*selects favorite rosary themed coffee mug*
Divine Liturgy this past week was, as ever, a de-LIGHT. I've been noticing that the call and response after liturgy has been changed up for the Christmas season. Usually, after Divine Liturgy concludes, Father says in Ukrainian something that I once looked up, and determined meant something akin to:
"Glory Be to Jesus Christ."
And the congregation answers:
"Glory to Him forever."
But now, since Christmas, he says something else, and a few people in the English language liturgy crowd known the response, but I am not one of those people. 😂 I will keep researching on this one. Back out in the gathering space outside of the sanctuary, parish envelopes for the year as well as calendars with all of the feast days of the Byzantine rite were awaiting us. These were both eagerly scooped up forthwith by your Catholic Librarian.
This week, after the Ukrainian liturgy, I came back for the annual Christmas lunch and parish meeting. Apparently, this used to be a dinner and a regular big deal, but it hasn't been held since before the pandemic. Everyone was excited to have it back, and it combines the attendees of both the English and Ukrainian liturgies. I had baked some cookies in anticipation of the event, as baked good were requested for donation, but the parish provided a delicious catered lunch. I located a few fellow attendees of the English liturgy whose faces I recognized, and sat at their table. I chatted happily with all of them until it was time for Father to give the parish financial report.
And that part of the story isn't quite as rosy, unfortunately. 😬 The facilities for this parish, the church itself, the parish hall, and the rectory, are large and gorgeous. But as you can image, such large spaces are expensive to maintain. Complicating matters is that the number of attending families has plummeted over time. The population has been aging for some time, and in the past 10 years, there have been a lot of deaths of faithful members. Another Byzantine rite parish in the area closing and merging with ours brought over a few faithful families, but not nearly as many as had passed away during that same time period.
So, the longterm financial prognosis for our little parish is unknown. We're back to in-person events and fundraisers, and that should help, but the parish needs more members for it to be a sustainable situation going into the longterm future. I am praying very much for this to come to pass.
I have to say, participating in the lunch and parish meeting brought about a new sense of belonging in me. I felt a part of the group, and I could feel the group's warmth and their very much wanting us to be there as a part of them. I don't know many of the attendees of the Ukrainian language liturgy, but those that I have met *actually remembered my name* 😮 and always greet and welcome me. I worried about not feeling as much a part of the community because I am not Ukrainian, but none of the Ukrainian members feel that way at all. They want me to be there, and are happy that have been coming and attending Divine Liturgy at the parish. For the first time, I could see myself as a part of this little parish-that-could.
So it was an interesting week. I'm excited to be back next week with my envelopes in tow like I really belong there, and to see what is coming up next as we journey towards Lent. I think our preparation is soon to begin, and I cannot wait! Only Catholics would have a Time of Preparation for the Big Upcoming Time of Preparation. 😂I love it so much. 😍