Protocol for establishing EC parish?


Here in Pennsylvania, and the adjacent states, we had waves of immigrants from Ukraine, Rusyn areas in Slovakia and Ukraine, as well as other areas in Europe and the Middle East where there are Eastern Catholics. The priests followed the Faithful who immigrated to the US to enter challenging careers in steel manufacturing as well as in coal extraction and transportation.

The descendants of these immigrants, who mostly arrived here in the late 19th and early 20th Century form the largest portion of the EC parishes that these immigrants founded.

However, since the Pittsburgh Diaspora beginning in the 1980’s, and the economic decline of many of the other towns here in the rust belt, many of our residents left town- went down south or out west to the Sun Belt in search of opportunity.

A lot of these folks who left were of the Eastern Catholic, and they moved to areas where the closest EC church might be hundreds of miles away. What’s the strategy for these members of the Ukrainian Catholic community or Maronites or whomever, how many interested members do they need to have and how do they get together (with people they often don’t know-came from a different rust belt location) to get the EC prelate to assign a priest? What if there aren’t enough folks in Charleston, SC or Americus GA, or Torrington WY to support a parish?


They tend to meet at a sponsoring Latin Catholic church and may become a mission. A traveling eastern priest or a Latin priest with adaptation or rite or bi-ritual faculties may provide for them. They are always under the care of the bishop of the Latin or their own ritual church.


So, to rephrase, there are traveling priests going from town to town on a schedule to visit the scattered EC faithful, often meeting at local Latin Rite churches where available in each town.

Sort of like the “Circuit Riders” in American history, except they are Catholic instead of protestant and they drive an automobile instead of riding a horse.


You could read about the SSPX and other Latin Mass groups and how groups of parishioners brought Priests in to say Mass. As has been mentioned, it will probably start with a “circuit rider” being brought in periodically, maybe once a month. You are fortunate in that it might be easier to find an actual church to hold the Mass rather than making due with wherever would let you rent a room.

I would think you could draw people from a 40-50 mile radius. Once the group grew large enough, head up the road 50 miles and begin another. Once you have 2-3 groups in an area you should be able to set up a regular schedule and pay the priest enough as a part time position plus travel (Thinking $500 per week plus a $75 for gas) to make it a weekly or biweekly event.

On the off weeks, the lay leaders could hold a Bible Study or Evening Prayer to keep people connected.

There are a ton of Protestant resources on church planting / growth which would have some valuable information. Obviously you would “take what you could and leave the rest” meaning use the practical operational information and leave the theology.

Most of all, pray. The Holy Spirit will provide the connections needed if this is supposed to happen.
Good luck!


We have that very situation where I live. We are fortunate enough to live in a diocese that will support us as they can. I reached out to three of the Eparchies that cover where we live (Ukrainian, Ruthenian, Melkite), asking if they knew of folks out here. I put into the local Diocesan Newspaper and parish bulletins. We started in September 2014, and are up to 8 households. Most folks come from 1 hour - 1 hr 45 min drive (Moline, Ill. to Tama, Ia.) and about as far north to south. Priests from Chicago come in once a month for Divine Liturgy. We meet in a Roman parish on Saturday evenings, and have Reader’s Vespers when we do not have Liturgy.

Catholics once had circuit riders in the Midwest, btw.

In Christ,


That has been happening where the eastern pastor dies and then another priest serves two or more parishes. Also there are are eastern Ordinariates for a mixture of eastern sui iuris faithful in six countries:

*]Argentina: Ordinariato para los fieles de ritos orientales en Argentina
*]Austria: Austria
*]Brazil: Ordinariato para os Fiéis de Ritos Orientais no Brasil
*]France: Ordinariat des catholiques de rite oriental résidant en France
*]Poland: Ordynariat dla wiernych obrządku wschodniego
*]Spain: Ordinariato para los fieles de ritos orientales en España


Do most EC priests in America know of you, is your name and contact information in their rolodex to give to their parishioners who might decide to move to your area?

Actually, I knew that there were Catholic circuit riders back in the day as well, although I don’t think that the term “circuit rider” was used for non-methodist traveling ministers. Sort of a trademarked term, although the function of traveling priests was pretty much the same, taking care of a scattered flock.


From what I’ve learned of the history of the Eastern Catholics in my area, they either just integrated into the Roman Catholic churches (their kids attending school there made it easier to just go there permanently) or they attended various Orthodox churches. The OCA church here had a good deal of former Ruthenians when it was founded due to the dispute over married clergy. I know someone who thinks there are several Melkites who attend the local Antiochian Orthodox Church as well…alot of that is culture. The Ukrainians here had a small (think VERY small) mission that met monthly for Divine Liturgy at the local Roman Catholic cathedral’s chapel. A priest would come down from Chicago and say Divine Liturgy monthly…but again, a lot of it had to do with culture…liturgy was in Ukrainian not English and basically THAT was what they missed most…the culture. When we re-started the UGCC mission here in my city there were a few people who inquired if it would be held in Ukrainian. Really that was the only thing they were interested in as they never showed up. It’s never been in Ukrainian since it’s restarted primarily b/c none of our members are of Ukrainian decent…we’re an odd bunch :wink:


Call the Bishop of an Eparchy. This is kind of why Augusta Georgia has an Eastern Catholic church. They are Melkite but the original founders of the parish were not Arab. I want to say the founding families of the parish were Hungarian but I’m not sure. I think it may be wise to make sure there’s a demand for it first.


yes, I agree…the only way I found out about our mission was by looking at the start a parish page on And even with that it took a while to find a priest and other people who were interested in coming regularly. In my experience, most roman Catholics who attend our Divine Liturgies or other services are curious but really have no interest in eastern Catholicism. Often we get students from both catholic high schools as well as the local catholic university and they typically only come because it’s mandatory for an assignment.


No, I don’t think most do. I did not think of reaching out to all the priests in the country as an intentional push-effort. That said, many of the Byzantine clergy in the Midwest/plains do know of us. Our folks travel quite a bit.


I would consider this post with caution. The SSPX recruits priests who act illicitly, who have no bishop ordinary. Catholics, both Latin Rite and Eastern, should worship only with clergy who are in union with a bishop ordinary. There are a few organizations out there, including one called “rent a priest”!, that would only too gladly supply your need, but should be avoided. So “recruit priest” should be done only through a diocese, or religious order in union with the Church.

If an Eastern Catholic priest in union with his bishop ordinary can be located, but can only offer Mass once a month for now, the prudent action would of course be to attend on off weeks another Catholic Eastern Rite if available, or the Latin Rite if that is the only one locally available, to fulfill the Sunday obligation.
Any bible study or evening prayer conducted by laity would be beneficial, but supplement the actual licit, weekly liturgy. It goes without saying that the Eastern Rite diocese should be made aware of this concern, and their advice sought on how best to meet the need. In my area of the US, Eastern Catholic priests often cover other Rites besides their own (with permission), and most if not all are bi ritual, covering Latin Rite Masses. A few Latin Rite priests are bi ritual, covering an Eastern Rite.


I would like to remind our Latin brothers of a few points: There is no Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church. While there are only five families of Rites used in the Catholic Church (Latin, Alexandrine, Byzantine and East and West Syrian), there are 22 or 23 Churches in communion with the Pope. The largest, the Latin Rite also has its own code of canon law. The rest are covered under a separate code for the eastern Churches. While the two are very similar, and in many canons exactly the same, or very close, they are not the same, and one cannot assume they are.

For instance, according to Canon 881 - §1. "The Christian faithful are bound by the obligation to participate on Sundays and feast days in the Divine Liturgy, or according to the prescriptions or legitimate customs of their own Church sui iuris, in the celebration of the divine praises. For Churches that use the Byzantine Rite (in the US, the Ruthenian and Ukrainian Churches, as well as the Romanian, and Melkite Eparchies), the obligation is met by participation in the Divine Praises as well as the Liturgy. That said, when our community was established, we met every week, Saturday evening and Sunday morning, for Vespers and Typika. Since we had a deacon, the latter was celebrated as a communion service (which was its original purpose). The was the case for nearly two years. After our deacon was ordained to the presbyterate, we went to Saturday evenings. Our administrator gave us the instruction that he would arrange for Divine Liturgy once a month, and the remaining weeks we would gather for Vespers (the lay led version). This is the expectation. Now, when we have Latin visitors, I explain the difference, since according to Latin law, the obligation is strictly to participate in a Eucharistic Service (Mass or Divine Liturgy in any Catholic Church in union with the Holy Father).

Now, when we get a new bishop, that may change, but the point is that it cannot be assumed that the law is the same under both laws (marriage law is really different under both codes, for instance).

In Christ,
Adam Kemner


Thanks for the clarification.


Well said. It’s easy to imagine, for me at least, just going ahead and attempting to have a successful parish and finding out whether there’s a sufficient demand by whether the parish eventually closes … But an eparchy is not likely to go for such a plan.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, in deciding what to do with their not-unlimited resources, an eparchy might choose to instead bolster an old parish that is threatened by decline.


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