Metropolitan Antony Visits St. Mary’s UOC, New Britain, CT
Text By Melissa Josefiak; Photos by Christine Melnyk
Blessed with a day of gloriously warm and bright weather, St. Mary's Ukrainian Orthodox Church, New Britain, Connecticut, welcomed His Eminence Metropolitan Antony to celebrate its feast day, the Nativity of the Mother of God, on September 15, 2013. In addition, our parish celebrated two joyful occasions that day, the elevation of our pastor, Father Andrii Pokotylo, to the rank of Protopriest, and the First Holy Penance of two of our parish young people, Alina Dmytrenko and Arsen Shtefan.
At the church entrance, Father Andrii Pokotylo and Father Deacon Anthony Szwez, led their congregation in welcoming His Eminence and three seminarians from our St. Sophia Seminary. President of the Parish Council, Dr. Paul Szwez, President of the Sisterhood of St. Olga, Heather Duffy, and several parish children, many in Ukrainian native dress, presented the Metropolitan with the traditional greetings of bread and salt, and flowers. Also serving that day were Subdeacons Michael Platosz and Michael Wowk, both of St. Mary’s parish, as well as altar servers Tyler Duffy, Jonathan Platosz, Gregory Platosz and Christopher Pokotylo.
Accompanied by the choir’s spirited singing as led by Director Basil Romanyshyn and Simion Sacalos, His Eminence headed a procession to the front of the nave, just before the open Royal Doors. At the time of the Small Entrance,unbeknownst to the congregation and to Father Andrii himself, the Metropolitan began a brief service of the elevation of our pastor to therank of Protopriest. The elevation was recommended by the ParishCouncil and came as a complete surprise to Father Andrii, who graciously and humbly knelt three times before the Royal Doors, turning to face his reigning hierarch. After the prayer of the elevation,His Eminence removed Father’s silver cross and replaced it with a gold one, befitting his new office of greater responsibility. Metropolitan Antonybriefly explained to the full congregation at St. Mary’s that this elevation is not casually bestowed, but one that is given to those priests who are singularly devoted to furthering Christ’s work in the world and in their parish. The newly elevated Very Revered Father Andrii sincerely and graciously thanked his parish family for this honor and promised to continue the good work that he has started at St. Mary’s over his past four years here. His Eminence then asked the congregation to pray for Father and all clergy, especially our hierarchs, as they, as well as we all, require Christ’s mercy and strength.
On this special Sunday, two young people of our parish, Alina Dmytrenko and Arsen Shtefan, completed theirspiritual journey of their First Holy Penance by receiving Holy Communion from Metropolitan Antony. Alina and Arsen followed His Eminence in procession at the beginning of service, held special candles during the Gospel readings and the Great Entrance. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Alina and Arsen received gifts of Orthodox Study Bibles from the parish and Orthodox prayer books from the Sisterhood as presented by His Eminence. The Great Entrance included a procession of the children of St. Mary’s, all holding icons. During a touching, personal moment, the Metropolitan addressed Alina and Arsen directly, encouraging them to remain strong in their faith as they continue to follow Christ’s teachings and mature in their spiritual life.
In his sermon, Metropolitan Antony drew parallels between the spiritual waverings of the rich young man of the Gospel readingand the quivering levelsof our own spiritual commitment in this modern world. His Eminence challenged the congregation of St Mary's to question why we keep ourselves from being “ashamed” of following Christ’s teachings. His Eminence encouraged the faithful toalways look to the Mother of God as the prime example of faithfulness and loyalty. Just as the saints were called to fulfill Christ’s mission, and in full knowledge that we lack a fraction of their faith, we are all called to serve and to live as examples of sacrificial and committed love. His Eminence concluded his sermon with a powerful message that just asSt. Peter wavered, so will we – but do not be fearful or ashamed of your faith – God will lift you up!
As the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy progressed, Metropolitan Antony commemorated the 3,000 souls lost during the 9/11 attacks, as this week marked the attacks’ twelfth anniversary, and those military personnel who willingly put themselves in harm’s way as they serve their country. He also offered special petitions for college students, as this day was proclaimed a special Sunday for College Students by the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF). We were very blessed to have more than 30 children and teenagers celebrate the Liturgy at St. Mary’s that day.
Following a parish-wide photo in front of the iconostas, Metropolitan Antony joined the parishioners in the church hall for a holubsti dinner prepared by the Sisterhood of St. Olga, under the direction of chefs Heather Duffy, Kimberly Irvin and John Bouchard,. We were also pleased to welcome a good friend of the parish, Father Steven Masliuk, pastor of St. Mary’s UOC, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Dean of the New England Deanery. Following dessert, Metropolitan Antony warmly thanked our parish family for their hospitality and expressed his joy in visiting our parish once again.