UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Council of the Metropolia Completes Annual Meeting
His Eminence Metropolitan Antony called the Annual Council of the Metropolia meeting to order on Thursday, 5 February in the HEC Exhibit Annex of the Ukrainian Cultural Center and led the members in prayer for all the clergy and faithful of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. Following the invocation, His Eminence offered a meditation for consideration by the Council members, which was meant to guide the decision making process of the meeting. The theme of the meditation was “Trust in God” – under all circumstances – positive or negative. Such trust has always been expressed and exhibited by the leadership and faithful of our Church throughout its history from the Baptism of the Ukrainian nation in 988. Even when confronted with threats, catastrophes, suppression, oppression, genocide, secularism – all similar to the faithful Job of the Old Testament – faith and trust in God’s love for all mankind has resulted in the continued existence of the Church in Ukraine and here beyond her borders.
His Eminence spoke of his depth of concern for not only the Church and faithful in Ukraine, but for the nation itself. He has experienced an agonizing sense of loss that everyone in our native Ukraine must be experiencing with the all too familiar events of invasion and oppression presently, which so many had dreamed were over. Metropolitan Antony expressed the profound disappointment he has experienced – and certainly the citizens of Ukraine must experience even more intensely – in the leaders of the nation since the declaration of independence those twenty-four years ago. Leaders are supposed to call all citizens to unity, but it seems that every single one of those who have held the highest positions in governmental leadership, have become corrupted by their own egos or by the desire to enrich themselves at the expense of all. He called all our faithful to intensify their prayers for Ukraine and for her people. We shall never lose faith that God will once again guide us through these difficult times as He has done in the past – regardless of how severe the new oppression might become and the price it may cost in the building of a united Ukraine where all citizens believe that they have a future for themselves and in the world.
Metropolitan Antony and His Grace Bishop Daniel presented detailed reports on the life of their respective Eastern and Western Eparchies of our Church here in the USA. On a positive note, the bishops stressed the positive fact of the establishment of new parish communities and the plans for more. We have been blessed with funds contributed by St. Mary Parish in Hicksville, NY, which dissolved over ten years ago. These funds were placed in a permanent endowment fund with the income utilized to support the development of new missions for the first year of their existence. This support has been very effective and continues to serve as a living memorial to all the faithful of St. Mary Parish.
Of significance was the fact that two parishes have or are about to be dissolved or closed to unite with neighboring parishes through resolutions of the remaining membership. The primary reasons for such actions are dwindling membership, the physical deterioration of parish properties and lack of sufficient financial means to cover all the expenses of parish life. The bishops emphasized that they do not and will not make unilateral decisions about the dissolution of any parish. This is a decision that must be made by resolution of the parish members involved and then approved by the hierarchs after an extensive examination of the reasons for the proposed dissolution and consideration of any possible means of continuing the parish’s existence. It is always a difficult decision and process, but in the cases that resulted in dissolution, it was an unavoidable process. Whenever such resolutions are considered, one of our bishops is present in order to answer any questions that might arise during the process and to ensure that all is accomplished according to Canon Law and the legal demands of State and Federal Law.
The bishops stated that normally the process is a difficult and emotional one, but sometimes, such as when a disaster strikes a parish, such as a catastrophic fire or weather damage, it is even more emotional because there was no expectation of such a possibility. This is precisely the situation, which occurred with the beautiful Church of the Protection of the Mother of God (St. Mary Protectress – Pokrova) in Philadelphia. Metropolitan Antony expressed the agony and empathy he felt for all the parish membership as he stood watching the five fire companies trying in vain to save the church edifice. After a long and soul-searching period of consideration, Pokrova parish members decided by majority vote to unite with St. Vladimir Cathedral located nearby, rather than to attempt rebuilding or purchasing another Church. The decision has already proven to be a blessing for the faithful of both parishes and following approval of articles of unification by both, the formal act will take place during Divine Liturgy on 17 May at the Cathedral with an Agape Feast to follow.
The bishops further reported on the various issues presently being dealt with by various parishes, whether it be legal matters, mission parish growth and maturity and events that took place in parishes and deaneries of their eparchies with an emphasis of the many anniversaries of parish foundation and other milestones, including the anniversaries of ordination and elevations of parish priests and hramotas (certificates of honor) granted to various parish members and organizations.
Following the Eparchy reports, Bishop Daniel in his capacity as President of the Consistory presented his annual report on the work of Consistory Offices of Ministry including the following: Stewardship, V. Rev. Fr. Robert Holet, Director; Youth and Young Adult – Natalie Kapeluck-Nixon, Director; Religious Education – V. Rev. Fr. Harry Linsinbigler, Director; Christian Charity – Protodeacon Dr. Ihor Mahlay, Director; Liturgical Publications – Bishop Daniel, Director; Family and Adult – Rev. Fr. Vasyl and Dobr. Olena Sendeha, Directors; Clergy Development – V. Rev. Timothy Tomson, Director; Public Relations – Rev. Fr. Ivan Synevskyy, Director; Development – Joshua Oryhon and Financial Affairs – V. Rev. Fr. Robert Holet, Director. All the offices had presented written reports to the Council members prior to the meeting and the Directors present had the opportunity to make additions to those reports or answer any questions Council members had. The work of each of the offices is regularly detailed in news articles on the UOC of USA website and is available for anyone to read (www.uocofusa.org).
In addition, reports were considered from the other areas of Consistory work: Cemetery – Olga Coffey; Library – Larissa Bulya; Bookstore Online – Bishop Daniel; Cultural Center Renovation Project – Metropolitan Antony; Property Management – Petro Rudyy, Manager; Legal matter, Estates and Scholarships – Metropolitan Antony. The bishop expressed his satisfaction with the reports and the efforts of all the Offices of Ministry and stressed the fact that there is still so much work to accomplish in each area of ministry. He offered sincere gratitude to all Consistory employees and volunteers, outlining the responsibilities of each and the enormous amount of work accomplished by so few people. He stated that he is always looking for ways to reduce the expenses of maintaining our property, including a study to determine whether outside companies can be of assistance in the management of our cemetery and property management. This study will be considered by the Consistory at an upcoming meeting.
Under the discussion of legal matters, the previously approved sale of two homes across from the Memorial Church was discussed. The homes have been completely flooded many times over the past twenty years and it is no longer feasible to keep rebuilding after flooding, which is beyond our control. Flood insurance costs rise after each incident. With the combination of the very low sale price of the two homes and the funds received from the insurance company for the most recent flood, we have come close to the actual market value of the homes through this sale. Further, the home next to the Memorial Church has also been subject to flooding and has been vacant for most of the past ten years. The costs of renovating the building are prohibitive and the Council decided to put the house up for sale and to utilize the proceeds to make all the necessary repairs and updates to the historical Fischer Home to make it suitable as a residence, office and formal reception site for the Metropolitan of our Church. The sale of the three properties and the renovations on the Fischer home will bring a significant benefit to our bottom line in terms of property management.
The Church and the Historical and Educational Center have been beneficiaries of a number of estates over the past year. Some of these are still in process and we are uncertain what the terms of the estate are and the gifts involved. When these processes are complete, a special article will be prepared for the UOW or perhaps the Office of Development will create a special publication so that the individual donors can be properly memorialized beyond their names on plaques in the Consistory and the Museum. It is through such generosity that we are able to manage our property maintenance responsibilities and to continue with the construction of the Museum. The museum construction has never utilized any general church funds whatsoever. Individual donors, a small percentage of whom contribute also to the Church, have enabled this entire construction to proceed.
Fr. Robert Holet and Assistant Treasurer, Natalia Honcharenko-Andrec presented the Office of Financial Affairs Report. It was a detailed report concerning the revenues and expenses for the 2014 fiscal year and the manner in which all the church finances were utilized for Christian stewardship and charity in service to God Almighty. The general sense of the financial report was that the effects of the nations economic recession are gradually decreasing and lessoning the difficult task of managing all the God has given us to manage regardless of the form or method necessary. This does not mean that all is good and that difficulties have ceased to exist. Because we have such a vast property at our Metropolia Center and so many buildings to maintain, the need for continuous support from our parishes, faithful and other means will always be a necessity. Following the approval of the Financial Report, the Audit Commission report and all its recommendations were discussed and approved.
An important discussion took place about the fact that more and more states are requiring that anyone who works in any capacity with young people must submit to a background check usually conducted by the state police of the individual states. It is not a difficult process, which seeks to uncover any past incidents of improper or illegal behavior with any children through state, county and local court records, etc. This topic seems to be a very difficult one in many of our parishes and could have far ranging effects on parish life. The Council decided to ask our attorney to do a state-by-state analysis of state requirements regarding anyone who works with our youth. Bishop Daniel, who is chair of the Assembly of Bishops Legal Committee, will also bring the matter before this committee to seek opinions about these matters.
Metropolitan Antony reported on the activity of the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) established by the Metropolitan Council and appointed by him. The committee is chaired by Geofrey Greenleaf – a certified Financial Manager and Advisor – and has a qualified membership of select individuals all involved in the financial arena: Daria Komichak of Holy Ascension Parish, Maplewood, NJ; Gregory Misko of Assumption of the Mother of God Parish, Northampton, PA; Florin Armenciu of St. Sophia Parish, Bayonne, NJ and William Scannell of St. John the Baptist Parish, Johnson City, NY. In addition, the Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer participate in all meetings of the FAC. The committee serves in a purely advisory capacity and has worked diligently to complete or revise the Church’s policies for investment activity, reimbursement of expenses and contract guidelines. It has also examined the monthly financial affairs reports, investments and offered advise on the preparation of the annual budget.
The agenda for the first day of the Council meeting concluded at this point and following dinner, Bishop Daniel offered a beautiful Power Point presentation concerning the financial aid our church has provided over the past year to those suffering the consequences of the struggle in Ukraine against yet another invasion of its territory. This aid was made possible by the generosity of the faithful of our church and many contributions, which were made through our website and has reached a total approaching $200,000 including funds on hand but not yet distributed. The presentation provoked many questions from the Council members and truly touched every one of those members.
The next session of the Council meeting took place on Friday morning, 6 February and began with the St. Sophia Seminary Report. Metropolitan Antony, who is Rector of the Seminary, opened the discussion and then turned to the Provost (Academic Dean), V. Rev. Bazyl Zawierucha, Associate Dean and Vocations Director, Rev. Anthony Perkins, Dean of Student Life, Bishop Daniel for a detailed report on Seminary life and accomplishment. The most important of the accomplishments is the granting of a State of NJ License as a Graduate and Post-Graduate Educational Institution. This successful goal was accomplished after nearly two years of intense effort exerted by then Fr. Francis Rella and the members of the Seminary staff. This process included a thorough academic and physical plant inspection done by the State and the completion of numerous applications with the submission of dozens of document to support our petition. In the end, the Seminary passed with the highest of recommendations by the inspectors involved from the State. The next goal is to seek accreditation from the proper theological accrediting organizations. This process has begun in earnest and the seminary will seek to meet the accreditation standards in the highest form of accreditation to make the process easier.
Bishop Daniel and Fr. Zawierucha reported on their continued recruitment efforts among seminary students in Ukraine. They reported on the process for the present academic year, which brought four new students to the seminary just two weeks prior to the Council of the Metropolia meeting. The effort was made considerably easier following the Bishop’s meeting in Kyiv at the U.S. Consulate in Kyiv to explain the difficulties experienced over the past few years and responding to the questions of the Consulate about our Seminary academic program and the status of previous students who were approved for student visas.
The presidents of the organizations or the bishops presented the Central Church Organization reports. The Ukrainian Orthodox League report by its President, Michael Komichak, discussed the activities of the continued charity and educational programs of the League. It has always concentrated its efforts on the youth of the Church and preparing the future leaders of the organization. Over the years the UOL has presented over $300,000 in scholarships to seminary and college students of the parishes of our Church. The UOL conducted two Lenten Retreats again during Great Lent and supported several fundraising programs like the “Soupier Bowl Project”, which supports the work of St. Andrew Society. The 2014 convention was held at the Cultural Center of the Metropolia Center and the 2015 convention will be held at Assumption parish in Northampton, PA in July.
Metropolitan Antony reported that the United Ukrainian Orthodox Sisterhoods has been formally dissolved and the the bishops are presently investigating the possibility of replacing it with another organization of Ukrainian Orthodox Women, which will serve as a philanthropic body serving the needs of women of all ages in the life of the Church and other needs as identified by the membership. This investigation is in the infancy stage and will continue until the organization is created or the decision to do so is rejected. Leading women of the Church will be asked to participate in the discussions that will be a part of this investigation.
The President of St. Andrew Society, Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay, presented the organization’s report. The primary activity of the Society has always been in Ukraine. Food centers are presently operating at two sites in Kyiv, in Kamyants-Podilsky, Chernivtsi, Ternopil and Chernihiv. Rather than the original daily soup kitchens originally established fifteen years ago, food is distributed on a regular basis to individuals in these cities. The food kitchens were too difficult to maintain and operate. Over the years the Society has provided assistance in the amount of $1,191,604. This has been an incredible accomplishment in the Name of the Lord for the needy faithful of Ukraine. The Lewytskyj Scholarship Fund established by the children of Protopresbyter Volodymyr and Matushka Lewytskyj, has now joined the efforts of the society and presents scholarships to our seminarians at St. Sophia Seminary.
Fr. Tim Tomson, Chairman of All Saints Camp Committee presented the camp report as written by the camp manager during 2014, Eric Senedak. The programs continue on an annual basis, with the camp utilized for almost the entire camping season from May through Labor Day. Much success was realized with the SOS campaign to raise funds for the renovations needed to camp buildings and most of those renovations have been completed, as has the new clergy cabin located beside St. Thomas Chapel. A major renovation will soon begin on the Millennium Building, which is a multi-purpose building built in the 1980’s. These renovations will greatly enhance the camping experience for all.
An in-depth report was made on the progress of the Historical and Educational Center by Museum Director, Natalia Honcharenko-Andrec and Archivist Dr. Michael Andrec. The construction of the museum is estimated to be about 80% complete and significant income will be necessary to make that completion possible. Funds are available to continue through most of 2015, but it is most probable that the hoped for opening this year will have to be delayed. The application for not for profit status with the IRS is in process and necessitates the appointment of a Board of Directors for the complex and the completion of By-Laws. The services of a not for profit attorney have been arranged in order to expedite the process. Many new donations have been made to both the museum and the archive. The most important is the David Dobosz icon collection, which consists of 326 icons. The collection has been partially catalogued and evaluated, but much more word remains. Other collections have been discussed in earlier reports and information about them can be found on the HEC website: www.ukrhec.org . The Archives of the Church have been significantly expanded by the reception of additional papers for the Fr. Gregory Chomicky collection. Fr. Gregory was one of he founding priests of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and his papers provide a wealth of information for anyone researching the history of the Church. Also received were the Mykola Francuscenko papers. Mykola was a writer, translator, theatrical director, radio journalist, and social activist. He was a writer and broadcaster for the Ukrainian services of both Radio Liberty and the Voice of America during the Cold War. Michael Andrec further reported that a significant effort will be dedicated to the digitization of our audio collection. This will prove to be a difficult but important process because the age of many of our audio collections is beginning to work against their survival.
Fr. Robert Holet presented the budget for the current fiscal year 2015 for the consideration of the Council. After much discussion and comparison to the actual figures from the previous fiscal year, the budget – a basically balanced budget – was approved. Concerns were expressed by Council members about the need for a marketing agent and efforts for strategic planning were necessary elements of a successful future. In conjunction with our efforts to educate our faithful about stewardship and tithing in support of the Church, Fr. Holet suggested that the Consistory set a positive example for the parishes and faithful in beginning a “First Fruits” model as depicted in the newly commissioned icon of the First Fruits – Sts. Volodymyr and Ol’ha holding a model of the Church of the Tithes – Desyatyna Tserkva – built in Kyiv as their offering of first fruits – a percentage of their income to God. The Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God was destroyed centuries ago, but much talk recently has indicated that it may be reconstructed. The Council decided that beginning with this fiscal year a percentage of all income to the Consistory will be dedicated as “First Fruits” and used for charitable work in the Name of Christ our Lord.
A strategic planning committee was appointed, to be chaired by Dr. Gayle Woloschak. This committee will prepare a preliminary report for the next Council meeting in July of 2015 defining the scope of word for this committee. The committee will research the possible assistance of a professional in strategic planning to assist in this effort.
Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel announced that they will be traveling to Ukraine in mid-February with a delegation from the Council to participate with other members of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops beyond the Borders of Ukraine to commemorate the first anniversary of the attack on the Maidan during which 100 people were savagely killed. The Bishops of the USA and Canada will serve a Memorial Service on the Maidan and are also attempting to schedule meetings with President Poroshenko and representatives of the various ecclesiastical jurisdictions. We harbor no expectations of major success in resolving any of the numerous issues of Ukrainian and ecclesiastical life during the visit, but we do want the people to know that we care and are willing to be of any assistance possible.
Bishop Daniel announced that another organized tour of the Holy Land is being planned for October of 2015. Information about the trip will be published shortly and, of course, the travel agent and the bishops will continually monitor the situation in the Holy Land prior to the trip to ensure that it will be safe enough for travel. The U. S. State Department also provides very good information to those planning to travel abroad at all times.
Metropolitan Antony expressed his gratitude to all the Council members for their dedication to our Holy Church and for their positive contributions to the annual meeting. He reminded the members that they bear a responsibility to visit the parishes in their specific regions of the country whenever possible to share a positive message about our Church and urging the faithful to maintain their faith in the presence of Christ among them and the power of the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives – the same Spirit they received in fullness at the moment of their Chrismation. He urged all the members to pray continually for Ukraine and for the delegation that will travel to Kyiv for the commemoration of the first anniversary of the tragedy on the Maidan that changed the course of Ukrainian history.