History of St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (Page 5)
A NEW ERA BEGINS
By 1986, the full effects of the Second Vatican Council were being felt throughout the Catholic world. Many are under the false notion that this Council did not influence the Ukrainian Catholic Church. In fact a complete document was devoted to the Eastern Church.34 Pope John XXIII had the Eastern Church in mind when he convened the Council. 2110 Bishops including Pope Paul VI himself voted that the Eastern Church return to its legitimate customs and traditions. It was this Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches that Fr. Daniel brought with him to St. Josaphat’s in Bethlehem. Upon his arrival, he set out to implement the desires of the Pope and all the bishops.
Fr. Dan quickly assessed the spiritual and physical condition of the parish family and plunged into the arduous task of reviving the membership and reversing the decline.35 He insisted that the church and its heritage was ours and it was our responsibility as a family to protect it and spread it to others. We are a church that preaches the Risen Christ every Sunday of the year and therefore we are to be a joyful, happy and a hopeful congregation. Pride in our community and our ability to share our tradition with our neighbors has become an integral part of parish life. Fr. Dan opened the doors to many ecumenical activities. St. Josaphat’s has hosted members from various denominations in the area for ecumenical services. Why do we do this? Fr. Dan often responds with the motto of Jesus and our Patron, St. Josaphat: "That all might be one.”
Two things had to be done immediately in the parish in order to stop the decline. Adult education classes were introduced and a shift to the English Language in the church services. It has always been the tradition of the Eastern Catholic Churches (since the time of Cyril and Methodius) to use the vernacular of the country for the prayers and services of the church. The Second Vatican Council also stressed this in its decree on Eastern Churches. With the help of Deacon Michael Waak of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, adult education classes have been held yearly. In the beginning the classes were intended to be a means of preparing the congregation to sing the various church services in English In the Ukrainian Catholic Tradition, all common or public prayer is sung and never recited, in order to give greater glory and honor to God. As the classes progressed, courses in Scripture, Liturgy, History, and basic Eastern Christian Theology were introduced. The intent of the Adult Education Program is three fold.
- To give every member of the parish who is willing to come to the classes a well rounded understanding of their Christian Faith.
- To impress upon those attending the classes the need to spread (evangelize) what they have learned to others.
- To stress the notion of “Christian Family.” This last point asks those who attend the class to be the “core group” in all parish spiritual activities. They are the true leaders of the parish community since the primary role of our parish is to give glory and praise to God in the tradition of the Eastern Christian Church.
Fr. Daniel and the parish family place great emphasis on the youth of the church. They are the future, they are the hope and they are the ones who must pray for us when we leave this earthly life. With this is mind, Fr. Dan along with the adult education program, instituted the Total Eastern Christian Formation Program for grades I to 12. (ECF).
This program, sanctioned by the Ukrainian Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia is designed to prepare the children for authentic Eastern Christian living in the western culture they find themselves. The program is nationwide, and many support groups are involved in maintaining the Eastern purity of these courses.
Volunteer teachers are called from the congregation to minister to the children and bring them the message of Christ. The special ministry of these teachers, second only to the pastor and cantor, is recognized in a special way each year by the members of St. Josaphat.
With the education program in full swing, Fr. Daniel began to implement the decrees of the Second Vatican Council on the parish level. He re-ordered all the liturgical services, removing anything that had attached itself to our church from other traditions. He brought the public prayer life of the parish into conformity with the authentic Tradition of the Ukrainian/Byzantine Catholic Church. Texts and books were supplied to all the faithful as recommended by the Archbishop Metropolitan of Philadelphia and appreciation of “things Byzantine” began to develop in the parish community. Now all members of the parish are able to participate in any and all of the church services. Fr. Daniel is convinced that it is this community participation in the public prayer of the Church, which prompts Our Lord to shower many blessings upon St. Josaphat Parish.
Since the start of active participation and spiritual growth, the parish has met with no financial difficulty in any of the various renovation and improvement projects it has undertaken.
In a few short years Fr. Daniel has instilled or resurrected our former pride and love for our Ukrainian Catholic Tradition, and once again the parish has become one of the focal points in the Archdiocese in the areas of liturgical reform and correctness and Christian community spirit. As this “reform” was in progress, Fr. Daniel saw to it that St. Josaphat’s was always open to all who desired to be part of the Church. St. Josaphat’s stresses that you do not have to be of Ukrainian background to be a Ukrainian Catholic. Christ instituted the Church for all persons and for the many men and women who choose to follow Him in the Eastern Tradition, St. Josaphat’s is their church too. This new found attitude and “open door” policy soon caused the parish to double in membership in a few short years.
As we begin the 21st century, much more needs to be done. Like St. Paul, we can never rest until we rest in Christ. The Diamond Jubilee was celebrated in 1993. Looking back, St. Josaphat’s congregation can be proud of its accomplishments. The founders who struggled to build a church, and who instilled in the present members the love and pride for the Church of Jesus Christ. This pride is plainly visible in the faces of our young adults and we thank God that this love will be carried into this century.
More than seventy-five years have passed since the founders prayed that first Divine Liturgy at the Carbon Street location. The success of St. Josaphat Parish over the past seventy-five years has been accomplished through God’s abundant blessings upon this Christian Community, and the intercession of His Holy Mother. Success would also never have been present if it were not for the dedication and cooperation of all pastors and parishioners both living and departed. Particular care has been taken to avoid the mentioning of names of specific individuals and parishioners who were instrumental and vital in bringing our parish from its infancy to the present. This was done so that all might realize that this “Community of Believers” is one in the eyes of God. Space also does not permit us to list everyone individually. Let St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church, her members, and her continued presence in the city of Bethlehem serve as a monument to the many dedicated workers who have helped in their own way.
We do not know what the future holds, but we do know that all things are possible with God. May God continue to take care of this parish and give its members the grace to carry on His work through the intercession of St. Josaphat our patron, and the Most Holy Mother of God.