UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel Consecrate Interior Restoration of St. Mary’s, New Britain, CT
Text by Melissa Josefiak
Photos by Christine Melnyk
St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church, New Britain, Connecticut, Nativity of the Mother of God, welcomed His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and His Grace Bishop Daniel to consecrate its newly renovated interior and restored icons on December 30, 2012. Although nearly a foot of snow blanketed the state the night before, many of St. Mary’s parishioners braved the challenging conditions to welcome their hierarchs in celebrating a joyful Divine Liturgy in honor of this significant event in the life of the parish.
Reverend Father Andrii Pokotylo, St. Mary’s pastor, led his congregation in welcoming His Eminence and His Grace as well as several students from St. Sophia Seminary, Deacon Andriy Matlak and Subdeacons Ivan Chopko, Yurii Andreiko and Vasyl Pasakas. Also serving that day were Father Deacon Anthony Szwez and Subdeacon Michael Platosz, both of St. Mary’s parish.
Accompanied by the choir’s lovely singing as led by Director Basil Romanyshyn, His Eminence and His Grace began the morning’s services with a special consecration and blessing of the church’s renovated interior. Standing before the opened Royal Doors, our hierarchs intoned several prayers to bless the restored holy icons, many of which are nearly a century old. In a procession around the parish’s interior, Bishop Daniel vigorously blessed the newly repaired and painted walls, restored icons and parish faithful with holy water.
Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel then celebrated the Divine Liturgy, as more parishioners joined the faithful, slowly freed from their snow-bound homes. The service provided an emotional experience, evoking both beauty and solemnity. On one hand, the joyous nature of the Nativity Feast could be heard with rousing Christmas carols in both Ukrainian and English and seen through the festive decorations of live pine wreaths on the stained glass windows and a Christmas tree adorned with handmade ornaments crafted by the parish youth. On the other hand, the faithful were reminded of the precious sanctity of life as the Gospel reading recalled the slaughter of the innocents and a special Litany of the Departed commemorated the parish’s deceased founders, members of the armed forces who have died serving their country and especially the children, teachers and staff who perished in the recent shootings in nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The parish children, most of whom wore blouses of Ukrainian embroidery, held candles or icons during both the Gospel reading and the Great Entrance.
At the close of the service in his sermon, Metropolitan Antony encouraged the parish to view this new church renovation as an opportunity to renovate and restore their own lives. Creating a parallel between St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians and the parish’s recent efforts, he exhorted the faithful to reexamine their lives in Christ and become beautifully restored themselves, inside and out, through their words and deeds. In conclusion, he presented congratulatory certificates to specific parishioners who championed fundraising efforts by sponsoring particular icons.
Following a parish-wide photo in front of the iconostas, His Eminence and His Grace joined the parishioners in the church hall for a delicious varenyky dinner prepared by the Sisterhood of St. Olga, under the direction of co-presidents Heather Duffy and Kimberly Irvin and help from chefs David and John Bouchard and others. The dinner provided an opportunity for our special guests to share inspirational stories within a relaxed setting. Father Steven Masliuk from our sister parish, St. Mary’s in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and UOC Dean of New England, recounted his recent visit to the Holy Land and the many miraculous experiences that resulted from his travels. In addition, Metropolitan Antony spoke joyously of serving Diving Liturgy within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and using the stone slab in Christ’s Tomb as a Table of Oblation. Bishop Daniel detailed his recently completed mission trip to Ukraine by saying that the grand and glorious cathedrals of Kiev are beautiful, but when he steps into a parish such as St. Mary’s, he immediately feels at home. The event was concluded with spirited signing of traditional Nativity carols by all gathered there.
The memorable day marked a high point in St. Mary’s parish life as it begins 2013, its 103rd year serving Christ. Historically speaking, St. Mary’s renovation was a long time in coming. The parish was founded in 1910 by immigrants from the Galicia region in Ukraine, but its upper portion, the present church nave and altar, was not completed until 1917. Over subsequent decades, increased immigration and Americanization contributed to the parish’s growth and prosperity so that the interior walls, ceiling and two-tiered onion dome could be adorned with beautiful depictions of saints and scenes from the Life of Christ or the Gospel.
As with all historic buildings, maintenance and preservation provide ever-present challenges, water damage chief among them. Several years ago, the church received a new slate roof and improved gutters and downspouts, but water had already seeped through the brick-and-masonry walls to damage the century-old plaster beneath it, compromising many of the icons painted on canvas and adhered directly to the plaster.
Now that the historic structure’s envelope was secure, it was time to preserve and restore its interior. Father Andrii and the Parish Council led an ambitious fundraising campaign to enable a skilled firm to clean, restore and in some extreme cases, repaint, all of the structure’s icons, frescoes and decorative work. Nearly 100 years of smoke from regular candle usage, dirt from heating systems, persistent water damage and simple human occupation had darkened or obscured many of the works. Repainting in the 1950s and 1980s addressed the walls only, but not the icons, which had never before been cleaned.
The parish solicited pledges and sponsorships to pay for the project, supplemented by ongoing and additional fundraising events so that the church treasury would not be depleted. The parish of St. Mary’s is pleased to report that the renovation is now complete in restoring a beautiful temple in which to glorify Christ. With great relief, an exhausted parish is pleased to announce that it is very close to completing its steep fundraising goal of $83,000 – a significant step for a small congregation.
St. Mary’s is very grateful to Metropolitan Antony, Bishop Daniel and the visiting clergy and seminarians, who led the consecration and blessing of our newly restored church interior. We look forward to many more years of celebrating together and serving Christ. “Lord, sanctify those who love the beauty of Your house, glorifying them in return by Your divine power and do not forsake us who hope in You…” ( The prayer behind the amvon, Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)