New Byzantine Catholic leader takes his seat
Metropolitan Archbishop William Skurla is welcomed
"God grant you many years" was the musical prayer for newly appointed Metropolitan Archbishop William Charles Skurla from the choir and more than 700 attendees April 18 at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Munhall.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the apostolic letter from Pope Benedict XVI appointing Metropolitan William as the fifth archbishop of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, noting the need for a "diligent shepherd."
After reading the letter, Archbishop Vigano presented the pastoral staff to Archbishop Skurla, intoning "Receive this pastoral staff with which you are to watch over Christ's flock that has been entrusted to your care. Axios!"
The Greek term, meaning "he is worthy," was repeated three times by the congregation.
The metropolitan archbishop presides over both the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church in the United States and the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh. The metropolitan church consists of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh and three eparchies -- Passaic, Parma and Phoenix.
The archeparchy, equivalent to an archdiocese in the Latin (Roman) rite, includes churches and missions in seven states: Pennsylvania (central and western), Ohio (eastern), West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas, numbering more than 58,000 parishioners with 55 active priests and 21 deacons in 82 parishes.
The Byzantine Catholic (Ruthenian) Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh, USA is the only sui iuris (self-governing) Eastern Catholic church in the United States; it is directly under the authority of the pope.
More than 40 religious leaders attended, along with hundreds of other clergy, members of consecrated life and laity. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York attended with leaders from Pennsylvania, included Bishop David Zubik, Aux. Bishop William Waltersheid and retired Aux. Bishop William Winter of Pittsburgh; Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia; Bishop Lawrence Brandt of Greensburg; Bishop Mark Bartchak and retired Bishop Joseph Adamec of Altoona-Johnstown, Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, and Bishop Joseph Bambera and retired Bishop James Timlin of Scranton.
In his homily, Archbishop Skurla touched on the history of the founding and growth of the Byzantine church in America, saying, "We have to inspire our young and revitalize our leaders. ‚Ä¶ We need a method of teaching the faith which opens their minds to a deeper dimension of spiritual life."
At a reception following the ceremony, Archbishop Skurla reiterated his desire to work for renewal and revitalization. "I will be meeting with the Presbyteral Council of our priests and get ideas for the direction of the archeparchy." He also noted the need to use some of the technology tools such as social media for evangelization and reaching out to the young.
Msgr. Russell Duker, pastor of Holy Spirit Byzantine Parish in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood, echoed Archbishop Skurla's knowledge new media.
"I think his appointment is wonderful for the archeparchy. We are looking forward to his new ideas and plans for leading us into the future, particularly in using new elements for evangelization, and expanding their use in all areas."
Responding to a question on his call to the priesthood, Archbishop Skurla indicated he came from a religious family and was influenced by his uncle, Father Anthony Skurla, a Byzantine Franciscan priest in Sybertsville, Pa.
Archbishop Skurla entered the same community in 1981 and was solemnly professed in 1985, saying his first Mass at St. Mary in Freeland, Pa., the oldest Ruthenian Catholic church in the United States.
He was born in Duluth, Minn., June 1, 1956, a son of the late John and Mavis Skurla. He attended Catholic and public elementary schools and graduated in 1974 from Chisholm High School in Chisholm, Minn.
Before the archbishop, Chisholm had another famous citizen in its midst. Archibald Wright "Moonlight" Graham, a professional baseball player who appeared as a right fielder in a single major league game for the New York Giants on June 29, 1905. His story was popularized by the novel "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella, and the subsequent 1989 film "Field of Dreams."
"Doc" Graham, as he became known after his career as a ballplayer, served the people of Chisholm for 50 years. From 1915 to 1959, Graham was the physician for Chisholm's schools.
Several of Archbishop Skurla's relatives remember Doc Graham. "He was our school doctor," said cousin Julie Simko Harding, who attended the celebration with her sisters.
Also at the reception were four of Archbishop Skurla's brothers -- Jim, an economics professor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth; Steve, a retired geologist with the Department of Energy, now living in Phoenix; and Robert, now in Riverdale, Utah.
David, his youngest brother, a forester with St. Louis County, still living in Chisholm, brought his two sons, ages 11 and 13, so "they could see what their uncle does."
He also noted that the pastor at St. Joseph in Chisholm is looking forward to August when the archbishop will attend the school reunion and celebrate Mass at the church.
The entire enthronement ceremony can be viewed on the cathedral website, http://www.stjohnsbyzantinecathedral.com.