UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
20th Anniversary of Priestly Service – a Priest’s Son Reflection
By Subdeacon Michael Siwko
Responsibility, thinking & understanding are characteristics that young children mostly do not have, rightfully so because at this time in life a child should be learning about the world not worrying about it. When I was eight years of age my family and I moved to New Jersey from Ohio, I didn’t know why but was told that my father had a new parish. So we arrived in South Bound Brook, N.J. to a new parish, home and people. One thing is certain, kids make friends easy because they fear very little and are curious, so it was an easy change in my life. The one thing that had bothered me was missing my family and friends back in Ohio. Years went by, I met a lot of great people along the way from Ukrainian School and seminarians from Brazil and in the present years from Ukraine. I still remember to this day going to the All Saint Camp and seeing the Brazilian seminarians dressed up in Ukrainian clothing for a play and all of us laughing. The years were great when I was a child and still are now, but as the years pass we gain appreciation and respect for those that had hard times in order for us to have a childhood.
Looking back, answers to questions and experiences in my life were answered. The reasoning for why my father left a parish and took us to New Jersey and the choice he had to make after 9 years of serving there to leave. Simple things that most families enjoy are weekend getaways that I never really got to experience and complained about as a young boy. Not understanding, I just wanted what my friends had. These are a true few things my father and mother had to deal with from the mouth of a child. Those choices in life as a priest and father couldn’t have been easy. My brother and I used to joke around that the life of a priest cannot be too hard because it is no 9-5 job. We were partially correct, it is not a 9-5 job. It is not a job you leave mid day and come back to the next morning. I cannot say it is even a job, a priest; has harder times doing family activities, never is off the clock thus never has a regular schedule and carries a burden only few can understand. So it is not a job, but a way of life.
On Sunday, August 16, 2015 the entire parish family of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church in South Bound Brook, NJ gathered for a prayer service – Divine Liturgy – The Holy Eucharist – The Thanksgiving service for the years of pastoral service of my father – Very Rev. Fr. Yuriy Siwko. Children with flowers and people with gentle smiles and works of greetings approached the hierarchs of our Church who arrived to St. Andrew’s Memorial Church in order to preside over the anniversary celebrations. Bishop Daniel preached a sermon, reflecting on a sacred responsibility of service and forgiveness; while Metropolitan Antony spoke of the service of Fr. Yuriy in the life of the UOC of the USA. The choir of St. Andrew Memorial Church (under the leadership of Mr. Michael Andrec) led the chanting of the liturgical service. At the end of the service the Council of Bishops of the Church awarded Fr. Yuriy a Blessed Certificate with the honorable medallion for the many dedicated years of service in Christ’s Vineyard.
At St. Andrew’s (Pokrova Sisterhood) hall some 180 people attended my father’s 20th year anniversary banquet. I want to thank Metropolitan Anthony and Bishop Daniel for you prayers this past Sunday and guiding my father throughout the years. I also want to thank the Saint Mary’s Sisterhood and their families for their great job, and all the priests & parish members that came. To quote my fathers closing statement on the day of celebration, “Thank you for coming together once again as one family and to continue on doing so.” Most importantly, I want to thank my father. Thank you for 33 years of priesthood and being a role model and father. I am incredibly proud of you and pray that God grants you many more years of Priesthood.