UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Annual Celebration of Ukrainian Independence Day - a Family Affair at Metropolia Center, South Bound Brook/Somerset, NJ
Parishioners and visitors of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church, joined by hundreds of visitors to the Spiritual Center - Metropolia of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, prayerfully marked the 25th Anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence (24 August, 1991) on Sunday, August 21, 2016.
As preparations began for this year’s 25th anniversary of independence, with the blessing of the hierarchs of the UOC of the USA, Natalia Honcharenko-Andrec – Director of the Consistory Office of Cultural Affairs joined by Dobrodiyka Lesia Siwko – President of Pokrova Sisterhood of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church (South Bound Brook, NJ) prepared a special celebratory program in honor of Ukraine’s Independence on the grounds of St. Andrew Memorial Church, a place known by so many Ukrainian-Americans as a jewel of Ukrainian Orthodoxy in the US.
This year’s celebration began with Divine Liturgy in the Memorial Church served by First Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA - His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and His Grace Bishop Daniel, assisted by V. Rev. Fr. Yurij Siwko, pastor of St. Andrew Memorial Church and Very Rev. Fr. John Lyszyk. The parish choir under the direction of Dr. Michael Andrec beautifully sang the beautiful and traditional Ukrainian liturgical compositions that always remind the faithful of where their roots are and the beauty that the Ukrainian Orthodox religious experience brings to the life of the world, wherever it is shared.
During the Liturgy, Bishop Daniel chanted a Prayer for Ukraine, calling upon the Venerable Saints of Kyiv Rus-Ukraine to be the intercessors in front of the Lord for the ancestral homeland of Ukraine. Numerous faithful and children that prepared themselves for the Most Holy Eucharist approached the chalice with faith and hope for the healing of various spiritual and physical ailments.
Following the Liturgy, Vladyka Daniel spoke about the call of each person to be the reflection of Divine Grace in our relationship with the world around us. The bishop mentioned that due to the generosity of many parishioners of St. Andrew Memorial Church, over 40 icons were commissioned and written in Ukraine (by iconographer Olha Yatsyshyn) and delivered to the United States of America in order to bring spiritual edification for the parishioners and visitors of St. Andrew Memorial Church. At the conclusion of the archpastoral reflection, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel blessed the newly written icons that will be permanently located at the UOC of the USA St. Andrew Memorial Church in South Bound Brook, NJ.
His Grace then asked the children in attendance to come to the middle of the church and carrying a flag of Ukraine, the bishop presented it to the children and following the procession with all 45 icons and the flag, the clergy and faithful approached the flagpole near the Monument of St. Ol’ha Baptizer of Ukraine. Once everyone was gathered, the entire community sang the spiritual Ukrainian Anthem – Bozhe Velykyj Yedynyj. As the final stanzas of the song were sung 25 white Doves of peace were released and flew rapidly into the sky in a remarkable local declaration of our Ukrainian Independence, praying the Almighty God that a true peace will come to Ukraine, torn by foreign aggression and economic difficulties.
The celebration continued on the grounds of the Pokrova Sisterhood social center located between the Memorial Church and the Fisher House and the Holy Transfiguration Chapel. The sisterhood members, along with many of their husbands, had prepared a wonderful meal, which was served outdoors and the faithful sat at tables or on the lawn with family members and friends to enjoy the fellowship of the celebration.
The concert took place on an outdoor stage constructed directly in the area where the picnic tables were placed. Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel offered a prayer to God Almighty for the Ukrainian nation, beseeching protection for the Ukrainian State and Nation. The State is the political and geographical entity. The Nation is the Ukrainian people who have survived as that nation – a specific identity - even in the face of great challenges throughout its history. Khrystyna Makhno opened the concert singing both the USA and Ukrainian National Anthems to an appreciative audience and later in the program sang several popular and patriotic Ukrainian songs that emphasized the purpose of the day’s events.
Also participating in the concert were the Barvinok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, directed by Grygory Momot. The ensemble is part of our Metropolia Center and has held all of its practices and rehearsals in either the sisterhood center or the Ukrainian Cultural Center for the past ten years.
Among other performers were Malvy Dance Ensemble, Jersey City, Ss. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church; Marta Galagoza, singer, 16 years old, who attends St. Andrew Ukrainian School, Somerset, NJ; Bohdan Sawchuk, singer-songwriter, sang four of his own compositions accompanied on guitar; and Hryhorih Bobol, singer and parishioner of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral from New York City, NY.
A photo booth – Ukrainian House – was built (by Rev. Fr. Vasyl Pasakas and decorated by Dobrodijka Oksana Pasakas) and stationed on the premises of the Metropolia Center for people in attendance to pose for traditional Ukrainian themed photos. Others had a chance to participate in the lottery draw, winning and sharing the fun of fellowship.
The celebration of the 25th anniversary of Ukrainian Independence Day at our Metropolia Center was an event filled with joy and fellowship. Throughout the day cars full of people continued to arrive and join those already present. It was estimated that considering the weather prognosis, over 500 people participated in the festivities. Especially noteworthy was the number of children present and participating in the concert – either the official concert – or the “non-official” dance concert presented by all the young children who “performed” on stage throughout the afternoon.
Annual Ukrainian Independence Day Celebration - 08/23/16
Photos by Seminarian Hryhorii Matviiv