October 19, 2021


A situation at our Archeparchial chancery today, inspires one to contemplate the path forward that the Church is taking in this age of online communication. Today Metropolitan Lawrence participated in an international Zoom meeting hosted by the Vatican. The Chancellor and Safe-Environment Officer were participating in a national meeting with representatives from all our Ukrainian Catholic Eparchies and Religious Orders from around Canada. Our Vicar for Church Property and our Finance Officer were online participating in another national meeting about financial concerns. It is clear that the opportunities opened up by the internet (email, texting, video-conferencing, etc.) continue to change how the Church communicates and will continue to do so in the future.

Adapting to any given situation for the sake of Evangelization and to maintain a vibrant life for the Church is essential for active discipleship in Christ. On one hand, it could mean empathizing and identifying with the people or individual with whom you want to share the Good News. This is to become more relatable to them... becoming "all things to all people" as the Apostle Paul describes it in his first letter to the Corinthians (9:19-23). One is excited to read the accounts of the great missionaries. Young (and not so young) men and women would give their heart and soul to Lord and His mission to Evangelize all peoples no matter the cost. They would study and master the languages and cultures and travel to foreign lands. They did this out of love for the Lord and all His children to bring them the Good News of salvation. In our own Archeparchy, we can think of our pioneer Clergy and Sisters and our first Bishop Blessed Nykyta Budka. Numbered among those individuals who made a unique leap of faith would be such legends as the Redemptorist Father Achille Deleare and the great church-builder Oblate Father Philip Ruh.

The Lord's mandate to tirelessly bring the Gospel to all peoples and grow the Church until the Lord comes again, requires us occasionally to go back and refresh ourselves in the faith. For the Church to maintain its enthusiasm, it is important to renew ourselves in our primary mission and renew within ourselves that understanding that we are all part of the living Mystical Body of Christ! Pope St. John Paul II called it the "New Evangelization" that focuses on the renewal of the faith among 'cradle Catholics' as much as for those who still await the preaching the Words of Life.

The effort of the Church to get in tune with the newest communications technology and trends has been around for several years now. Those Catholic apologists, preachers and journalists that caught on early are now well known via the internet. Their websites, blogs, YouTube channels, Twitter accounts, etc. are well-visited. Eparchies and many parishes also caught on to the convenience of an informative website. Most people will look first on the web to find the information they need. The sites that were most user-friendly and helpful get the most attention. In the relatively early days of the internet the Vatican had good advisors and experts that made a very popular and useful website - at least for those interested in all things Papal and Catholic. The Popes also slowly got their messages out via Twitter, etc. However, the one to really come into Tweets and YouTube video messaging is the present Pope Francis.

There is one thing, however, that has given the Church another push into the world of online communication - the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting fears and restrictions. Parish in-person activity forced attendance to dwindle to numbers not seen except in times of Church persecution under some Communist regime. Congregations were left wondering if anything was still happening at their local church. Some parishes are still seemingly left in the dark and will probably not survive the pandemic regulations. Parishes that already had some method of livestreaming their services - or those that got on board fast - actually survived the darkest moments. Some even said that their online numbers probably surpassed their regular attendance. The reason for the increase in attendance - even if "virtual" - was that the faithful migrated online to parishes that offered good livestreaming and/or it was simply easier for them to "attend" (without having to leave the house). Of course, people also wanted to discover what was out there. This they Sunday 'participated' in the Divine Liturgy at the local Cathedral and next Sunday, perhaps the Resurrection Cathedral in Kyiv. They wanted to check out what other parishes are doing. What about other eparchies? Other countries?

Some people have discussed as to when or how the livestreaming will finally end. And, connected to that, when would the pandemic dispensation finally be lifted concerning the obligation to attend Sunday and Holy-Day church services. Well, the dispensation will surely be lifted someday when fear of the coronavirus subsides, but... will livestreaming ever fade? Quite certainly not. Even if it may be abused by some who just don't feel like coming to church, livestreaming will be maintained for those who cannot attend in-person (the ill, the elderly, those travelling, etc.) and those who will want to attend from places far away.

Besides the obvious benefit of livestreaming in keeping the parish family together, other social platforms also became helpful and even essential. Online conferencing - via platforms like Google Meet and the ever popular Zoom - soon became commonplace in offices, chanceries and parishes. Everything from parish council meetings to Catechism programs to hospital visits were happening via Skype, Zoom and other apps. In fact, even national and international gatherings - like synods and bishops' conferences - are now either held exclusively via online conferencing or with this being a clear component.

Many parishes throughout Manitoba have already established clear and workable online means of communication. This has renewed parish life and will certainly be part of parish life for the immediate future and probably permanently. There are concerns about this. What will it mean for community building within a parish? Will the parishes continue to receive the support that they need to remain vibrant? What about security and confidentiality? Will the online participation enhance the spiritual life of those who found it challenging to regularly attend in-person, or will it rather whittle away at the numbers of those that would normally make the effort to attend in person? A lot will depend on the narrative and the teaching that the people receive. If the Faithful will make the effort to teach and understand the nuances between a Communion Service and a Eucharistic Divine Liturgy, or, say, "Spiritual Holy Communion" and, well, Holy Communion, etc. then we will surely maintain an active Church life.

At the heart of any successful growing of the Church and extending its mission of the Salvation of souls must be the Lord's command, "go ye therefore, and teach all nations...." (Mt 28:19-20) But to teach you must reach out to people and have listeners to hear you and viewers to see you. The best way to reach individuals and vast crowds in our time - is online. God willing, we will better learn to use the best social communications platforms for the all-important work of Evangelization and of strengthening the brothers and sisters in the Faith.

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