UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Sts Peter & Paul Parish in Youngstown Celebrates 90 Blessed Years
Some ninety years ago, out of small house-church gatherings, Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Youngstown, OH was founded and incorporated. This movement took hold and property was purchased on the West Side. A wooden church and hall were quickly outgrown and more properties were purchased, a cemetery established leading to the magnificent church structure, the Ukrainian Orthodox Center and Pavilion that exist today. In all this the strength and pious determination of the growing number of parishioners accomplished much. The St. Mary’s Sisterhood through pyrohy sales accomplished the constructing of buildings which were proudly paid off. Ukrainian school, weekly dances in the Pavilion and a close-knit spirit of working together characterized this burgeoning parish. Always interested in choral excellence, the parish was blessed with the efforts of Frs. Musichuk, Hallick, Fr. Deacon Weselosky and currently Fr. Becker. Today’s choir under direction of Fr. Gregory Becker has an unbelievably wide repertoire that covers many styles and the quality of the singing is famed.
The golden age with a packed church seeing a liturgy each Sunday in Ukrainian and also in English would not last. The burgeoning industrial strength of the Mahoning Valley would quickly evaporate in the 1960s as Youngstown area experienced the reality of the Rust Belt. Population was halved and the parish saw a steady decline as youth and faithful members sought work elsewhere. Despite the challenges of new social and demographic realities, this parish works to be a vibrant, self-sustaining Eucharistic community, welcoming to outsiders of whatever origin, yet being sensitive to preserve elements of its Ukrainian roots.
Again trusting in the Lord, Sts. Peter and Paul parish has had to adapt to e new mindset so as to survive and find a new self-sustaining niche for life into the 21st century. Stewardship is the new viewpoint, though it is an ancient Biblical concept. A Brotherhood has been established to put the principles of stewardship and giving of self to solve practical parish needs. Throughout most of its history the Ukrainian Orthodox League, in both Senior and Junior Chapters has taken a leadership role mounting many projects for the benefit of parish and the diocese as a whole. Working with diocesan camping programs and holding memorable UOL Conventions, local members have distinguished themselves in service to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Our pastors, streaming from the early pioneer itinerant clergy poured out their lives for the local community. Among the list of distinguished priests, the long service of Fr. William Olynyk and his Pani Matka for roughly a quarter of a century helped to bring this parish to a level of spiritual maturity and integration into the common life of other Orthodox parishes in the Mahoning Valley.
With such a rich heritage spanning ninety years, the question arose about how this ongoing spiritual life could be best chronicled and celebrated in a fitting manner. A 90th Anniversary Committee was formed and Walter Duzzny took the awesome responsibility of heading it, utilizing the resources and strengths of many parishioners who volunteered to mount a gala and memorable 90th birthday party.. Dr. Joseph Malys has headed a sub-committee which through the work of a videographer is producing a DVD that will chronicle our history, noting poignant vignettes of parishioners over the years. Significant artifacts about our long history including the reality of our present life should result in a cogent summation of the reality of Sts. Peter and Paul parish. The production of this DVD is eagerly awaited.
A Commemorative Book has been produced, but it will not be released for awhile yet as the events of Bishop Daniel’s visitation, the pictures from our 90th gala and the time capsule burial were to be included so that this will become a cherished keepsake for years to come. The Time capsule, buried behind the Veterans monument in front of our Cemetery Chapel will be opened in some twenty five years. Artifacts and photographs reflecting the reality of our parish life and personalities circa 2014 are all included as capsule contents. Personal messages and photos will make for interest at the future opening. Fr. Becker designed the enameled lapel pin picturing out sainted patrons Sts. Peter and Paul. This was distributed to the participants in our festal celebration so that they can wear it with pride and have a precious keepsake of this once in a lifetime event.
September 13th and 14th, 2014 were the dates selected for our gala celebration. Our own beloved hierarch, Bishop Daniel, would preside over both days. This is most fitting, for the bishop is the Father of his flock and what better time to be with your spiritual children than a family event marking 90 years of blessed existence. At 4:00 PM, Bishop Daniel presided over Great Vespers, with Fr. John Harvey and six other priests gathered about the altar. The altar being the centerpiece and spiritual heart of parish life saw participation of local clergy and priests of the Penn-Ohio Deanery. Following the beautiful evening service sung by our accomplished choir, all processed to our Center for cocktails and a luscious array of appetizers. The banquet hall was decorated by tall vases with yellow flowers, wheat sheaves and ribbons making a lovely display. Yvonne Mark and her crew decorated here and the ball room above for a special ambience. Reservations had been held for 175 people and a lovely banquet indeed was served. Our own Martha Woloschak baked a tower of wondrous cakes to fittingly celebrate the occasion. When all had enjoyed the banquet to the fullest, we went upstairs to the ball room. Children in Ukrainian costume flanked the bishop and greeted him with the ritual welcoming greeting of bread and salt. The Youngstown area youth dancers, which include a number of our youth, gave a stupendous performance, to the elation of Bishop Daniel. All are so proud of this local troop, so representative of both our Orthodox and catholic communities, which become ever more polished as time goes on. The Harmonia Ensemble of Cleveland provided the music for dancing and listening pleasure the rest of the evening. The feedback was that the band was great not only with Ukrainian favorites, but with a wide variety from Besame mucho to tangos.
Sunday morning saw the spiritual center of our celebration in thanks to Almighty God for being overshadowed by His Providence and having 90 years of blessings. Bishop Daniel arrived in tow with three seminarians and our own servers Subdeacon Joe Novicky and Jeffrey Senediak. They were greeted at the church entrance by Council President Joseph Ewanish with lovely two-toned roses bestowed by his wife Betty. Fr. John Harvey presented the cross and gave his greeting, which noted the 90th anniversary, but added that with the hierarchs nurturing, that the parish should exist until the end of time. His Grace vested solemnly in the center of the church with the choir singing the vesting prayers. The Liturgy continued and at times, as this was also the Altar Servers Reunion, the men came into the altar and stood reverently. At the little entrance, the pastor, Fr. John Harvey, was presented with the right to wear the mitre at the behest of the Council of Bishops. It was noted that Fr. John had been Rector of our St. Sophia seminary and has just completed forty years of faithful service as a priest in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Bishop Daniel always gives very pastoral sermons, walking up and down the aisle for close personal contact. In exhorting the people on this occasion not just to exist, but to reach out in Christian service to others doing volunteer work. Little did he know that the mayor was present and impressed with such a message, or that our parish would conduct a free community picnic dinner a week later. With the group of men surrounding the altar was a shy young boy not yet an altar server, Zenin Walkowiec. During the Anaphora prayers, Bishop Daniel took a few moments to catechize the young boy on the Body and Blood of Christ present there on the altar. All were impressed about this unprecedented personal pastoral message to a young lad. The majority of the congregation came to Communion, which the hierarch had noted was a most fitting way to celebrate 90 years of vibrant spiritual life.
The denouement of the celebration came after the Liturgy. A delicious Brunch was held and our choir not only sang the Our Father, but entertained us with a folk song. The program was short with a brief address by the bishop and then the 90th anniversary chairman, Walter Duzzny, gave a summation of our parish history with thanks to those who helped to make this celebration a success as well as mounting major events such as our participation in the Slavic Fest.
Our beloved Bishop Daniel and the three seminarians bade us good-bye and our gala celebration was at an end. We all continue to bask in the warm afterglow of a memorable parish family event.
Photos by Subdeacon Volodymyr Sukanets