Seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary Ordained to the Priesthood and Deaconate of the Church
Seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary Ordained to the Priesthood and Deaconate of the Church

In the presence of twelve priest and three deacons and about 150 parishioners and guests of Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Wilmington, DE, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel ordained Deacon Oleh Kravchenko to the Holy Priesthood and Subdeacon Timothy Kelleher to the Deaconate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA on the feast day of St. Tychon of Amathus, June 29, 2019.

At exactly 15 minutes to 10am, Archbishop Daniel entered the sacred temple of Sts Peter and Paul parish family in Wilmington, DE. Welcoming the hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA were the representatives of the parish board of administration and Senior UOL Chapter as well as the members of the parish’s sisterhood.

Very Rev.Fr. Stephen Hutnick, and the visiting clergy – Very Rev. Fr. Myron Oryhon, acting pastor of the Dormition of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Northampton, PA; Very Rev. Fr. Anthony Perkins, pastor of the Protection of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Allentown, PA; Very Rev. Fr. Orest Poukhalsky, pastor of Sts Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Glen Spey, NY; Very Rev. Fr. Taras Naumenko, pastor of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia, PA; Very Rev. Fr. Vitaliy Pavlykivsky, pastor of All Saints Ukrainian Orthodx parish in New York, NY; Very Rev. Fr. Zinoviy Zharsky, pastor of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Trenton, NJ; Rev. Fr. Vasyl Pasakas, pastor of the Nativity of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox parish in North Plainfield, NJ; Rev. Fr. Vasyl Shak of St. Panteleimon Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Brooklyn, NY; Very Rev. Fr. Demitrios Nikoloudakis of the Greek Orthodox parish community in Reading, PA; Deacons Michael Abrahamson and Paul Cherkas of Holy Archangel Michael Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Woonsocket, RI, welcomed the Archbishop at the entrance to the church and asked for his prayers, as two seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary: Deacon Oleh Kravchenko and Subdeacon Timothy Kelleher, were preparing to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit through the Holy Mystery of Priesthood.

Prior to the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, Reader Timothy was set aside as Subdeacon, thus making final preparation on the path of ordination to the Deaconate.

During the Small Entrance of the Liturgy, Archbishop Daniel awarded Rev. Fr. Vasyl Pasakas (pastor of the Nativity of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox parish in South Palinfield, NJ) with the ecclesiastical award of kamilavka, thus recognizing his sacrificial service in the life of the UOC of the USA, as personal assistant to the President of the Consistory and Dean of Students of St. Sophia Seminary.

Following the chanting of the Gospel reading, Archbishop Daniel deliver a sermon, reflecting upon the qualifications of a candidate who prepares for the ordination to the Holy Priesthood. Vladyka Daniel stated:

“…As some of you know I like to cook. Usually Metropolitan Antony cooks American dishes and I am stuck with the Ukrainian flavors: varenyky, holubtsi, soups, etc. This time of year, when the weather gets fine, I like to fire up my grill and do some grilling and barbecuing. And I love to sit near the grill with a cold beverage and read cookbooks, of which I have many, “too many.”

Many of these grilling and barbecuing books contain recipes for a “secret sauce.” I have been noticing lately that the term “secret sauce” has migrated from its culinary context and is now being employed as a metaphor for that special something that makes things work properly.

So I started to wonder, “ What’s the secret sauce of ministry?” If I had to come up with a simple recipe for what makes ministry faithful and effective what would it be?

So here’s my recipe, which comes in two parts, which I hope you will take away with you today for your own ministry, whether lay or ordained.

  1. The first part of the secret sauce is this:You can’t do it alone.Neither Deacon Timothy nor Fr. Oleg couldn’t have come to this day alone, and they can’t do their ministry alone. No one does it alone.

How does one come to know God? And to love God? And to want to serve God?

When I look out at this congregation I see so many here today who have helped to shape and influence our candidates. I am reminded of the scripture from Hebrews that says we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” The image is from the ancient stadium where the races were held, and the cloud of witnesses are the spectators who cheer the racers on.

This great crowd includes both the living and the dead, “the church militant” and “the church triumphant.”

So among the crowd present in the congregation today are many members of of Deacons Timothy and Fr. Oleg family, let’s call them “the crowd of the proud.”

So all of you here, and all the unseen but present, make up the great cloud of witnesses, who cheer us all on as we go about our several ministries, and especially cheer the new Deacon and Priest today. I thank God, for you and for them.

Nobody gets to ministry alone, and nobody does ministry alone, because you can’t do it alone.

So that’s the first part of the recipe for the secret sauce of ministry.

2. The second part of the recipe for the secret sauce of ministry is this: It’s not about you. To do ministry in the name of Jesus Christ you have to get out of your own way.

What does this mean? Recall how Jesus was always confusing the disciples by saying things like “the one who would gain his life must lose it.” And “The one who exalts herself will be humbled, but the one who humbles herself will be exalted.”

And the disciples never quite understood what he was trying to teach them until after Easter. Their hopes had been dashed on Good Friday as they fled from him and his cross. But after Easter all those things he said made sense. He was showing them a way, a way of selflessness, of servant-hood, a way to be a person for others.

And recall also how our brother Paul kept writing to churches that were fighting, and saying in one form or another, “It’s not about you!”

To the Corinthians he wrote, “What we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor. 4,5). And a couple of lines later in that same letter he wrote them, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Cor. 4:7).

What was he trying to tell them about ministry? That “it’s not about you.” To be a minister you have to get out of your own way.

And the reason that you have to get out of your own way is first to make space for God to work in and through you. And you have to get out of your own way, secondly, to make space for the other, the ones you minister to.

I was with our seminarians a few days ago at All Saints Camp in Emlenton, PA and I told her how excited I was that I would be laying holy hands on these two man and doing the prayer of ordination today. I said to the seminarians and some professors, “It is so fitting because it is in your community that the new deacon and priest started discerning their call.”

And Seminary instructors said, “we really didn’t do that much.” And I thought they were just being humble. But as I started pondering the recipe for the secret sauce of ministry, I realized they were quite right.

And you know why they were right? Because it wasn’t a professor who called Timothy or Oleg into the ministry. Both of these men were just doing their job, which is how ministry works. They lived their lives, were and are students, and professors were doing their job, which was to share the God they know and love. And both of these gentlemen were in the right time and the right place with the right persons, and God’s Holy Spirit works like that, in what seems mundane, but can at the same time be quite marvelous.

Our society cultivates a cult of personality, a cult of celebrity, but ministry is not about that.There are celebrity ministers, but the good ones, the faithful ones, know that it is not about them.

The word minister actually means one who represents another. The Europeans use it this way in describing their government officials: the minister for finance, or the foreign minister. These are the ones who represent the government in their particular area of expertise

Likewise, a Christian minister is one who represents Jesus Christ. And representing Jesus Christ means taking the form of a servant. Jesus once told his disciples, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:25-28.)

Not to be ministered to, but to minister. Not to be served but to serve.

This is counter-cultural in our self-obsessed society. To tell people to get out of their own way for God and for others is not a particularly popular philosophy today. When I peruse the magazines at the super-market checkout there are titles such as Self, Us, People (meaning famous self-absorbed people) but I don’t see Servant or Ministry magazine.

There was a fascinating interview with director Sofia Coppola in New York Times about her new movie, The Bling Ring. The movie is based on a true story about five teenagers from the San Fernando Valley in California, who were so obsessed with the culture of personality and the trappings of celebrity that they started breaking into celebrity’s homes and stealing stuff.

They would often just walk in through an unlocked front door, or climb in an open window. They robbed people like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.

In the course of a nine-month spree they looted more than 3 million dollars worth of jewelry and designer clothes. I found the story shocking, but part of it got me chuckling to myself. Apparently they broke into Paris Hilton’s home six times before she even noticed. “She had so much stuff that it took awhile for her to realize someone had broken in.”

Have you seen the bumper sticker that says, “The one who dies with the most stuff wins?” A better, truer one would say, “The one who dies with the most stuff dies.”

Sofia Coppola said she chose this subject for her movie because she has two small daughters, and she fears for them growing up in this glittery world of celebrity culture, a culture that sends the message that it really is all about you and your stuff. She describes hearing some of her daughter’s 6 year-old friends talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up, and a couple of them said, “I want to be famous.” She asks, “Where does that come from?” I don’t think we knew about that when we were six years old.”

And that is a challenge for ministry these days. I am particularly thinking of parents. How do we raise our children in a society that tells them it really is all about us?

When I often drive through the countryside in Ukraine we would sometimes see vast fields of sunflowers as far as the eye could see. The sunflowers would be facing East toward the rising sun in the morning, and as the sun moved through the sky the sunflowers would turn toward it, so that at dusk they would have turned completely toward the West. 

Sunflowers do this because they are heliotropic; they need the sun to live. By analogy, we are theotropic, we need God to live, and we are made to bend our love toward God and others.But we too often bend our love toward ourselves, and that is where we get in trouble, for instead of living for God and others we try to love ourselves and control things as if we were God.

And it is this humility, this self-emptying, this relinquishing of privilege, that St. Paul teaches the church to emulate. He writes “let the same mind be among you that was in Christ Jesus.”

But it’s not so easy to have the same mindset as Jesus. Remember those WWJD bracelets, that stood for “what would Jesus do?” Some people criticized those WWJD bracelets for being overly simplistic. Because asking, “What would Jesus do? doesn’t really solve the problem. It usually isn’t that hard to know what Jesus would do. People talk about the hard passages in the Bible, and there are some, but the parts that really challenge and convict me aren’t the parts I don’t understand, but the parts I do. “Love your enemies.” “Feed the hungry.” “Welcome the stranger.”  “Share your possessions.” “Turn the other cheek.” “Take up your cross and follow me.” Just to name a few.

So the hard part, after you figure out what Jesus would do, is doing it.

To “practice what we preach,” to “walk the walk as well as talk the talk” is where we pretty consistently fail, and why we need grace and forgiveness to keep trying. And the good news is that is exactly what we get from our God, grace and forgiveness.

And here’s the beautiful thing: if you follow this recipe you don’t really lose yourself at all, you will actually find yourself. Only the empty can be filled with the new life God wants for us. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10)

Because this self- emptying doesn’t mean we lose our personalities or our personal identities. On the contrary, when our love bends toward God and others, as those sunflowers bend toward the sun, when we lose ourselves in service, when we live for others, we are most ourselves, our own true best selves as God intended us to be.”

Following the Cherubimic hymn, Deacon Oleg Kravchenko was presented as a candidate for the ordination to the Holy Priesthood. With the prayerful exclamation of AXIOS, Vladyka Daniel vested the newly ordained Fr. Oleg into the priestly garments.

Immediately following the liturgical Anafora, Subdeacon Timothy Kelleher was presented for the ordination to the Deaconate of the UOC of the USA. Once again, with the prayerful chanting of AXIOS, the newly ordained Deacon Timothy was vested into his diaconal vestments.

Having received the blessing of their bishop, the newly ordained deacon Timothy and priest Oleg took their places around the sacred space of the altar, thus beginning their public ministry of service.

In conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Daniel chanted a prayer of blessing over the servant of God Olha, pani-matka of Fr. Oleg Kravchenko, who shall join her husband in the soon to be announced assignment to the parish community of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.

Expressing their gratitude to the ordaining bishop and the local pastor of the community, Fr. Stephen Hutnick, both newly-ordained clergy pledged to serve with dedication and love to the flock of Christ’s Holy Church.

The parish community of Saints Peter and Paul UOC treated everyone present to a luncheon in honor of Fr. Oleg and Deacon Timothy. During the meal, the Senior Chapter of the Ukrainian Orthodox League presented His Eminence Archbishop Daniel with a check in the amount of $1,500 to help with the purchase of diapers for the orphans in Ukraine.

Accepting the gift of love, Archbishop Daniel offed a few words of gratitude to everyone in attendance for their donation and called upon the congregation in attendance to remember the newly ordained in their prayer.

Seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary Ordained to the Priesthood and Deaconate of the Church

Photos by Rev. Fr. Vasyl Pasakas

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