UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Bishop DANIEL visits St. Anthony of the Desert Mission, Las Cruces, New Mexico
His Grace Bishop DANIEL, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, accompanied by Seminarian Ihor Protsak of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary (South Bound Brook, NJ), visited St. Anthony of the Desert Ukrainian Orthodox Mission in Las Cruces, New Mexico on the weekend of June 19-21, 2015.
The mission began in 2007 under the leadership of Father Gabriel Rochelle, Pani Susan Steinhaus, and two initial members. The mission has undergone changes all churches experience in a mobile society and in 2014 suffered a high loss of members to mobility, retirement, and job changes. St. Anthony of the Desert remains, however, strong with a current membership of 32 adults and 10 children. Four new members were Chrismated at Pascha 2015, and several catechumens are progressing toward full membership.
His Grace arrived on Friday evening and had an opportunity to visit with Fr. Gabriel and Pani Susan, learning about the pastoral successes of the mission. On Saturday morning Vladyka Daniel met with a dozen parishioners, including members of the parish council, at an informal gathering over coffee and cakes at the home of parishioner Elizabeth Davies, parish treasurer. Discussion on strategy for the growth of the parish was exceedingly fruitful, according to those who attended, and several ideas for new initiatives arose during that time.
Bishop DANIEL subsequently met with new members and interested seekers at 3:30 PM and invited them to tell the story of their journey to Orthodoxy, sharing some of his journey as well. It must be noted that it has become a pious tradition that during the annual Archpastoral visits Bishop Daniel meets with new members and catechumens of the mission.
Fr. Gabriel served Great Vespers at 5:00 PM, with Bishop DANIEL delivering comments at the conclusion of the service. A festive potluck supper followed at which Bishop DANIEL explained in detail the work of our Church in Ukraine and in some other missions in the United States, including our All Saints Camp ministry, Youth Ministry and nemerous outreach projects of the Church.
On Sunday at the Divine Liturgy for the Third Sunday of Pentecost, Fr. Gabriel, Mr. Hugh Chappelle, council president, and Ms. Katie Griebel formally greeted the eparchial bishop to the parish. Ms. Griebel presented His Grace with a beautiful festive loaf of bread honoring his visit, and the Bishop joyously aspersed the congregation as he entered.
Bishop DANIEL presided at the liturgy, assisted by Fr. Gabriel and Deacon David Mascarenas, with Seminarian Ihor Protsak as server. His Grace’s sermon touched on the importance of fatherhood as a channel by which God’s grace touches families, and upon the centrality of Fatherhood in Jesus’s own relationship with God, concluding with a strong call for all of us to exercise our gifts and roles as a means to express God’s love to others. The Liturgy was well attended by over thirty people.
During the Divine Liturgy, Bishop DANIEL shared with the congregation the decision of the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and awarded Fr. Gabriel with the award of a gold cross and elevation to rank of Protopriest.
Following the Liturgy the congregation enjoyed a festive potluck lunch. Bishop DANIEL’s official visit concluded with dinner on Sunday Evening with members of the church council and spouses at a local restaurant.
The members and friends and catechumens of St. Anthony of the Desert Mission were deeply grateful for this year’s archpastoral visitation and look forward to another year of service to parish and community as we contemplate and act upon our Bishop’s charge to us.