(by Nataliya Veresh for the Centre of Eastern Christian Studies)
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious, Holy and Life-Giving Cross continued for the ITI community on Sunday the 15th of September with a beautiful pilgrimage. More than 60 people of the ITI community including priests, professors, students and children walked from Trumau to the Cistercian Abbey, Stift Heiligenkreuz, which is dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Cross. After a 7 hour walk, we attended the Mass in honor of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross celebrated by Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg. ITI’s Rector, Msgr. Prof. Dr. Larry Hogan, and three ITI Byzantine priests concelebrated along with Abt Maximilian and fifteen other priests. At the end of the celebration, the ITI pilgrims had the opportunity to venerate and to be blessed with the largest relic (north of the Alps) of the true cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was a moment of true grace.
From the 8th to the 10th of December 2011, Fr. Yosyp Veresh, the Director of the Centre of Eastern Christian Studies (ECS), gave a retreat at the Greek-Catholic Parish of St. Barbara in Vienna with the theme: “The Mystery of Christmas Reveals the Mystery of Man.” The retreat started on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (the Conception by St. Anne of the Most Holy Theotokos). During these three days of prayer and meditation, participants of the retreat considered the various aspects of the theme with these questions: Who am I and what is my state today? How can I harmonize my relationships and what kind of healing do I need? What is the will of God for me now and how shall I realize it in my Christian life?
The faithful had the opportunity to participate in the celebration of Divine Liturgies, prayer services and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The youth organization took part in a special meeting and a lively discussion ensued over questions of particular importance to young people. The retreat concluded with a Pontifical Liturgy on Sunday, the 11th of December.
Bishop Bohdan Dzurach of Kyiv, Ukraine presided.
One of the missions of the ECS is to organize retreats and thus to contribute to the spiritual growth of different Christian communities and of individuals. It was a wonderful time to experience the grace of the Holy Spirit at work during this spiritual retreat!
“That the Eastern Catholic Churches and their venerable traditions may be known and esteemed as a spiritual treasure for the whole Church.”
13 Nov 2011 – ITI graduate Deacon Joseph Bolin invited the ITI Center of Eastern Christian Studies (ECS) to celebrate Divine Liturgy (Byzantine Rite Mass) at the parish he serves in Vienna, Sts. Cyril and Methodius.
Deacon Joseph’s idea to invite the ECS coincided perfectly with the Pope’s intention for the month of November.
Father Joseph Veresh, ECS Director, gave an introduction about the Divine Liturgy and explained that during and through the celebration, time stops and we experience Heaven on earth. The Liturgy was enthusiastically attended by 300 parishioners – most of whom were seeing a Byzantine Liturgy for the first time in their lives.
10 Nov 2011 – The ITI Center of Eastern Christiaan Studies (ECS) went to a lecture in Vienna given by His Beatitude Patriarch Igatius Youssif III, the Patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Churches. The lecture was organized by Pro Oriente and was part of a special synod for the Bishops of the Middle East.
His Beatitude spoke of the suffering of his people in theMiddle East.
He said that their main task is to give witness to the Gospel…to spread the Good News, but how can they do this, when their very presence is against the law? He wanted to send a wake up call to the EU and UN about their suffering. He said he finds it hard to encourage his own faithful to return, or to remain in the face of violent attacks. It is one thing to decide to remain and sacrifice yourself. It is quite another thing to demand this same sacrifice of your children.
After the lecture, the ITI was presented to His Beatitude and was able to visit with him and the other bishops and representatives who were present from the Middle East and India. This event helped us to deepen our understanding of the situation of the Christians in the Middle East. Since some of our students belong to the Syrian Catholic Churches, it was a great gift to be able to meet His Beatitude in person and to build up relationships with these representatives in the hope of future collaboration.
Center of Eastern Christian Studies Summer School
From June 20th to July 4th of this year the ITI Centre of Eastern Christian Studies (ECS) in Austria organized a summer school with the theme, The Good Shepherd: Priesthood today in the footsteps of the saintly hierarchs of the Ruthenian Greek-Catholic Church.
Clergy and seminarians from the Byzantine Catholic Eparchies of Phoenix and Parma in the USA flew over to participate in the program. The summer school combined conferences and seminars with pilgrimages to the most significant places for the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics in Slovakia, Ukraine (Zakarpattya), and Hungary. Participant Fr. Diodoro commented, “The course topics were uniquely forward-thinking. I found the specific areas of study, like those of the Good Shepherd and Obedience, and Conjugal Life and Eucharistic Purity very relevant and necessary topics in our Eastern Church that need to be addressed.”
The meetings and discussions during the pilgrimages with local bishops, clergy, seminarians and those working in the formation of clergy contributed much to the study of the topic. Seminarian Michael, another participant, shared his experience about the pilgrimages, “Looking back on our trip to Eastern Europe, I felt connected with the living, breathing roots of our Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church. Perhaps one of the best highlights of the trip was praying in the different churches where Blessed Romzha, Blessed Hopko, and Blessed Gojdic’s relics rest. I was also moved to spend time at the shrine church of Our Lady of Mariapoch in Hungary where the original icon as well as the current icon copy has wept and many people have been healed. With so many beautiful pilgrimage places that we visited, I think the significance and spiritual benefits of this trip will be something I realize over time.”
We also hope that all the meetings with the hierarchy and clergy during this program will contribute to the development of collaboration between the Byzantine Rite Churches in Central and Eastern Europe and in the USA.
Rev. Dr. Yosyp Veresh
Director of ECS