The world we live in has changed a lot in the past 10-15 years. It has been changing from its’ creation, but when it comes to the level of faith, belief, moral life, social behaviour, the last 10-15 years has seen significant changes.
Fewer people believe in God, attend church services, or follow their parents’ and grandparents’ example. We now see children who come from our parishes who do not know “Our Father”, “Hail Mary”, or even how to cross themselves.
- Bishop Vincent Long: Pope Francis and the Church in an era of change
- Understanding Prayer
- Bishop Peter: Some things are just Sins
The world has changed and the church has to change with it.
In 2011, (6 years ago), our Patriarch, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, wrote a very famous pastoral letter “The Vibrant Parish, a place to encounter the living Christ”. He could have said a living liturgy is a place to meet the living Christ or a living clergy, an instrument to meet the living Christ.
His letter, a six point plan, which to this day is a light which shows us the way our Ukrainian Church should serve the people. According to the plan laid out for us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it shows us the path we must follow in order to save our souls.
Our knowledge of the Gospels and our prayers develop a faith which obliges us to help our brothers and sisters in need.
His first and most important point: The word of God, reading and knowing the Bible, Bible study, Keeping God’s word, is the main priority of our church. The Church is based on the word of God. The Bible should be looked on as God’s personal letter to each one of us.
He then points out that we are a liturgical church and the practice of all the sacraments and thus our prayer are the way by which we are to find our satisfaction and peace in life because they are the instrument of our unity with God. Most of our public prayers are liturgical in nature. Our faith is based on this. Liturgical prayers are communal prayers. The emphasis is that we live our spiritual lives within the context of our community or family.
He continues by saying that serving one’s neighbour, the love of our brothers and sisters in the world, is a direct result from knowing the word of God and our liturgical prayers.
We search for this unity because we believe that it is God’s way.
Our world is in trouble with all its tragedies, poverty, pain, and suffering. Our knowledge of the Gospels and our prayers develop a faith which obliges us to help our brothers and sisters in need.
This takes us to the role of leadership in our church. Priests and Bishops have their role but the Patriarch reminds of the importance of the leadership of lay people in our church communities. All who are baptised have the same vocation to serve God. For years now the church has encouraged us to better understanding this calling.
While it may be little appreciated by people, our Patriarch adds another point which is central. Our community, our parish, is actually a unity of many various groups or organizations. The unity of our parish is so important. Unity is only possible through the grace of God. We search for this unity because we believe that it is God’s way.
One last point: Recognizing the large number of our faithful who belong to the parish but no longer come to church or even believe in God, our Patriarch says that every parishioner must be a missionary/community. Here he refers to the need for faith instruction and an active missionary spirit.
Our love of God and service to Him includes reaching out to all God’s children that have been given to us.
Catechism for those who need more instruction in the faith. Here we are talking about Bible Study, adult catechesis, liturgical catechesis and, of course, catechesis of our young people. The future of a parish is measured by the presence of this education.
But we in our church also need to understand “evangelization”. Each parish has in its community many people who have lost their faith in God. We, who believe, must teach these people that God exists, that He loves us and has a plan for our eternal salvation. Our church members are not just those who have paid their memberships. . All those in our parish territory also need to hear the Good News of the Gospel of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Our love of God and service to Him includes reaching out to all God’s children that have been given to us. This is what it means to be a missionary church. In order to dedicate ourselves to all that our Patriarch wants, we really have to change the way we look at the church. The church itself must change.
In conclusion Patriarch Sviatoslav makes another very important point. If we are to accomplish what God wants from us, then we must all pray. Our faith and our church are a gift from God. Let us pray for this blessing.
Bishop Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R. AM
This article was published in The Church and Life Newspaper, April 2018