UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Archpastoral Visit to Dixonville, PA
By Maureen Cornman
When the alarm clock rang on Sunday morning, March 09, 2014 I was somewhat tempted to forget the clock and stay in bed a little while longer. I knew that more snow had fallen Saturday evening, and the temperatures were still below freezing. Since we had changed to daylight saving time earlier that morning, it was very dark outside. However after hitting the snooze button, I remembered that it was Sunday, and His Grace, Bishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, was coming to our church for the very first time. I knew I had better get moving as it was going to be a wonderful day!
Bishop Daniel arrived at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Dixonville around 9:00 AM and immediately made everyone feel so much at ease. The excitement was brewing as the minutes went by anxiously awaiting the time when he would make his official appearance in church.
At 10:00 AM the church bells began tolling as Bishop Daniel walked in the procession from the parking lot led by those individuals carrying the banners and church cross. The children from the church school threw petals of flowers in his honor. At the doors Edward Oaks, church board president, greeted His Grace and presented him with traditional bread and salt. Protopresbyter Very Rev. Fr. George Hnatko, church pastor, welcomed Vladyka to ‘his little cathedral in the hills of Dixonville’, presented him with the cross and water, and asked for his prayers and blessing on our congregation.
Led by Subdeacon Ivan Chopko, Seminarian Volodymyr Sukanets and Altar Servers Donald and Steven Kostryk, Bishop Daniel and Fr. George proceeded to the altar to begin Divine Liturgy.
Since this was the First Sunday of the Great Fast – Triumph of Orthodoxy Sunday – the church was dressed in purple. The Epistle and Gospel readings reminded us of the men and women who have defended the use of icons throughout the ages.
In his stirring sermon, His Grace reminded us that we have icons in the church to help us picture in our minds those that we are asking to pray for us. The Bishop said, “…The icons help me see the divine reality of the God I believe in.” He continued saying that especially during Lent we really need to ask ourselves if we fit into the story of the Saints around us. Like all of us, everyday he is faced with choices of how he should preach, believe, and depict his responsibilities to God. So it comes down to knowing how to make the right choices. Bishop Daniel went on to say that memorizing scriptures does not make you a Christian, but being a Christian involves knowing what is right and wrong. His sermon was well received by all the faithful who listened intently to his message.
After the Prayer Before the Amvon, there was a procession in observance of the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The particular day serves as a reminder of when icons were restored for use in the church after being destroyed by the heretics. His Grace led the procession, which included the children of the parish and others carrying icons. At the end of the service all in attendance affirmed their faith and recited ‘The Creed’.
At the conclusion of Divine Liturgy, Fr. George thanked Vladyka Daniel for coming to pray with us, and the congregation responded with "Mnohaja L'ita" - ‘God Grant You Many Years’.
Bishop Daniel asked that everyone gather for a group picture, and then we proceeded to the church social room for a delicious Lenten luncheon. Katelyn Hnatko presented red roses to his Grace expressing gratitude for his visit. Natalya Cann thanked his Grace for his prayers and blessings, and her sister, Sophia, also thanked His Grace for coming and expressed our desire to have him come back again soon. William Cornman, treasurer of the board of directors, presented Bishop Daniel with a check for the relief in Ukraine fund. After the meal, His Grace spent time talking with those in attendance before heading back to Bound Brook.
Looking back on the day, the common thread was that the day was ‘more than wonderful’. It was beautiful, uplifting, and prayerful. We are looking forward to having His Grace, Bishop Daniel, along with His Eminence, Metropolitan Antony, come and pray with us at the occasion of our 100th anniversary in July of 2015.