The Metropolia Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA in South Bound Brook, NJ has served once again as a “home” and center of spiritual renewal and fellowship for the delegates and guests to the 17th Convention of the United Ukrainian Orthodox Sisterhoods of the UOC of USA (UUOS). Representatives from local parish sisterhoods across the country traveled to the Center on the weekend of 25-27 September, 2009 to report on the activities of their organizations and to develop plans for the next three years of ministry by their national Executive in all aspects of Church life.
Archbishop Antony, President of the Consistory and His Grace Bishop Daniel, the Spiritual Advisor to the National Executive of the UUOS, opened the Convention with a Moleben prayer service to the Most Holy Birth-Giver of God in the rotunda of the Consistory building underneath the icon of the Protection of the Mother of God, asking for her continued prayers for the faithful women of the Church at both the local and national levels as they strive to follow the two new commandments revealed by Christ, Himself – “to love God with all your hearts, all oour minds and all your souls and to love neighbor as you love ourselves”. The UUOS members have always strived to serve in the example of the Mother of God and those great Mothers and Saints known throughout Church history.
In his greeting to the delegates during the Moleben, Bishop Daniel reflected upon the words of a prayer to the Mother of God, in which she is referred to as “the Helper of the afflicted, the Hope of the hopeless, the Defender of the poor, the Consolation of the sorrowful, the Nourisher of the hungry, the Garment of the naked, the Healing of the sick…” His Grace stated that through their ministry, the local parish sisterhoods and the UUOS Executive, in particular, always take to heart the attributes of the Mother of God and put them into action under the her protection.
Through out the years, the United Ukrainian Orthodox Sisterhoods have reached out to the poor in Ukraine, South America and in the USA providing them with the basic items of necessity for life. They have provided funds to cloth the children of Ukrainian orphanages, assisted flood victims in Western Ukraine and at the Metropolia Center South Bound Brook, NJ. Moreover, the UUOS has touched the lives of battered women, who are struggling in their marriages and dealing with emotional and physical challenges in their lives. Bishop Daniel called upon the delegates to continue embracing their ministry in the Name of the Lord and to build their organization, recruiting new members challenging themselves with projects that will touch and improve the lives of women of the 21st century – along with those of their families and parish communities.
His Eminence Archbishop Antony offered sincere greetings – in addition to his personal letter – from Metropolitan Constantine, who was unable to attend the Convention due to health reasons. The Archbishop strongly urged the participants in the Convention to consider what their mission must be in this new century, which required that they must deal with the issues of the day and assist Orthodox women in handling the many moral, social and ethical problems that affect their lives in a very hostile society – a society, which will utilize any form of temptation and promise of “happiness” to lure them away from Christ and His Body, the Holy Church. He stated that the official publication of the UUOS – “Vira” or “Faith” – must be one which discusses these problems and provokes thought amongst the faithful women of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and beyond. This would require a commitment on the part of the National Executive to visit with local parish sisterhoods to provide information about the Orthodox – the Holy Church’s – view of morality, ethical decision making and social interaction. The Archbishop suggested that each time one of the hierarchs visit a parish, one of the members of the National Executive accompany them, scheduling a meeting with the local sisterhood and sharing the necessity for all women of the Church to involve themselves in a ministry of family care and education about the issues of life in a secular society.
Throughout the convention, the delegates heard the reports of their National Executive members and from local parish sisterhoods. They reflected upon the various projects and Offices of Ministry in the life of the Church and the enormous opportunities that exist for their organization to make a difference in people’s lives. The members resolved that there was a continued need for their contributions in Christ’s ministry and that that there will never be a time when their organization should stop its work, simply because it is challenged by the circumstances of societal life. There must always be a challenge to any temptation to abandon the mission of the United Sisterhoods and the mission of women in Christ’s Church. They reaffirmed their acceptance of the role that St. Paul defined for them as the most influential and proactive members of the Body of Christ, who will lead their families to Christ and help them focus upon His teachings when temptation arises.
The convention concluded with the election of a new Executive Board of the organization for 2009-2011 term:
President: Tamara Parubchenko
Immediate Past President and Advisor: Nadiya Mirchuk
Honorary President: Valentyna Kuzmycz
Vice Presidents: Olga Zelezniak, Panimatka Ivanka Wronskyj and Nadiya Brushenko - Advisor
Secretaries: Lina Dyehtyarenko and Panimatka Ivanka Wrosnkyj
Financial Secretary and Treasurer: Anna Jennings and Olga Krywolap
Auditors: Sonia Ivakhnenko, Valia Syzonenko and Nadiya Kolesnyk;
Kateryna Hucul and Luba Shevchenko - Advisors
Metropolitan Council Advisor – Olga Coffey
Following the Vespers service at St. Andrew Memorial Church for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Most-Holy and Life-Giving Cross of the Lord, His Eminence Archbishop Antony led a prayer service of Induction to Office for the new UUOS Executive Board members. The evening concluded with a banquet organized at Pokrova Sisterhood of St. Andrew Memorial Church. Numerous speakers of the evening reflected upon the ministry of the Sisterhood. Among them were three seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, Subdeacon Vasyl Pasakas, Andriy Matlak and Vasyl Dovhan, who greeted the delegates and the guests and thanked the United Sisterhoods for their role in their spiritual formation.
On Sunday morning, Archbishop Antony, Bishop Daniel, Very Rev. Fr. Yurij Siwko and Rev. Fr. Ihor Bobak served Divine Liturgy at St. Andrew Memorial Church. His Eminence Archbishop Antony reflected upon the spiritual importance of the Cross of the Lord in the lives of all faithful members of the Holy Church. The Cross teaches us the theology of the Church, teaches us the depth of God’s love for us and teaches us how to love and be loved. The Cross is the symbol of our relationship with Christ and the symbol of our own future resurrection.
In conclusion, Bishop Daniel, presented a newly elected board to the members of faithful attending Divine Liturgy and stated that the work and the ministry of the Sisterhood is known in every parish that he travels to: “It is almost always women who manage to preserve human dignity to defend the family and to protect cultures and spiritual values. The UUOS lives by a spiritual slogan: When you are blessed by the Lord - you must give back!” The bishop concluded that all that the Sisterhoods do in all our individual parishes manifests the never-ending guidance of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all the Sisterhood.
Following the Archpastoral Divine Liturgy, the local Memorial Church Sisterhood of Holy Pokrova (Protection of the Mother of God), under the guidance of its President, Maria Konyk, invited everyone present to participate in a farewell luncheon – sponsored by the local sisterhood. The bishops gave their final blessings to the Convention participants and wished them safe journey to their homes and asking for their continued prayers.