Byzantine Catholic

Who Are These People Called Byzantine Catholics?

The Ruthenians were one of the Slavic Tribes living in the area of the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe called Subcarpathian Rus. They were converted to Christianity in the second half of the 9th century by the great Apostles to the Slavs, Cyril and Methodius, sent from Constantinople by the Byzantine Emperor Michael III at the request of the Moravian Prince Ratislav, "to explain to us the Christian truths in our own language." Having arrived in the land of Rus, the missionary brothers, of Greek and Slavic parentage, were unable to continue their journey to Moravia because of a Germanic invasion. So they settled in Rus for several years and developed an alphabet based on the language of the local people, called Rusin or Ruthenian, and translated the Christian faith and the liturgical practices of the great Church in Constantinople into written form and taught the people this written language. Since this was before the Great Schism between Orthodox and Catholic, these isolated people expressed the one universal (catholic) faith using the liturgical traditions of the Christian east (orthodox). Little affected by that schism because of their isolation, their ties to the See of Peter was reaffirmed in 1646 at the Union of Uzhorod. These Catholics with a strange liturgical tradition were embraced by the Austro-Hungarian Empress Maria Theresa and given the name "Greek Catholics" in deference to the origin of their liturgical practices, the great Church at Constantinople.

The beginning of the 19th century saw a vast immigration to the United States where, once they arrived and were asked their nationality, they simply replied "Greek Catholic". In time they and their beloved church prospered and they were given their own bishops. But the term "Greek Catholic" confused many outsiders, as they were not Greek, nor were they Russian. So in the early 1950's, then-Bishop Daniel Evancho decided to call ourselves Byzantine Catholic in deference to the home of our liturgical tradition, the Byzantine Empire. This had the added benefit of removing a strictly ethnic symbolism to our people so that the wonderful richness and mystery of our faith can be open to all peoples of all ethnic backgrounds. In 1978, a small group of these Byzantine Catholics settled in the Pocono Mountains but missed the celebration of the Catholic faith in their beloved Byzantine tradition. So they gathered together and met in a small community center at Pocono Manor, being served by a variety of priests who had other parishes in northeastern Pennsylvania. After years of dedication and hard work, they purchased the small community center and had the building moved about a mile and a half to their new location on Rt. 940 in Pocono Summit. Saint Nicholas of Myra parish continued to grow and witnessed a major renovation and expansion project in 2000, shortly after their very own priest was assigned to the parish. Our parish territory covers families in four counties in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey and welcomes a host of visitors each year, introducing many of them to the Byzantine expression of the Catholic faith, what Pope John Paul II referred to as the other lung of the Catholic Church. On behalf of all of us at Saint Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Catholic Church I take this opportunity to offer special thanks to our founders and benefactors, our parish family, and our guests and visitors who have made these years of service in the Pocono Mountains a lifetime of joy for both myself and my predecessors. May God bless all of you most abundantly.

Fr. Michael Salnicky