WINNIPEG - Ukrainian Catholic bishops from around the world gathered in Winnipeg to discuss how to make their parishes more vibrant — especially through the involvement of laypeople.How they do that requires solutions as varied as the parishes that represent more than four million Ukrainian Catholics on four continents.

"We have parishes that are growing" and need pastoral, financial and structural support, said Bishop Ken Nowakowski of New Westminster, B.C., who heads the Ukrainian Catholic Church's implementation team for its strategic plan, "Vision 2020."

Some urban parishes have an aging population and declining numbers, and synod members must decide how to support the parish priest who spends so much time visiting the sick and officiating at funerals, said Nowakowski. At the other end of the spectrum, the bishops must consider how to help keep priests in busy, large parishes from burning out.

The vibrant parish initiative was approved by the synod in 2011 when the bishops met in Brazil. Their first steps have included making sure that clergy understand the plan and representatives of each of the Ukrainian Catholic eparchies, or dioceses, designated a priest-representative to help introduce the plan within the diocese.

Nowakowski said that about 70 per cent of the world's 4,500 Ukrainian Catholic priests have given feedback and are involved with the plan. This year Church leaders hope to involve religious communities and monastics, he said. He told Catholic News Service he would present synod members with a report on what has been accomplished and would include feedback. Synod members will either ask the committee to continue with its current plan or make changes, he added.

The Synod of Bishops, the Ukrainian Catholic Church's governing body, normally meets in Ukraine, but it is meeting in Canada Sept. 9-16 in honour of the centenary of the arrival of Canada's first Ukrainian Catholic bishop, Blessed Nykyta Budka.

Winnipeg's Ukrainian Archbishop Lawrence Huculak said as bishops from other countries arrived for the synod, they were impressed with the involvement of Canada's laity. Even the synod's organizational committee has laypeople on it, he said.

"It's not just the bishops ... the people are taking part and helping to organize it," he said.

Ukrainian Catholics in Canada have women's, men's and youth groups. Lay groups have national conventions, elect leaders and participate in the life of the Church.

"Although we (Canadians) may take it for granted, our laity have not been able to organize themselves in the same way" in some other countries, he said.

Last December, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, outlined his vision in a pastoral letter to Ukrainian Catholics worldwide. In the letter, "The Vibrant Parish — A Place to Encounter the Living Christ," he spoke of the elements needed to "grow in holiness and unity in Christ Jesus."

Shevchuk said people of all ages must continue to learn about the faith — not only from the Bible, but also from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Priests must teach and laity have a responsibility to learn because "permanent and continuous formation for various age groups ... is an essential component of the vibrant parish."

Parishioners must participate regularly in the sacraments, and families must once again become "a school of prayer," he said.
"Our parishes can become places where care is given to the orphan, protection for the widow, help for the poor, and where the suffering of the sick is shared," he said.

Parishes must have active pastoral and parish councils as well as "well-formed and mature co-workers who assist the priest in leading catechetical schools, church brotherhoods, charitable works, youth organizations and prayer groups," he said. "One of the most important responsibilities of leadership in the parish community is discerning God's will and searching for the best ways of implementing it in the life of the parish."

Everyone in the parish must have a missionary spirit, he said.

Published in Canada

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - South Africa's bishops condemned the killings at a platinum mine in Marikana and called for a judicial inquiry into the circumstances that led to the violence.

Thirty-four people died and 78 were injured Aug. 16 when police opened fire on striking miners who, armed with machetes and homemade spears, were gathered on a rocky outcrop at the mine, 100 km northwest of Johannesburg. Another 10 people, including two policemen, had already been killed in violence at the mine since the start of an illegal strike Aug. 10.

"The senseless loss of life, especially through wanton violence, is always a tragedy and needs to be condemned in the strongest terms," the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference said in a statement.

"There are a lot of questions and not many answers," Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg said in a telephone interview. The mine is located in his diocese.

He and other Church leaders were aware of the standoff between two trade unions over recognition agreements at the mine and "hoped that it would be resolved in the negotiations during the week," Dowling said. The miners were also demanding higher wages.

The actions of the trade unions, the London-based Lonmin mining company and the police "need to be investigated" by an inquiry that also looks at "the living and working conditions at this mining operation," the bishops said.

"We offer to assist in the trauma counselling and community healing that will be necessary for this community and the broader South African community," the bishops said.

"We cannot allow this violence to escalate and become a normal part of our society.

"There are effective mechanisms available for facilitating and brokering amicable settlements to disputes of whatever nature, and we encourage all the parties concerned in this tragic situation to commit to acquiring these skills to ensure that similar unfortunate incidences do not occur again," they said.

Dowling said that often South Africa's industrial disputes turn violent, which "indicates deep frustration and anger."

"Terrible poverty and high levels of unemployment" in his diocese "are the cause of much tension," he said.

The secretary-general of the South African Council of Churches, the Rev. Mautji Pataki, said that he and the organization's president, Anglican Bishop Johannes Seoka of Pretoria, found workers and management at the mine "willing to engage one another, provided the level of hostility is reduced to allow peaceful interaction and resolution."

A delegation from the council, of which the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference is a member, visited the mine Aug. 17 and said in a statement afterward that the council would "seek to help to create an atmosphere conducive to negotiation."

The council called on the police "to exercise restraint in the use of force as they seek to maintain law and order." It said it is "only through meaningful and peaceful dialogue that all parties affected by this conflict can find a solution."

South African President Jacob Zuma cut short a visit to a regional summit in neighbouring Mozambique to visit the mine.

In a front-page editorial Aug. 17, the Sowetan newspaper said that in South Africa, 18 years after the end of apartheid, "the value of human life, especially that of the African, continues to be meaningless." Africans "are pitted against each other over who is the rightful representative of workers. They are also fighting for a bigger slice of the mineral wealth of their own country. In the end the war claims the very poor African — again," the newspaper said.

South Africa is home to 80 per cent of the world's known reserves of platinum. Rising power and labour costs and a steep decline this year in platinum prices have left many mines struggling to stay afloat, according to Reuters, the British news agency.

Published in International

OTTAWA - The Holy Father may have moved to his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, but that has not stopped announcements of new episcopal appointments as the Catholic Church in Canada enjoys the dog days of summer.

On July 16, the Pope also accepted the resignation of Keewatin-Le Pas Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie and appointed Fr. William Stang as apostolic administrator. Stang has been serving as vicar general and chancellor of Keewatin-Le Pas and confirmed that health reasons are the reason behind Lavoie's resignation.

Published in Canada