With the call to holiness and openness to the Lord’s presence in our lives, His Grace Bishop Daniel, the ruling hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, greeted thousands of pilgrims visiting the spiritual center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA in South Bound Brook, NJ. All three hierarchs of the Church, traveled to the Church’s Metropolia center to lead the annual St. Thomas Sunday Pilgrimage on a Sunday following the glorious and bright feast of our Lord’s resurrection.
The preparations for the traditional pilgrimage were, as usual, underway months prior to the actual event, to receive thousands of Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic Christians who come to share with their loved ones the news of our Lord’s Resurrection. On Saturday, April 10, 2010 His Eminence Archbishop Antony, accompanied by His Grace Bishop Daniel began the pilgrimage at St. Demetrius Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Carteret, NJ, where one of the parish’s spiritual children, Subdeacon James Cairns, was ordained to Holy Deaconate, having completed his course of studies at St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary. Later in the day, as visitors began to arrive, His Eminence Archbishop Antony led a memorial Paschal prayer service at the grave of His Beatitude Metropolitan John (Theodorovych) of Blessed Memory – who led our Church for over 42 years. The Vespers service of the evening concluded the spiritual activities of the day on the premises of St. Andrew cemetery.
On Sunday morning, April 11, 2010 the Divine Liturgy was served by Metropolitan Constantine, Archbishop Antony, Bishop Daniel. The bishops were assisted in celebrating the Liturgy in St. Andrew Memorial Church by the clergy from the Mid-Atlantic States surrounding New Jersey, and some from beyond that area! As the bells of St. Andrew Memorial Church rang, the bishops walked in a procession to the Memorial Church, an impressive monument commemorating the victims of the genocidal famine created by Josef Stalin and his Communist regime in Ukraine during 1932-1933. The choir of the Church, under the masterful direction of Michael Andrec, prayerfully sang the responses to the Divine Liturgy, as well as the memorial service at the main cross of the cemetery.
A procession led by the altar servers and subdeacons, members of the Ukrainian American Veterans Association, all the clergy and the faithful made its way through the cemetery to the large ceremonial cross at the center. Here, a memorial service was conducted during which all those interred in St. Andrew Cemetery and Mausoleum, all the hierarchs and clergy of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the members of the Fisher Family – original owners of the estate upon which our Metropolia Center is located – were commemorated. Also, especially remembered were the ten million victims of Stalin’s genocidal famine, the millions of victims of the Soviet repressions in Ukraine, the victims of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster and all those who gave their lives for the freedom and independence of Ukraine and the United States of America. The special prayers were offered this year of the victims of the West Virginia mine disaster as well as for the victims of the horrific disaster, which touched the lives of the president of Poland, members of his government and leaders of Poland’s religious communities – in particular, Bishop Myron of the Polish Orthodox Church, which is composed primarily of Ukrainians and Bylo-Russians.
Following the prayer service at the main cross of the cemetery, the hierarchs, clergy and the faithful proceeded to Holy Resurrection Ukrainian Orthodox Mausoleum, the first Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine, His Holiness Patriarch Mstyslav I is interred. In conclusion, the bishops prayed at the monuments of Metropolitan Vasyl Lypkivsky, the United Ukrainian Orthodox Sisterhoods monument commemorating the women and children victims of the genocidal famine in Ukraine and at the graves the eleven other hierarchs interred in St. Andrew Cemetery, as well as at the graves of individuals who have been very generous to our Holy Church in the funding of various projects or ministry programs. Memorials continued throughout the week following St. Thomas Sunday at the graves of individuals who have remembered their Church in their last wills and testaments.
The pilgrims to the spiritual center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, spent the rest of the day visiting the graves of their loved ones – family members, friends, political leaders or spiritual fathers who repose in the cemetery.
In the early hours of Sunday afternoon, His Eminence Archbishop Antony and His Grace Bishop Daniel participated in the dedication service of a piece of land that the Church has provided for the construction of a monument, dedicated to the memory of numerous Ukrainian American Veterans, who have served in the armed forces o the USA – both the living and the departed. With the wind blowing through the flags in the hands of the veterans, the bishops recited the prayers of dedication, recalling the ultimate sacrifice that the men and women of Ukrainian descent made for our United States of America. His Eminence Archbishop Antony expressed the gratitude of all Americans to the UAV members present for the blessing. Funds are currently being collected for construction of the monument and for an endowment to maintain it for generations to come.
Being at the spiritual heart of the UOC of the USA, the pilgrims had an opportunity to visit numerous sites of the Metropolia Center that remained opened through out the day – the historical Fisher Home, the Mausoleum, the Consistory, St. Sophia Seminary, the UOC/St. Sophia Seminary Library, St. Andrew Bookstore, the Ukrainian Cultural Center and the UOC of USA Museum.
The Ukrainian Cultural Center was the site where dozens of vendors who return every year to offer a wide range of Ukrainian cultural artifacts like pysanky, original oil paintings, ceramics, jewelry, ecclesiastical vestments and vessels, music CD’s and videos. Several of the Offices of Ministry and Central Organizations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA – the Offices of Youth and Adult Ministry, Public Relations, Development, All Saints Camp, the United Ukrainian Orthodox Sisterhoods and St. Andrew Society – offered exhibits about their ministry in our communities, also in the Cultural Center.
In addition, Ukrainian Cultural Center was the site of an ice cream social event hosted by the Consistory Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry (OYYAM), under the leadership of Natalie Kapeluck-Nixon, for the youth that came to visit St. Andrew Center. This was an opportunity for our youth to meet with the hierarchs of the Church. All three bishops of the Church: Metropolitan Constantine, Archbishop Antony and Bishop Daniel spent some time with children and distributed the Resurrection icon prints to the youth. The OYYAM also had a tent set up on the grounds of the cultural center for youth activities – where faces, arms and hands were painted, games were played and much information was distributed on our Church camping and youth ministry programs.
As in the previous years, this annual pilgrimage brought Ukrainians of four if not five generations together to share together their past, present and looking forward to the future. Spiritual pilgrimages and community events like this one are so crucial and greatly benefit our Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian community.
Much gratitude is expressed to all those who made the weekend the success it has always been: the Consistory Office staff members and property management staff under the direction of Emil Skocypec, the Cultural Center staff, Memorial Church choir and the members of the Ukrainian Orthodox League who handled the sometimes difficult parking program.