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Youngest bishop to head diocese in North America ‘a gift’ to U.S. church

24 Jul 2018 – By Laura Ieraci Catholic News Service

PARMA, Ohio (CNS) — At 44, Bishop Milan Lach is the fifth bishop of the Byzantine Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma and the youngest bishop to head a diocese in North America.

He also is the third-youngest Eastern Catholic bishop to head a diocese and the first foreign-born bishop for an eparchy that comprises 12 states in the Midwest.

A native of Slovakia, Bishop Lach is among about a dozen bishops from other countries that Pope Francis has appointed to the United States.

He was enthroned recently as Parma’s bishop during a Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, after having served as its apostolic administrator since 24 June 2017. He succeeds Bishop John M. Kudrick, who resigned in May 2016.

Bishop Lach, who is a Jesuit, has visited almost every parish and mission of the eparchy since his arrival to the United States last summer and has established pastoral priorities that include youth, evangelization, and parish reorganization.

Byzantine Catholic Bishop Milan Chautur of Kosice, Slovakia, who was present for the 30 June enthronement, said his “wish for all the faithful” in the United States is that they receive Bishop Lach “as a gift from the Slovak church.”

“After the fall of communism, we immediately turned to the Greek Catholic Church in America for material needs, to build churches again. We were liquidated for 18 years [under communism],” the 60-year-old prelate told Horizons, newspaper of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma.

But now, with the Slovak Eastern Catholic Church strongly re-established, there may be an opportunity to return the favor, he said.

“We sense that, compared with us, there is a certain crisis of vocations and in the spiritual life [in the United States],” he said. “So, just as we received material gifts after the fall of communism, now we can repay with spiritual gifts.”

Bishop Chautur, who is a Redemptorist, said he attended the enthronement because he realized the importance of maintaining a connection between the Byzantine Catholic churches in the United States and Europe.

“There are people who came [to the United States] 10 years ago or 100 years ago, and they still carry within them the Gospel they received from their forefathers,” he said.

At the same time, he acknowledged the mission of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the U.S. is to minister and to be open to the diversity in American society.

“It is important to understand the roots [of the church], but it has to be open to everybody, all races, everyone is welcome,” he said. “The church has to fulfill its missionary vocation.”

The early Christians “didn’t stay in the ethnic ghetto, but they went to the whole world,” he said. “It is good to understand where we come from, but to spring up new offshoots. This was the foundation we have received, and now we need to build a new church, with new growth, open to everyone.”

Bishop Chautur, who ordained Bishop Lach a deacon in 2000 and a priest a year later, was one of three European bishops at the enthronement.





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