On Saturday, November 9, 2019 the faithful of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin in South Plainfield, New Jersey gathered with clergy and Orthodox faithful from New Jersey and Pennsylvania to commemorate and celebrate 85 years.
Serving alongside the parish pastor, Rev. Vasyl Pasakas, were clergy from neighboring parishes: V. Rev. Yurij Siwko (St. Andrew Memorial Church, South Bound Brook, NJ), V. Rev. Roman Shak (St. Michael’s, Komarno, Ukraine). Rev. Vasyl Shak (St. Panteleimon, Brooklyn, NY), Rev. James Cairns (St. Demetrius, Carteret, NJ), Rev. Oleg Kravchenko (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, Northampton, PA), and assisted by Subdeacon Myroslav Mykytiuk. Responses were beautifully sung by the Seminarians of Saint Sophia Seminary: Subdeacon Yurii Bobko, Subdeacon Ihor Protsak, Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilogan, Seminarian Pavlo Vysotskyi, and Seminarian Maksym Zhuravchyk.
During the Divine Liturgy, petitions were offered for the health and well-being of all the present parishioners, clergy, and guests who gathered together to mark this momentous occasion.
In addition, petitions were offered in remembrance of all the departed founders, members, benefactors, and clergy of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin who devoted their life to Christ, His Church, and this parish. It is through their diligent efforts, true devotion to Christ and perseverance that this humble Ukrainian-Orthodox community has survived to this day. Through their example and strength, can we learn to maintain our Orthodox faith in the years to come.
In Fr. Vasyl Pasakas’ reflections on Saturday’s Gospel reading from Luke 9:37-43 and Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28 underlined the importance of spiritual life and faith. In this extremely busy world, we way too often act like Martha, constantly running, trying to fulfill our duties at times forgetting why we are doing it all. By being so busy, we do not see the blessings and miracles happening around us. Our Holy Fathers and Mothers became saints, because they took the time to put their faith first and based on their faith they made decisions in their lives, and not vice versa by trying to adapt their faith to fit their busy daily life. If we will do the same, we for sure will have more time in our life with less stress and anxiety.
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Parish was founded in 1934 and the first liturgy was served on Christmas Day (December 25th) with a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated by Archbishop Athenagoras (later His Holiness Patriarch Athenogoras). In 1948, Archbishop Athenagoras was elected Patriarch of Constantinople, and would become the namesake of The Athenagoras Human Rights Award, an award that is presented every year at the Annual Banquet of the Order to a person or organization, which has consistently exemplified by action, purpose and dedication, concern for the basic rights and religious freedom of all people. In 2019, His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphaniy of Kyiv and All Ukraine received the award.
In the years that followed, the parish grew to include parish organizations—a Parish Board, a Sisterhood and Brotherhood, a Pierogi Group, and a choir. Over the years, the parish had actively participated in events of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America, and later the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. Their philanthropic efforts supported both domestic and foreign organizations, such as the orphanages in Ukraine and Russia, the soup kitchens in Ukraine through St. Andrew Society, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, Ronald McDonald House in Red Bank, NJ, the South Plainfield Soup Kitchen, and St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary.
Following the Divine Liturgy, all who gathered to pray together reconvened in the parish hall for a catered lunch, while sitting around chatting with friends and family.