On Sunday December 22, 2019, on the day that the Holy Orthodox Church remembers the Conception by St. Anna, of "Whence is Conceived the Holy Mother of God", Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox mission had the great pleasure of receiving His Eminence Archbishop Daniel. Despite the early morning freezing temperatures, the cold weather could not bring down the joy of the parishioners awaiting the arrival of His Eminence.
Upon arrival to Sts. Peter and Paul, His Eminence was greeted by the head of the parish sisterhood Mrs. Walentyna Micewicz. She presented His Eminence with the traditional Ukrainian korovai which was made by Ms. Inna Smirnova and warmly welcomed His Eminence to our family parish. His Eminence thanked her for her kind words and then was subsequently greeted by Inna Kosmenko, who oversees all parish activities for the parish children. She offered His Eminence a heartfelt greeting after which the parish children, also then greeted His Eminence, with their own personal greetings by reciting religiously themed poems. After the completion of each poem the children handed His Eminence little bouquet of roses. After the greeting from the children of the parish, His Eminence was greeting by the rector of the parish V. Rev. Victor Wronskyj along with V. Rev. Stepan Bilohan who just recently arrived from Ukraine.
Soon afterward, the ringing of the church bells signaled the beginning of the Divine Liturgy. The responses to the Divine Liturgy was sung by the church choir and His Eminence gave a wonderful inspiring homily on reminding the faithful how we must live out our lives before God and others by not wearing a false mask. A mask, that we so often use in our lives, to hide from others our true feelings and self-interests that are opposite of what God teaches us. At the point of the Divine Liturgy before the singing of “Our Father”, the children of the parish gathered in the center of the church, and when the time came, they beautifully recited the prayer “Our Father”. Shortly afterward, His Eminence came out with the holy chalice and communed the faithful parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul.
At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence was greeted by the rector of the parish V. Rev. Victor Wronskyj who thanked Him for taking the time to visit Sts. Peter and Paul and especially thanked His Eminence as well, for His tremendous hard work in Ukraine as Exarch of the Ecumenical throne, which directly contributed to the formation and establishment of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. His Eminence in turn greeted V. Rev. Victor Wronskyj on the occasion of his birthday which he celebrates on December 19th and many years was sung. His Eminence also greeted V. Rev. Stepan Bilohan on the occasion of his birthday, which he celebrates on December 20th and many years was sung. In addition, His Eminence, officially welcomed V. Rev. Stepan Bilohan and Matushka Iryna Bilohan to Sts. Peter and Paul, where V. Rev. Stepan Bilohan will begin assisting V. Rev. Victor Wronskyj in divine services and various events associated with the life of the parish.
Upon completion of the veneration of the Cross, the parish faithful, His Eminence and clergy gathered in the parish hall, where a luncheon was served. But at the same time everyone was anticipating the arrival of St. Nicholas, who arrived shortly afterwards to greet the children of the parish to see whether they were “naughty” or “nice”. The children of the parish greeted St. Nicholas with poems and songs such as “St. Nicholas, St. Nicholas visit us”. Upon completion and after careful examination of the children St. Nicholas made the decision that the children were indeed “nice”, and they all received special gifts. After distributing gifts not only to the children, but to all the parishioners and as well as to His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, St. Nicholas departed.
The afternoon concluded with V. Rev. Victor Wronskyj thanking all the parishioners and especially His Eminence Archbishop Daniel for attending. In closing, V. Rev. Victor Wronskyj reminded the faithful of the love that St. Nicholas had not only for God, but for others and how this love should always be present in our everyday own lives and in the parish family.
Photos by Subdeacon Yarosalv Bilohan