30 April 2019
The Rev. Bryan Eyman poses with the icon of the Theotokos, the Inexhaustible Cup, Healer of Alcoholics, at St. Athanasius the Great Byzantine Catholic Parish in Indianapolis, where prayers of healing are offered for those struggling with alcoholism. (photo: CNS/Rev. John Russell via Horizons)
Numerous organizations, both private and public, seek to help those who struggle with substance abuse through programming and support services, but the Rev. Bryan Eyman has committed to a different approach: prayer.
Confident in the power of Jesus to satisfy every thirst, Father Eyman has been offering prayers for people struggling with alcoholism for the past 20 years.
Once a month, he celebrates an Eastern Christian Marian prayer service -- an akathist -- dedicated to the Mother of God, the Inexhaustible Cup, Healer of Alcoholics, at St. Athanasius the Great Byzantine Catholic Church in Indianapolis, where he is pastor. The most recent service was on 24 April.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month and, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 74 percent of the 19.7 million Americans who battle substance abuse are alcoholics. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also reports that about 88,000 people die of alcohol-related causes in the United States each year, making it the third-leading cause of preventable death in the country, after tobacco and poor nutrition.
With the situation as grave as it is, the church has an important role to play in ministering to this marginalized group, said Father Eyman.
The Eastern Catholic priest attributes his commitment to prayer for the healing of alcoholics to his mother, Margaret Kelly Eyman.
“She was an employee in one of the first alcohol treatment centers in in the world,” he said.
His mother worked with Sister Mary Ignatia Gavin at Rosary Hall Solarium at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Cleveland. Sister Ignatia, along with Dr. Bob Smith, founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The nun was a family friend, and Father Eyman recalled being an altar server at her funeral.
In 1988, while he was pastor at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Minneapolis, Father Eyman began in this area of ministry by being available for people in the fourth and fifth steps of AA’s 12-step recovery program. These two steps consist of members telling another person about their addiction and seeking to make amends for the harm they might have caused, he said. He noted then, as now, the shortage of priests to help Catholics in the AA program.
Father Eyman continued in this capacity with AA when he was transferred to St. Andrew Byzantine Catholic Parish, now Holy Transfiguration Byzantine Catholic Parish, in Mentor-on-the-Lake, Ohio. There, he also welcomed a local AA group that was seeking a larger meeting space.
In the late 1990s, his ministry with alcoholics took an unexpected and more prayerful turn. It was the advent of the internet, and one of his first online searches produced a Russian icon of the Theotokos, the Inexhaustible Cup, Healer of Alcoholics. It came with the akathist prayer service that was translated from Russian into English.
He read about the miraculous healing associated with the icon. In late 19th-century Russia, a severe alcoholic, debilitated by his addiction, had a dream in which he was instructed to go to a particular monastery and ask for this icon. Upon praying before it, he was healed of his alcoholism, after which many other alcoholics were healed before the icon. This particular monastery was closed under communism, and a family hid the icon for safekeeping. The icon reemerged after communism, and the prayer service linked with this devotion restarted.
Moved by this story and sensing a call to action, Father Eyman began praying the akathist at St. Andrew Parish in 1999, before the AA meetings, and AA members were invited to participate.
He continued the prayer service when he was assigned to St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Marblehead, Ohio, and then at St. Athanasius the Great, where he serves currently. Prayer services are held usually on the third Wednesday of each month, unless there is a scheduling conflict.
Attendance varies from month to month, from four people to 25 people, but swells to about 100 for the prayer service that marks the feast of the icon, 5 May, he said. The service includes praying for people struggling with alcoholism by name. Requests from people to include their loved ones continue to grow, he said.
“We get names from all over and we only use first names,” Father Eyman said. “For me, it’s not a matter of the number but the commitment to prayer to benefit people we may never meet. We just try to be faithful in doing it, with confidence that Christ will bring about the healing, if we are open to it,” through the intercession of Mary.
Father Eyman said some people have received complete healing from the prayer service.
“In at least four cases, they have lost the craving for alcohol,” he said. Others, even from different religions, have found the prayer “very moving and encouraging as they walked through the steps” of AA and began to seek healing from alcoholism from the Mother of God.
Father Eyman said the spiritual component to recovering from addiction “is very important for people to connect with, especially in the Catholic tradition, (where) there is forgiveness.”
“When we repent and decide to change and pour that reality out to another person, that’s when healing can begin,” he said.
“Our spiritual life and sacramental life as Catholics can be tied in with our physical well-being and (we can) help people make that connection and see that inner dependency,” he said. “It’s basically people in need of God.”
Father Eyman said he would encourage more priests to pray the service in their parishes. The impact of alcohol abuse on individuals and families is grave and “it runs the gamut,” from “prayerful priests to outright atheists,” he said.
28 July 2017
Tags: Byzantine Catholic Church
A Byzantine Catholic parish in Ohio is drawing on its tradition and faith to post messages on a local billboard. The billboard reads, “Life is tough. We are praying for you.”
(photo: CNS/courtesy of St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Parish)
A glance, a thought, a prayer are what St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Parish had
hoped to inspire in commuters when it launched its first billboard campaign in 2015.
Now the parish, situated in Barberton, Ohio, has launched its sixth billboard campaign, with the message: “Life is tough. We are praying for you.”
The parish wants to communicate its prayerful presence and solidarity with community members in the midst of their daily struggles, said the pastor, Father Miron Kerul-Kmec.
A banner that measures 8 feet by 14 feet was hoisted up onto the side of the church building in mid-May, and since early July, an 8-foot-by-20-foot billboard has graced a busy intersection nearby. It will have an eight-week run.
“A billboard with a Christian message, if done correctly, has power,” said the pastor. “The church’s message on a billboard is not a product like any other.”
He gave the example of a previous campaign, which featured the prayer, “Lord, have mercy.”
“If a small percentage of people who passed by were encouraged to say this short prayer, it’s great and the world became a better place for this,” he said. “It is something small that can change your thoughts and bring you to something better.”
The new billboard is the communications component of the parish’s yearlong pastoral program, which will include catechesis on the Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy and prayer.
“Prayers are a very powerful tool for how to change your life,” he said. “There is a need to refresh our understanding of prayer. We can use this prayer which is given to us, the Divine Liturgy. We want to remind our faithful how precious the Diving Liturgy is. We pray for the whole world there.”
The parish belongs to the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, and the idea of using advertising first came up in discussions among parishioners about the eparchy-wide pastoral plan. They decided advertising would help meet one of the parish objectives of “bringing Christian thought to people,” said the pastor.
All of the billboards draw on the Byzantine Catholic tradition and practice of the faith.
Parishioners opted for billboards over other media because, unlike radio and television where one can change the channel, a billboard “is something you cannot avoid,” he told Horizons, the eparchy’s newspaper.
“You drive this way every day to work and every day it is a reminder,” he said.
Cost was another factor. Father Kerul-Kmec said he was surprised by the relatively low costs. A four-week campaign at a location that receives 8,000 looks per week was priced at $500; the parish has contracted for eight weeks for each campaign.
The billboards were designed pro bono by parishioner Kurt Valenta, creative director for Advance Ohio, the marketing arm for cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer, Cleveland’s daily newspaper.
“If you want to touch the community, what better way than to put a billboard in the heart of it,” said Valenta, who has worked in advertising for 33 years. He pointed to market research that indicates the efficacy of outdoor advertising.
Commuters may not pay much mind to the billboard the first few times they drive by, but eventually “the repetition makes people think,” he said. He added he would counsel parishes against online banner ads, which can be very expensive.
Father Kerul-Kmec said the response to the billboards has been “satisfying” to date.
He said a commuter called him one night at 11 p.m. to tell him that he was “deeply touched” by the Christmas billboard campaign. Father Kerul-Kmec has also received positive feedback from guests at the soup kitchen where he and parishioners serve lunch regularly. Others have said the billboards are “refreshing” and that “the road looks better now,” he added.
“If people would come to (our) church that would be great,” he said. “But the point is to bring the remembrance of God to people. If people were touched and went to their own church, it’s OK. It is not the intention to pull people to our parish, but just to send the Christian message to the world and to let people know that we are here.”
“Even if one person is touched by this, it is worth it,” he said.
Valenta said he believes participating in advertising presents “no ethical dilemma whatsoever” for the church.
“We are bombarded by messages every day... and the church needs to get the word out. You need to be proactive or you’re not a player,” he said. “We need to be there.”
28 July 2016
The Rev. Daniel Lenz leads a prayer for the newly inaugurated Omaha Byzantine Catholic Community in Omaha, Nebraska on 26 June. Father Lenz is biritual, meaning he was ordained for the Latin rite but is permitted to celebrate Byzantine liturgies as well.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Omaha Byzantine Catholic Community)
The Omaha Byzantine Catholic Community in Nebraska seems off to a good start with two baptisms since its official inauguration as an outreach of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma this past spring.
The new Eastern Catholic community is the result of a grass-roots effort begun about 18 months ago by Catholic layman Matthew Willkom.
Within this short time, the Omaha community went from having monthly prayer services on a weeknight to finding a biritual priest who currently celebrates Sunday Divine Liturgy with them once monthly. About 60 people are associated with the community, though about 20 people attend regularly.
The 36-year-old radio producer moved to Omaha with his wife and three children four years ago from Minneapolis, where he first encountered the Byzantine Catholic Church. Though a Latin Catholic, Willkom became a regular at the Byzantine parish there and, after living in Omaha for more than two years without a Byzantine liturgy, decided to start a Byzantine community.
“I was missing (the Byzantine liturgy) so much, I felt like something should be done,” he told Horizons, the eparchy’s newspaper.
For a year, the community prayed on a weeknight at a Ukrainian parish on Omaha’s east side. The pastor agreed they could pray in English with Ruthenian chant. Now-retired Bishop John M. Kudrick of Parma had lent the fledgling group support in the form of liturgical books, as well as guidance from Father Bryan Eyman, the eparchy’s director of missions and outreach.
However, in January, the community found a new location — the monastery of the Poor Clare sisters on Omaha’s west side — where biritual Benedictine Father Daniel Lenz currently celebrates Divine Liturgy one Sunday per month. “Biritual” means he was ordained for the Latin rite but is permitted to celebrate Byzantine liturgies as well.
People come from all over Omaha and from the Lincoln, Nebraska, area, which is about 40 miles away, said Willkom.
Father Eyman visited the Omaha community 24 April. After celebrating Divine Liturgy for about 60 people and inaugurating the outreach, he spoke to them about the steps in becoming a canonical mission.
The most important steps are developing commitment and stability in numbers and attendance, and getting finances in order, he said.
Eventually, members hope to establish a mission on Omaha’s west side, which is currently experiencing significant demographic growth, with young families moving into the middle- to upper-class suburb from the inner city, said Willkom.
“But we’re not there yet,” he said. The “next step is incorporating locally so we can start to collect donations and provide for the liturgical needs of the community.”
He said there are currently no canonical Ruthenians residing in Omaha, but the recent news that a Byzantine Catholic couple from St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Parish in Munster, Indiana, intends to join the outreach once they move to Omaha this summer is encouraging, he added.
Their presence “will provide some stability and connection with the larger liturgical and spiritual life of the eparchy,” Willkom said.
The outreach also is working to establish weekly Byzantine services by the fall. Omaha’s Latin-rite Catholic archbishop gave one of his deacons permission to receive the necessary formation to lead the outreach in a Typika service — known as a Communion service in the Latin Church — on the Sundays when the priest is not available.
Willkom said the whole process has been “a journey of discovery.”
“We’re all very new to this,” he said. “The bottom line is that we’re looking for encouragement from the eparchy, and Father Bryan’s visit certainly symbolizes that.
“We’re also looking to focus on evangelization, on showing the mercy of God to each other, that same mercy we repeatedly proclaim and beg for ourselves in the Divine Liturgy,” he said.
The outreach is open to serving all Byzantines, he said. To date, they have reached out to Melkite Catholic refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq, who continue to make their way to the Omaha-Lincoln area.