UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Ukrainian Orthodox League of the USA
69th Annual Convention
“Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger...”
The Ukrainian Orthodox League of the USA – both Junior and Senior Divisions – conducted its annual convention (69th for Seniors and 55th for the Juniors) under the theme shown above, quoting the Epistle of James 1:19. The next verse of the Epistle explains why we need to “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger…” – “…for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (1:20) We all too often listen, but do not hear, and therefore, respond too quickly to what a brother or sister is saying to us, too frequently in anger seeking our own selfish righteousness. The wrath (anger) of man is unjust, ungracious and severe. It proceeds from uncontrolled anger, not from God’s judgment. For us to discern the righteousness of God requires patience, graciousness and controlled passion.”
The hosts for the convention, which took place on 27-31 July in Lancaster, PA, were the Junior and Senior UOL Chapters of Holy Ghost Parish, Coatesville, PA, along with their pastor, V. Rev. Anthony Ugolnik and the parish membership. UOL members from chapters all over the USA participated in the convention, which followed a new format with featured presentations and discussions as part of the daily plenary sessions.
The convention opened with traditional ceremonies on Wednesday evening, 27 July with the Junior and Senior Leagues gathered together. His Eminence Metropolitan Antony offered the prayer of Invocation seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit upon all the convention proceedings. Welcoming remarks were offered by Sr. President, Michael Komichak and Jr. President, Kateryna Kocelko. Also extending warm welcome were the Convention Co-Chairwoman Carol Bentley, who stated that the whole parish has been looking forward to the convention and the opportunity to renew friendships made at the previous convention hosted in the parish a decade earlier. The other Co-Chairwoman of the convention was Lauren Bentley, who was busy performing official duties of welcoming and registering additional arriving UOL members. Following the welcoming remarks, the Jr. UOL members moved over to their own meeting room and began their 55th annual convention program.
The Senior meeting continued with the formal business matters including the appointment of individual committees and the approval of the lengthy agenda. The Junior meeting also completed formal business matters including their previous convention minutes and then conducted an “ice breaker” session during which the delegates introduced themselves to each other, learning about personal interests and future plans. After the conclusion of the sessions, the delegates and guests joined together for evening prayers in the convention chapel. The evening concluded with a “Hospitality Night” sponsored by the hosting chapters.
Divine Liturgy was celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Antony in the chapel on Thursday morning – 28 July – the Feast of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles, St. Volodymyr, Baptizer of the Ukrainian nation. The Metropolitan was assisted by V. Rev. John Haluszczak, Spiritual Advisor of the Sr. UOL. The entire convention body beautifully sang the responses during the Liturgy and participated in the Holy Eucharist. The Metropolitan spoke of the conversion of St. Ol’ha, grandmother of St. Volodymyr, also known as Equal-to-the-Apostles and Baptizer of Ukraine. He related the history of her conversion in Constantinople and baptism, by the Patriarch of Constantinople himself in 945 or 957 (history is not certain) – decades prior to the official Baptism of Ukraine in 988 – and her efforts to convert the Ukrainian nation over the remaining 14 years of her life. Following the repose of her husband Prince Ihor in 945 she ruled Ukraine as Regent for her three year old son until he came of age. She was unable to convert her son Sviatoslav, but St. Volodymyr, her grandson and student recognized the importance of the Faith to his nation. His decision to Baptize Ukraine finally came 19 years after her repose in 969. Volodymyr had regained control over Kyivan-Rus lands and saw how the Church could serve as a unifying force for the nation.
During the convention session following lunch this day, Metropolitan Antony addressed the body speaking about the convention theme concentrating on the righteousness of God and the fact that human “righteousness” can in no possible way begin to reflect the true righteousness of God. He urged the delegates to turn away from the gadgets that seem to be controlling their lives and give up being an “angry bird” type of society seeking to kill off the pigs we don’t like in the world and to instead, truly take the time to know each person who touches their lives – to hear what they say, realizing that our first perception of someone else is very often a mistaken perception, which can lead us to a path of confrontation rather than to God’s righteousness.
The early afternoon sessions of the Senior convention saw a presentation – “Stages of Life” – by V. Rev. Father Anthony Perkins and Dr. Natalie Bilynsky, a Psychologist by profession. Natalia outlined the physical, emotional and mental stages of life development from infancy through advanced age of human life. Following each stage, Fr. Anthony presented the spiritual and religious development associated with each of these stages of life. The delegates were profoundly attentive to this presentation – “hearing” each word spoken – resulting in a very lively question and answer session that followed the presentation.
Following this presentation, the convention body continued its normal conduct of business including the annual reports of Executive Board, Committee/Commissions, individual chapters, finances and budget. A special moment came when the funds collected – $6,045 – during the Sr./Jr. UOL annual “Souper Bowl Sunday” program were presented to Protodeacon Dr. Ihor Mahlay, President of the St. Andrew Society of our Church. Individuals and chapters contributed another $704 to the program during the convention. These funds are utilized by the Society to feed and clothe the poor and elderly in Ukraine’s major cities.
The Jr. UOL sessions also continued following brunch with various convention committee meetings to lay out plans for the upcoming year. Metropolitan Antony also addressed the body on the theme of the convention and related how it seems to be so difficult for today’s teens to communicate directly with one another – eye to eye. It appears to be much easier to just “text” anything one has to say – not having the opportunity to “hear” the tone of the other person’s voice and thus, not really easily understanding one another. He urged the youth to put their mobile phones aside and get back to personal relationships as a means of coming together for church services and activities. His Eminence stated that he knows each of his listeners has much to offer and he wants the Holy Church to benefit from that.
The delegates were treated to a “Flavors of the World Buffet” and dancing during the evening’s social event. The second day of the convention concluded with Daily Compline prayers in the Chapel as the participants prepared spiritually for the next day’s events.
Following Moleben service in the chapel the next morning, served by V. Rev. Taras Naumenko, Friday 29 July, the delegates once again gathered into their respective meeting rooms. The Sr. Session began with a presentation by Dr. Michael Andrec, the Archivist of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. Michael spoke about a very popular program established by the History and Education Center of the UOC of USA, located at our Metropolia Center in South Bound Brook – Somerset, NJ. It is called “Nashy Predky – Our Ancestors”. He described discovering significant numbers of documents in our archives that would be of great value to anyone doing genealogical research for their ancestors. Many of the documents are from our parish records of Baptism, Marriages, Funerals, etc. and from personal archives donated by individuals to our central institution. Michael urged the UOL delegates to join in a “Church Records Project”, hoping that they would return to their parishes and encourage and assist the parish priest or officers to copy the metrical documents and forward them to the UOC Archives. He gave important information about how to prepare and copy the documents for future reference.
A second presentation – “Living in HD – Being a Hero and Disciple” – was next on the agenda and presented by Atty. Bill Marianes a devoted Orthodox Christian who travels the length of our nation teaching parishes and dioceses the principles of stewardship, strategic planning and other aspects of devoted Orthodox Christian life. Bill has spent the past few years with our Metropolitan Council and special retreats gathering over 70 invited members of our Church to develop a Strategic Plan for the Archdiocese, which will be presented to the upcoming Regular Sobor of our Church on Friday, 21 October at the Ukrainian Cultural Center, Somerset, NJ. The presentation for this UOL convention is described as follows: “What does it mean to be a hero and disciple and how can we live a more fulfilled and heroic life as disciples of Jesus Christ? “Living in H.D.” explores heroism and discipleship from a Christian perspective based on Holy Scripture and Christ’s Teaching. It also presents a series of very practical techniques we can use in our daily lives to become more heroic and better disciples.” We could not have described it better here! This presentation struck a positive chord in the hearts and minds of the UOL delegates and a very detailed discussion followed. The full Power Point presentation, as well as the UOC Strategic Plan can be studied on Bill’s website: www.stewardshipcalling.com, on the home page and under the resources tab.
The afternoon sessions for this Friday of the convention included breakout discussion groups led by Natalie Bilynsky and Fr. Anthony Perkins with many practical ideas shared between League members. Everyone had something to take home as a suggested effort for their own chapters. The session also considered the Jr. UOL convention committee reports, which always inspire the Sr. body with their enthusiasm and idealism. The session completed with the presentation of 2017 convention host – the Sr. Chapter of St. Michael Parish, Woonsocket, RI. All the present convention delegates promise to be present! Metropolitan Antony next asked the convention body to rise so that we could remember His Beatitude Metropolitan Constantine on this day, which would have been his 80th birthday. May his memory be eternal in God’s Heavenly Kingdom. Vichnaya Yomu Pamyat’.
The Junior sessions considered their individual committee reports: Cultural, Fundraising, Jr. Membership/Chapter Development, Nominations and Technological Advancements. They also heard an address from His Grace Bishop Daniel about the importance of the Jr. UOL accomplishing good things in the life of the Church. He urged the members to fully commit to the League’s motto: “Dedicated to our Church – Devoted to Her Youth”, to set goals for themselves that will benefit all the youth of the Church and to concentrate on their spiritual lives, both at the convention and in their lives at home, their individual parishes and all other aspects of their life. The Junior delegates conducted the first rounds of their annual Biblical and Church History Trivia competition. Following this, they moved to the Sr. Session where they presented their committee reports for approval and held the final round of the Trivia competition.
After sessions the small Compline was served by Fr. Ugolnik in the chapel and the evening social event took place at the Shady Maple Smorgasbord – which was a real test for each and every delegate – a smorgasbord – on a Friday! No one complained, however, because there was such an abundance of other foods to eat and everyone was more than satisfied. Back at the hotel this evening St. Michael Chapter, Woonsocket, RI hosted a hospitality night.
Following morning prayers on the final day of sessions – Saturday, 30 July – all the final business of the convention was conducted, including discussion of future conventions. As already discussed above, the 2017 convention will be held in Woonsocket, RI and the 2018 convention will be held in 2018 in conjunction with the GREAT CELEBRATION OF THE CENTENNIAL OF OUR HOLY UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA. It will be a two-day convention with a very busy agenda and highlighting the UOL’s role in the life of the Church of 71 of the years of that Century. A special decision was made during this last Sr. Session in support of our St. Sophia Seminary. The body decided to pay for a new van for student transportation, which the Seminary board purchased this year. It is a relatively new bus type vehicle that will carry all ten of our resident students. The funds will be collected through the UOL Chapters over the next several months with a minimum goal of $16,000.
His Grace Bishop Daniel addressed the convention on the theme of the day. He very movingly discussed how human beings seem to be separating themselves from each other with the utilization of their personal gadgets. It is extremely important that we begin today – all members of the Ukrainian Orthodox League – to end this trend. We need to see one another, to listen to and hear one another – to validate one another in order to actuate the two great commandments given by our Lord: (Matt. 22:36-40) “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” His Grace share the story of one of our youngest priests, recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, which required immediate surgery and how important it was for him to be present to this young man, his family and his parishioners. He reported that the surgery went well and Father’s health is improving, but this is how we all must be present and hearing the concerns of one another, without judgment and without condemnation, but rather in compassion, patience and graciousness seeking the righteousness of God.
The final decision of the 2016 convention was the election of the new National Executive Board. Trusted with the organization’s life for 2016-2017 were:
SPIRITUAL ADVISOR – Appointed by Metropolitan Antony – V. Rev. Taras Naumenko
PRESIDENT – John Holowko, Holy Ascension Chapter, Maplewood, NJ
FIRST VICE-PRESIDENT – Natalie Bilynsky, St. Vladimir Chapter, Philadelphia, PA
SECOND VICE-PRESIDENT – Daria Pishko, Holy Ascension Chapter, Maplewood, NJ
RECORDING SECRETARY – Panimatka Olena Sendeha, Sts. Peter and Paul Chapter, Palos Park, IL
CORRESPONDING SECRETARY – Ginny Ulbricht, Sts. Peter and Paul Chapter, Youngstown, OH
FINANCIAL SECRETARY – Monica O’Donnell, St. John Chapter, Sharon, PA
TREASURER – Jack Roditski, Holy Ascension Chapter, Maplewood, NJ
Auditor – Teresa Linck, St. Vladimir Chapter, Philadelphia, PA
Michael Komichak will serve on the board as Immediate Past President
Christine Charest will serve on the board as 2017 Convention Chairwoman
Following the completion of their business, the Junior UOL convention body joined the Senior session and presented their newly elected National Executive Board:
SPIRITUAL ADVISOR – appointed by Metropolitan Antony, V. Rev. John Haluszczak
JUNIOR ADVISOR – appointed by the Sr. Board, Taylor Gladys
PRESIDENT – Orest Mahlay, St. Vladimir Chapter, Parma, OH
VICE PRESIDENT – Erica Holowko, Member-at-Large, Maplewood, NJ
SECRETARY – Sophia Dobronos, St. Vladimir Chapter, Parma, OH
FINANCIAL SECRETARY – Alexis Naumenko, St. Vladimir Chapter, Philadelphia, PA
TREASURER – Cyril Sheptak, St. Vladimir Chapter, Pittsburgh, PA
The Grand Banquet and Ball was the evening social event for the convention. Presentations and awards were made to various individuals and chapters. All the Seminarians of St. Sophia Seminary were awarded scholarships from the UOL’s Metropolitan John Scholarship Fund. The Sr. UOL Chapter Achievement Award went to St. Vladimir Chapter, Philadelphia, PA. The V. Rev. Stephen Hallick-Holutiak Sr. Recognition Award went to Daniel Gulak, 35-year president of Holy Ascension Chapter, Maplewood, NJ. The Junior UOL Chapter of the Year Award went to Sts. Peter and Paul Chapter, Youngstown, OH.
On Sunday – 31 July – Divine Liturgy was celebrated in Holy Ghost Church, Coatesville, PA. Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel concelebrated with the priests – V. Rev. Anthony Ugolnik, Holy Ghost, Coatesville, PA, V. Rev. Jakiw Norton, Holy Ascension, Maplewood, NJ, V. Rev. John Haluszczak, Pittsburgh, PA, V. Rev. Oleh Hucul, Holy Ascension, Maplewood, NJ, V. Rev. Vasyl Sendeha, Sts. Peter and Paul, Palos Park, IL, Protodeacon Dr. Ihor Mahlay, St. Vladimir, Parma, OH, Deacon Paul Cherkas, Woonsocket, RI, and Deacon Michael Abrahamson, Woonsocket, RI. Assisting were Subdeacons and seminarians of St. Sophia Seminary and altar servers from Holy Ghost Parish. During the Liturgy, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony awarded a jeweled cross to Fr. Ugolnik as a gift from his parish family at the 25th anniversary of his priestly ordination. Following Liturgy the newly elected Junior and Senior National Executive Boards were inducted into office by His Grace Bishop Daniel and the Metropolitan.
A Farewell Brunch followed the Divine Liturgy – without any official program! – and everyone had the opportunity to discuss the good time they had during their visit to Coatesville and to express sincere gratitude to all the members of Holy Ghost Junior and Senior Chapter members, Fr. Anthony Ugolnik, Presbytera Elaine and all the membership of the parish. Their hospitality was unequaled! May they all be blessed and enjoy a time of relaxation after a job well done! God grant them many, many years!
69th Annual UOL Convention - 08/02/16
Photos by Elizabeth Symonenko