Posted by: Fr Chris | May 22, 2010

May Conference & Italo-Greeks in Nevada

Glory to Jesus Christ.

This week was our annual Clergy Conference. Now, I am back home in
ABQ, much to the joy of Pancho. He spent the entire week curled into a
ball in my house or at the church office, and barely enjoyed going for
walks or eating.

At our Conference, the bishop comes together with all the priests,
deacons, Sisters, and seminarians to go over business items – this
year being our handbook, pension, safe environment, vocations, and
other things – and the conference is tied to a local parish’s
particular event, like an ordination or anniversary. This year we
celebrated the ordinations of two men to all the minor orders
(acolyte, lector, subdeacon) – one from our church in Alaska and one
from the church in Los Gatos, CA –  and one seminarian to the order of
transitional deacon. This was done at Our Lady of Wisdom Church, the
only Byzantine Catholic parish of the Italo-Greek rite in the US, in
Las Vegas, NV. You can read about this unique parish and some of its
heritage here:

http://www.ourladyofwisdom.net/

This page tells you about the Byzantine Catholics in Sicily:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piana_degli_Albanesi

and this one about the Byzantine Catholics in all of Italy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italo-Albanian_Catholic_Church

The founding families and priest all trace their roots back to Sicily
and either Albanian or Greek families. In the Liturgy, the people sang
“Kyrie eleison” instead of “Lord have mercy” and the priest use
English, Italian and Greek. They also sang Greek hymns by heart after
Holy Communion and the priests gave Communion by taking small slices
of Consecrated Bread and dipping them into the Precious Blood, then
giving to the people. the people were all most gracious, and the
parishioners count Italians, Italo-Greeks, African-Americans,
Filipinos,  Slavs, and just about everyone else in their congregation!

The church itself is beautiful – Greek style on the outside, with
white walls and light blues, and inside the walls are covered with
frescoes, the dome a huge Christ Pantocrator icon, and shrines along
the walls. The man ordained is a convert from Evangelical Protestant –
he and his Catholic half-sister were reading the Church Fathers and he
decided to look for Catholic and Eastern at that parish, and
eventually converted. Next year he will be ordained a priest.

The other two seminarians from our eparchy were there also. One will
be assigned to Fr Michael O’Loughlin this summer, one to Fr Rybarczuck
at the Proto-Cathedral in Sherman Oaks. The new deacon goes to our San
Diego parish for the summer. They will all participate in the annual
Alive in Christ camp for boys, which will be in  Washington state this
year. There is also a girls and womens retreat this year, named for
the Holy Myrrhbearers (the holy women who went to anoint Jesus’ body
in the tomb), in Arizona.

Our eparchy is now the Eparchy of the Holy Protection of Mary, of
Phoenix. The Phoenix church of St Stephen is now the cathedral, and
the original cathedral in the Los Angeles area is now a
proto-cathedral.

We had the pleasure of most of the Byzantine Catholic seminarians in
the US coming to the conference to participate in the joy of the
ordination of Deacon Mendoza. They were surprised at how joyful a
group we are, and how well we interact with each other, even when
disagreeing. Sign of a healthy Church!

My summer schedule has gotten turned around and around, but here are
some definites.

Below are two upcoming events on the East Coast that I will be at:

Pittsburgh – Monday evening of  June 7, depart evening of Thursday,
June 10. There are events at the seminary, Cathedral and Seminary
Press all for “Year of the Priest”.

This will be the first time that all of the priests of the Byzantine
Catholic Church in the USA will be together at one location. We are
having a lecture, some meetings, and the archbishop will serve the
Liturgy of the Consecration of Chrism, something that we never really
see. The chrism is used for the Mystery of Chrismation/ Sacrament of
Confirmation, which is then sent to parishes for the priests to use.
I will also be able to visit some people in the Pittsburgh area with
this trip. Fr Kurt and I are traveling together and I will have my
folding wheelchair.

Orientale Lumen DC – Week of June 21. This will be my 2nd OL
conference, and I will be in the Washington area a little longer. It
is the only venue where Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholics, and Roman
Catholic hierarchy, clergy, laity, and monastics come together for
classes and frank discussions as opposed to formal dialogues set up by
Churches. This has been run for years by my publisher, Jack Figel, a
member of Epiphany parish in Annandale, VA.
You can read the schedule at http://www.olconference.com/OLC14BrochureWEB.

I will be staying at the retreat house immediately next door to the
John Paul II Center, from Monday until Thursday afternoon. Then I will
be staying on with my publisher at his home in Fairfax VA for
meetings. I will most likely be at Epiphany Church in Annandale, VA,
that Sunday for Divine Liturgy.
Hopefully I can see people in the DC area this time; perhaps we can
all meet for dinner on Thursday or Friday? I will be relying on Jack’s
employees to help me get around places.

My health remains an interesting topic in that once I learn how to
handle most areas, something new inevitably pops up that I have never
experienced before. I am, to be honest, quite tired of that. I would
be truly happy to have things just ride quietly for a while – like a
year or so. I was in hospital in April for pneumonia and the only good
thing I have to say about that is that I had a lot of time to pray.
Right at the start of this last trip I developed a bad infection in my
right arm – opportunity to offer up suffering united to Christ’s
Cross. But a quiet period would be nice.

Our parish here will hold its annual fiesta on June 19, 9 am – 4 pm.
We will have a Byzantine Book tent, with tables covered with titles in
philosophy, Catholic apologetics, Eastern Churches, prayer, church
history, Mother of God, Benedict XVI, icons, praying with icons, and
children’s books. There is a whole section of Russian icons, and icons
from different vendors. Plus we have a DVD movie/ DVD lecture section
with classic films, current lectures, and Catholic documentaries.
For food, we will have trays of baklava made by the Arabic-speakers,
nut rolls by the Slavic families, and American desserts plus hot meals
of stuffed cabbage or hot dog plates.
It is also the feast of St Jude in our rite, and so we will have a
first-class relic of St Jude available for people to venerate and pray
to God for his intercession.
Don’t you wish you were nearby? Actually, some people getting this ARE
nearby, so hopefully we will see you that Saturday.

I am working on Book 3, and the changes to Book 2. I just got asked to
do a book review of a new book on St Edith Stein and the Jewish
Catholics arrested with her in occupied Holland in 1942:

http://www.ignatius.com/Products/ESC-P/edith-stein-and-companions.aspx

This book covers some of the Jewish Catholics, both German and Dutch,
who were arrested and sent to Auschwitz by the Nazis after the Dutch
Catholic bishops published a letter condemning the Nazi treatment of
Jews. Over 700 people died, almost all of them on the day the train
got to the camp. Many of them were remarkable people, monks and nuns,
and entire families, who had become Catholic after faith journeys that
were real challenges. I look forward to doing the review, because St
Edith’s writings have been very important to me, and this book brings
another dimension of the Holocaust home to us.

Google Chrome has added a new translation feature, and this is
expanding my research horizons. I am now able to read websites from
our Byzantine Catholic Churches and religious Orders in Hungary,
Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, Slovakia, and Poland. The
translations are not always accurate, which then forces me to go to
the original text and work for a better understanding, which thus
forces me to learn more words/ grammar in those languages. But it is a
big step forward in research, and actually a lot of fun for me. I am
working to make a small book on the Eastern Catholic Churches under
communism in Europe: their heroes, how they survived, modern
challenges. And Book 3 is the beneficiary of this improvement as well.
Book 2 has sold over 1,000 copies – hopefully we will sell out at
Pittsburgh and at the DC conference.

Pancho remains a very good dog, very devoted – as shown by his
depression when I am away. He will not like the month of June.
Different people in the parish continue to help me with cleaning,
shopping, driving, and getting around. The young adult Rosary group
has resumed meeting, and I try to get to those.

Our Knights of Columbus Council has grown a lot, mostly young men
including converts. They put on a program now in different parishes
called “Night with the Knights”. this is a panel of four Knights and
one laywoman who take questions from the audience on anything about
the Catholic religion, and give their best answers. Ultimately they
plan to go to college campuses and set up a table and take questions
from general audiences. It’s a real challenge, and they have to study
hard. One is a returnee to the Faith, one is a convert, one is a
Maronite Catholic  who suffered persecution under Muslim rule, and the
laywoman has a theology degree. They also sponsor a monthly meal in
the church hall on a Sunday, and family corporate Communion Sundays. I
am the chaplain for them.

I had high hopes of getting to NYC and to the Carmelite Nuns in SD but
no luck – getting a travel companion has been hard. I still have hopes
for August.


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