UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
2015 St. Thomas Sunday-Provody: Weekend Pilgrimage to South Bound Brook, NJ – Metropolia Center of the UOC of the USA
With the call to holiness and openness to the Lord’s presence in our lives, His Grace Bishop Daniel, the ruling hierarch of the Western Eparchy and President of Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, greeted thousands of pilgrims visiting the spiritual center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA in South Bound Brook, NJ for the weekend of the annual St. Thomas Pilgrimage on a Sunday following the glorious and bright feast of our Lord’s resurrection.
It was one of the most beautiful weekends we have seen for years in terms of weather that drew numerous visitors of Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic faithful to the Metropolia Center of the Church. This year’s event took place on 18-19 April and was inaugurated with the service of Divine Liturgy in St. Andrew Memorial Church on Saturday morning. During the Liturgy commemorations were made for all those buried in St. Andrew Cemetery.
As every year the preparations for the annual pilgrimage began weeks ahead. As the early morning sunlight shed upon the center, the first pilgrims started to arrive in order to share the joy of Pascha with each other and the faithful of the Church buried at St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery in South Bound Brook, NJ. Each pilgrim was welcomed to the Metropolia center by the members of the Ukrainian Orthodox League that for the past several years have served as a welcoming committee of the faithful to their spiritual center. The property management crew of the Metropolia Center, under the leadership of Mr. Petro Rudyy, made sure that visitors smoothly approached the parking facilities of the Metropolia Center and utilizing special bus shuttles were able to transition between St. Andrew’s Cemetery and the main offices of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church was a place of quiet reflection and prayer this weekend. Besides the Liturgical services of each day of Pilgrimage, the doors of the Metropolia’s main church remained opened for visitation, meditation and prayer.
St. Andrew Cemetery, which is located behind the Church, was a place of spiritual reunions for many visitors. Hundreds of people visited Holy Resurrection Mausoleum, wherein lies the crypt of His Holiness Patriarch Mstyslav.
The Ukrainian Cultural Center was once again bustling with activity. Numerous Church organizations presented displays about their ministry among the faithful of the Church and in Ukraine. In addition, dozens of vendors offered Ukrainian folk art and other cultural, religious and historical item for sale.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Museum, located on the premises of the Church’s spiritual headquarters, provided numerous visitors with the opportunity to come in contact their historical, spiritual and cultural roots. The curator of the Museum, Mrs. Natalia Honcharenko and the director of the Consistory Office of Archives and Historical Information Dr. Michael Andrec personally provided answers to numerous visitors that showed interest in the construction progress of the Museum.
All the points of interest of the Spiritual Center remained opened for the weekend so that the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful, along with the numerous visitors to the center, had an opportunity to partake in the day-to-day life of the National Headquarters of the UOC of the USA, known as a the “Ukrainian Jerusalem” not only here in the USA, but far beyond the borders of our country, including Ukraine.
In the late hours of Saturday afternoon, everyone had a chance to tour St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary and later on joined the seminarians of the Church for a picnic at the Seminary, which was sponsored by the Seminary’s UOL chapter. Visitors were treated to hot dogs and hamburgers grilled by the seminarians. Both Hierarchs - Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel joined the picnic in order to learn about the culinary skills of the student body. The picnic concluded with Vespers served in the Three Hierarchs Seminary Chapel.
On Sunday morning the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA welcomed to the Metropolia Center His Grace Bishop Saba of the North American Diocese of the Georgian Orthodox Church. This was the first formal liturgical archpastoral visit of Bishop Saba to the Metropolia of the UOC of the USA in order to share in prayer of peaceful solidarity with Ukrainian Orthodox Christians on behalf of the Georgian Orthodox community worldwide. Thus the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by three hierarchs: Metropolitan Antony, Bishop Daniel and Bishop Saba, assisted by many clergy of the church.
The bishops walked in procession with all the clergy and altar servers from the historical Fisher House to the Memorial Church while the ancient bells sounds “Greeting of the Metropolitan” filled the air throughout the neighborhood. Entering through the sacred doors of the Memorial Church, the children of St. Andrew’s Ukrainian School (director Pani Halyna Martynec) welcomed the hierarchs with a traditional Ukrainian greeting, presenting their spiritual fathers with the bouquets of flowers. The elder/starosta of the local community of St. Andrew Memorial Church Pan Dmytro Kozluyk greeted Metropolitan Antony, Bishop Daniel, and especially Bishop Saba of the “friendly Georgian Orthodox community”. Three ladies, representing Pokrova Ukrainian Orthodox Sisterhood of the Memorial Church (Pani-matka Lesia Siwko, Valentyna Rudyy and Anna Shewchenko) presented the bishops with the traditional bread and salt, laid on the beautifully embroidered and decorated Ukrainian towels. Bowing to the spiritual fathers, the ladies, as mothers of the community, asked the bishops to pray for the youth of the Church, as the world challenges the very core of traditional family life and spirituality. Finally, the pastor of St. Andrew Memorial Church Very Rev. Fr. Yuriy Siwko presented the hierarchs with the altar cross. Responding to the numerous greetings, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony assured everyone in attendance of the sincere prayers of their bishops, exclaiming: “XPUCTOC BOCKPEC! CHRIST IS RISEN!”
Following the chanting of the Gospel reading, with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, His Grace Bishop Daniel preached the sermon. The bishops walked out of the Royal Doors wearing an orange omophorion of archpastoral service, making reference to the call of so many Christian communities across the United States of America, to wear an orange ribbon on this Sunday – April 19, 2015 – in support and memory of the innocent Orthodox Christians throughout the Middle East that lost their lives, while beheaded or tortured to death by Islamic terrorists. The bishop also spoke of the innocent some 6000 Ukrainian men, women and children that lost their lives due to the barbaric behavior of politically motivated separatists in Eastern Ukraine and throughout the region where people continue to experience Russian aggression, - in whose honor as well the orange omophorion is being laid upon his shoulders. The bishop spoke of the scars on Christ and on the His Mystical Body - the Church. Vladyka reflected on the pious traditions of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians of visiting the graves of their loved ones in order to share with them the news of the Resurrection of Christ. Bishop Daniel reflected also on the tragic events of Chornobyl Nuclear disaster that occurred almost 29 years ago. His Grace spoke of the various historical, political and Church related scars of modern day Ukraine and the United States of America and called upon the faithful gathered in the Church to be true witnesses of the Risen Lord in the world that is so thirsty for a word of love, hope and mercy.
The Divine Liturgy was a beautiful service in a literally packed St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church, prayerfully enhanced by the congregation’s choir, under the leadership of Maestro Dr. Michael Andrec.
Following the Divine Liturgy at St. Andrew the First-called Memorial Church – built and dedicated as a memorial to the victims of 1932-1933 Famine in Ukraine – the hierarchs of the Church along with the concelebrating clergy and the Ukrainian-American Veterans of the United States Armed Forces, led a procession to the main Cross of St. Andrew Cemetery, where a Memorial service was served for the victims of the Stalin’s man-made Famine that destroyed over 10 million lives, the victims of Chornobyl, those who served in the armed forces of both Ukraine and the USA and perished in all wars, and those who gave their lives for Christ in defense of His Church throughout history. The faithful stood by that Memorial Cross offering their prayers for the millions of children and adults who lost their lives in all these circumstances. However, the special prayer on the first anniversary of the slaughter of Ukrainian students and activists on Kyiv’s Maydan was offered in front of the Memorial Cross in total silence, as the names of over 100 victims were pronounced during the Memorial Litany.
The clergy and faithful then proceeded to Holy Resurrection Mausoleum where in the crypt of His Holiness, the first Patriarch of Kyiv and All Ukraine, Mstyslav I, a Memorial Service was offered for the Patriarch and spiritual father of millions of Ukrainian Orthodox faithful and all the hierarchs and clergy who have served the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora. The pilgrims spent the rest of the day visiting the graves of their loved ones, friends, political leaders or spiritual fathers who repose in the cemetery.
As in the previous years, both days, Saturday and Sunday of the annual Pilgrimage were filled with the selling of traditional Ukrainian food and folk crafts like pysanky, original oil paintings, ceramics, jewelry, ecclesiastical vestments and vessels, music CD’s and videos in the Cultural Center. Some of the Consistory Offices of Ministry and central organizations of the UOC of the USA offered exhibits about their ministries in our communities: the Offices of Youth and Adult Ministry, Public Relations, Publications, the Ukrainian Orthodox League, St. Andrew Ukrainian Sunday School and St. Andrew Society, Ukrainian Historical and Educational Center, etc. A special presentation was offered in the Cultural Center on the historical path of Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
The main dining hall of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary was a site for the youth ice cream social hosted by the Consistory Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and prepared by St. Demetrius UOL Chapter of Carteret, NJ . This was an opportunity for some 120 youths from all over the country to meet with each other and with the hierarchs of the Church.
This annual pilgrimage has seen many generations of Ukrainian immigrations visiting the Metropolia Center. The new wave of immigrants from Ukraine joined long time residents and the generations already born in the USA bringing a sense of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
It is so moving to witness an older person telling a young child about the deceased members of their family and their background and roots while standing at the place of repose for their loved ones. It is moving to see that as the older generations pass on, the younger generations readily fulfilling their responsibility in carrying on family and national spiritual traditions.
We hope to see many more of our faithful in future years.