St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Pro-Cathedral Celebrates 100 Years
St. Nicholas Pro-Cathedral in Lakewood, Ohio celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the parish on the weekend of December 3-4, 2016. The celebration was the culmination of more than a year of preparation. Fr. Dennis Kristof, Dean of St. Nicholas, encouraged the formation of a Centennial Committee at the Parish Annual Meeting held a year earlier. Nicole Hartman and Maria Hejnal volunteered to serve on this committee, which was answerable to the Parish Council. Natalie Walsh also stepped up to be a part of this committee. All three of these young women made their First Confession together at St. Nicholas in 1992.
The celebration began with the arrival of His Eminence, Archbishop-Elect Daniel, with seminarians Ihor Protsak, Subdeacon Mykola Zomchak and Vasyl Hrytskiv, to celebrate the Great Vespers service with Lity for St. Nicholas on Saturday, December 3. Sharing in this celebration were the following: V. Rev. Frs. John Nakonachny and Michael Hontaruk of St. Vladimir Cathedral in Parma, Dmitri Belenki of St. Mary Church in Lorain, Yves Babich of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Lakewood, and Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay also of St. Vladimir Cathedral in Parma. The choir led the congregational singing under the direction of Reader Gerald Largent, president of the St. Nicholas Parish Council.
Archbishop-Elect Daniel, in spite of the cold he was fighting, delivered an inspiring sermon, congratulating the parish on reaching this milestone. He asked everyone present to reflect on the many clergy, family members, founders and other benefactors who made sacrifices and paved the way throughout the past 100 years. He then expressed his own humble gratitude for being able to serve as the ruling hierarch for this historic event in the life of St. Nicholas Pro-Cathedral. He additionally reminded the faithful of what was important and needful for the parish, as well as for everyone’s spiritual lives during the Christmas season. Following Vespers, everyone adjourned to the parish hall to enjoy a wonderful repast donated by the Joseph Misencik Funeral Home and supplemented by parish members. The church and hall were both festively decorated for the season and the centennial.
Sunday, December 4, started off as a beautiful, if slightly chilly, sunny day. The members of the parish met Archbishop-Elect Daniel at the old parish rectory and led him in procession to the Pro-Cathedral for the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. He was accompanied by Rt. Rev. Mitered Archpriest John Harvey, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Church in Youngstown , OH and Dean of the Penn-Ohio Deanery, Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay and the three seminarians. Parish Council President Reader Gerald Largent welcomed His Eminence in the traditional Ukrainian fashion, with bread and salt beautifully prepared by Jonathan Hejnal. Fr. Dennis presented the handcross and thanked His Eminence for blessing the parish with his presence for the Centennial celebration. Archbishop-Elect Daniel again expressed his humble gratitude for his role in such an august occasion. Finally, flowers were presented to His Eminence by church school students Kaylee Hartman, and Oleksander and Zenovia Pazkanzky after which they were given a blessing by Archbishop-Elect Daniel and a group hug. The church was filled nearly to capacity by parishioners and guests offering thanksgiving and congratulations.
Prior to the Small Entrance, His Eminence bid Fr. Dennis to do a prostration towards the holy altar and informed him that the Council of Bishops had seen fit to award him with the honor of the priestly miter for his years of service. This unexpected development was made all the more special because after blessing him with the prayer of priestly elevation, His Eminence temporarily presented him with a miter that had been worn by Metropolitan Andrei Kuschak of Thrice-blessed memory, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America who received Fr. Dennis as an Orthodox priest in 1985.
His Eminence gave an inspiring sermon regarding the nature of holiness, faith and works, pointing out specifically that appearances alone do not indicate a person’s holiness nor piety. We need to carry our Orthodox faith into the world and be an example to all we meet.
At the conclusion of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, Archbishop-Elect Daniel presented prestigious medals to three parish members for their contributions to the welfare of the church and parish over the course of many years: Margaret Kalenak who received the St. Olh’a Medal, Reader Joseph Stolitza who received the St., Volodymyr Medal, and Pani Matka Barbara Kristof who received the St. Peter Mohila Medal. At the conclusion of both the Great Vespers service on Saturday and the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, Archbishop-Elect Daniel blessed the people with the Holy Manna of St. Nicholas, the pure and clear unction which still flows from the relics of St. Nicholas.
After the blessing by His Eminence, everyone again gathered outside to bless the new parish sign that had been designed and fabricated by Torry Ann Tustan. Everyone then departed the church property and traveled to the Brennan Party Center, which was beautifully decorated with Christmas and St. Nicholas themes. In addition to the clergy who participated in the liturgical celebration, V. Rev. Frs. John Nakonachny and Michael Hontaruk of St. Vladimir Cathedral in Parma rejoined the celebration at the banquet hall.
A power point slide show of historical parish photos collected for weeks by the committee was continually entertaining the crowd on the screen during the entire banquet. Immediately following the meal, the Zorya Ukrainian Female Vocal Ensemble under the artistic direction of Natalia Basladynsky-Mahlay beautifully rendered Ukrainian Church hymns and carols (Kolyady).
Fr. Dennis gave a brief reflection on what was happening in the world in 1916 when the parish was formed and proceeded to thank the following people for their contributions to the success of the celebrations: His Eminence Archbishop-Elect Daniel, the Centennial Committee, Nicole Hartman, Maria Hejnal and Natalie Walsh; Rosemary Adams, the parish matriarch; Kim Gleine; Mike and Mary Grechny; Joanne Hendrick; Craig, Shelly, and Jonathan Hejnal; Rita and Ilarion Jula; Marian and Reader Gerald Largent along with the Parish Choir; Kateryna Millz, Adrienne Papcum; Robert Petratos; Nick Rolin; Susan and Joe Stolitza; Torry Tustan; Jim and Lillian Valli; the seminarians Vasyl, Nicholai and Ihor. Fr. John Nakonachny offered a few appropriate reflections and remarks while continuing the friendly disagreement that he and Fr. Dennis have been having for 28 years about which is the oldest Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ohio.
St. Nicholas then blessed the people with his annual visit by handing out presents and candy croziers. The concluding activity was the traditional and mandatory St. Nicholas gift basket raffle. Archbishop-Elect Daniel pronounced the final blessing and then stayed to converse and pose for photos prior to leaving and returning to New Jersey. It was a joyous and spiritual celebration enjoyed by all.