An Eastern Rite bishop representing a large contingent of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in the United States thanked students of St. Peter School in Jefferson City for their prayers, while urging them to thank God for their blessings.
“On behalf of all the children, parents and schools in Ukraine — thank you and God bless you,” Bishop Bohdan J. Danylo of the Eparchy of Saint Josephat in Parma, Ohio, proclaimed from the pulpit of St. Peter Church the morning of Oct. 6.
“Will you promise to say a prayer in the morning for Ukrainian children?” Bishop Danylo asked the preschoolers through eighth-graders at the all-school Mass. “And if any of them come to visit this year, I hope you will be able to welcome them.”
Bishop Danylo, whose Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Saint Josaphat covers all or part of seven eastern U.S. states, has about 10,420 Ukrainian Greek Catholics under his episcopal care.
He was one of four bishops who joined Bishop W. Shawn McKnight for meetings that week in the Alphonse J. Schwartze Memorial Catholic Center in Jefferson City.
They are members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Home Missions (usccb.org/committees/catholic-home-missions).
Bishop McKnight is the subcommittee’s chairman.
Two of the visiting bishops and Bishop McKnight offered Mass in St. Peter Church as their meetings were coming to a close.
The students followed attentively as Bishop Danylo spoke before the final blessing.
“Prayers for Ukraine? You know what I mean,” he stated. “There’s a war happening over there right now.”
He asked the children to remember three things:
“First of all, pray for your family and be thankful that you have them with you,” he said. “Because there are so many children that have to leave their home. They can no longer even be with Mom and Dad.”
Often, a mother and her children flee the danger in Ukraine while the father has to stay behind, said Bishop Danylo.
“Second, pray for this school,” he suggested. “There are so many children in Ukraine who have nowhere to study — either in a basement or the subways.”
They cannot go to school because their school has been destroyed.
“So every time you wake up in the morning and sometimes not that happy to go to school, say a prayer for those kids who cannot go to school,” said Bishop Danylo.
Finally, he advised them to pray for their parish and community — “thanking God for being able to spend time together and gather for prayer.”
“God bless you!” he said. “And once again, count your blessings, especially family, school and your community.”
Made for sainthood
Joining Bishop Danylo and Bishop McKnight at the altar was Bishop Michael W. Warfel of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, Montana, who preached the homily.
Father Jeremy Secrist, pastor, also concelebrated.
Students outside church held signs welcoming each of the bishops before and after Mass.
“You look like a very holy group of students,” Bishop Warfel stated in his homily.
He talked about saints in heaven and why the Church honors them, especially on their feastdays.
“When someone does something great, it’s common to have a party for them, a banquet in order to celebrate something that they’ve done,” he stated.
“Of course,” he said, “we honor the saints here in church with the Banquet of the Lord.”
He said it’s appropriate to stop and appreciate someone who lived a very holy life and attained the purpose for which God created every single human being — “which is getting to heaven — being a member of the Communion of Saints.”
“So, we honor the saints for their response to the grace of God in their lives,” said Bishop Warfel. “We also seek their intercession.”
Everyone in the Church is part of the mystical Body of Christ, and the saints in heaven are closest to God.
“If you have a particular need, you’re going to turn to someone who you know to be a holy person,” said Bishop Warfel. “You’re going to turn to that person and ask them to pray for you.”
All the while, it’s good to learn about saints and the witness they continue to offer about leading a holy life.
“Every one of us has been created by God to be a saint!” the bishop stated.
“All the billions of people who have ever existed, God has created them for Himself,” he said, “that they may attain heaven — life in the Communion of Saints!”
Bishop Warfel said God gives everyone the precious gift of time and the opportunity to respond to His grace in order to become the holy people He created them to be.
The bishop recommending turning to the Lord each day with confidence, seeking His help in becoming the holy saint He created each person to be.
“So that as we go through our life, we can become that holy, saintly person that God desires and created us to be,” he stated.
Catholic Home Missions
The bishops also visited St. Martin Church and School in St. Martins, the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Starkenburg, St. George School in Hermann, St. Peter School and the America’s National Churchill Museum in Fulton, and the Catholic Charities Center in Jefferson City.
Bishop McKnight noted that the visiting bishops’ home dioceses are in many ways like the Jefferson City diocese — “a little bit more rural, perhaps not having as many Catholics, but nonetheless very vibrant.”
Nearly 40 percent of Catholic dioceses in the United States and its territories are classified as Home Missions dioceses.
For many reasons, including geographic isolation and a high instance of poverty among the larger population, they need outside help in providing basic pastoral ministry to all or some of their people.
Grants from the Catholic Home Missions, supported by an annual collection taken up in parishes throughout the United States, help fill the gaps.
For instance, the Jefferson City diocese has received Home Missions grants for Hispanic ministry.
“The Catholic Home Missions Collection supports dioceses like ours and the works of the Church,” said Bishop McKnight.