Diaconate Studies in a Changed World

By Michael Sivulich, Deacon Student of the Eparchy of Passaic
Saint Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Catholic Church; White Plains, New York

This summer, we virtually attended the School of Diaconate studies of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our class size is 17 men representing the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, the Eparchies of Passaic, Phoenix, and the Ukrainian Eparchy of Stamford.

Our first year was a fantastic academic and spiritual journey with deacon candidates of different backgrounds. There were policemen, college professors, nurses, members of the Air Force, a security specialist guarding religious artifacts in N.Y.C., mechanics, firefighters, and an E.W.T.N. theology advisor. There was an immediate brotherhood among us. The academic atmosphere was supportive.

As we all left the Seminary in June of 2019, we were already anticipating our return and reunion of old friends in June 2020, and looking forward to our continued discernment and learning, more liturgical services in the chapel with advancement in the roles of cantor, altar server, and reader under Fr. Robert’s observant eye.

We could not imagine how much would change in the next few months. The Coronavirus (COVID 19) has changed the world, perhaps forever. The Diaconate program was not immune. We were notified that the 2nd year would be 100% online. Not getting together was met with a sense of loss, even though our commute would be a bit shorter. We were all thinking, “What will that be like?” Our class was grateful to God that we were all safe. We kept in touch with emails and texting, praying for one and other, our families, and the world. We all met one Friday night in a Zoom Chat before classes started on June 15, 2020. It was a welcomed virtual reunion.

Our courses were conducted through the Seminary’s online learning management system. It was amazingly easy to use. Our first two classes were Canon Law and Old Testament I. Then, on August 10th, we started our Dogmatics course. Our professors are doing everything possible to keep us connected. We had access to phone numbers, email addresses, YouTube, and Zoom. Files were downloaded for our easy use. Being one of the oldest candidates, the thought of all this technology was a bit intimidating. Besides the lessons taught, I am learning new technology, and it is not that bad. I know my fellow candidates are rolling their eyes.

As the Diaconate class of 2022 moves on in our discernment and advancement of the academic pillar of our formation at Saints Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary, we will continue to pray for all those affected by the coronavirus. We pray for everyone’s safety and health. We humbly ask you for your prayers as we continue with our journey.

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