New bishop of Chicago raises spirits – and funds

5 March 2018, 10:34 | Society-digest | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Maria Kulczycky

Ukrainian Weekly 2 March 2018

The new bishop arrived in Chicago 10 months after his predecessor passed away after a long illness.

Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk, formerly the auxiliary bishop in Lviv, Ukraine, assumed the reins of the largest (geographically) eparchy in the Ukrainian Catholic Church. A flock of 12,000 parishioners and members worshipping in 33 parishes, 10 missions, two apostolates and four monasteries had been entrusted to his leadership.

Diving into his new environment, Bishop Benedict embarked on an intense schedule of services, commemorations, celebrations and visits. A wedding at the cathedral? He offered to officiate. A baptism? Glad to do it. An art auction, a parish festival, a Holodomor commemoration? The bishop was there.

Everyone in Chicago’s Ukrainian community had a story about encountering Bishop Benedict. People responded to his warm, informal approach, his sense of humor and his humanity.

Organizing the eparchy’s administration, he came upon a serious challenge: The iconic St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral needed serious attention. Listed as one of the most beautiful buildings in Chicago, 167 feet tall, it is a magnificent example of Byzantine Baroque architecture. Its sky blue and gold interior is breathtaking.

However, it is showing signs of damage of 102 years of wear – a leaking roof, rusting window frames and peeling frescoes.

The figures cited for remediation were daunting. But the problem also presented an opportunity for team-building and spiritual development for the entire wide-ranging eparchy.

Bishop Benedict had already assembled a financial council, a catechetical leadership group, a development advisory group and a pastoral team to bolster his administration. He had the basic structure for moving forward. But he lacked the funds to launch the endeavor for the cathedral project.

The solution: his upcoming 50th birthday could be an opportunity to raise seed money for the campaign.

In three short months, an ad hoc banquet committee organized, promoted and executed the Jubilee of Gratitude and Unity on January 21.

The day began with a hierarchical divine liturgy in St. Nicholas Cathedral co-celebrated with clergy from the surrounding parishes and sung by a combined choir. It continued at a sold-out banquet at the Ukrainian Cultural Center attended by some 360 guests.

The entertainment consisted of performances by 80 young members of Chicago’s parishes. St. Nicholas Cathedral’s contribution included instrumental performances by students from the School of Art. The St. Nicholas Cathedral Choir sang “Oh God, What Beauty.” Ss. Volodymyr and Olha Parish featured its Cherubic Voices ensemble and a violin solo composed by Myroslav Skoryk. Immaculate Conception Parish offered two pieces by its Kobzaryk School of Bandura and Song. St. Joseph the Betrothed Parish fielded its Nadiya choir hoisting a Nativity caroling star.

The grand finale featured the combined choral groups singing “Joy to the World” in Ukrainian. As a surprise, the children rolled out a birthday cake for the bishop.

The three-month drive was a great success. Contributions came from parishes all around the eparchy. Those not able to attend sent in donations. The total raised: $310,000.

That signaled a bright future for the restoration of the architectural integrity and soundness of the Mother Church, ensuring its continued mission as a religious shelter for future generations of the faithful.

Bishop Benedict is taking the long view on his assignment. He told a reporter that he planned to establish a department in his eparchy that would be responsible for mission and strategy.

“This department will not deal with the routine challenges, but will look to the future, will keep its hand on the pulse and will be constantly looking for new ways to talk to people about God – the God they seek, sometimes unconsciously.”

Readers may follow Bishop Benedict on Facebook (under Benedict Aleskiychuk), both on the Ukrainian and English sites for his daily homilies and his posts describing his Chicago activities and his pastoral travels. See videos by visiting the eparchial website, esnucc.org, and clicking on the YouTube link.

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  • fedirtsiv | 24 June 2018, 15:50

    Церкви активно намагаються навести потрібні мости з чиновниками, щоб забезпечити свої інтереси, забуваючи, що є невіруючі люди та віряни з іншими поглядами на певні теми, котрі зараз духовенством

  • В. Ясеневий | 22 June 2018, 10:44

    Нові розвиває, бо старі ЗАКРИВАЄ. Та закриває більше і частіше...парафії за відсутності вірян закриваються. На жаль.

  • Mauricio | 22 June 2018, 03:42

    Strong and clear points !

  • Mauricio | 22 June 2018, 03:36

    All indicates that Tomos of Autocephaly, restoring canonical status to the legitimate Church of Ukraine, its a matter of days, if not months. God bless Ukraine!

  • Mauricio | 22 June 2018, 03:34

    Moscow servants are not happy these type of news. When a Patriarch receives and bless a group of Christians ¨not belonging¨ to a canonical Church ...

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