A small town of about 3,000 residents and a history of 120 years - is a home for the Dormition of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox parish. The town of Jones, Oklahoma welcomed the Ukrainian Orthodox Christian community in the past century, thus giving birth to a nurturing parish family of parishioners that came from about 10 different ethnic backgrounds that share in the same Faith and practice the sacred traditions of their forefathers until this day.
Following his return from Ukraine, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel fulfilled a promise that was made to the parish congregation back in September of this year, stating that as soon as his responsibilities of the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine are fulfilled, the hierarch would visit his flock in Oklahoma, especially following the appointment of a new pastor in the person of Rev. Fr. Myron Korostil.
Accompanied by Deacon Sviatoslav Hot and Subdeacon Mykola Zomchak of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary (South Bound Brook, NJ) of the UOC of the USA, Archbishop Daniel arrived to Oklahoma City on Friday, December 21, 2018. Greeted at the airport by Fr. Myron Korostil – pastor and Archimandrite Raphael (Moore) – pastor-emeritus, the hierarch began his archpastoral visit, while formally meeting with the clergy in order to review and inquire in detail about the pastoral spiritual life of the parish community.
On Saturday morning, December 22, 2018 – a group of faithful of the parish community gathered at the parish’s cemetery in Harrah, OK for the Memorial service, honoring the memory of the lost lives during the years of the artificially created Genocidal Famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This year, the greater Ukrainian community marks the 85thanniversary of the tragic events that took lives of about 10,000.000 people. Addressing the congregation, the archbishop help in his hands a wreath of wheat while reflecting on the history of the Genocidal Famine and the inhumane conditions imposed by one group of people upon another. Vladyka Daniel stated: “…We are also called to be a living voice for justice for the millions of victims of the “Holodomor”. We are called to continually bring to mind, to ourselves and to the world around us, that this famine occurred as a result of the policies of a repressive and evil regime. Much of the world deluded itself of it happening at the time. Voices for justice and democracy were silenced, largely by the media who perpetuated the oppressive regime’s denial of the existence of the man-made famine. Our living voice is needed to ensure that such acts of genocide are remembered and prevented from re-occurring. Efforts to erase or minimize the horrific impact of this man-made famine continue to this day…”
In addition, the prayers were chanted for the parishioners of the parish community that have reposed in the Lord and found final rest in the parish’s cemetery.
On Sunday morning, December 23, 2018 – the entire residential block of Jones, OK, a location of the parish community, came to life. Cars trying to find a parking spot, children running on a grass around the church, elderly slowly getting out of their vehicles – all arrived on time for the Eucharistic Divine Liturgy led by the Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA – His Eminence Archbishop Daniel.
Traditional flowers, bread and salt, and a cross were presented to Vladyka Daniel upon his arrival to the church, while escorted by a dozen of altar servers of the parish’s community. Welcoming the hierarch at the door, both Fr. Myron Korostil (pastor) and Constanta Palivoda (representing parish’s Sisterhood) petitioned the bishop to offer prayers for the congregation and to share the Word of God with the numerous parishioners and guests in attendance.
Prior to the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, upon the recommendation of the pastor, Archbishop Daniel tonsured a new Reader for the parish community in the person of Roman Baker. Addressing Reader Roman and the entire congregation, Vladyka called upon everyone in attendance to sincerely practice their Faith, especially in the time of various social and moral challenges of our society.
The clergy in attendance concelebrated Divine Liturgy with Archbishop Daniel, while the parish choir chanted the responses, which they practiced several times for the Archpastoral arrival and prayer services. Following the Gospel reading, Archbishop Daniel delivered a pastoral reflection on gratitude and our ability to express gratitude to God and others in our lives. Since the church calendar recently marked the feast of Holy Wonderworker Nicholas, Vladyka Daniel stated: “Today, we also celebrate one of the glorious feast days on our Church Calendar - St. Nicholas day. The whole secular idea of the day is to talk about what type of presents we receive, what we plan to eat for the day, maybe go somewhere. However, very few of us stop and contemplate on the real meaning of this Saint’s life. His life is a life of a continued thanksgiving to our Lord for the blessings bestowed upon him. How did he thank?By sharing his blessing, letting people into his life, into his experience of His God. We are called to continue this living legacy of St. Nicholas. Share the gifts and opportunities that God grants us on a daily basis, and not only a few gifts here and there with our friends and relatives.”
Several dozens of parishioners approached and received the Holy Communion from the hands of their bishop, thus sharing in One Cup of Salvation. Following the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Daniel reflected upon the historic celebration of 100 years of ministry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony presented several Centennial Medals to the parishioners of the parish family that have offered their lives and shared in the spiritual ministry of the parish community. The recipients of the medals were Archimandrite Raphael (Moore) – pastor-emeritus, Maura Baker, Constanta Palivoda, Steven Peck, Kathy Schwab, Darell and Emily Tucker, Peter Stepanoff.
The afternoon concluded with a formal reception in honor of Archbishop Daniel and the seminarians of St. Sophia Seminary. The altar servers of the parish family, under the leadership of Fr. Myron Korostil, presented a selection of Nativity (Christmas) carols in Ukrainian language. While the formal part of the reception concluded, the parishioners and visitors of the parish’s feast stayed in the parish hall for several hours yet, sharing in fellowship with their bishop and each other.
Archbishop Daniel and subdeacon Mykola Zomchak departed Oklahoma City, OK on Monday morning, while Deacon Sviatosalv Hot remained in Jones, OK for the Nativity break and until the beginning of the Spring Academic Semester at the Seminary on January 14, 2019.