On October 2, 2021, the Mission Institute of the St Nicholas Eparchy inaugurated its second year with an Eparchy-wide Zoom meeting. The Mission Institute was founded in 2019 by Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk as an Eparchial initiative to train catechists, deacons, and cantors for service in parishes. At present the Mission Institute has over forty students.
Fr. Roman Bobesiuk, administrator of the Mission Institute, opened the meeting by asking a blessing from Bishop Benedict. Bishop Benedict then introduced himself by sharing the story of his long journey to the episcopate. In turn he invited meeting attendees to introduce themselves too. Over thirty Mission Institute students from across the Eparchy—some from as far as Ukraine—relayed their own journeys. From cradle Ukrainian Catholics to tonsured monastics to more recent converts to the faith, the diversity of the St. Nicholas Eparchy was on full display. Bishop Benedict celebrated this diversity by correlating it to the Council of Chalcedon’s teaching about the two natures of the one Christ: “I joke that it’s like heresy when we speak only of one language. Jesus Christ has two natures… [and] our Eparchy has two natures, a Ukrainian nature and an American nature. We are open to both realities.”
But diversity within the Mission Institute extends well beyond culture. Skill-sets, experience, age, and gender name other sites of student diversity. From novice singers to seasoned cantors, armchair theologians to trained PhDs, Mission Institute students comprise a wide spectrum of gifts. Bishop Benedict solicited direct feedback as to how Mission Institute programming could better accommodate such a diverse student population. Students freely offered constructive criticism, all of which Fr. Roman and Bishop Benedict welcomed warmly and enthusiastically.
Students then briefly issued progress reports on their parish projects, a requirement of the Mission Institute’s third year course of study. Developing children’s catechesis, deepening cantor training, continuing the work of founding an apostolate, and gathering resources for prison ministry were among several of the projects discussed. Plans were made for further discussion at the Mission Institute’s annual November retreat at Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Redwood Valley, California.
“When we speak about vocations,” Bishop Benedict said in closing, “we speak mostly about priests or nuns. But everyone has a special vocation: deacons, catechists, and cantors. Thanks be to God that you understand your vocation and that you’re open to it… I’m really happy about it.” Bishop Benedict then asked the sisters of the newly-founded Dormition of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Monastery in Richmond, Illinois to close the meeting in prayer.
Justin Shaun Coyle, Ph.D.