UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Council Of The Metropolia Annual Meeting
Following the Strategic Planning Retreat earlier in the week, those elected at the 20th Regular Sobor of our Holy Church, the members of the Council of the Metropolia (Metropolitan Council), remained at the Metropolia Center in South Bound Brook-Somerset, NJ for their annual meeting to hear reports from Consistory members, offices of ministry and to set the budget for the current fiscal year of 2016. The meeting took place in the Ukrainian Cultural Center conference room on 9-10 March. Members present at the meeting were: His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, His Grace Bishop Daniel; V Rev. Myron Oryhon V. Rev. Taras Chubenko, V. Rev. Bazyl Zawierucha, V. Rev. Robert Holet , V. Rev. Anthony Ugolnik, V. Rev. Timothy Tomson, V. Rev. Anthony Perkins, Dr. Gayle Woloschak, Helen Boyko-Greenleaf, Michael Kapeluck, Elizabeth Symonenko, Olga Coffey, Lydia Dzus; Michael Komichak (UOL), Protodeacon Dr. Ihor Mahlay (St. Andrew’s Society). V. Rev. Stephen Hutnick also participated fully as Treasurer of the Consistory. Dr. Paul Micevych was present for the Strategic Planning Retreat earlier in the week, but was unable to remain for the council meeting.
His Eminence Metropolitan Antony convened the meeting with prayer and offered a spiritual meditation about the manner in which the Gospel readings of the weeks just prior to the Great Lent serve to prepare us mentally, spiritually and physically to successfully navigate the Great Lenten season in anticipation of the Feast of Feasts – PASCHA – the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The Metropolitan and His Grace Bishop Daniel reported on the life of their respective Eastern and Western Eparchies and the status of several parishes and missions located in those eparchies. The bishops spoke in positive terms about the majority of their parishes, but also made the Council members aware of specific locations where the faithful are experiencing various degrees of difficulty in maintaining their parish properties and the levels of membership remaining. Some of the older parishes of the Metropolia, as is unfortunately a somewhat “normal” process have seen many of their members, especially young families, relocate to other areas of the country seeking employment or accepting positions unavailable in their home parish locations. The bishops expressed an need to keep track of those who relocate so that their pastors might recommend a parish in their new areas of residence and stated that plans continue for the establishment of new mission parishes where Orthodox Christians from our parishes and other jurisdictions have relocated, but have no Orthodox parish available to them within a 45 minute travel distance.
Bishop Daniel reported as President of the Consistory on the Consistory activity throughout the past year and called upon the Directors of the Consistory Offices of Ministry to make any additions to their written reports and to respond to questions from Council members. Among these were:
Fr. Robert – Office of Stewardship – reported that his office is a central part of the Strategic Planning effort and that the Stewardship Advisory Committee organized through his office had been combined into this effort. He stated that “stewardship” is interpreted in many different ways and that we need to educate our faithful about our own definition of the word and the practice that accompanies the process and commitment of stewardship.
Natalie Kapeluck – Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry – in her written report informed about a new camping program for children with disabilities, accompanied by a parent, which will be inaugurated during the upcoming encampment programs at All Saints Camp this summer. She also reported that the High School Mission Team program will resume after a year off and will work for a week at our Metropolia Center and in Philadelphia. The College Student Mission Team will continue in Ukraine in working with our adopted orphanages under the leadership of Bishop Daniel, assisted by Olga Coffey. A new initiative of the Office will be a program titled “LUBA” – “Let us be attentive”. It is interesting that the acronym LUBA is a derivative of the Ukrainian word lubov or LOVE. In a way, when we are called to Be Attentive, we are also being called to LOVE! This new program of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA is a call to be attentive to your neighbor, to your community, to your parish family and to Christ! More information about the new initiative may be found on our website – www.uocofusa.org - or in the Ukrainian Orthodox Word.
Bishop Daniel reported further on the ORYCIA FEDERWICZ AND NATALIA DEDELUK ORPHANAGE PROGRAM in Ukraine. We must remember that these two California sisters provided the seed money of $40,000 to our Church for the establishment of the program 15 years ago! Hundreds of orphans have greatly improved lives, in thanks to these two wonderful donors’ sincere offering and the contributions through the years of nearly $1,000,000 to our church’s missionary and Christian charity programs. This year’s team will travel to Ukraine in June.
Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay – Office of Christian Charity – commented further on the efforts of our Orphanage program and the ever increasing activities in our parishes to reach beyond the four walls of their specific parish communities to serve the needs of those less fortunate of our society.
Bishop Daniel – Office of Liturgical Publications – reported on the scheduled publication of further bi-lingual service books for both clergy and laity, which will come on line as funds become available. In conjunction with the Strategic Plan program, there is hope that liturgical “Apps” will be developed for the use of the faithful.
Fr. Timothy Tomson – Office of Clergy Development – reported that the second annual Clergy Family Retreat will be conducted at All Saints Camp on 20-24 June this summer. He urges all the clergy to participate in this encampment for their own benefit and for that of their families. A program schedule will be developed and sent to the clergy in April. Fr. Tim expressed the hope that many of our clergy will take advantage of this enriching program.
Metropolitan Antony, Natalia Honharenko-Andrec and Michael Andrec reported on the Historical and Educational Complex-Center of our Church. It was stressed that major funding is still necessary to complete the Museum portion of the Complex and that a separate non-profit declaration is being prepared so that the Museum can be more open to grants from governmental and private foundations. Natalia spoke about the needs of the museum and it major collections. Donors continue to offer their private collections, which must each be evaluated against our policy for receiving such. Michael Andrec spoke about the Archives receipt of several new collections and identified for the Council members the collections that have been opened after long and sometimes difficult organization, making them ready for research. Michael has complete his official education and certification as an Archivist and serves on the Boards or Committees of a number of regional archives. He has developed, along with Natalia and many volunteers, a genealogy-ancestry educational program, which has met with much interest and participation. Several genealogy-ancestry workshops have been conducted with participation of approximately 70 participants at each, from the USA and Canada. The most recent of these was conducted and the Ukrainian Cultural Center in March. Both Natalia and Michael expressed the importance of volunteers and their gratitude to those who have assisted in all aspects of HEC work.
Further reports were heard from various Consistory departments and staff:
Olga Coffey reported about the ongoing work of the cemetery administration and discussion proceeded about the further development of the new cemetery expansion on the South side (Seminary) of our Metropolia Center.
Fr. Bazyl Zawierucha added to Librarian Laryssa Buliya’s report about the life of the St. Sophia Seminary-UOC of USA Library. He spoke of an incoming donation to the library of the personal library of a Greek Orthodox priest, V. Rev. George Papademetriou. This will be an invaluable collection of several thousand books, which will greatly enrich our theological book division and provide further research resources for our seminary students.
Sales at our online ecclesiastical supply and book store continue to increase, as they have for the past few years. Although we found it necessary to close the physical store a few years ago, which we hope to reopen in the near future, customers have found us through word of mouth on our website at the “store” tab. We continually increase our inventory from Ukraine and local resources here in the USA and are grateful to the efforts of Fr. Vasyl Shak of the Consistory staff for his significant efforts in maintaining the website.
Metropolitan Antony reported about the ongoing renovation efforts in the Ukrainian Cultural Center. The Council decided two years ago that an update was absolutely necessary in order to attract customers because the building has become too outdated and unappealing. The first project was the replacement of the tile flooring in the entrance lobby and the hallways around the main hall. Work in the hall itself will commence in the next few months.
The Council decided at the last annual meeting to place the home near the Memorial Church for sale in order to raise funds for the rehabilitation of the Fisher House, built in 1688, which is a historical landmark in Somerset County. The home will become the residence/monastery were our bishops will reside, saving housing expenses outside the Church property.
Petro Rudyy, our Metropolia Center Property Manager, reported on the efforts of his team of five hard-working men, along with the assistance of a few outside workers and seminarians, when they are available. The maintenance of 55 acres of property, which includes the cemetery, Memorial Church, Holy Resurrection Mausoleum, the Fisher Home, the Pokrova Small Hall, the Seminary, Consistory, Library, Cultural Center and Museum is an enormous job. The most recent major renovations which have been accomplished are the Seminary – new walls, ceilings and other major projects – and the Pokrova Small Hall – completely renovated into a modern and expanded social gathering area. The members of the Council commended Petro and his team for their work.
The Seminary Report was presented by Rector Metropolitan Antony, Provost Fr. Bazyl Zawierucha, Vocations Director Fr. Anthony Perkins, Dean of Student Life, Bishop Daniel and Treasurer Fr. Stephen Hutnick. Presently there are twenty-one students studying in various educational programs: Full-time resident students – 10 nine from Ukraine and 1 from Brazil, Diaconal Course students and Distance Learning students – 11, all from the USA. Fr. Hutnick reported that since the school is a New Jersey State Licensed Post-Graduate Educational Institution, the financial records must be audited annually by an outside auditor. We have been blesses with the services of the firm of one of our faithful from St. John Parish, Johnson City, NY, Mr. William Scannell – Johnson, Lauder and Savidge, LLP. All our finances are in exceptionally good order.
Our hierarchs informed the Council members about all their activities and church relationships with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine, the Orthodox/Catholic Bishops “Encounter”, the Church in Ukraine, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA, the Ukrainian government, the UOC-KP, UAOC, and the UOC in Diaspora headed by Metropolitan Antony. 2015 was an extremely active year with regard to all the above and the bishops informed the Council members about all the positive and negative aspects of all the activity.
The second day of the Council meeting was devoted to a thorough discussion of the Strategic Planning Program, which will be presented to our 21st Sobor in October for final approval. Over 65 church members from all generations and immigrations of our Holy Church were invited in the fall of 2015 to participate in an effort to set specific goals to guide our Church into the future. The individuals who responded and have participated in the planning through two retreats (the second completed the day before the present Council meeting) and the months between them in various teams, have, indeed, presented such goals. The final texts of these goals are being completed and will be published in a bi-lingual booklet for lengthy discussion at the Sobor. The Strategic Plan will be a vision for the future of the Church with the goal of welcoming new membership and expansion of programs to more effectively accomplish the mission of Christ’s Church – the salvation of souls. Much information will be distributed to the faithful of our parishes through our website, the UOW and mailings, so that the Strategic Plan is comprehended by all.
The very important purpose of the Council meeting was the presentation of the Office of Financial Affairs and Audit Commission reports for 2015. Fr. Stephen Hutnick made the presentation with Assistant Treasurer, Natalia Honcharenko-Andrec. Fr. Steve first expressed his gratitude to Natalia for her invaluable efforts in handling our Church finances. The Audit report provided a stamp of approval on all aspects of our finances and did not include any significant necessary changes in our activity. The Council members had the opportunity to ask any and all questions of the financial team and received complete answers to all. It was very clear from the report that there is an urgent need to increase income and reduce expenses to the greatest amounts possible. There will never be a time when those responsible for the upkeep of our Church properties and programs will be able to relax in consideration of insufficient funds. New fund-raising efforts will hopefully become an important part of our Strategic Plan program.
After the report was approved for audit, Fr. Steve Presented the Budget for 2016. After much discussion, it was approved with the knowledge that all the Council members, along with the Consistory and its staff must be willing to contribute to keeping the budget in balance throughout the current fiscal year. In this regard, the bishops spoke of creating a Centennial Society, named for our Church’s Centennial, which will be celebrated in 2018. The Society will offer to our Church membership specific opportunities to support all the ministries, programs and projects of the Church, not only through the Centennial celebration but in the years and decades beyond. The bishops will be present this program and put it into action over the next few months.
Bishop Daniel, as Chair of the Pre-Sobor Commission spoke of plans being made for the Sobor to take place on 19-23 October of this year. In addition to the regular agenda considering the three-year period prior to the Sobor, there will be full-day presentations all day Friday about the Strategic Plan, which will be presented.
Discussion was led by Metropolitan Antony about the upcoming Centennial Celebration in just over two years. The planning of all the details will be completed before the Council’s next annual meeting. It is hoped that at some point associated with the celebration, His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew might make a visit to our Metropolia Center. This is a great desire, which will need an enormous effort to accomplish and will be reported on throughout the coming year. All the other aspects of the celebration will be developed by the Centennial Committee of the present Metropolitan Council, and the one, which will be appointed from Council members elected at the upcoming Sobor.
Metropolitan Antony expressed his sincere gratitude to Bishop Daniel and all the members for their participation in not only this meeting, but also the Strategic Plan Retreat, which took place in the same location on 6-8 March. He stated that their contribution to needs of their church was most appreciated, urging them to continually attempt to increase those contributions in every way possible. They are the Trustees of the Church and Trusted by God to fulfill all their obligations. The Council meeting was closed with pray and benediction by Bishop Daniel.