On June 7th, 2015 in St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Parish, Johnson City NY – a fresh and sunny morning – many events took place that have enriched the Parish Family. During the sermon Metropolitan Antony shared what he read daily on signs on the driveway of one of the local churches of Hammond, IN where he served before his consecration: “Enter to worship” at the entrance and on the exit sign - “Exit to serve”. The Metropolitan compared the message there to the first Christians were very conscious of gathering together for prayerful service and then scattering for missionary work. This makes great imagery example for our parish as well.
Visit of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony
His Eminence Metropolitan Antony accompanied by six seminarians (Subdeacon Ivan Chopko, Subdeacon Volodymyr Yavorskyi, Taras Kaluzhnyy, Ihor Protsak, Yurii Bobko, Tadei Surak ) from St. Sophia Seminary came to the church and was greeted by Parish Council President – Brian Baxendale with “karavay” (bread) and salt. Next came Jr. UOL President – Julie Ferrante and welcomed metropolitan with beautiful bouquet of flowers. Deacon Philip Harendza and Fr. Ivan Synevskyy were waiting patiently for their opportunity to greet and welcome Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church the USA. The choir under the direction of Melodye Onysko melodiously and with great enthusiasm filled the church with their beautiful hymns and praises during the service.
With so much help from seminarians and the parish altar servers, the vesting of Vladyka Antony in the church took place.
Metropolitan Antony did not leave us without his inspirational and guiding sermon.
“Jesus Christ is at the center of everything in the life of our Church. The Church is not primarily a place to go in order to know about Jesus. The Church primarily is the community of persons who know him already in the uniquely intimate way. And from the very beginning the Christian community believed that the living spirit of Christ was present in the community. Our Lord himself said: 'Where there are two or three gathered together in my name – there I am in the midst of them.' That's what St. Paul means when he speaks about the body of Christ: 'The Body – the community which contains the living Spirit of Christ.' That is what you are my dearly beloved – the parish family of St. John the Baptist – a community, which has Christ walking in the midst of you all the times. Again, being part of the Christ-centered community means not only knowing about Jesus but also, and primarily, it means knowing Him as the living presence, not as the Son of God out there somewhere – having risen from the dead and ascended into Haven.
As He was ascending He said: 'I do not leave you as orphans, for I am always with you, I'll always strengthen you.' That's what the Church is all about. That's why the Church exists. Everything else grows out of that fact that Christ is primarily with us. All the functions of the Church, the good deeds, the charities, the education, and even in parishes that have some rehabilitation programs, daycare centers, seniors activities and other social activities – all these things take their meaning only, only, my dearly beloved, in relationship to the church's primary function of centering on Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.”
Following the service His Eminence greeted and blessed Fr. Ivan Synevskyy on his 5th anniversary to the Priesthood followed by “Many years” hymn from the choir. On behalf St. John Parish Family Fr. Ivan presented metropolitan with an icon of St. John the Baptist written by iconographer Michael Kapeluck to recognize 30th Anniversary of Consecration of Metropolitan Antony to the Episcopal Throne (Oct. 6, 1985). The life of St. John the Baptist has made very special influence on the Metropolitan as he was growing up.
After the veneration of the cross, everyone gathered at the Memorial Center for the festal luncheon and continuation of the program. Julieanne Marra, St. Mary's Sisterhood President, with her hardworking crew organized tasty lunch that everyone enjoyed.
Celebration of 5th Anniversary of Ordination to the Holy Priesthood of Fr. Ivan.
As people were enjoying tasty food and socializing, Brian Baxendale, on behalf of the parish greeted Fr. Ivan with his 5th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood and presented him with an icon of St. John the Baptist, also written by Michael Kapeluck. The priest accepted the icon with much joy as St. John the Forerunner is also his patron saint.
Julie Marra came then to present white embroidered vestments from Ukraine to out pastor. Gold embroidered vine branches on the vestment are almost matching to the design on the iconostas. To this set of white vestment the sisterhood also presented black silk cassock.
The sisterhood not only showered Fr. Ivan with gifts but also presented two more sets of embroidered vestments, blue and red to the church. One more gift was awaiting for our Church’s Ukrainian Historical and Educational Center that Julie Marra presented to Vladyka Antony in the amount of $1000. Fr. Ivan thanked everyone for the great gifts and wishes and very special lunch.
Recognition of all Parish Council Presidents
Through the efforts of Museum Committee a plaque with the names of Parish Council Presidents and years of service was presented by Dr. Peter Hatala. Next, Fr. Ivan and Metropolitan Antony were greeting and presenting Blessed Certificates and copy of the plaque to the following presidents: William Klish (20 years), Nicholas Tarcha Sr. (3 years), Harry Charnetsky Jr. (2 years), John Lewkowicz (3 years), Eugene Klym (3 years), William Scannell (2 years), Robert Onysko (6 years), Alfred Gorick (2 years), Stephan Wasylko (2 years) and Brian Baxendale (3 years – current president).
Parish then offered moment of silence and hymn “Memory Eternal” for those presidents who are no longer with us: Michael Pickney, Stephen Haluska, Harry Kuzemka, Nick Ther, Harry Charnetsky Sr., Andrew Malyviacky, Michael Dobransky, William Baranyk, Theodor Klish, John Kulik, John Evanchoff, John Rucky, Anne D. Petras, Scott Shirk. Their families came to receive the copy of the plaque.
Special attention was brought to Michael Dobransky during the service of which Memorial Center was built and who was president for 16 years. During the 20 years of service of William Klish the church and rectory were built. Among 24 presidents recognized there was only one woman Anne Petras whose special leadership and strong personality bring good memories.
Gifts for Orphanages in Ukraine
Helen Charnetsky presented 60 hand made girl's dresses that she made for the orphanages in Ukraine to Metropolitan Antony. The dresses were of different size and pattern. She constantly makes them and distributes to children in need during Christmas and Pascha seasons.
Farewell with Ivan and Lyudmyla Volynets
For the conclusion of the program of the day, the parish held farewell with a couple from Lugansk, Ukraine, Ivan and Lyudmyla Volynets that joined our parish family almost a year ago. Ivan and Lyudmyla fled from Lugansk just before it was taken by Russian separatists. Now their home destroyed and their city Stakhanov is now under control of Russian army. Here they have made many friends, have been actively involved in the parish life.
There were many people who by seeing the need came and helped Ivan and Lyudmyla without even being asked. One family, Lester and Beth Stockwell, just simply took them into their home and offered food and shelter for several months before they were able to have place to live. They brought them to our parish and we continued the support of Ivan and Lyudmyla by helping find an apartment, provide the furniture and first necessities. The parish established special fund to help Ivan and Lyudmyla and other people like them. To this fund not only parishioners contribute but also other people whose heart is soft with love to help people in need.
Ivan and Lyudmyla are very talented and gifted people. Whether it was making pyrohi or any other working session they were there and they did it with love. Everybody knows beautiful pyrohi of Lyudmyla and great strength of Ivan. Now, Ivan and Lyudmyla are going to reunite with their daughter Iryna who is in the military service in Colorado state.
As Fr. Ivan stated: “God showed our parish that there are other people who are in need, not only those who are parishioners. This helped us to open special ministry and to continue to help other people who are displaced, solders who are injured and families of solders who are without father, husband, son or brother.”