The long awaited Eparchial Sobor took place on the 25th-26th April weekend at the Cathedral in North Melbourne. About 40 delegates from all parishes, except from Sydney and area, took part.
Four years ago our Patriarch Sviatoslav announced a pastoral program called “A Vibrant Parish, a place to meet the Living Christ” “Vision 2020”. All Eparchies of the world have been working on this programme. A Patriarchal Sobor is planned for August 2015 in Ukraine. There the whole church will examine what it should do to create a church were its faithful can personally meet Jesus Christ.
At the Sobor, our Eparchy met to hear the voice of the faithful about what we need to do to bring our community to a more vibrant future.
In his opening remarks to the Sobor, Bishop Peter reminded the delegates that their voice was very important because the Holy Spirit works through members of the church.
Bishop Peter also reminded all that the future of the Ukrainian community and church was not guaranteed. History has shown that the church and the Christian community were present in many places at one time and are not in existence today in those places.
He introduced Fr. Ihor Kolisnyk C.Ss.R., who represented the community in New Zealand. Bishop Peter then went on to point out that in New Zealand in the last 65 years there were about 3,000 Ukrainians who arrived in 1949-1950. They had families. In all there were probably about five to six thousand Ukrainians in New Zealand. There were weddings, baptisms, Ukrainian schools, dancing groups, choirs, concerts, organizations, and all other forms of community life.
When Fr. Ihor arrived in New Zealand two months ago, only one family from the 1949 group remains on the list. All other forms of Ukrainian life became totally silent. Fr. Ihor’s mission and work is with a totally new group of people who have recently arrived from Ukraine.
Bishop Peter urged the delegates to think about this and, with the help of God’s Grace, do what is necessary so that this history does not repeat itself again in New Zealand. He added that in Australia itself it is totally possible that the same thing could happen. There are already signs that this process is repeating itself.
What was the main factor for the disappearance of the Ukrainian community in New Zealand? Certainly a lack of adequate pastoral care! A lack of a Christian community! The lack of a Ukrainian community structures! The absence of a youth apostolate?
Bishop Peter reminded the Sobor that the church had a plan for revival; the question remains is how we understand the signs of the times? What are we going to do to make sure it does not happen again?
The plan actually comes from our Patriarch. It is a six point plan. During the Sobor six speakers presented reflections and questions to consider in order to build a Vibrant Church community within our Eparchy.
Fr. Brian Kelty presented the first point “The word of God and catechism”. Fr. Simon Ckuj spoke about “Liturgy and prayer”. Bohdanna Goldby explained “Service to our neighbours”. Stefan Romaniw reflected on “Leadership, Stewardship, and Charity”. Fr. Paul Babie gave an impressive talk on fostering and serving unity. Bishop Hilton Deakin addressed the topic “Missionary Spirit of a Parish Community”.
All the talks were well prepared and were followed by challenging questions.
A few things become very evident from the beginning. The church needs a fully developed pastoral plan which must be carried out or supervised by a professional leadership team. The Eparchy must find the resources in all meanings of the word, to act on its plans. We need pastoral planning! The delegates spent the most time in the discussion part of the programme encouraging the Eparchy to invigorate youth programmes with the urgent need for trained youth leaders.
A number of the presenters speeches will be published later as will a more complete list of resolutions but the direction for the future is clear.
This post is also available in: Ukrainian