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While these are the positive aspects of life in the Eparchy of Parma, there are also challenges. Roman Catholics will find echoes of their own dilemmas – the eparchy faces a clergy shortage. There are only 35 priests to serve the 14,000 faithful in the 40 parishes of the eparchy.

When pastoral needs require it the Congregation for the Eastern Churches may allow a priest of one rite, who has received training in the theology and liturgy of another, to celebrate the liturgy in that rite as well. Thanks to the help of bi-ritual priests of the Latin (Roman) Church three parishes receive the ministry of a regular pastor.

Six other parishes do not have a resident pastor but each parish is served by the pastor of a nearby parish. The eparchy ordained one priest in 1993, but has had three deaths since. A second priest was ordained in March and there is just one seminarian beginning his studies. The shortage of clergy has caused Bishop Pataki to close two parishes. In one case there are Byzantine parishes nearby, but in the other, not one. These people will more than likely attend Latin parishes and may eventually decide to transfer permanently to the Latin Church.

The eparchy’s two Catholic elementary schools provide an excellent education, developing the minds of our future leaders, anchoring them in the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic and religion. But the small size of parishes and a sagging economy resulted in the closing of yet another school last March. Since a Catholic education is important to many parents, Byzantine Catholics often send their children to Latin Catholic schools. It is not surprising that many of these students eventually find their way permanently into Latin Catholic parishes.

Bishop Pataki has taken several measures to address these issues and to promote spiritual renewal in the eparchy. In 1987 he promulgated a standard text to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. In the past some priests, responding to the pastoral needs of the people, omitted parts of the liturgy. The lack of consistency in the way this was done created confusion among laity and clergy alike. A standard liturgical text has brought a welcome harmony to the celebration. The Bishop also directed the Liturgical Commission to make a fresh translation of the lenten liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts and directed that it be celebrated in all parishes at least once a week during the Great Fast. This liturgical service had fallen out of general use and its restoration has been beneficial to the lenten renewal of the Christian faithful.

One of the most significant tasks the Bishop has undertaken is the restoration of the sacraments of Christian initiation for infants. While baptism and chrismation (confirmation) had always been celebrated together, first communion had been delayed until the child reached seven years of age. Responding to the canons of the new Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which directed that the Eucharist be given along with baptism and chrismation, Bishop Pataki had the Liturgical Commission prepare a new translation of the rite of baptism and chrismation. He promulgated this for the eparchy and has directed the restoration of first Eucharist at the time of baptism, regardless of age.

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