Our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA Board of Trustees – the Metropolitan Council – held its annual meeting in the Ukrainian Cultural Center, Somerset, NJ on 30-31 January 2009 to set the budget for the current fiscal year and to discuss the life of the Church during the very difficult economic circumstances the entire nation is enduring.

Metropolitan Constantine opened the annual session and expressed his gratitude to God Almighty that he was blessed to be present at the meeting and to have the opportunity once again to work so closely with the dedicated members of the Council, who all volunteer their time energy to God in service to the Body of Christ – our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  He welcomed the Council Members – Archbishop Antony, Bishop Daniel, Protopresbyters Frank Esotocin and Taras Chubenko, V. Rev. Fathers Robert Holet, Michael Kochis, Taras Naumenko, Timothy Tomson, Rev. Fr. Robert Popichak, Eng. Emil Skocypec, Dr. George Krywolap, Dr. Gayle Woloschak, Dr. Paul Micevych, Helen Boyko-Greenleaf, Michael Kapeluck, Olga Coffey, Atty. Oleh Bilynsky, Nadia Mirchuk and Protodeacon Dr. Ihor Mahlay.  Also present at the meeting were Alternate to the Council, V. Rev. Jakiw Norton, Eng. Michael Heretz and Subdeacon Richard Jendras.

The Metropolitan commented on the conclusion of an extremely important and spiritually rewarding year in Church life with the consecration at St. Vladimir Cathedral, Parma, OH of a new Bishop in the person of Bishop Daniel (Zelinsky) in May and one month later the consecration of the newly constructed All Saints Camp Chapel of St. Thomas the Apostle.  The Chapel was a gift to our Church from the estate of Thomas Tychonia by his sisters, Olga and Alice Tychonia of St. Nicholas Parish, Troy, NY.  These two events served as a spiritual renewal for not only the 500 who attended each, but for the entire Church membership.  The Metropolitan invited all the Council members to participate in the enthronement of Bishop Daniel as Ruling Bishop of the Western Eparchy scheduled to take place on 7 February 2009 at St. Volodymyr Cathedral, Chicago, IL. 

The visit of His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I to Ukraine in the summer of 2008 was another event, which filled the faithful of our Church here in the USA and throughout Ukraine with much hope for the possible resolution of the lack of ecclesiastical unity in Ukraine.  It is the Metropolitan’s belief that this visit had a very positive effect upon Church life in Ukraine and events, which have followed have all pointed to a new willingness on the part of all involved to move closer to that unity.  The remaining problems and obstacles to full unity continue to be very significant, but the apparent will on the part of the various hierarchs to begin discussions with each other is a major step forward.  Much of what is taking place will not be made public because doing so would undoubtedly do more to lengthen the disunity than to expedite it.  The Metropolitan has had conversations with a number of hierarchs in Ukraine concerning these matters.

The 75th anniversary of the Holodomor – Genocidal Famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine – was commemorated with the participation of our hierarchs and clergy throughout the USA.  Archbishop Antony, along with Metropolitan Stefan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, let the annual commemoration – the eighteenth consecutive year – of the famine at St. Patrick Cathedral in New York City; Metropolitan Constantine, along with Ukrainian Catholic Bishop John led the commemoration at Our Lady of Angels Cathedral, Los Angeles, CA and Bishop Daniel, along with Bishop Richard of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, led the commemoration at Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago, IL.  Finally, in November, Metropolitan Constantine and Metropolitan Stefan dedicated the site of the National Holodomor Memorial near the US Capitol Building and Union Station in Washington, D. C.

The Metropolitan commented on the economic distress in which the United States finds itself and the effect this situation has had on our Church, as well.  Our parishes and faithful must be made more aware of what is accomplished by this Council, our Consistory and the central Church organizations so that they are aware of the funding necessary to continue these efforts.

In his remarks, Archbishop Antony concentrated specifically on the condition of Church finances and stressed the need for this Council to make the significant decisions necessary to enable the administration and various ministries to continue.  He stressed the “to continue” portion of his remarks in order to impress upon everyone present the seriousness of the current situation.  The Archbishop expressed his gratitude before the Council members to the Consistory members and his entire staff for their efforts during the past year, in spite of budget cuts.  These, the Archbishop stated, are people who give far more than they receive to the ministries they conduct.  The Consistory staff members are compensated for their contributions, but far below the “normal” rate of compensation in American society.  Most of the Directors of our Consistory Offices of Ministry are not compensated and are so dedicated to their efforts.  The Archbishop expressed deep sadness at the recent death of Ihumen Gregory (Woolfenden) after a brief battle with cancer and informed the Council of the resignation of Stephen Sheptak as All Saints Camp Administrator, due to health reasons.  He asked all present to keep Stephen in their prayers.

Bishop Daniel spoke of his many visitations to parishes – especially in the Western Eparchy – over the first eight months of his episcopal service and has seen many signs of a renewed enthusiasm in the life of the Church and a willingness to support the various ministries of the Church.  He discussed his visits to Ukraine in the past year with the Orphanage Mission Team and to distribute the funds collected for the victims of flooding in the Western regions of the nation.  The bishop expressed his view that such missionary and Christian charity programs must continue – not only for the benefit of the recipients of the love we have to offer, but for those who offer that love in the Name of the Lord.

During his Consistory President’s Report, Archbishop Antony called upon the Council members present who are also Directors of Offices of Ministry to respond to questions about their earlier submitted reports.  These individuals include the following:  Office of Parish and Mission Development – V. Rev. Fr. Michael Kochis; Office of Stewardship – V. Rev. Robert Holet; Office of Christian Charity – Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay; Office of External Affairs and Interchurch Relationships – Protopresbyter Frank Estocin; Office of Archival and Historical Information – Dr. George Krywolap; Office of Family and Adult Ministry – V. Rev. Jakiw Norton; Office of New Immigration Issues – Protopresbyter Taras Chubenko.   The Archbishop then reported on the activities of the remaining offices of ministry:  Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry – Natalie Kapeluck, Director; Office of Religious Education – Rev. Fr. Harry Linsinbigler, Director; Office of Cultural and Ethnic Affairs – Natalia Honcharenko – Director and Museum Administrator; Office of Liturgical Publications – V. Rev. Dennis Kristof, Director; Office of Development – Dr. Stephen Sivulich, Director; Office of Communications – Rev. Fr. Victor Wronskyj, Director and stated that the Office of Financial Affairs – Emil Skocypec, Director and Consistory Treasurer would be presented separately on the agenda. 

In addition, the Archbishop reported on the activities of our Church institutions and commissions:  our Church/Seminary Library, All Saints Camp, the Historical and Educational Complex (HEC), St. Andrew Cemetery, St. Andrew Bookstore, the Cultural Center, the Constitution Commission (of which all the Council members who are not Directors of Offices of Ministry are members). 

The various programs and projects covered under all the above offices and institutions and reported about to the Council include, but are not limited to:  our youth encampment programs at All Saints Camp and youth and young adult work within our parishes; the development of current and new mission parishes in locations throughout the United States; the Orphanage Adoption Program and mission teams to those orphanages; the education of our clergy and faithful about the importance of stewardship – our responsibility to care for and maintain God’s gift of the Creation and His Holy Church; the education of our faithful by numerous varied means, including pamphlets and the many tools of the Internet; the encouragement of the small “home church” and teaching how to live an Orthodox Christian life in our homes with our families; the publication of the history of our Church and the correspondence of Archbishop/Metropolitan/Patriarch Mstyslav and the establishment and organization of the Metropolitan Andrew Kuschak Archive and Research Center as part of our HEC complex; the publication of liturgical texts for utilization in our parishes; the various fund drives for contributions to make all our Church ministry possible; programs for reaching out to the new immigration; the continued publication of the Ukrainian Orthodox Word, the annual Church Calendar, our Church website, which had over 5,400,000 hits during the past year; the continued development of our library, its website volunteer recruiting by our librarian Larissa Bulya and many other important efforts.

Many of the Council members expressed their amazement that all these programs and more can be conducted within our limited Church budget, but the Archbishop stressed that when all things are done for the glory of God, success comes where least expected.  All that has been discussed above does not include the valuable efforts put forth by our central organizations.  Reporting for the oldest of the three organizations, the Ukrainian Orthodox League, was Atty. Oleh Bilinsky, President of the Sr. League and Taylor Gladys, President of the Jr. UOL.  The UOL took on the responsibility of raising the funds necessary for completing St. Thomas Chapel at All Saints Camp – including the Iconostas and all iconography in the Chapel, the Altar, all vestments and liturgical vessels, as well as completing the construction of the basement of the chapel and providing water service to the building.  A total of $165,000 was contributed by the faithful of our Church for this effort.  In addition, the League continues its many programs, which are of enormous importance:  the Metropolitan John Scholarship Fund, which supports our Church’s seminary students; the Lynn Saswchuk/Sharon Kuzbyt Scholarship Fund, which provides college students with financial aid; an annual series of Retreats for various age groups and support programs for our mission parishes and the Soup Kitchen project of St. Andrew Society in cooperation with the Jr. UOL.  The Jr. UOL has several programs of its own, in particular this year’s project to supply the International Orthodox Christian Charities with 1,000 health kits to aide in disaster relief around the world.

Mrs. Nadia Mirchuk, President, presented the report of the United Ukrainian Orthodox Sisterhoods, which emphasized the continued scholarship program conducted in Ukraine, which provides very minimal scholarship to large numbers of students.  Even thought the scholarships are small by American standards, they make an enormous difference in the lives of Ukrainian students.  The Sisterhood also conducts an annual Ukrainian Festival Day at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in the fall of the year.  All the proceeds from this event and other fund raising efforts go toward the completion of the Historical and Educational Complex.  Thus far, the Sisterhoods have raised over $320,000 for this project.

The St. Andrew Society report was presented by President, Protodeacon Dr. Ihor Mahlay.  The main project of the Society over the past year was the Soup Kitchen program in Ukraine’s major cities.  There are currently six such kitchens in operation.  This is a program, which has existed for 16 years, since the early years of Ukrainian independence and has provided much Christian love to those who benefit from them.  The Society has funded this program over the years with $314,000. 

V. Rev. Bazyl Zawierucha presented the St. Sophia Seminary report to the Council.  There are currently four full-time resident students and seven part-time graduate students enrolled in the Seminary.  He reported that all these students are supported by the various scholarship programs of the seminary and the church, but that additional funding is absolutely necessary for the programs to function fully and successfully.  Fr. Bazyl outlined the current academic program and spoke of the highly qualified teaching staff at the seminary and encouraged the Council members to support the seminary program in all ways possible.  A report was also submitted from Seminary Vocations Director, V. Rev. Stephen Hutnick, who announced a national Altar Servers Retreat, which will take place on 15-17 May at a retreat center and Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Wilmington, DE.  Bishop Daniel, who also serves as Dean of Students for the seminary, reported on student life in the seminary residence and the progress of the students from Ukraine, in particular, who seem to be adapting well to a very different life here in the USA, as compared to that in Ukraine.  Emil Skocypec, Treasurer of the Seminary, presented the financial report and budget for the current year.  Needless to say, cuts were necessary because of economic circumstances.

The final report of the Council Session and in many respects, the most important one, was that of the Office of Financial Affairs, by Emil Skocypec, Consistory Treasurer and Natalia Honcharenko, Assistant Treasurer and Human Resources Administrator.  Prior to the Council meeting, the Audit Commission of the Church reviewed all the financial records of the Consistory and Church organizations covering the past year, reporting to the Council that all were in order and making several recommendations, which were adopted by the Council.  The Commission expressed its most sincere gratitude to Emil and Natalia for their meticulous records and report.

The Consistory presented newly developed “Policy Guidelines for the Investment of the Church’s Financial Assets”.  Obviously, the Church was no less fortunate than the vast majority of investors in the decline of the financial markets.  There is an undying hope that the losses will be recouped over the next several years as the economy improves, but we must live with the current situation until it improves.  The policy guidelines were developed by the Consistory under the lead of V. Rev. Robert Holet, Office of Stewardship, and is designed to assist in a true Orthodox Christian manner in making all our investments and caring for the assets of the Church.  It is a lengthy document, which was thoroughly reviewed and amended by a special advisory committee created in 2008, as recommended by our last Sobor.  In addition to our financial officers, serving on the committee are the Chairman of the Audit Commission Hanja Cherniak, Financial Advisor Geoffrey Greenleaf, and Investment expert, Bohdan Bazylevsky.  These individuals serve on a completely volunteer basis and in an advisory capacity as members of our Church.

After a lengthy discussion of all aspects of the financial report, the Council approved it as per recommendation of the Audit Commission.  An equally lengthy discussion took place in consideration of the proposed budget for the current fiscal year.  The budget prepared by the Consistory President and Treasurer reflected significant cuts in many areas, in effect, cutting all programs and administrative expenditures to the bare minimum for continued functioning.  The Consistory and all Offices of Ministry will endeavor to identify new sources of income to support all Church programs and projects and Metropolitan Constantine will make a special appeal to all the faithful of the Church for much needed financial support.  It is the firm belief of all the Council members that our faithful will respond positively and generously to such an appeal in support of the worthy programs discussed above.

In its closing session, the Metropolitan Council took the time to consider many issues and topics of import to the world of Orthodoxy, Ukraine and the United States of America.  Most sincere greetings were expressed to His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew in gratitude for his trip to Ukraine and continued support for ecclesiastical unity of the Church there.  The Council urged him to continue in every way possible to influence the process toward unity, including meeting with representatives of all sides.  It must be acknowledged that of significant importance to this process will be the political climate in Ukraine.  At present the near chaos of Ukrainian politics certainly does not bode well for the Church, for Ukrainian society as a whole or for international relations, particularly with European nations.  Those who wish to see continued disunity in ecclesiastical life will readily utilize the political chaos as a tool in their efforts.  The Council calls upon all political leaders of the nation to abandon their own political agendas and to resolve the chaos, which will lead only to the decline of the Ukraine, opening the door to threats against the nation’s continued independence. Finally, the Council members commented on the recent political changes, which have occurred in the United States of America.  The Council congratulates the newly elected President of our nation and calls upon all the faithful of the Church to pray for the success of President Barack Obama and his entire administration in dealing with a distressed economy and many other national issues and concerns – hopefully with solutions compatible with Holy Orthodox Christian tradition and teaching.

The Council expressed its most sincere gratitude to our hierarchs, the Consistory, the Central Church Organizations, the Consistory Staff, the Seminary Staff and all the faithful of our Church who have contributed so much throughout our parishes, ensuring the success we have known for the glory of God alone, in all our ministry programs.  In the future, the Metropolitan Council’s annual meeting and budgetary sessions will take place during the month of November.

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