The day dawned bright and warm, as the sunshine bounced off the tall waves of the Pacific Ocean. Amid the crashing surf, seagulls glided ethereally along the waterfront, heading inland over the tall and stately palm trees that stood as sentinels along the boulevards. Floating quietly above the treetops, white wings extended, the birds were reminiscent of the angels for whom the city below them was named. Los Angeles, the City of Angels, would this weekend host the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, as they gathered to celebrate the Church’s 100thAnniversary.
The home of Hollywood, Universal and Paramount Studios, Santa Monica, and Venice Beach, is also the home of many Ukrainian Orthodox faithful. Having celebrated the Centennial on the East Coast in July and at All Saints Camp in September, the faithful of the West Coast now gathered to celebrate this once in a lifetime event. Traveling from the State of Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, and other states, as well as Canada and South America, people arrived in California to celebrate 100 years of Ukrainian Orthodox ministry that reached across the breadth of the USA.
On Friday evening the faithful of the local parishes gathered to participate in Vespers, celebrated by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy. Having prayed for the wellbeing of the UOC of the USA, and her faithful, as well as for a peaceful resolution to events in Ukraine, everyone enjoyed each other’s company, and found it difficult to part for the evening. The weekend ahead, however, would be a whirlwind of activity, so with smiles on their faces and anticipation of the events to come, slowly the parishioners began to depart one by one to their homes.
The history of the past 100 years spans two World Wars, the Great Depression, the rise and fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, 17 US presidents, as well as marches for women’s suffrage, civil rights, war and peace. As the American nation went through all these growing pains, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was there to guide and support her faithful, to assist and minister to all in need, speak up for the disenfranchised, illuminate society by spreading the love of Christ, and to welcome and embrace four waves of new immigrants from Ukraine. This rich history was displayed for all to see in the exhibit from the Ukrainian History and Education Center – “Ukrainian Orthodoxy in the New Land: 100 Years in the United States of America”, which was mounted in the St. Volodymyr Pro-Cathedral parish hall.
His Eminence Archbishop Daniel took a moment to share a few words of wisdom concerning the clergy and hierarchs of the Church and how they persisted, steadfast in their trust in the Lord, to establish this Church which we celebrate today. It was only through God’s intervention that the early bishops were able to successfully build up the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, and that this struggle that we underwent in the early years of the Church, continues today in Ukraine, as the Orthodox faithful in our homeland now struggle to build their own Church.
His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the UOC of the USA and Diaspora spoke about the founding of the early Church, her struggles and her brilliant successes. His Eminence explained how the early immigrants struggled and sacrificed to build this Church. With their hearts filled with the love of Christ, they built parish churches and communities in which they would not only retain their Ukrainian customs and language, but, where their children would learn to love God, and become fortified to live godly lives, building lifelong friendships and support systems through their local parish families.
Dr. Michael Andrec, UOC of the USA archivist, introduced the exhibit and explained the significance of the items depicted therein. He explained how the exhibit begins with the early formation of our first parishes and progressed through these one hundred years continually receiving new faithful who arrived in three waves – between World Wars I and II, following World War II, and then following the declaration of Ukraine’s independence in 1990. Michael expressed gratitude to his co-curators of the exhibit – his wife, Natalia Honcharenko-Andrec, Museum Director and Panimatka Oksana Pasakas, Museum Collections Manager. Unfortunately, the full exhibit is only on display at the Ukrainian Cultural Center at our Metropolia, however, the traveling exhibit still provided a good insight in to the history of our Church. The faithful present walked through the exhibit, pausing, reading, admiring and appreciating the sacrifices of their ancestors, which have resulted in today’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA. While enjoying wine and cheese, they shared their own memories and stories which they were told by their parents and grandparents of early parish life, sisterhoods, brotherhoods, youth leagues and Saturday Ukrainian schools.
With a deep appreciation of the events and efforts made by their ancestors, everyone slowly made their way to the St. Volodymyr Church for Vespers. Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel, were joined by Archbishop Jeremiah of the Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchy of South America under the omophorion of the Metropolitan of the UOC of the USA. The service was celebrated by Very Rev. Vasile Sauciur, Dean of the West Coast Deanery and pastor of St. Volodymyr Pro-Cathedral, assisted by Deacon Adrian Mazur of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in New York, NY. Having thanked the Lord for His mercy upon the Church and her faithful, and asked for His guidance and assistance throughout the future years, the faithful next made their way the Ukrainian Cultural Center for the Centennial Banquet.
Laughter echoed through the building during the 6 o’clock Cocktail Hour as old friends hugged, and new friendships blossomed. With smiles on their faces, and arms around each other, the faithful entered the hall in search of their seats. They were awestruck at the beautiful flower arrangements and décor that awaited them. As the delicious meal was served the guests continued to share stories, exchange contact information and make plans for future events.
The banquet program began with a greeting as the Ukrainian government by Sergiy Aloshyn, Consulate General of Ukraine in San Francisco, took the podium to congratulate the hierarchs and faithful of the UOC of the USA on this momentous accomplishment – celebrating 100 years of spreading the Light of Christ in a New Land. He expressed the personal greetings of the President of Ukraine and the citizens of Ukraine who share in the joy of the centennial celebration.
Metropolitan Antony, in his remarks to the faithful, stated that he was not going to relate in great detail the 100 year history of the Church, because they could read the details in the Centennial Booklets they received at their tables. His Eminence wanted to make the point to everyone that the history of our Church is not just what took place in the establishment of our parishes, in the efforts of our hierarchs, clergy and all the faithful around the United States of America or even in the spiritual growth and development of our Church population. He stressed that our history is not just about who we are and what we accomplished within our individual communities. It is a history that served to preserve the incredibly rich legacy of Ukrainian Orthodoxy for the faithful of Ukraine throughout all the years of soviet domination, subjugation, repression and genocide. He spoke of Metropolitan John Theodorovich, our first Metropolitan who arrived in the USA in 1924 and served the church until 1971. He spoke of Metropolitan Mstyslav who served as Metropolitan from 1972 until 1993. These were two individuals who never abandoned their belief that Ukraine would indeed be independent one day and that her Church would be reborn. In spite of all the odds that existed up to 1990, when that independence was realized they never lost hope and never ceased to encourage all our faithful to remember who they were and from where they came. Even though oppressed, the faithful in Ukraine during all our history heard about our Church. Although she never had a population that exceeded perhaps a single diocese in Ukraine, she served as a beacon of hope for those who knew the suffering. They heard about the “Ukrainian Jerusalem” in South Bound Brook, NJ and their spirits were lifted.
Archbishop Daniel, who is presently serving as an Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine, preparing the groundwork for the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, expressed his gratitude and love for our flock, and hopes for the future of the Church. That future depends not only on the hierarchs and clergy, but, also on the faithful, who through their individual efforts grow and strengthen the Church. He shared with the faithful how amazing the anticipation is in Ukraine about the pending Tomos of Autocephaly and expressed gratitude that we have a Patriarch in the person of His All-Holiness Bartholomew I, who cares about his flock in Ukraine and is no longer willing to stand by and watch them wander in the wilderness; who believes deeply that the Ukrainian nation has the right to her own local Church, just as the other Orthodox Churches do.
In honor of the Church’s Centennial Celebration, our hierarchs created a special award of a medal bearing the image of St. Andrew and the X-shaped cross upon which he was crucified along with the Ukrainian and American flags and the centennial “100” insignia. The purpose of this special award was to honor individual parish members, nominated by their pastors and parish boards of administration, who had exemplified what it means to be a fully committed Ukrainian Orthodox Christian over a period of at least 15 years in the life of the Church. The announcement of the recipients of the awards were received with much joy and approval. Not all the recipients were able to be present, but Archbishop Daniel will present their awards to them personally when he next visits their parishes. The Centennial Medal recipients were: from St. Andrew Parish, Los Angeles – Ludmila Tolmochow, Mykola Zlidenny, Shannon Micevych, Valentina Babczenko, Paul Micevych and Gregory Hallick; from St. Volodymyr Parish Los Angeles – Catherine Dach, Stephen Dach, Olga Wasson and Alex Wlasenko; from Holy Trinity Parish, Seattle, WA – Ludmila Romaniuk, Oksana Mazur and Halyna Mykytiuk; from St. Michael Parish, San Francisco – Nadia Basalski and Vitalij Vizir; from St. John the Baptist Parish, Portland, OR – Serhij Nahursky and Mariya Kamsha; and from St. Job Mission, Los Alamos, NM – Elizabeth Bezzerides. We congratulate these truly responsible examples for others to follow in service to our Lord and fellow man. God bless you all.
The entertainment for the banquet was provided by very, very talented artists. Performing first during the banquet cocktail hour was a trio on accordion and mandolin featuring Irena and Anatolij Mamalyga and Olena Kaspersky, who set the tone for the evening of celebration. A wonderful soloist, Asya Gorska, appeared next on the program singing beautiful renditions of “Dva Kolory” and “Chervona Ruta”. The next performance was by the Southern California Ukrainian Choir “Kobzar” under the direction of Maestro Gregory Hallick. The choir had been inactive for a number of years because of the relocation of Gregory to Northern California, but they gathered together for the Centennial Celebration to sing four liturgical songs, each of them a favorite of one of our four Metropolitans – John, “Blazhen Muzh” (“Blessed is the Man); Mstyslav, “Hospody Vyslukhaj Mene” (“Lord, hear me when I call upon You”); Constantine “Yak Slavnyj Nashi” (How Glorious is our God”); and Antony “Mnohaya Lita” (composed by Gregory for this celebration and promised to Metropolitan Antony that it would be his favorite! And it is!). At the conclusion of the program, Asya Gorska sang “God Bless America” in both English and a Ukrainian translation.
The following day, Sunday, greeting His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel and His Eminence Archbishop Jeremiah were the children and youth of the parish, along with Dr. Paul Micevych – Archon of the Ecumenical Throne, and Fr. Vasyl Shtelen, pastor of the parish. The church was filled as the hierarchs were joined by the clergy of the West Coast Deanery: Rev. Frs. Yurij Shakh, Los Angeles; Myron Mykhaylyuk San Diego; Vasile Sauciur, Los Angeles; Georgi Tyapko, San Francisco; Andrij Matlak, Seattle, WA; Myroslav Turchak, Sacramento, CA; Theophan Mackey, Los Alamos, NM; James Cairns, Carteret, NJ; Volodymyr Yaworskyj, Portland, OR and Deacon Adrian Mazur, New York, NY along with Sudeacons Gary Gebet of San Diego and David of St. Andrew Parish, Seminarians from the St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary – Subdeacons Mykola Zomchak and Ivan Venhryn. Responses for the entire Liturgy were spiritually and beautifully sung by the “Kobzar” Choir under the direction of Gregory Hallick.
Everyone listened intently to the day’s Gospel Reading from Matthew about the Canaanite woman who beseeched Christ to help her.
“Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.” (Matthew 15:21-28)
Following the reading, Archbishop Daniel delivered a sermon. He explained that while we have all heard this passage of the Gospel read many times before, today, these words hold a special meaning. As Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Vladyka Daniel is diligently working towards the granting of the Tomos of Autocephaly by His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
His Eminence explained that the woman crying out to the Lord for help, is much like the Church in Ukraine, crying out for her children are suffering badly, and need to be set free. The Lord did not immediately reply to the woman, and soon His disciples had tired of her persistent nagging, and begged Christ to simply send her away – to be forgotten, because she was an inconvenience.
The Lord spoke to her, explaining He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, and that it would not be right to take the bread meant for the children and toss it to the dogs. She was not from Israel, but, from Canaan, and the Lord just compared her to a dog. His words must have stung, and she could have lowered her head and slinked quietly away, but, had she done so, her daughter would continue to suffer in bondage. Therefore, this woman, this mother, did not walk away, or cower, but, humbly fell to her knees before the Lord, swallowing her pride and asking for the crumbs from the Master’s table. Christ was amazed by her faith, and the fact that she showed great perseverance, dedication and humility, and He granted her what she had asked, healing her daughter that very moment.
The Church in Ukraine is much like this woman and she is about to experience the same exultation when His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and the Holy Synod of Constantinople grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church after decades of petitions from his spiritual flock in Ukraine. The Archbishop asked the faithful to pray fervently for the Church in Ukraine during these delicate times, that unity will be the result of the autocephalous status and that the Church will once again become the conscience of the nation – the role that she fulfilled throughout the history of the country.
Grateful for their past, joyous in their present, and hopeful of their future, the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, join their voices to the Mother Church, as she falls to her knees humbly before Christ, asking for His mercy upon her daughter. Everyone present is no longer a single individual, but, is joined as One in prayer and faith, with thousands upon thousands of faithful.
Metropolitan Antony expressed the joy that everyone present was experiencing at the conclusion of the three-day celebration of our Church’s Centennial. He asked the faithful, now that they had made this celebration, what is next? What will each person present do to ensure that there will be second centennial celebration of the life of our Church? He asked all the faithful to teach their children and grandchildren about the Faith, about God in the Holy Trinity, about the history of the membership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. He asked them to reach into the lives of their family members, their neighbors, there co-workers to share the Faith that brings salvation to all.
Our hierarchs, along with the clergy and faithful of our Church are most grateful to all the members of the West Coast Centennial Celebration Committee, which was chaired by Shannon Micevych and included Fr. Vasile Sauciur, Paul Budilo, Michele Budilo, Gary Gebet, Natalie Orlins Gebet, Oksana Tscherepenko-DiRicco, Dr. Paul Micevych and Vera Skop. Shannon expressed her gratitude to all the committee members who worked well together over several months to ensure that the beauty and success all the participants experienced would become reality. And so it did! May God bless you all.
UOC of the USA Centennial Celebration in the West Coast Deanery - Los Angeles, CA - 09/28/18
Photos by Subdeacon Mykola Zomchak