This same post was also started this morning on another Board dealing with the Eastern Catholic Church. I thought that this response from someone who had participated in the conference and worked with his Bishop was interesting and sheds some light on the question posed in the title as well as the feelings of an Eastern Catholic who was there. With his permission, I am posting his response from that Board for the readers of this forum. FYI, Bishop Gerald is the Bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of the Western United States.
A brief introduction, since it's my first post, before I comment on this thread.
I've been reading the forum for about a year or so now, but I just registered this past fall when I started in the St Stephen's program. I'm a cradle RC (pre-Vatican II), but left the Church when I was about 11, that was 1963 or so. I pursued a number of non-Christian spiritual traditions for almost 40 years. When I was living in Bulgaria (1996-2005), I returned to the Catholic Church, but in its Byzantine expression. Shortly after coming back to the US and becoming a member of a Ruthenian Catholic parish here, I canonically transferred to the Byzantine Ruthenian Church.
I wanted to share a little background with you about Bishop Gerald's presence at that conference. I cannot speak for Bishop, of course, but I can give you some context for what was going on. Last year, Bishop decided the eparchy would have a vendor booth at the conference, to disseminate information on the Eastern Catholic Churches to the conference attendees. Bishop Gerald, one of our Basilian sisters, the pastor of my local parish, and myself went. We had a booth with many books on Eastern Christianity, plus icons, prayer ropes, etc. We also had lots of free literature about the history and spirituality of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Over the course of the 3 days, we had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of people who stopped by our booth. Some of these conversations were of real depth. Also, Fr Pipta from our church in San Diego gave a talk on Eastern Catholicism at one of the sessions on the conference schedule.
At the end of the conference, I did (hesitantly) attend the concluding Mass. It was pretty much the same as what they seem to have done this year. I have very little post VII RC experience, and so I was stunned and even horrified by what I saw. I cried for a bit as I sat there. And, yes, in some ways, it seemed very much like a Protestant mega-church service. To some of us, it felt more like a performance than a worship service. However, at the moment of the consecration, I understood that Our Lord was present, just as He is in the Byzantine liturgy I so love. For me, the form of that Mass was tragic and caused me great sorrow, but I believe that it is still a Mass.
For this year's conference, Bishop decided we would again have a booth, and the eparchy was also able to arrange to have a Byzantine liturgy on the conference schedule. Bishop Gerald concelebrated the liturgy with several priests of the eparchy. We had deacons, servers, choir, etc. We didn't know how many people would show up, but 1200 conference attendees came to our liturgy in a transformed hotel ballroom! Fr Rankin, the pastor of St Melany's here in Tucson, gave a talk to the attendees just prior to the start of the liturgy, explaining what they were about to see, and giving them some background and context for it.
I wasn't able to go this year, but when I inventoried the books that came back (our entire little bookstore had gone on the road to the conference), I discovered that we had sold almost every copy of every title we had that related to the Byzantine liturgy. I'm sure this was a direct result of people having attended our liturgy, as last year, not a single title on Byzantine liturgy sold.
I know that last year many of the people who came by our booth expressed how glad they were that there was an Eastern Catholic presence at the conference. And many catechists who came by took materials to share with their students.
While I don't always agree with all the decisions and policies of the Byzantine Ruthenian Church in the US, I do think there was a good purpose served both years in our being at this conference. We were like a little oasis, and there were people who came to drink of our water.
Hope you're all having a blessed and fruitful Great Fast,