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High School Students complete their missionary trip

UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS

PRESS RELEASE 

The 2016 team of high school students complete their missionary trip to South Bound Brook and Philadelphia

On Sunday, August 14th, the 2016 high school mission team completed its 9-day missionary trip. The 2016 team of students consisted of Charles Ames (Sts. Peter & Paul, Youngstown, OH), Stephanie Chubenko (St. Demetrius, Carteret, NJ), and Anna Swindle (Holy Virgin, Arnold, PA). Former team member Andrea Linck (of Philadelphia, PA) also participated in the trip in South Bound Brook. This year’s trip was organized by Fr. Taras and Dobrodijka Laura Naumenko (St. Vladimir, Philadelphia, PA) and Fr. Vasyl & Dobrodijka Oksana Pasakas (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, South Plainfield, NJ). The missionary trip this year unfolded with a three-part purpose and goal—to help in the restoration of the Heindrick Fisher Cemetery Plot located at St. Andrew’s Cemetery in South Bound Brook, to assist the unified St. Vladimir & Pokrova parish community of Philadelphia after the devastating fire which completely destroyed the church building in August 2013, and to provide a ministry to the needy communities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

On Sunday, August 14th, the 2016 high school mission team completed its 9-day missionary trip. The 2016 team of students consisted of Charles Ames (Sts. Peter & Paul, Youngstown, OH), Stephanie Chubenko (St. Demetrius, Carteret, NJ), and Anna Swindle (Holy Virgin, Arnold, PA). Former team member Andrea Linck (of Philadelphia, PA) also participated in the trip in South Bound Brook. This year’s trip was organized by Fr. Taras and Dobrodijka Laura Naumenko (St. Vladimir, Philadelphia, PA) and Fr. Vasyl & Dobrodijka Oksana Pasakas (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, South Plainfield, NJ). The missionary trip this year unfolded with a three-part purpose and goal—to help in the restoration of the Heindrick Fisher Cemetery Plot located at St. Andrew’s Cemetery in South Bound Brook, to assist the unified St. Vladimir & Pokrova parish community of Philadelphia after the devastating fire which completely destroyed the church building in August 2013, and to provide a ministry to the needy communities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The first 4 ½ days of the trip were spent working at the Metropolia Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Saturday evening’s arrival of the team was celebrated with a BBQ dinner with the students of St. Sophia Seminary and the commissioning of the team members, with the service led by His Grace Bishop Daniel. Bishop Daniel welcomed the team to the Metropolia Center and reminded the team of how important and grateful everyone was for their interest and participation in this year’s trip. His Grace spoke to the team about the historical importance of this land—both for the existence of the United States of America and the existence of the Metropolia Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Three historical structures still stand on the property of the Metropolia Center—the current building of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary (formerly the Heatherington Mansion), the Heindrick Fisher Home, and the Fisher Family Cemetery Plot. Heindrick Fisher was present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence and brought a copy home to read to the townspeople, which he did in front of the Frelinguysen Tavern just down the street from his family’s home (the tavern is no longer standing, but a plaque remains to mark the historic event). The projects during the week really highlighted the importance of the founding of America during the turbulent times during the American Revolution, the hope for a better future, and the interwoven history of America and of Ukrainian-Orthodoxy in America.

The team spent the better of their trip working alongside the cemetery staff, under the guidance of Property Manager Petro Rudyy, in cleaning and restoring the historic Fisher Cemetery. The team, with some of the students of St. Sophia Seminary, removed the old fence, overgrown bushes and hedges, and replaced them with a new fence and door. The team also built and painted a new sign, information booth, flower bed with flowers, and cleaned and trimmed back grass around the existing gravestones and left new flags at each gravestone. An unveiling of the finished project took place Wednesday afternoon with members of the community in attendance. A Memorial Litia was served in memory of the members of the Fisher, La Tourette, and Van Nortwick families who are buried in the designated plot.

During the week the team members also cleaned and washed the Transfiguration chapel-gazebo, which is located between the Fisher House and St. Andrew’s Memorial Church. The team used the chapel for some of their prayer services during the week. They also worked on some small landscaping cleanup projects around the historic Fisher House.

On Tuesday afternoon, the team travelled to Bridges Outreach in Summit, New Jersey. They had the opportunity to meet with volunteers there who spoke of their outreach efforts to the needy and homeless in New Jersey and New York City. The team had previously sorted and boxed donated new or gently used adult t-shirts and created over 70 premade toiletry kit bags. The t-shirts and toiletry kits would be distributed to the needy in the area.

On Wednesday, the team members travelled to Pennsylvania where their missionary trip would continue after a fun-night at St. Vladimir’s Parish Hall with their weekly UOL-night. This week’s UOL night was Game Night! The team had a wonderful evening relaxing after a busy week working on the cemetery, while enjoying delicious home-made food, lots of fellowship and fun games!

On Thursday, the mission team joined 6 members of St. Vladimir’s Jr. UOL for an afternoon volunteering a Philabundance Hunger Relief Center in Philadelphia. The group of students joined other local volunteers in preparing fresh produce (which that day happened to be large bins of fresh green beans) for distribution to the needy the following day. The students sorted (taking out any spoiled beans and discarding twigs or leaves) the green beans, bagged them into individual 3-pound bags and then packaged them into boxes ready for distribution. That afternoon a total of 1,440 pounds of green beans were sorted and bagged!

After the day, team member Anna Swindle reflected “I have always loved to help people but I never really had the chance to make an impact. When I found out that the green beans that we were sorting through at Philabundance were going out the next day, it made me feel really good people were getting food I helped pack just the previous day.”

On Friday, the mission team travelled with Fr. Taras Naumenko to the warehouse in the city, which is temporarily storing ecclesiastic and other items salvaged from the Pokrova Parish in Philadelphia following the devastating fire in August of 2013 which destroyed their church. The team spent the morning and early afternoon taking inventory and pictures of the items that were being stored. The project included a digital inventory, which the missionaries themselves created. The day concluded with a trip to the Eastern State Penitentiary, a historic prison converted into a museum. The missionaries were joined by other local teens for the self-guided tour, which was extremely fascinating for both the teens and adults.

Saturday quickly came and the missionaries began to make their final preparations for their last 36 hours of this year’s High School Mission Trip. The warehouse project was finishing up, and as a treat after a long week working and making impacts in communities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the team was taken on a day-out in the historic section of downtown Philadelphia. A guided tour was organized and led by parishioners Natalia and Oleh Bilynsky. They graciously offered up their afternoon to take the missionaries and some of the local teens to walk around the city. They all had the opportunity to see the infamous Liberty Bell, read all about it in the visitor center, see the home where Thomas Jefferson rented a room from bricklayer Jacob Graff, Jr., walk through Christ’s Church, view some of the graves of historic figures, as well as take a walk down the oldest street in Philadelphia. For lunch the missionary-tourists all enjoyed the infamous Philly Cheesesteaks. A walking tour of the city was not complete without a selfie scavenger hunt, which occupied the participants as they found ways to take selfies with other tourists, Philly food items and famous statues and figures.

The team reflected during the week on what it means to be a missionary in today’s society. Throughout the week, the team interacted with many different types of communities—parish communities, community of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, and communities that minister to the less fortunate. The team had the opportunity to volunteer their time during the week to make a difference in communities of those less-fortunate, a community that they did not even meet face-to-face, but their work was still able to make a huge difference. They came to realize that they can, individually or as a group, can make a difference in someone’s life. A simple act of kindness, a bag of fresh green beans, a restored cemetery, or even a conversation or greeting card can and will make a difference in someone’s life. Charles Ames reflected on his week’s experience by stating that he “loved changing the lives of other—by supporting the needy as we gave them clothing and food.” Team member Stephanie Chubenko “Helping the community in many ways, such as sorting green beans, or creating toiletry kits really changed my perspective on the way we can better the community.”

The trip ended prayerfully with a final Divine Liturgy at St. Vladimir Parish in Philadelphia. The team departed for their homes, energized to continue ministering to their home communities!

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Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
P.O. Box 495;
South Bound Brook, NJ 08880
732-356-0090 (Phone) / 732-356-5556 (Fax)

Offices:
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Metropolia Center
135 Davidson Avenue; Somerset, NJ 08873

Email:
consistory@uocofusa.org
webmaster@uocofusa.org



 

  



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