In the heart of every Orthodox Christian community, the role of the bishop is paramount. Bishops serve as spiritual leaders, guiding their flocks with unwavering dedication and faith. When a beloved bishop reaches a milestone like the 30th anniversary of their episcopal consecration, it calls for a celebration that transcends the ordinary. It's an occasion to reflect on decades of devotion, and it's a moment that unites the faithful in gratitude, reverence, and joy.
On Saturday, September 9th, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora, along with His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA and Western Europe, joined Metropolitan Joseph of the Greek Orthodox Church of South America and Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch, along with local clergy and faithful of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Episcopal consecration of Archbishop Jeremiah.
Gathering for Vespers served by Protopriest Pavlo Lisnichuk of Fram, Paraguay and Deacon Miguel Babak, the faithful crowded into the church eager to participate in such an auspicious celebration. Joining them were the representatives of the Curitiba Inter-Faith Community who with wonder took in the beauty of the Orthodox service, the twinkling candles, the beautiful icons, their halos glowing warmly in the soft light, the beautiful hymns, and the sweet smell of the incense.
At the conclusion of Vespers, Archbishop Daniel reflected on the last 30 years. It was 30 years ago in this same St. Demetrius Cathedral that Archbishop Jeremiah was consecrated by Metropolitan Constantine, of blessed memory, then Archbishop Antony, and Bishop Paisley, of blessed memory. His Eminence explained that deep and profound nature of archpastoral service – which is rooted in leadership by example, and not leadership by words alone. A hierarch, a shepherd, must know his flock, and his sheep must know, love, and trust their shepherd. To reach this 30-year mark is a testament to Archbishop Jeremiah’s steadfast commitment to his calling and the spiritual well-being of his community.
The evening came to a close as the hierarchs gathered for a peaceful dinner with the devoted members of the Church from Paraguay and Argentina. The serene atmosphere of the meal created the perfect setting for the hierarchs to engage in meaningful conversations with the faithful. It provided an opportunity for them to discuss a wide range of topics, fostering a sense of connection and understanding between the hierarchs and the Church's dedicated followers. Not only did the faithful have the chance to converse with their bishop, Archbishop Jeremiah, but they also had the privilege of getting acquainted with the visiting hierarchs, further strengthening the bonds of faith and community within the Church.
Sunday morning, the vested hierarchs were greeted outside the church, beneath a cloudy sky, by the youngest members of their flock, who had eagerly run to meet them and guide them to the open doors of the church while scattering colorful rose petals before them. His Eminence Metropolitan Antony warmly accepted the official greetings of the parish priest and administration, and blessed everyone who had arrived for Divine Liturgy, as he made his way forward into the nave of the church. Metropolitan Antony, who presided over the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, was flanked by concelebrants Metropolitan Joseph, Archbishop Jeremiah, and Archbishop Daniel, who were joined by the visiting clergy and faithful.
The church was resplendent as the faithful, wearing beautifully embroidered vyshyvanky, squeezed in behind their hierarchs, like a field filled with blooming flowers filling the interior of the church, and pouring out the door and down the steps. As the numbers swelled, the 30-member choir, sang the responses with overflowing hearts, joining the angels in praising the Lord.
Metropolitan Antony, having concluded the Divine Liturgy, came out on the ambo and reflected on the past 30 years, expressing the great importance of the presence of the Ukrainian Orthodox hierarch in South America, especially today as we navigate through troubled waters. We retain and preserve our heritage and historical past, but, the Church must also be strong when faced with modern social and moral issues. We are to embrace our flock and lead them, leaving them no doubt as to the path they are to follow in order to walk along the narrow path that leads them to ultimate salvation. We must be able to respond to situations, needs, and dilemmas our people face today. His Eminence stated that the Church is not to react, but to act.
Metropolitan Antony expressed his gratitude to Archbishop Jeremiah for so faithfully serving the faithful of South America, as Archbishop Daniel came forward and joined him in presenting him with a stunning set of new vestments, along with a beautifully designed bishop’s staff (posoh) to honor his 30 years of faithful service to the Church. Graciously accepting these wonderful and thoughtful gifts, Archbishop Jeremiah exclaimed his gratitude not only for the gifts, but the support of both Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel over his many years of service.
Metropolitan Joseph next stepped up and presented a sparkling panagia to Archbishop Jeremiah who was humbled by his generosity. Accepting the gifts, he turned to thank the hierarchs and then the clergy and faithful who had traveled near and far to come and celebrate with him. He stated that this celebration is not just about himself, but about each person standing before him, for as a Church we are all one and we work together to enact the Will of God in this world. With smiles and hugs, the faithful approached to venerate the cross, and express their personal greetings.
The afternoon continued as everyone gathered at the Ukrainian Club of Curitiba for a delicious lunch. The room filled with hubbub as people chit chatted happily over their meals, catching up with friends they had not seen in months, and getting to know new friends they just met. As coffee and dessert were served everyone’s attention shifted to the stage area as music began to blare out of the speakers. Feet began to tap and hands clapped as the dance ensemble, Barvinok, of Curitiba performed. With ribbons flowing the group twirled and danced into everyone’s hearts.
Everyone was thrilled to see Kalyna, a senior dance group from Fram, Paraguay take the stage. It was hard to believe that the performers were seniors, the eldest dancer being 77-years old. The seniors were followed by the Greek Dance group from Curitiba as everyone clapped in tune. The applause shook the rafters as the audience were regaled by the beautiful dancers.
As the performances concluded, Archbishop Jeremiah stood up and thanked everyone for their warm greetings, gifts, and support over the past 30 years. He promised to continue working hard and dedicating himself to Christ’s service and the needs of his flock through the coming years. As he concluded he invited everyone to come and enjoy a piece of cake with him. Everyone stood up and loudly sang “Many blessed years!”