With prayer on their lips and unconditional trust in the Lord, the faithful of Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Youngstown, OH gathered in the parish temple for the celebration of the Eucharistic Divine Liturgy on the Second Sunday of the Great and Holy Lent – March 15, 2020.
His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, spiritual father of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, traveled from the Spiritual Center of the Church in South Bound Brook, NJ to Youngstown, OH in order to pray with the faithful of the Church in times of uncertainty during the spread of Coronavirus.
Welcoming the hierarch at the entrance of the temple, Mr. Joseph Ewanish, the long-term honorary president of the that parish board of administration, greeted Archbishop Daniel on behalf of the parish congregation and thanked him for the archpastoral visit.
Rev. Fr. Ivan Tchopko, the newly appointed pastor of Saints Peter and Paul parish, greeted Vladyka Daniel with the narrative from the Gospel message, when the Lord Himself came to the Apostles in the time of a powerful storm and called upon them to have FAITH.
The entire liturgical service was full of uplifting moments: from the entrance of hierarch into the temple and throughout the service, the faithful of the parish lifted their prayers, hearts and spirits – praying for the local parish family, the Church, the State of Ohio, the United States of America, Ukraine and other nations of the planet, as all face the reality of the spread of Coronavirus.
Following the chanting the Triple Litany – the archbishop stood with the faithful, as all recited the Prayer in Time of Coronavirus, issued by the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
In his remarks, Vladyka stated: “Peace be with all of you! We put our trust and faith in God the Father, the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
With the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus, we are confronted once more with the fragility of our lives, and again we are reminded of our common humanity - that the peoples of this world are our brothers and sisters, that we are all one family under God.
God does not abandon us, He goes with us even now in this time of trial and testing. In this moment, it is important for us to anchor our hearts in the hope that we have in Christ our Savior. Now is the time to intensify our prayers and sacrifices for the love of God and the love of our neighbor. Let us draw closer to one another in our love for Him, and rediscover the things that truly matter in our lives.
United with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and through him with the Orthodox Christians throughout the world, let us pray in solidarity for our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are sick. Let us pray for those who have lost loved ones to this virus. May God console them and grant them peace.
We pray also for doctors, nurses, and caregivers, for public health officials and all civic leaders. May God grant them courage and prudence as they seek to respond to this emergency with compassion and in service to the common good.
In this time of need, I invite all the faithful to seek together the intercession of the Most Holy Birth-Giver of God.
The Coronavirus pandemic is confusing and frightening for hundreds of millions of people. That is not surprising. Many around the world are sick and many others have died. Unless the situation changes dramatically, many more will fall ill and die around the globe. This crisis raises serious medical, ethical and logistical questions. We must remain grounded in our Faith, being responsible and reasonable individuals, citizens of our country, carefully listening to the guidance of our medical professionals and public health experts. But panic and fear are not from God. Calm and hope are. And it is possible to respond to a crisis seriously and deliberately while maintaining an inner sense of calm and hope.
That is why I am here with you today, along with the prayers of our Metropolitan Antony, desiring to assure you of our prayers, love and care. We are calling upon you to pray for each other and the whole community of your local area – Youngstown, OH and our nation; to do our part to be good and faithful Christians.
Many things have been cancelled because of the Coronavirus. Love is not one of them!
This pandemic may be a long haul; some of our friends and family may get sick and perhaps die. Do what you can to help others, especially the elderly, disabled, poor and isolated. Take the necessary precautions; don’t be reckless and don’t risk spreading the disease, but also don’t forget the fundamental Christian duty to help others. “I was sick, and you came to visit me,” said Jesus Christ (Mt. 25).
Christian churches around the world are closing, with liturgical services and other parish activities being cancelled by many bishops. These are prudent and necessary measures designed to keep people healthy in many areas. But they come at some cost: for many people, this removes one of the most consoling parts of their lives - the Divine Liturgy and the Most Holy Eucharist - and isolates them even more from the community at a time when they most need support.
You may find yourself in the community that these measures will be mandated by our civil authorities. Many of our parishes offer livestreamed Liturgies... But even if you can’t find one, you can still pray n your own. When you do, remember that you’re still part of our greater community. We are praying with you… you are not alone!
As Council of Bishops of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, we have issued several Statements and Guidance to our clergy and parishioners. Take precaution, follow the guidelines of your hierarchs, spiritual fathers, instructions of CDC and authorities – most importantly be reasonable and “Do not Be afraid!” – practice LOVE in the Time of Coronavirus!"
Following the sermon remarks of the archbishop, the faithful of the parish community approach the Holy Chalice in order to receive the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ for the healing of their soul and body.
In conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Vladyka Daniel, following the regulations of the Council of Bishops, distributed the prosphora to the faithful in the individually wrapped plastic bags, thus making sure that every precaution is taken, while caring for the spiritual an physical wellbeing of the faithful of the Church.
Later in the day, His Eminence held a short meeting with the pastor of the Parish community – Fr. Ivan Tchopko and representatives of the parish’s board of administration, learning about the steps taken by the community, while balancing containment and compassion during Coronavirus.
In the evening hours of the day, archbishop Daniel, assisted by Subdeacon Mykola Zomchak, subdeacon Ihor Protsak and seminarian Pavlo Vysotskyi departed the State of Ohio for the Spiritual Center - Metropolia of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA in South Bound Brook/Somerset, NJ.
Photos by Subdeacons Mykola Zomchak and Ihor Protsak, seminarian Pavlo Vysotskyi