Justin Shaun Coyle, Ph.D.
On September 30, the Eparchy hosted a Zoom meeting officially inaugurating the new academic year of its Mission Institute. The Mission Institute was founded in 2019 by Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk as an Eparchial initiative to train catechists, deacons, cantors, and Christian leaders for service in parishes. At present the Mission Institute boasts 60 students across the Eparchy.
The meeting opened with warm welcomes from the Mission Institute’s administrator, Father Roman Bobesiuk. After blessing the students, Bishop Benedict reminded students that each of them has a unique vocation from God. Father Deacon Marko Krutiak, who runs the Mission Institute’s diaconate program, welcomed new students to the Mission Institute’s diaconate course of study.
New students then introduced themselves. Yet again the diversity of our geographically expansive Eparchy was on full display as men and women from the Midwest to the West Coast related how God worked in their lives providentially to call them to study in the Mission Institute.
Returning students from years two through four expressed their appreciation for past courses, their gratitude for friendships forged, and their enthusiasm for the coming year. Student highlights included courses on scripture and the annual retreat at Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Michael Wynar, who both teaches and studies in the Mission Institute, shared his excitement about the program and advocated its importance in the wider Catholic Church’s efforts at evangelism.
Bishop Benedict then solicited questions from students. Why did he start the Mission Institute? What does he imagine students ought to be doing in their parishes? What’s his dream?
“My idea,” Bishop Benedict responded, “is that the most important thing is that we all share with everyone both what we know and what we have experienced. Sometimes we think we don’t know enough to share because we’re not experts. But we all know something. And you can always share something. It’s very powerful when we share our experiences of Christ with one another.”
Some erroneously imagine, Bishop Benedict warned, that some vocations are more important than others. But when we assume that, he said, we risk making formation about ourselves and our own place in the Church rather than about discerning God’s will together. “Everyone can lead different things,” he said. “Sometimes the priest can lead, sometimes a deacon, other times a cantor.” And that’s important, Bishop Benedict continued, because clergy reach mostly people who already come to Church; it’s up to the rest of us to reach people who don’t go to Church. In this way, everyone has a special vocation and everyone leads.
Bishop Benedict closed the meeting by reminding students to pray for Ukraine, which, he says, looks far graver in person than it does in photos online. Students shared stories about the war while others advocated various prayer rules -- the rosary, the Jesus Prayer, the moleben distributed by the Eparchy -- for seeking God’s mercy over Ukraine. The meeting concluded with the Bishop’s blessing over the new academic year.