UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Meeting the Archpastoral Challenge at Protection of the Mother of God Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Southfield, MI!
By Elizabeth Symonenko
"They are alone and scared. Go and touch them. Go and bring them cheer and hope, for they are our neighbors and we are to love and care for them all." These are the words His Eminence Archbishop Antony, the Ruling Hierarch of the Eastern Eparchy and the President of the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA spoke at the 2010 Ukrainian Orthodox League Convention when referring to the elderly living in assisted living centers, elder care and nursing homes. His Eminence challenged each UOL chapter to visit the elderly.
Following His Eminence’s advice, the Junior U.O.L. Chapter from the Protection of the Mother of God Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Southfield, Michigan, did just that. The children baked cookies, packaged them in gift bags along with homemade greeting cards and visited a local assisted living facility – the Ukrainian Village in Warren, Michigan. Due to their young age the kids were rather worried about what to do or say. These worries melted away as they entered through the door and saw the assembled seniors waiting for them with huge smiles on their faces.
The children sang the Lord’s Prayer as some residents rose unsteadily to their feet, and others clasped their hands to their chests. The kids were than ushered to the common room, and over cups of apple cider each child had to fulfill their assignment of interviewing a resident. This worked as an excellent “ice breaker” as the kids did not have to worry about how to approach their chosen senior citizen and simply had to read the questions off the preprinted forms. Just as soon as the first question was asked the elderly became animated. Within seconds the room resonated with a joyful noise, as the resident’s eyes shown with tears, and their hands waved expressively in the air as they told stories about Ukraine, the War, their children, etc. In addition to the usual information, the children asked the resident’s about their lives, their fondest memories and what they would like St. Nicholas to bring them this year. Some children wrote too slowly, and their seniors gladly took the forms and filled them out themselves – as if they were helping the youngsters finish their homework assignment. Everyone was smiling and laughing.
All too soon it was time to leave. As the children got ready the elderly longingly held each little hand, patted a curly head, straightened a coat collar, tied a wayward scarf, all as if these were their own grandchildren going out into the cold.
As the children made their way to the lobby door, the residents trailed behind, waving and asking them to return. One man’s words touched every heart – “now that you know where we are, don’t forget us.” These poignant words brought to mind the story told by His Grace Bishop Daniel of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA about the patient lying in the hallway of a hospital, who grabbed his hand when he was passing and didn’t want to let go. These people are desperate for a human touch.
Each child has now “adopted” their senior citizen(s) and will be corresponding with them regularly. The chapter members reassured the residents that they would return each month for a visit. The residents promised to be waiting.