparchy’s 25 Year Plan,” says Bishop David, “is really our response to the Gospel of St. Matthew – baptise all nations – recognizing that the Ukrainian Catholic Church shares in the mission to bring the Good News to all people, through the lens of the Kyivan Church. We have the beautiful treasure of Eastern spirituality. We are entrusted with it, not just for ourselves, but to share with others.”
With this in mind, the next question is how will this be accomplished? Bearing in mind the social and cultural realities of Canada, the Plan calls on all Ukrainian Catholics – clergy, religious, monastic, and laity – to develop a much stronger and more zealous evangelizing and missionary thrust. Because evangelization starts at the parish level, the concept of the “vibrant parish” has been adopted. One which is alive and active will enrich the faith of those who practice their faith regularly, as well as those who do so infrequently or not at all. It also means going beyond the bounds of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Eastern liturgy, theology, spirituality and discipline, are to be shared with all who desire it, including other Eastern and Western Catholics, Orthodox and other Eastern Christians, other Western Christians, and other faiths.
The Long Term Pastoral Plan is based on three pillars of parish renewal – Word, Eucharist and Service.
Word intends to help the faithful better know Christ, our faith and our Church. In concrete terms, each person and family is invited to discover or rediscover the Sacred Scriptures through regular reading and reflection on the Bible. On a parish level, bible studies, catechetical programs, including age appropriate material emphasizing the stories and parables of Jesus, should be organized. Bible study days, workshops and seminars will be organized on an eparchial basis. These programs should be geared not just towards children, but should recognize the need for continuous faith development among children, youth, young adults, adults and seniors alike. Parishes will be encouraged to introduce Generations of Faith for Byzantine Churches, which uses an inter-generational approach to catechesis. As well, the Eparchy is developing a Ukrainian Catholic Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, something long familiar to Latin Catholics. Finally, Youth Evangelizing Youth intends to develop their skills further and involve young people in the ministry of evangelization among their peers.
The second pillar, Eucharist, encourages greater love for Christ through prayer and celebrating the Word of God, the Eucharist and the Mysteries. New Gospel and Epistle books will make the readings more understandable to modern listeners. As well, a new pocket size liturgical book will be published. It will include the complete Scripture readings, as well as changeable parts, in a form easily used by all at the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
As regular readers of Both Lungs are aware, in Eastern practice the three sacraments of Christian Initiation – Baptism, Chrismation, and Holy Communion – are received together. This practice is to be restored where it has not already been. As well, because Christian Initiation is considered an apprenticeship into the existing community, the three sacraments should ordinarily take place on a Sunday or Feast Day in the presence of the greater worshipping community. Baptism through the rite of triple immersion is also to be restored.
Of special interest to many, the diaconate, instituted not for the priesthood but for the service of the bishops and presbyters, is to be renewed both in its liturgical and extra-liturgical mission. For the first time, an Eparchial Commission of Sacred Art will advise parishes on improvements which correspond with Eastern tradition, in particular icons.
Service, the third pillar, will help the faithful to better follow Christ and witness for Him. This includes good stewardship. Each individual is called to practice personal stewardship, while collective stewardship calls on families, parishes, religious communities and the Eparchy as a whole to work in unity. In this spirit, the priesthood of the laity in the Church, at home, at school, at work and in the world is to be fostered. Where and when possible, parish churches are to be made available for prayer with unlocked doors as a silent witness that all are invited to enter into the presence of Christ.
The Plan calls for missionary spirit to be fostered throughout the Eparchy. It will extend to mission parishes in cities, towns, and possibly even Aboriginal communities. Here, Bishop David speaks of an opportunity which, admittedly, will seem unlikely to many Ukrainian Catholics. “If we are going to share our Eastern spirituality with First Nations peoples, we have to start with what we already have in common. First, there is nature, a love for mother earth. That is very much a part of Eastern spirituality. Then there are our common ideals of hospitality and family, especially the extended family. These are things we can build on.” With this in mind, a Ukrainian Catholic priest is expected to celebrate a Byzantine Divine Liturgy at the annual First Nations pilgrimage to Lac St. Anne this summer.
Edmonton Eparchy’s new Pastoral Plan is set to bring a breath of fresh air into this spiritual community.