Christmas Appeal for the Archeparchy of Philadelphia
“For your sake our Lord Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich, so that by
his poverty you might become rich. It is appropriate for you who began not only to
act but to act willingly last year: complete it now. Your surplus at the present time
should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs.”
2 Cor. 8: 9-11, 13.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
I thank you for your faithfulness in the arduous pandemic circumstances. I thank you because you reach out to each other. You keep community prayer going. You welcome each other, and me, warmly in our parishes and schools. You show how the Lord continues to encounter us. God comes to meet us in our real-life joys and hardships. This is particularly true in Christmas and in the family celebrations and challenges that are before us.
All of humanity has suffered. Millions have died. Covid continues to rage in many counties, especially Ukraine. Here in America, during the first year of the pandemic, our Metropolia lost 22 of approximately 300 clergy and religious (not all from the coronavirus) — a mortality rate of 7% over twelve months during which we had no new ordinations nor vocations to our religious orders.
Last year’s Christmas letter identified the severe clergy shortage as the single greatest obstacle to our ministry. We all need and want priests to be in our parishes sharing our joys and be compassionately present in our pain. Many of our priests have had little or no time off for years. We shared the hope of bringing new clergy from Ukraine to address this dire need.
Thank God, in the spring and summer, eight new missionaries — six priests, a subdeacon and a lay woman — arrived to begin serving in the Archeparchy, the culmination of almost two years of preparatory work. They are open to God’s call and have an impressive range of talents. By now, many of you have met at least one of them. They bolster our parishes and ministries, gladly facing the challenges of new circumstances. Their presence is a blessing and a joy!
Fathers Ruslan Borovyi, Andriy Chornopysky, Ihor Kolisnyk (CSsR), Yaroslav Lukavenko, Ostap Mykytchyn, and Roman Oliinyk have served in over a dozen parishes throughout the Archeparchy substituting for pastors wherever needed. Some have already embraced long-term assignments. Five of the six missionary priests are husbands and fathers, and their families take active roles alongside them. Mariana Karapinka, along with the married team of Halyna Vasylytsia and Deacon Andrii Rubel, work to transform and develop the Archeparchial Communications Office. Their professional output is prodigious. It is recognized by many of you but also outside of our community, especially by our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. I hope you enjoy following news from various parishes and communities as much as I do. They are showing the personal and human side of the Archeparchy, especially through the top-notch videos!
A key development of the last months has been our Archeparchial Planning, part of the Pastoral Plan of the global Ukrainian Catholic Church. The four Sobors (councils) conducted in 2019 and 2020 served to collect your input on topics like communion and unity, catechesis, liturgy and prayer, and service to those in need.
They became the foundation of our first formal planning meetings in August 2021 and led to the creation of four teams of more that 50 laity, religious, and priests who will ensure the implementation of financial, social, and ministerial strategies. These four teams are responsible for making “the rubber hits the road.” These intentions will not remain on paper. With the active involvement of our clergy, religious, and laity, the carefully recorded desires expressed by representatives of our parishes during the Sobors are leading to action.
All aspects of our Pastoral Plan are animated by your voices. The Archeparchy is yours. As Paul teaches, based on the example of Jesus himself, my vocation as Metropolitan is to be a servant of servants, not an ecclesial or secular CEO: “For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:5). In this ministry, I need your help and you deserve to be informed. Transparency and frequent communication are top priorities. The Sobors, the Archeparchial Planning, The Way are all conduits between the pews and the Chancery. I am asking that you follow our progress, especially by reading The Way, and participate in every way possible. (If you are not on the electronic mailing list and would like to receive The Way, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call our chancery in Philadelphia (215) 627-0143)
Allow me to share with you a special request. Would you consider giving generously to our Christmas Appeal to support the ministry of our new priests and lay workers? Your Christmas donation will be doubled! A generous anonymous donor has extended his pledge made in February to match every donation for the new missionary project.
The work of the new missionaries is only a part of the Archeparchy’s activity. Our dedicated experienced priests, with your help, have kept our parishes running despite formidable obstacles. We have established a growing food pantry and social ministry bringing the light of Christ to the darkest corners of Philadelphia. Our new Commission for Youth Ministry is headed by a wonderful laywoman from Philadelphia, Sofia Zacharczuk, who at 28 became my new chief-of-staff and coordinator of the Archeparchy’s pastoral planning. We have a new head of the Vocations Office in deacon Volodymyr Radko, who will be ordained a priest in February. We have a new seminarian from our Northampton parish, with two others already in formation, and 11 more candidates from Ukraine who have begun a year-long virtual preparation program to come to our Archeparchy. Please pray for them all!
God draws souls to Himself especially in troubling times. New life is proof of this. A newborn child in the harshest of circumstances gives us perspective and hope. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a den for animals, not in a sparkling and sterile maternity ward. The manger, our Lord’s crib, was a trough for livestock. The challenges only mounted! Herod sought to kill the infant Jesus. The Holy Family became homeless refugees in Egypt. The life of the Lord on earth began in dearth, dung, and danger…but He is the Son of God who brings hope and salvation to the world!
Soon we will celebrate God’s closeness in the Nativity. We will greet one another exclaiming CHRIST IS BORN! God’s love never shies away from our hardships. Let us extend and multiply that divine gesture and continue to reach out to each other. Please help the Archeparchy develop new missions serving those in need by giving to the Christmas Appeal that this year will be generously matched one for one. I sincerely thank you for your prayers, for your spiritual and material support.
May the peace of the Lord and the joy of the Savior’s Nativity be with you and your loved ones this Christmas and throughout the New Year.
Христос раждається! Славіте Його!
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Gratefully yours in the Newborn Savior,