I had a thought today while listening to Ancient Faith Radio. Then this thought was replaced by another thought so perhaps I will type it out so you can share your comments.
I have a good amount of affection for the eastern churches, particularly the eastern Catholic but by no means excluding the Orthodox. But here in the States these parishes are in decline as ethnic families disappear into history. (How many Ukrainian or Greek immigrants do you know?) Today these parishes are continued on through descendants of immigrants but it is not enough to sustain them. I also heard that the average age of the Orthodox American is somewhere above 65.
In fact just up the road from me a Byzantine Catholic church has a big for sale sign on it, which makes me sad. I saw in a bulletin of another Byzantine Catholic church (which I posted about my first visit, check the sidebar) that the closing parish only had 13 people and $105 collection from a previous Sunday. Ouch.
Not being an eastern Christian I am not going to presume how to pump up their numbers here in the States. But then again I remembered that in some countries these Churches are growing. This is particularly true in the countries emerging (still, after 10 years, things are slower there) from Communist bloc. Countries like the Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Russia, and others are now able to pick up the pieces from the ruins of the former Atheist state. There are a lot of books out right now about how atheism is the only answer and that religion does nothing but harm. Bollocks. Atheist states have destroyed human life without any care or mercy to a degree unimaginable or believable by todays standards. But I digress...
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain many Eastern Churches are growing again in that region. I recently viewed a program on EWTN about the Ukrainian Catholic Church emerging from the ashes over the past 15 years. Their seminaries are filling up but they don't have enough money and space to support them all. It is probably true that many of these men need jobs so they apply. However the years in the seminary and more intense screening weed out the false vocations. After all, the priesthood or religious life is not the easiest thing to go into, and most of the negative skepticism regarding the seminary growth comes from detractors of Christianity anyway. So take that for what its worth.
I am certainly not going to tell the eastern Churches what to do here in the United States. But it would be a terrible loss of culture for these places of stunning beauty to disappear. As a Latin rite Catholic I plan on attending several Divine Liturgies this summer while my choir is off. I would even recommend visiting one of these places to lapsed Catholics or practicing ones in a spiritual malaise. Heck, I would love to see the Orthodox church evangelize more to non-Catholics because if nothing else they would get the sacraments. And of course we all look forward to the day when Catholic actually means Orthodox and Orthodox actually means Catholic in the proper sense once again. I guess things get muddled through the years and disputes take on a life of their own.
There are quite a few ministries out there working towards unity aside from the high level talks between the Vatican and (several) Orthodox prelates. One of my favorite podcasts, Light of the East Radio, is one such work. I have also recently discovered Ancient Faith Radio which is an Orthodox station that can be heard over the internet. As soon as possible I will be donating (the tiny amount I can afford) to Aid to the Church in Need for the cause of the Eastern Churches.
Here are some more links for ya:
Church flow chart timeline - "The Particular Churches of Christendom"
What is a Byzantine Catholic?