UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Prayerful Surprise in Oklahoma!
By Subdeacon Robby Wall
June 9th was a very warm Saturday evening in Edmond, Oklahoma, when members of Dormition of the Birth-Giver-of-God (St. Mary’s) Ukrainian Orthodox Parish Board of Administrationl and their families gathered at the home of David & Galina Hobza for a 70th birthday supper in honor of their long time parish pastor - Archimandrite Raphael.
The meal came as no surprise; however, one person on the guest list would remain a well-kept secret to Fr. Raphael and others in attendance.
As our spiritual father for the past sixteen years, Fr. Raphael has come to expect his usual surprise party thrown on his behalf each year at this time. He has been quoted many times as saying that we could not do anything to surprise him anymore, however this year would be different, because what Fr. Raphael didn’t know was that His Grace Bishop Daniel had made private plans several months ago to attend this milestone event in his life.
His Grace, along with Subdeacon Vasyl Pasakas arrived in Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon where they were greeted by Subdeacon Robby Wall of St. Mary’s Parish. Not long after our guests settled in to their hotel room, it would be time for them to make their way to the Hobza home for the big surprise.
Once there, Galina Hobza was able to distract Fr. Raphael while His Grace made his entry into the residence, however, we underestimated the other guest’s joyful reaction to the bishop’s surprise visit. Everyone soon quieted and it was time for Fr. Raphael to finally be surprised for his birthday, and the moment would not disappoint. Father did a double take before he realized that it was actually Bishop Daniel approaching him for a welcoming embrace.
It would be an understatement to say that father was surprised with the visit by His Grace and the fact that this was a well-kept secret for several months. It truly was a beautiful moment that everyone will remember.
Following all the greetings, everyone sat down for a wonderful meal provided by the Hobza family and others. Ham, turkey, pasta and salads were just a few items on the menu that evening. After a few hours of food and drink everyone would return home full and delighted by the night’s events and begin preparations for Sunday mornings Divine Liturgy, where Bishop Daniels visit would again be a surprise to those in attendance.
Sunday morning of All Saints arrived with not a cloud in the sky. The sun was bright, the sky was blue and the temperature was warm. As His Grace arrived at the west doors of the temple he would first be greeted and welcomed by four of our youth, Luca Gomarteli, TanyaHobza, Diana Palivoda and Layla Peck. Then came the traditional presentation of bread and salt, baked and presented to His Grace by Constanta Palivoda. Constanta welcomed Bishop Daniel on behalf the Sisterhood of St. Mary’s. Finally, Fr. Raphael welcomed His Grace back to Jones, Oklahoma, and his parish of the Dormition of the Mother of God and extended an invitation for him to pray with us.
The Divine Liturgy would soon begin with His Grace presiding. We all look forward when Bishop Daniel worships with us at St. Mary’s and it is usually his sermon that people will talk about for weeks to come and this one was no different. His Grace spoke about not being afraid or ashamed to practice our religion in public. He also mentioned one of his favorite quotes by one of the examples of saintly life - Mother Teresa, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world”. He challenged all in attendance to be that pencil, go beyond the doors of the temple, outside our comfort zone and to live our faith. His message was well received.
The Divine Liturgy would resume, the Holy Eucharist was received by the faithful and then came time for His Grace to present Fr. Raphael a beautifully framed certificate “Blessed Hramota” commemorating his many years of priestly service and his 70th birthday.
A group photo would follow before everyone gathered in the trapeza for the parish hamburger/hotdog cookout and covered dish luncheon in honor of father’s birthday. Many people brought food to be shared, along with cards and gifts for Fr. Raphael. As usual, the delicious meats were provided by St. Mary’s members Scott & Kathy Schwab, owners of Schwab & Company, a local meat company that has been family owned since 1912.
By afternoons end everyone was once again full and excited about how the day’s events played out. His Grace would soon leave for the airport in order to get back to New Jersey. This quote by Fr. Raphael sums it all up, “I am truly blessed to have such caring and loving hierarchs and parishioners!”
Father, we are truly blessed to have you. Mnohaya Lita!