UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Ordination of Subdeacon Paul Cherkas to the Holy Deaconate
God is with us... in the midst of our struggles
It has been a bit over a year since we lost our church building to fire. When the Israelites wandered in the desert, the High Holy Place was in a tent; ours is on the stage in our parish hall. When the Israelites wandered in the desert, they were assured of God's plan for them by His Presence in the Fire and Wind; we are reminded by His Presence in the Holy Mysteries, and especially in the Eucharist.
Nonetheless, their time in the desert was hard and brought many temptations. Our trials pale in significance to theirs, but it is still hard. So much of our experience of God is tied to the sanctified space in which we worship; we know that God is with us wherever we gather in His Name, but there is a temptation for us to regard our Liturgy as something less than it could or should be. There are also temptations to complain about the pace of rebuilding, temptations for parishioners to doubt their leaders, and temptations for leaders to doubt themselves. The Evil One tries to work his way into these spiritual crevices and turn them into schisms. Your prayers have helped us keep the Evil One at bay and maintain our unity in Christ, but we are tired and the constant vigilance has taken its toll on all of us. It has been a long year, and the coming one promises even more of the same.
And so it is that in the midst of our trouble, God manifested Himself to us in an amazing way: on the 29th of December he sent His servant Antony, the Metropolitan of the UOC-USA and archpastor of our diocese and parish, to ordain one of the children of our parish, Sdn. Paul Cherkas to the diaconate.
About Deacon Paul Cherkas
Paul Cherkas was born into the community of St. Michael the Archangel. He served in the altar as a boy, and it was in that altar that that God first stirred within his heart a desire to serve Him in formal ministry. Paul had a chance to test that vocation as a Chaplain's Assistant in the rivers and jungles of Vietnam. That was a very difficult time for him and for this country. When he got back, “life happened”, and Paul put off his calling; but not his love of God.
Many priests helped him work his way back to the altar. Over the last few years, that movement really picked up. With the support of his wonderful wife, Mary Ann, Paul took on the formal duties of tonsured Reader in 2008 and as a subdeacon just a couple of years later. He graduated from the St. Stephen's program last year as Valedictorian. He was never just a “Sunday Subdeacon.” Even before his retirement earlier this year, Paul spent many extra hours each week in service to our community. For instance, he created a youth ministry to shut-ins, taught the parish pre-marriage course, helped teach our children and youth, is a regular part of the kitchen work team, and generally finds ways to help every chance he gets.
The beauty of the ordination
His Eminence, Metropolitan Antony came to Rhode Island on Saturday, December 28th. That afternoon, the parish board briefed him about the progress on rebuilding during a working dinner hosted and arranged by board member and former board president, Cindy Charest. That was followed by the Vigil service and a reception at the parish rectory.
The Hierarchical Liturgy on Sunday set records. The hall was packed with parishioners and the friends and family of the diaconal candidate. The altar was also packed: in addition to the parish priest, Fr. Anthony Perkins and his regular servers, Subdeacon Joshua Bourgery and Adam Teper, were the two seminarians who are staying with the parish over the Nativity break, Eduardo Mourov Gongalves and Volodymyr Yavorskyi, and FIVE VISITING DEACONS; Hieromonk Vasyl from St. Andrew's in Boston, Deacon Tony Szwez from St. Mary's in New Britain, Deacon James Cairns from St Demetrius' in Carteret, Deacon John Charest from Sts. Peter and Paul in Palos Park, and Deacon Philip Harendza from St. John's in Johnson City. His Eminence, Antony, was so affected by the presence of all these deacons that he said he felt “like the Patriarch of Woonsocket!”
The beauty of the service was further augmented by the wonderful performance of the parish choir under the direction of Donna Eichorn. Not a week goes by when we do not thank God for the strength of our music ministry! Reader Nicholas Perkins, who was home for a couple of weeks for Christmas break, chanted the Epistle as beautifully as any had ever heard.
After the service, we reconvened at a nearby restaurant for the reception. During the next few days, Deacon Paul began applying his theoretical knowledge of diaconal rubrics by serving Divine Liturgy with Fr. Anthony every morning. This included two mornings at local nursing homes where parishioners reside. This was a perfect blending of Deacon Paul's service to the sick and shut-ins with his new liturgical duties and, like his ordination, it brought a great deal of joy to all those involved.
May God grant to his newly ordained deacon, Paul and to his wife, Pani Matka Mary Ann: peace, health, happiness, and the strength to serve for MANY BLESSED YEARS!