Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

CANTON — A Byzantine mission is forming in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, just west of Asheville, with plans for monthly services.

Deacon Kevin Bezner, who spent years at St. Basil the Great Mission in Charlotte, will be traveling to Immaculate Conception Church in Canton monthly to host Vespers and Typica with Holy Communion services. The services at the new mission start June 17.

“What we hope will occur is we build up a community,” Deacon Bezner said. “That we foster a Byzantine, Ukrainian Catholic community and we give them a place to worship.

“It’s answering a call of interest. There are groups of people in the mountains from Sylva to Asheville to Fletcher who have been asking for a mission in the mountains. Our goal is to become a real center for Byzantine, Eastern Catholic liturgy and spirituality in the mountain region.”

The Ukrainian Catholic mission is a Byzatntine-Slavic Eastern Christian mission in full communion with the pope and is open to people of all backgrounds. All of the services and liturgies are chanted in English.

Vespers is the first service of the liturgical day in the daily cycle of prayer. Typica with Holy Communion is a Communion service. Occasionally, a priest will visit to celebrate Divine Liturgy (Mass) at the new mission.

The process to create this mission started when Father Mark Shuey was invited by a group outside of Asheville to celebrate Vespers and a Divine Liturgy in 2014.

Father Joshua Voitus, outgoing pastor at St. Mary, Mother of God Church in Sylva, attended the initial 2014 liturgy and invited Father Shuey and Deacon Bezner to celebrate in Sylva as well, Deacon Bezner said.

“The ball just kept rolling from there,” he said. They celebrated more liturgies and talks over the past few years at locations in western North Carolina including Immaculate Conception Mission in Canton.

“We felt there are enough Ukrainian and Eastern Catholics in the area that we could form at least a seed parish so those Eastern Catholics could go to the liturgies they are used to,” Father Shuey said. “After prayerful discernment and searching for the best location in the mountains, they decided on the Canton location.

“We’re going to start and see how it goes. It may not be there permanently, but we have to start somewhere,” Father Shuey said.

In August, the mission will host an “East Meets West” retreat with the theme “The Medicine of Words,” on St. John Chrysostom’s last work, “On the Providence of God.” The Aug. 17-18 retreat is the fourth annual event.

Starting in September, the mission will host catechism classes as well.

The hope is that mission could grow to a parish with its own church eventually, Deacon Bezner said. St. Basil started as a mission in 2006 and has grown sizably in Charlotte, now using the chapel at St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

When they started offering liturgies in the mountains, Deacon Bezner said, they received good attendance. And the numbers grew with the talks from 20 or so to more than 100 people.

This is the 11th mission Father Shuey, who has worked to start missions over the past 15 years, is starting. He said the growth in people of Ukrainian descent is the reason for the expansion.

“Since we’ve been doing work in Charlotte, the next step is the Asheville area for us,” Father Shuey said. “If you go from Raleigh, we’ll have a church every three hours to near Nashville, Tenn.

“People are moving down to our area because of jobs. We have an increase in internal immigration, and also an increase in immigrants moving from Ukraine. Those are the driving forces. We have to gather the people, and right now there are groups of people to gather.”

Father Shuey said they are also working on starting missions in Augusta, Ga., and Columbia, S.C.

— Kimberly Bender, online reporter

More online

Learn more about the Ukrainian Catholic Mission of Canton at www.ukrainiancatholicmissionofcantonnc.weebly.com. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Interested in attending?
June 17: Vespers and Typica with Holy Communion, 5 p.m.

July 15: Vespers and Divine Liturgy, 5 p.m.

Aug. 17-18: East Meets West Retreat

Sept. 16: Catechism, “The Personal Prayer of the Christian, ” 3:30-4:30 p.m.; Vespers and Typica with Holy Communion, 5 p.m.

Oct. 14: Catechism, “Foundations of the Spiritual Life” and “The Spirituality of the Heart, ” 3:30-4:30 p.m.; Vespers and Typica with Holy Communion, 5 p.m.

Nov. 18: Catechism, “An Ascesis which Purifies, ” 3:30-4:30 p.m.; Vespers and Typica with Holy Communion, 5 p.m.

Dec. 16: Catechism, “Spiritual Combat in the Life of the Christian” and “Prayer in the Spiritual Life, ” 3:30-4:30 p.m.; Ves-pers and Typica with Holy Communion, 5 p.m.