Episcopal letter on the occasion of the enthronement “Ministry for you and together with you”

Very Reverend Priests and Deacons, Reverend Sisters, Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

Praised Be Jesus Christ!

Today, I address you as Your bishop and pastor. On the 15th of January 2020, when Pope Francis nominated me bishop for the Melbourne Eparchy, I understood one thing: the Lord through His divine providence is writing the story of my life. I had different plans in that I was to return from the United States to Ukraine to help form young men who had embarked on the road of religious life. However, I returned to Ukraine not as a priest, but as a nominated bishop because “the human heart deliberates on the way, the Lord guides its steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

These words of God’s teaching, I experienced once more when owing to quarantine restrictions my consecration was transferred from April to June. My plans for my future ministry changed. I awaited many of you in the Arch-cathedral Sobor of St. George where my consecration took place, however I met you all in Australia. In time many difficulties appeared regarding the obtaining of a visa because of the Covid-9 pandemic and a long period of expectation. Only God knows how much effort was put into action by many people, so that I could finally be with you.

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On the 12th of July 2021, my enthronement in the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul took place. With this began my ministry as bishop of Ss. Peter and Paul Eparchy, Melbourne for Ukrainian Catholics in Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania.

We read in the first letter to the Corinthians: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, just so with Christ… Now you are the body of Christ, each member as part of the whole (1 Cor. 12:12,27). Paul the Apostle is speaking about Christ’s Body which is the Church. Very often we understand Church only as building. Even as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Art.147) teaches: “The Church means a people that God calls and gathers together from all ends of the world, in order to unite all those who through faith and Baptism become God’s children, members of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

We all comprise one Body of Christ, which is the Church: I as bishop, you as priests, deacons, sisters, and the laity. The ministry of the bishop or of the priest will not be completed without you the laity. But it should be remembered that without the bishop or the priest, no Sacrament in Christ’s Church, which is a sign of Christ’s presence among us, can be celebrated. We are all mutually connected as members of one body. Only in such unity, wholeness and togetherness are we able to achieve great deeds for God’s glory. We are encouraged to this end by the words of a hymn “In unity is found the strength of a nation, God grant us unity”! Therefore, each one of us is responsible for the building up of Christ’s Body.

We find in the pages of Sacred Scripture the bishop’s role in the building up of the church. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus speaks to his apostles: “It is I among you as the one who serves” (Lk. 22:27). The office of bishop has three dimensions: to teach, to sanctify and to govern. Each of these dimensions is service and so it is the bishop who serves. The bishop is the person who serves in the image of Christ, who first served the apostles when He washed their feet at the Last Supper. With this gesture, our Lord gave his disciples an example to follow: “An example I have given you so that you too would do as I have done for you” (Jn. 13:5) The bishop is the one who in his ministry is directed by love and respect for every child of God; this is ministry for you and together with you.

Reverend priests and deacons! God called each one of you to become his “co-workers” in His Vineyard (1 Cor. 3:9). It is a great calling and a gift, however, at the same time, a great responsibility. You took upon yourselves “an easy yoke and a light burden” (Mt. 11:30). Christ’s priesthood, to be people of prayer and the face of the Merciful God in today’s world. The Lord invites you to be an example for the faithful and ready to serve. My desire to serve you and at the same time your openness to cooperation will be capable to perform great things for the good of our church.

Reverend Sisters! Persons consecrated to God always constitutes the heart of a spiritual and holy life. In fact, your commitment and ministry in the Australian eparchy is an invaluable gift which you share with the faithful of our parishes. Above all, the greatest gift for every one of us is your sincere prayer, which the faithful need so much.

Dear parishioners! The Servant of God Metropolitan Andrej Sheptytskyj taught in his time that “family is the fundamental cell of society”. Building on this thought, I wish to stress that family is an important part of the Church as a whole and of each parish. Very often the family is called the “Domestic Church”, because strictly speaking the child is formed in it and receives from its parents the first lessons about God and about faith. Educating the child in the Christian spirit the family trains its future, the Church, and the entire country. The children and the youth in fact learn in the family how to be conscious Christians, who can in time take upon themselves the duty of responsible lay persons. We as Church wish to join together with you in the task of educating the future generations of our eparchy.

Laity for the church are “modern day apostles” who go where the priests or consecrated persons cannot go. You are called to transform your surroundings by the example of your life with God and with teaching about Him. Thanks to your openness, help and support, our eparchy and the parishioners grow and it is the meeting place with the Living Christ. I hope that we together with you can continue to have such a close cooperation, which has existed since the very beginning of the formation of our church in Australia. In a particular way I invite every one of you to prayer for the clergy and monastic orders, so that we may fully realize our calling.

Commencing my ministry as the new bishop of the Australian Eparchy I shall continue to develop the work of my two predecessors. Our common plan is the spiritual growth of our parishes and the search for unity with Christ through the Holy Sacraments. In this way we will conserve our identity as Christians of the third millennium. With unified efforts we wish to find all our brothers and sisters scattered across this territory and to unify all around the One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church.

I entrust our eparchy and each one of you to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the prayer: Most Blessed Mother of God, save us!

The Blessing of the Lord be upon you!

Mykola Bychok, CSsR

Eparch for Melbourne Eparchy of Ss. Peter and Paul

Given in Melbourne at the Cathedral of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul,

On the feast of 12 July 2021 year of the Lord

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