|The Church in Transition|
During the 1990's, all four of the dioceses making up the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Province experienced changes in leadership due to retirements, death and reassignments. As a result of this “changing of the guard,” this era can best be described as a transitional phase in the history of the Metropolitan Province. Highlighting this new transitional era was the rapid turnover in the leadership of the Pittsburgh Archeparchy which saw four different bishops assume responsibility for governing its affairs within the period of five years.
Anticipating his eventual retirement after more than twenty years as head of the Pittsburgh Archeparchy, Archbishop Kocisko petitioned the Vatican for the appointment of a successor. The Vatican granted the archbishop’s request. On May 29, 1990, the Most Reverend Thomas Dolinay, the former Bishop of Van Nuys, was installed as Coadjutor Archbishop of Pittsburgh in ceremonies held at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Pittsburgh. After publicly celebrating his fiftieth anniversary of his priestly ordination and twenty-two years as Bishop of Pittsburgh, Archbishop Kocisko submitted his resignation and entered into retirement. On June 12, 1991, Archbishop Dolinay automatically became the second Metropolitan of the Byzantine Catholic Province.
Archbishop Dolinay assumed his new position with much enthusiasm and great expectations for the future. However, his plans and visions for the Archeparchy in particular and the Metropolitan Province in general went unfulfilled as the archbishop unexpectedly died on April 13, 1993 after a brief illness. With the sudden death of Archbishop Dolinay, the Board of Consultors for the Archeparchy turned to a familiar figure to administer the Archeparchy until a successor bishop was appointed. That familiar figure was the longtime Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Most Reverend John Bilock.
John Bilock was born in McAdoo, Pennsylvania on June 20, 1916. After graduating from the public schools in McAdoo, he pursued his collegiate and theological studies at St. Procopius College and Seminary. On February 3, 1946, Bishop Basil Takach ordained John Bilock to the priesthood in the bishop’s private chapel in Munhall, Pennsylvania.
In addition to serving as a parish priest, Father Bilock was given a wide variety of special assignments. While he was assistant pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Father Bilock was appointed the Director of the Eastern Pennsylvania Sodality Union. In 1950, after his appointment as pastor of St. John Chrysostom Parish in the famed “Russka Dolina” neighborhood in the Greenfield section of the City of Pittsburgh, Father Bilock was appointed Notary of the Matrimonial Tribunal. In 1953, he was named choral administrator of the Western Pennsylvania Byzantine Catholic Chorus.
In 1955, Bishop Nicholas Elko appointed Father Bilock as his personal secretary, secretary to the Board of Consultors and a member of the Diocesan Building Commission. One year later, Father Bilock was named to the Board of Consultors. On May 7, 1957, Pope Pius XII named him a papal chamberlain with the title of Monsignor.
On September 12, 1963, Monsignor Bilock was appointed Rector of St. John’s Cathedral in Munhall. As the rector, Monsignor Bilock upgraded and improved all of the church properties, paid off the parish’s indebtedness and generally reinvigorated its spiritual life. On July 15, 1969, Archbishop Kocisko appointed Monsignor Bilock as Vicar General of the Archeparchy. Later that same year, he was made a prelate of honor to Pope Paul VI.
On March 8, 1973, His Holiness Pope Paul VI named Monsignor Bilock to serve as an auxiliary bishop to Archbishop Kocisko. Monsignor Bilock was consecrated as a bishop on May 15, 1973 at Holy Spirit Church in Pittsburgh.
In his role as auxiliary bishop, Bishop Bilock used his unparalleled organizational skills to plan and coordinate most of the Archeparchy’s events, activities and major functions. Some of the prominent events and activities which Bishop Bilock chaired or coordinated included the Metropolitan Province’s Golden Jubilee celebration, the annual Byzantine Catholic Day at Pittsburgh’s Kennywood Park, the annual St. Nicholas Day Banquet and the Labor Day weekend pilgrimage at Mt. St. Macrina in Uniontown. Besides these events, Bishop Bilock also organized and personally lead numerous pilgrimages from the Archeparchy to such places as the Holy Land, to Rome, to the famous Marian shrines in Europe and, finally, to the ancestral homeland of American Byzantine Catholics in Slovakia and Ukraine.
Another noteworthy activity of Bishop Bilock was his use of modern mass communication to create a Byzantine Catholic radio and television apostolate. Through Bishop Bilock’s tireless efforts and foresight, the Divine Liturgy was broadcast every Sunday to a radio audience of thousands. Gradually, this apostolate was expanded to include televised Divine Liturgies and radio broadcasts of Christmas and Holy Week services.
Though he himself was in declining health, Bishop Bilock nonetheless accepted the unanimous selection of the Board of Consultors and assumed responsibility for the administration of the affairs of the Archeparchy. Bishop Bilock served as Archeparchial Administrator from April 20, 1993 until his death on September 8, 1994.
For more than two-and-a-half years, the clergy and faithful of the Pittsburgh Archeparchy waited for the Holy See’s selection of a new archbishop. Finally, the long anticipated announcement was made. On November 14, 1994, Pope John Paul II announced the selection of Monsignor Judson Procyk as the third Archbishop of the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Province and the sixth ordinary of the Pittsburgh Byzantine Diocese.
Judson Procyk was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania on ______________. After graduating from high school, the future archbishop answered the call to serve God as a priest in the Byzantine Catholic Church. His first two years pursuing this vocation were spent at St. Procopius College. With the opening of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, young Judson Procyk continued his studies at Duquesne University and was awarded his bachelor of arts degree in 1953. On May 19, 1957, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Nicholas Elko.
After serving successful pastorates at several churches throughout the Pittsburgh Exarchate and Eparchy, Father Procyk was named Assistant Chancellor of the Eparchy and secretary to then Bishop Kocisko in 1968. One year later, he became Rector of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary. As rector, Father Procyk directed the re-opening of the Seminary’s theology department and implemented the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Priestly Formation. In recognition of his priestly service, Father Procyk was named chaplain to His Holiness Pope Paul VI with the title of Monsignor. In March 1975, he was elevated to prelate of honor with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor.
In July 1973, Monsignor Procyk succeeded Bishop Bilock as the Rector of St. John’s Cathedral in Munhall, Pennsylvania. Monsignor Procyk would hold this position for twenty-two years. During his tenure as Cathedral Rector, Monsignor Procyk undertook the awesome task of relocating the Cathedral Parish to new and modern facilities. The highlight of this long relocation project was the construction of a new and magnificent Cathedral Church. The new Cathedral, which was modeled after the ancient Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, was solemnly dedicated on June 12, 1994 by Bishop Michael Dudick, the Acting Metropolitan and Bishop Bilock, the Archeparchial Administrator.
On February 7, 1995, Monsignor Procyk was consecrated as a bishop and installed as Metropolitan Archbishop in the Cathedral that he was so instrumental in constructing. Serving as the ordaining bishops were the three bishops of the suffragan eparchies of the Metropolitan Province: Bishop Michael Dudick of Passaic, Bishop Andrew Pataki, then of Parma, and Bishop George Kuzma of Van Nuys. Performing the official installation was Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States. Presiding at the ceremonies was His Eminence Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua , the Archbishop of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In attendance were twenty-nine Eastern Rite and Latin Rite bishops, including four bishops from the European eparchies from which American Byzantine Catholics trace their roots, as well as scores of priests, religious, representatives from various Protestant and Orthodox Churches, and hundreds of faithful, many of whom watched the proceedings on closed circuit television from the basement hall of the Cathedral.
In his short tenure, Archbishop Procyk has made significant progress in moving our Church to a more faithful adherence to Eastern Rite traditions and practices. Within the framework of the new Eastern Code of Canon Law, the archbishop has established new norms for the administration of the sacraments of initiation, instituted a new diaconate program within the Archeparchy, reestablished the Cantors’ Institute to promote better congregational singing of all Byzantine services and started a new Archeparchial Choir. Additionally, to promote greater openness about the financial situation of the Archeparchy, the archbishop has directed the preparation and publication of annual financial reports. Moreover, as the representative of the American Byzantine Catholic Church to the Synod of Bishops on the status of the Church in the Americas , the archbishop has used that forum to educate and inform bishops from throughout this Hemisphere of the presence and importance of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church.