Parishioners and clergy were overjoyed to welcome His Eminence Archbishop Daniel to St Aphanasius Ukrainian Orthodox Parish in Granville, Sydney, for a Moleben and brunch reception on 17 February 2020.
His Eminence visited St Aphanasius as the final stop on his Australian visitation and was warmly welcomed by parish president Nadia Namuren whom he thanked for her recent efforts to rejuvenate life in the Granville community.
Parish priest Archpriest Michael Smolynec informed His Eminence that the parish was named not for the well-known father of the church St Athanasius of Alexandria (the Great), but for St Aphanasius III of Constantinople, the 17th century ecumenical patriarch who reposed in the lord in Ukraine while appealing for Slav support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
St Aphanasius’ wonderworking relics could be venerated for many years at Lubensk Monastery where, according to custom, the reposed patriarch was buried sitting upright. After the desecration of that shrine by the Bolsheviks his relics were transferred to the Annunciation Cathedral in Kharkiv.
Fr Michael remarked that this was a sign of Ukraine’s closeness to the ecumenical patriarchate and great love for the mother church of Constantinople. He added that, as far as he has been able to discern, the Granville parish is the only diaspora parish named for this unique saint.
His Eminence thanked the clergy in attendance, including Protopresbyter Bohdan Matwijczuk and the Very Reverend Michael Solomko, reminding them that the parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora are clinics for spiritual healing.
After celebrating the moleben to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, His Eminence preached a homily encouraging the parishioners and clergy to make a “huge investment” in their parish for the sake of the future.
Having visited many Australian cities in preceding weeks, His Eminence was saddened by the absence of Christian clergy and faithful from public life, as well as the great number of shuttered churches of all denominations.
Unless a new generation of Christians can fill the church with praise for God, His Eminence warned, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Australia could suffer the same fate, becoming merely a museum of Ukrainian culture and history.
To remain faithful to God and build up his church would require sacrifice and devotion on the level shown by the first Ukrainian migrants to Australia, His Eminence added, asking the people to consider beginning with the small everyday sacrifices of Great Lent -- such as abstaining from coffee.
His Eminence also singled out two members of the local Ukrainian community Marichka Czyhryn and Volodymyr Woytowych for their recent publication of a book on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Sydney.
A light meal and coffee was graciously provided by the Head of the Parish Sisterhood - Anna Bilanenko.
Heartfelt thanks to Olena Syniuta, Olya Krymska and Roxolana Mishalow of Anna Yaroslavna Brach of Ukrainian Women’s Organisation of Australia for providing catering; to Tanya Koldunenko and Pani-matka Anna Matwijchuk for photography; and to all the parishioners who sang in the church choir.
Author: Fr. Michael Smolynec
Photos by Tanya Koldunenko and Pani-matka Anna Matwijchuk