94th Anniversary of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia, PA
94th Anniversary of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia, PA

Відзначення 94-ої річниці Українського Православного Собору св. Володимира у Філадельфії, штат Пенсильванія

Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love”, lived up to its name on a chilly weekend in October, as the parish of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral celebrated their 94th anniversary.

The celebratory weekend began on Saturday, October 10th, by focusing on the youth, who will lead the parish into the future.  Arriving early in the morning was His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, the Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, accompanied by the seminarians of the St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, from South Bound Brook, NJ.

His Eminence was warmly greeted upon his arrival by parish pastor Fr. Taras Naumenko, and the parish children, who had gathered to spend the day with their bishop.  Having made introductions, and bestowing his blessings, His Eminence took the time to get to know each of the children.  To help break the ice, Vladyka brought along his special bishop’s staff, carved of wood with the head of an American Bald Eagle at the top.  The children eagerly came forward to get a good view of it, to touch it, and to get a chance to hold it.

Having made their acquaintance, Archbishop Daniel joined the youth who had sat down upon chairs organized in a circle on the outside lawn, in order to maintain social distancing during the pandemic.  His Eminence took this opportunity to educate the youth by giving them a heart felt talk, planting the seeds of faith in the fertile soil of their young souls.  He then took the time to answer any questions they might have for him.  It was amazing to see so many children sitting so quietly and focused so deeply upon the words that were being spoken to them.

The remainder of the afternoon was filled with outdoor games, a luncheon, and then various crafts which were completed at tables set up on the lawn.  The youth created wreaths, painted angels, and created artful canvas masterpieces.  It is important to reach others, and to reflect God in all actions.  Therefore, each “fun” activity was used to plant more seeds of faith.  As the children were busy in the fun of the project, they were also learning about Orthodoxy, various symbolisms, and in unity… and most importantly they were building strong bonds of friendship with the other youth of their parish. which would last them into adulthood as they took over the future responsibilities of growing the parish.

As the sun began to set, and a chill breeze began to blow the orange leaves from the surrounding trees, everyone gathered the supplies, cleaned their areas, folded up their chairs, and retreated indoors to put into action, what they had learned.

As the children’s cheeks began to warm back up, they made their way into the nave of the church and lit candles before joining the prayers of the Vespers service.  They all quietly stood and listened to the words spoken by His Eminence as he prayed for good health and peace in the world, and for them, the children, that they should grow strong in the Faith, remain steadfast, and serve the Lord all their days. 

As the seminarians sang their final prayers, His Eminence turned to the youth and as each one approached to receive his blessing, he handed each child one of the decorated angel statuettes that he had personally signed, with hopes that these decorative sculptures would remind them to pay close attention to, and hear the voice of their true guardian angel who is with them at all times, and guides them throughout the day.  With angels in hand, hope in their hearts, and smiles on their faces, the youth of the parish joined their parents as they departed for their homes, waving one last goodbye to His Eminence and promising to see him in the morning for church.

The children kept their promise as the next morning, Sunday, October 11th, they were first in church, gathering on the entryway steps awaiting to greet His Eminence Archbishop Daniel as he arrived once again at their parish, to celebrate their 94thanniversary.

Arriving with a smile on his face, and hug for the gathered children, Archbishop Daniel accepted the warm greetings of the parish board, youth, and parish organizations, and proceeded into the nave to accept the warm welcome from parish pastor Fr. Taras Naumenko.  Joining Fr. Taras were a number of local clergy, and the St. Sophia Seminarians.

As His Eminence stood in the middle of the church, the Divine Liturgy began, as more and more people in masks arrived and filled the space, careful to respect the social distancing restrictions.  

At the Small Entrance, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, who was present at the service, stepped out to give a few words of praise the parish priest, and to exclaim “Axios” as today marked the 25th anniversary of Priesthood of Very Rev. Fr. Taras Naumenko.  In honor of this great milestone, Fr. Taras was presented with the ecclesiastical miter bestowed upon him in the middle of the church, surrounded by his parishioners, by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel.

The Sunday Reading was from the Gospel of Luke 5:1-11, where Christ seeing Simon Peter and the other fishermen cleaning their nets after a night of fishing, boards Simon’s boat and asks that he cast off from the shore so He can preach to the people who had gathered to hear Him.  Having taught the crowd, Christ instructs Simon to cast his nets into the sea.  Simon, and experience and professional fisherman, explains that they have been fishing all night and caught nothing, but, out of respect for Christ, he will do as instructed, and he throws his nets into the Sea of Galilee, doubting that he will catch any fish.  However, to his surprise fish do get caught in his net, so many that he calls his friends, James and John, the sons of Zebedee to come help him bring in the catch.  They are all amazed by the success, and Simon falls to his knees before Jesus stating that he is unworthy before Him.  At this point Christ instructs them to leave their nets, and follow Him, becoming fishers of men.

The large catch of fish numbered 153, representing all the species of fish, and symbolizing that the Church has room for all races and ethnicities of men.  In his sermon, Vladyka Daniel expounded upon the Gospel Reading stating that while Christ initially called the first 12 Apostles, He continues to call new Apostles each day, and that we are simply often too burdened by life and other responsibilities to hear His call.  Sadly, if we do hear Him, we often choose to ignore Him, because what He asks is inconvenient to our lives.  His Eminence implored us all to nurture silence in our lives, so that we can discern the still quiet voice of God, and that we be strong enough to answer His call and follow Him.

Vladyka reached over the took up a fishing rod, emphasizing that we are all called to be fishers of men… not tomorrow, or next week, but, today, right now.  We are to take every opportunity to be a good Christian, and to “catch” men by our kindness, mercy, and generosity.  His Eminence asked that we look beyond the masks on people’s faces, to see the person beneath.  He continued with a short retelling of how he had taken his car to the local carwash the previous day.  At this particular carwash the driver must exit his vehicle and enter the building to pay, while the car is taken through the wash by workers.  As he was walking towards the door, Vladyka caught sight of the elderly man walking behind him, so as he reached the door, he paused, opened the door, and allowed the man to pass through before him.  The gentleman was so moved by this seemingly inconsequential occurrence that he thanked His Eminence, stating “I cannot remember the last time anyone held the door for me”.  Archbishop voiced his sadness at hearing this statement.  Have we as a society become so callous that we cannot even hold doors for each other anymore? 

In conclusion Vladyka Daniel instructed those listening in the church, and via mobile devices, to be an example of Christianity by searching out opportunities to serve others – holding doors, carrying bags, smiling, and greeting one another.  Every little mundane task, can be used to spread the light of Christ to others, brighten their days, and bring them closer to God.

The remainder of the Liturgy flew as if on angels’ wings, with the choir singing beautifully, praising the Lord.  Many of the faithful approached to partake of the Holy Eucharist, returning to their spots refreshed and renewed.  With smiles hidden behind masks, their shining eyes betrayed their inner joy.

As the service concluded, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, joined His Eminence Archbishop Daniel in congratulating Fr. Taras with his 25th anniversary, and the parish faithful with their 94th anniversary celebration.  With blessing bestowed upon them, the faithful broke out in song, loudly singing “Mnohaya Lita”.

As the final chords of faded into silence, they were replaced by quiet, yet joyful banter, as the faithful retreated to the parish hall to enjoy a light lunch, giving them an opportunity to spend time with their hierarchs, and catching up with their friends and parish family from whom they have been isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

May God grant many years to V. Rev. Taras Naumenko and Dobrodijka Laura, and to the faithful of the parish, as they continue to spread the word of Christ, and grow their congregation, by serving their local community.

94th Anniversary of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia, PA

Photos by Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan and Wolodymyr Katolik

Text by Elizabeth Symonenko

(73 images)

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South Bound Brook, NJ 08880

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