This past Sunday, September 8, 2019, Bishop Milan Lach’s Pastoral Letter was read to the faithful of the Eparchy of Parma.
This letter is inspiring as it talks about the future of our church. Indeed, we agree that the most precious treasure of our church is the members that make up the church, not necessarily the physical buildings. We agree and believe that every member of our church is important, from young to old and everyone in between.
Bishop Milan states that his first priority of his ministry is to proclaim the word of God. On June 21, 2018, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Parish Finance Advisory Council wrote a letter to Bishop Milan via the Eparchy’s attorney, James Niehaus. In this letter, the Council presented a plan to take on the responsibility of managing the building and expenses. The Cathedral Parish family would actively work to maintain the centerpiece of the Eparchy, in support of the Bishop’s goals and through our solidarity, the Eparchy would blossom for years. By delegating the building management to the Cathedral, the Bishop would be free of the worries of the building and can focus each day on serving the Byzantine Catholic faithful. Much to our chagrin, Bishop Milan declined the offer in a letter from Mr. Niehaus.
While over the decades there has been a decline in the overall numbers of our faith, we too share the idea that there is much potential for Byzantine Catholics in the United States. Bishop Milan’s letter is very positive and we share in the excitement of the future. However, he states that “For the good of the faithful, gradually, we will have to examine all of the regions of the eparchy and see what is the way forward. There will be clear criteria for the establishment of new parishes, as well as criteria for assessing the vitality of parishes, such as membership, financial stability, demand and availability of priests for pastoral work, which may lead to recognizing the need for a merger or closure.” He continues, “I am forced to act in order to stop the severe financial bleeding we are experiencing. In this type of situation, it is not wise to attempt to save a building for the sake of the building; we need to stabilize ourselves as a community first.“
One might think that a good way to stop financial bleeding would be to accept an offer from a church that is willing to be self-supporting, as in the case with the Cathedral.
It is also noteworthy that in his letter, the Bishop states that in the past, the chancery often offset the debts of parishes that were not able to pay the required amount to the priests’ pension fund or health insurance plan. The amount that is owed to eparchial operations is $2.5 million, including $900,000 for past due assessments, Horizons, contributions to the pension fund and health insurance, and $1.6 million for the repayment of loans from the Parishes Together Fund.
It might come as a surprise to you, but the Cathedral parish has always paid the required percentage to the Eparchy. To our knowledge, the Cathedral does not owe any past due assessments, Horizons or Contributions to the pension or any other fund for that matter. Simply stated, we don’t owe anything and we gave Bishop Milan a plan to be self-supportive.
We remain positive about the future of the Cathedral and the Eparchy. We understand that this is not an easy situation. To quote Fr. Tom Loya, “BishopMilan Lach, SJ, has faithfully, selflessly, courageously and obediently accepted a position in a culture that was not his own, to lead an Eparchy that is in the most crucial and comprehensive transition since its very conception. This task set before Bishop Milan is nothing short of super-human.”
We believe that as members of the Cathedral Parish we are positioned to help the Bishop with the tremendous task he has in front of him and welcome any opportunity to work with him to forward his goals and focus as outlined in his Pastoral Letter. We support the idea of a team to study relevant data that concerns our Eparchy and Cathedral. Regional committees should be formed to give input and a strategic plan can be created.
With the proposed plan from Fr. Tom Loya and hope that the Pastoral Letter from Bishop Milan has brought to us, we are confident in the future of our Cathedral and our Eparchy. Together, with the bishop, priests and laity, we can make it happen!
Save the Cathedral
Save the Eparchy