On November 8, 2014 at 9:30 AM, the bell at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Parish in South Plainfield was joyfully ringing, welcoming the ruling bishop of the Eastern Eparchy His Eminence Metropolitan Antony to the parish. Metropolitan Antony was coming for an Archpastoral visit to his spiritual children—the flock entrusted into his hands by Christ Himself—who were celebrating the 80th anniversary of their parish.
Upon entering the Church, Metropolitan Antony was greeted by two representatives of the parishioners and guests gathered—Anita Anderson, Parish Board Treasurer, greeted the Metropolitan with a bouquet of roses and Andrew Olear, Parish Board President, with the traditional Ukrainian bread. Fr. Vasyl Pasakas, pastor of the parish, greeted His Eminence with a cross and Holy Water, expressing spiritual joy on the occasion of his visit and asking for intercessory prayers for this parish community. Fr. Vasyl invoked the Archangel Michael and the other Bodiless Powers, who’s Feast Day was commemorated that day, for guidance and guardianship in the days ahead.
From the vestibule, Metropolitan Antony entered the nave, walking towards the center of the Church from where he would preside during the beginning of Liturgy. His Eminence bestowed his blessings upon those gathered in Church and gave his blessing to begin the Divine Liturgy. The Archpastoral Divine Liturgy was co-celebrated by local clergy: V. Rev. Oleh Hucul, from Holy Ascension Parish in Maplewood, NJ and Deacon James Cairns, from Saint Demetrius Cathedral in Carteret, NJ. V. Rev. Yurij Siwko, from St. Andrew Memorial Church in South Bound Brook, NJ, joined the congregation at the celebratory luncheon after his own services at St. Andrew’s ended. The clergy were assisted by Seminarians of Saint Sophia Seminary—Subdeacons Ivan Chopko, Volodymyr Yavorski and Volodymyr Sukanets, and altar boy James (JD) Cairns.
During the sermon, Metropolitan Antony spoke about the importance of paying attention to the spiritual things in our lives, as many people today are preoccupied with busy lives and on the earthly matters—just like in the parable about Martha and Mary. He emphasized on the faith of the forefathers and founders of this parish; the faith that drew them to God, their self-sacrifice, and their calling to build this church and community, as well as their desire to pass the legacy and devotion to the future generations. This 80th anniversary celebration is also about this parish family just as much as it is about the founders of the community back in the 1930s---the founders preserved the faith and now it is the responsibility of everyone, not just the priest, to pass on the faith to the next generation.
During the Liturgy, prayers were offered for the repose of the souls of pastors who had served at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the repose of the founders of the Parish- Catherine Dorosh, Paul Owsinik, Michael Polehonki, Nicholas Sawczak, Julia Sharyk and Andrew Zahuta, and for all the departed members of the Parish. The responses for the day’s service were led by Mr. Raymond Mastroberte, whose pious and melodic responses made the service truly divine. At the conclusion of Liturgy, Fr. Vasyl expressed words of gratitude to His Eminence Metropolitan Antony for touching everyone’s hearts and souls with this spiritual visit.
The celebration continued after Liturgy, as everyone present was welcomed to a catered luncheon in the parish hall. The event was enhanced with pictures of the history of the parish, a basket raffle, remarks on the history of the parish, and greetings from V. Rev. Raymond Sundland (former pastor of the parish) and from Michael Komichak, national president of the Ukrainian Orthodox League on behalf of the League.