BURBANK, IL [DOM Communications] – The first year in the new decade has but only a few hours before it has passed and has entered into history. 2020, the year that will not easily be forgotten. This year, without a doubt, has been defined by the global pandemic which caused the world to pause and take caution. The unknown was upon us, and hard choices had to be made. Churches worked alongside local authorities to help “curve the spread” by limiting attendance at services and canceling in-person gatherings. This saw our parishes physically empty during the holiest time of the year, which was a new experience for all. These precautions did not come without a cost hurting many of our communities and calling to attention the need to come together despite being apart.
Although it is easy for all of the attention to be spent on the trials that this past year brought, one could also define 2020 as a year of innovation and reflection. Many communities started to stream their services online. Classes, retreats, and other gatherings were now held digitally, in some ways bringing greater participation to these events than before. On a diocesan level, the diocesan center was moved from Chicago, IL to Burbank, IL, a new website was launched and the annual Diocesan Assembly was held online with a strong number of participates continuing the important work of the Church. Despite not being able to hold large gatherings for the 50th anniversary of the OCA’s Autocephaly, monthly reflections were released, and prayers were offered in commemoration of this event. Two deaneries were able to hold celebrations, while the other deaneries have postponed this commemoration until 2021.
Another bright spot in 2020 was the elevation of our diocesan hierarch to Archbishop by the Holy Synod. This was without a doubt bestowed on His Eminence because of his tireless work and efforts for the diocese. This is exemplified in his visits to his communities which started up halfway through the year after canceling several months of visits. During those visits he was able to bring hope to the faithful by leading them in prayer and offering words of inspiration. His Eminence was able to ordain several new clerics for the diocese and bestow awards to the hard-working clergy of these communities.
Difficult times also provide for a greater need for charitable work, and the Mother Maria of Paris Charitable Ministry was up for the task. Despite the many hardships people have suffered, this charitable ministry was able to donate over $25,000 to ministries in the diocese that forged on during unusual times. These donations were funded by the diocese, parishes, and generous individuals who wanted to make a difference. Families were comforted with weekly reflections offered by Archbishop Paul on the Family Ministry website, and youth gatherings got to meet with their Archbishop on several occasions.
2020 brought some new changes in the life of the diocese. Long time Chancellor, Archpriest John Zdinak, retired from parish life and the Chancellor of the diocese after 17 years of service in this office. Beginning in February of 2021, His Eminence has appointed Archpriest Paul Jannakos as the new Chancellor. In 2021, the diocese will also see an effort to rebuild monastic life within her territory. A new woman’s monastery will be revived under the leadership of Mother Alexandra in Marshfield, MO. This is a particularly exciting initiative that will take the support of the entire diocese.
Another year is now coming to a close. Many thoughts and opinions of this year will echo throughout history, but despite the many obstacles that our communities faced, and will continue to face, we forge on with the Great Commission our Lord gave to us. In times of difficulty we are consoled by the prayers of the Church and for one another. This love for one another has not stopped, and will not stop, as proven by 2020.