UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
2012 St. Thomas Sunday Pilgrimage-Provody!
It has become known as the St. Thomas Sunday or Provody Pilgrimage during which we gather at the gravesites of our loved ones to share in prayerful unity with them the joy of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As the early morning sunlight shed upon the center on Saturday, April 21, 2012, the first pilgrims started to arrive in order to avoid the rain that was predicted by the weathermen. At least on Saturday, the forecasts were wrong. It was a beautiful day when one could hear the pilgrims greeting each other – and their loved ones – with the glorious: “Christ is Risen! Khrystos Voskres!”
St. Andrew Memorial Church was a place of quiet reflection and prayer this weekend. St. Andrew Cemetery, which is located behind the Church, was a place of spiritual reunions for many visitors. Hundreds of people visited Holy Resurrection Mausoleum, wherein lies the crypt of His Holiness Patriarch Mstyslav.
On Saturday, April 21, 2012, His Grace Bishop Daniel, the Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA presided over the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom at St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church, calling upon the pilgrims to share the joy of Pascha with each other and the loved ones that are buried at St. Andrew Memorial Cemetery. Later, the bishop dedicated a portion of his sermon to our relationships with each other in the boundaries of a Christian family that are spiritually resurrected with Christ on the glorious day of Pascha.
As the early evening hours approached, the seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary hosted over 60 visitors at the Seminary for a barbeque and seminary tour, which was sponsored by the Seminary and organized by the Ukrainian Orthodox League. The tour of the Seminary was led by His Grace Bishop Daniel who shared a story of the one hundred forty year-old building, which was obtained by the Church in order to establish a Theological Seminary in 1972. As the evening concluded, the many of the seminary visitors challenged the seminarians to a few games of bowling where a good time was had by all.
All three hierarchs of the UOC of the USA lead the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning. His Beatitude Metropolitan Constantine, His Eminence Archbishop Antony and His Grace Bishop Daniel were greeted by the faithful at St. Andrew the First-Called Memorial Church, built in memory of the victims of the Genocidal Famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine. The children of St. Andrew Ukrainian School welcomed the hierarchs with flowers and smiles, while the local Sisterhood of Pokrova of the Mother of God presented the bishops with the traditional bread and salt, asking for their prayers. Very Rev. Yuriy Siwko, accompanied by clergy of the Church from around the country, greeted the hierarchs and asked for their continued prayers for both the living and the reposed – those interred in St. Andrew Cemetery and Holy Resurrection Mausoleum and throughout the world..
As the Divine Liturgy progressed, Metropolitan Constantine and Bishop Daniel delivered short sermons in Ukrainian and English languages, calling their spiritual flock to seek reconciliation, peace and love with each other. “The time has come to uproot the divisions, whatever they might be, and come close to the empty Tomb of Christ and be penetrated by the Brightness of His mercy, compassion and sacrificial love. The time has come to cease being ‘doubting’ Thomas’s and to believe in Him as ‘our Lord and our God.’”
Heavy rains prohibited the traditional procession to the Cemetery Cross, but a Memorial service was conducted in the Church for the victims of the man-made Famine that destroyed over ten million innocent men women and children, for the victims of Chornobyl Nuclear Disaster, for the victims of the terrorist attack upon the US in 2001, the fallen soldiers of the US Armed Forces that perished in Iraq and Afghanistan, the children of the orphanages in Ukraine that lost their lives throughout the years of existence of those institutions, as well as for all of the forefathers that lost their lives in the fight for the freedom and independence of Ukraine and the United States of America.
The clergy and faithful then proceeded to Holy Resurrection Mausoleum where in the crypt of His Holiness, the first Patriarch of Kyiv and All Ukraine, Mstyslav I, a Memorial Service was offered for the Patriarch and spiritual father of millions of Ukrainian Orthodox faithful and all the hierarchs and clergy who have served the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora. The pilgrims spent the rest of the day visiting the graves of their loved ones, friends, political leaders or spiritual fathers who repose in the cemetery.
As it has for over nearly 60 years, the St. Thomas Pilgrimage provided an opportunity for the faithful and visitors to partake in the day-to-day life of the National Headquarters of the UOC of the USA, known as a the “Ukrainian Jerusalem” not only here in the USA, but far beyond the borders of our country, including Ukraine.
Many vendors offered a wide range of Ukrainian cultural artifacts like pysanky, original oil paintings, ceramics, jewelry, ecclesiastical vestments and vessels, music CD’s and videos to name a few in a large tent that was erected on the grounds of the Center. Some of the Consistory Offices of Ministry and central organizations of the UOC of the USA offered exhibits about their ministries in our communities: The Offices of Youth and Adult Ministry, Public Relations, Publications, the Ukrainian Orthodox League, the United Ukrainian Orthodox Sisterhoods and St. Andrew Society.
The big tent was also a site for a youth ice cream social hosted by the Consistory Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. This was an opportunity for our youth form all over the country to meet with our hierarchs. His Beatitude Metropolitan Constantine, His Eminence Archbishop Antony and His Grace Bishop Daniel spent time with the children and shared the joy and the smiles on their faces as they enjoyed their ice cream.
As in the past, this annual pilgrimage has seen many generations of Ukrainian immigrations visiting the Metropolia Center. The new wave of immigrants from Ukraine joined long time residents and the generations already born in the USA bringing a sense of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. It is so moving to witness an older person telling a young child about the deceased members of their family and their background and roots while standing at the place of repose for their loved ones. It is moving to see that younger generations are readily fulfilling their responsibility in carrying on family and national spiritual traditions. Spiritual pilgrimages and community events like this one are so crucial to each of us personally as well as to the Ukrainian community as a whole.