Council of the Metropolia Meets in Virtual Annual Session
Council of the Metropolia Meets in Virtual Annual Session

Відбулося Річне Засідання РАДИ МИТРОПОЛІЇ УПЦ США в Режимі Платформи ZOOM

The Metropolitan Council is the executive administrative body of the Church and holds the responsibility of implementing the decisions of the Sobor and continuing its work between sessions.  On Friday, February 25th, the Council of the Metropolia members joined His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy and President of the Consistory, for their annual meeting. 

The daylong meeting commenced with a prayer, led by Metropolitan Antony, after which he took a few minutes to share a few opening remarks with the attentive group.  While the pandemic has been a difficulty overall, but as in all things, one must search for silver-linings.  For the Church, and for himself personally, this shining pinpoint of light was an increased self-awareness, an increased prayer life and a willingness to be alone with God in silence.  His Eminence expressed how being isolated for the past many months, alone with one’s thoughts and with God, was an awakening of sorts.  Quarantine allowed us to slow down our lives, to reprioritize them, to come closer to God and to think not less of ourselves, but less about ourselves and our sometimes selfish motives in life. 

The Seminary livestreamed Morning and Evening prayers, plus Divine Liturgies, Molebens, Vespers, etc. throughout the year. Every morning at 7 AM dozens of faithful awaken early and join their prayers to those of the seminarians.  The same scenario repeats in the evening at 9 PM, and even more view the services after the fact, tuning in at the hour that they come to stand before their icons and pray.

While the realization that so many people are joining the streamed services is a joy and a light of hope in the future of the Church, confirming that the people, although isolated, still yearn for, search for, and find Christ through His Church.  However, there also is the danger that people may become accustomed to “watching” Liturgy, and not actually participating in it.  While this may be “easier”, it separates them from the Church – the Body of Christ and their brothers and sisters of faith during the “common work” of the faithful, worshiping as one - and from the life-giving Holy Mysteries or Sacraments.  God created us to worship together, stating where two or three are gathered in His name, there He is as well. 

Therefore, it is imperative for local parishes to begin to reopen as soon as is permissible in their local area, and to welcome their faithful back through their wide-open doors, so once again they can worship as the family, which they are.  Metropolitan Antony continued discussing the latest news from the eparchies, focusing on a few key parishes.  While some remain closed and others are strictly enforcing COVID-19 restrictions, nonetheless, slowly most parishes are returning to life, and welcoming back their faithful.  The Church is alive, active, and growing, with new mission parishes opening in New Mexico, Arkansas, and North Carolina.

His Eminence Archbishop Daniel delivered his Report as Consistory President.  In his statement he reviewed the reports of all the Offices of Ministry.  At present all our diligently working and providing valuable information and support to the faithful of the Church.  A special shout-out was given to Natalie Kapeluck Nixon and the Youth & Young Adult Ministry for their hard and continuous work throughout the pandemic.  Throughout the weeks Natalie and her assistants have organized and prepared various ZOOM lessons, classes, virtual retreats, story time, etc. to keep the youth of the Church engaged, not only providing them lessons, and distraction from COVID restrictions, but, giving them a chance to meet and see other children their age, which is invaluable to the youth.  Young people crave the company of their peers, and the isolation has hit their demographic the hardest, resulting in a spike in depression and anxiety among teens and young adults.  Therefore, a huge thank you goes out to Natalie and her helpers in doing all they could to ensure the youth of our Church felt loved and supported as they made their way through these difficult times.

Fr. Robert Holet presented his Office of Stewardship report, discussing how many parishes are financially struggling during the pandemic.  However, where there exists hardship, there exists opportunity, especially to assist those in need.  The Church has stepped up to plate and lived the teachings of Christ to “love they neighbor”, and to “feed His sheep”.  While ministering to the souls, the Church has also supported and cared for the physical needs of not only their parishioners, but also people in need throughout the world.

Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay, President of St. Andrew Society and Director of the Office of Christian Charity, explained how His Eminence Archbishop Daniel had traveled to Ukraine last year to deliver much needed funds to flood victims, whose homes were heavily water damaged.  He later traveled to the Mariupol region to deliver more assistance to those in need, including the elderly who depend on the help of others for the basic necessities of life – food for their nourishment, coal to keep them from freezing, and a kind word to lighten their heart and bolster their spirits.  These acts of love were made possible for the most part, by the kind and generous donations to the St. Andrew Society, which makes all its contributions through our Holy Church.

Sometimes, it is the simplest thing that makes the biggest difference.  A cup of oatmeal, a cup of warm tea, a sandwich.  Archbishop Daniel once again led by example when he joined in feeding the hungry in the glorious capital city of Ukraine, Kyiv.  On a cold winter night, people lined up, stomping their feet to keep warm, and waited to be handed a morsel of food.  While the tea warmed their bodies, shared words with His Eminence warmed their souls, as he spoke to each person, giving them individual worth and bolstering their resolve.

Following all these examples, many of the parishes of the UOC of the USA also redoubled their efforts in helping the increasing numbers of people in need.  Many parishes served hot meals, others held coat and clothing drives, while others simply handed out necessities to homeless individuals on the corners of lonely and dark streets.  Every effort lives out Christ’s Commandment to care for others.  To put the interest of others before one’s own.  To cry when others cry and to lift them up.  Many additional charitable initiatives are planned for this coming year, and Archbishop Daniel explained what a great opportunity it is for the Church to make a difference and to touch the lives of so many individuals. 

Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay, President of St. Andrew Society and Director of the Office of Christian Charity, explained how His Eminence Archbishop Daniel had traveled to Ukraine last year to deliver much needed funds to flood victims, whose homes were heavily water damaged.  He later traveled to the Mariupol region to deliver more assistance to those in need, including the elderly who depend on the help of others for the basic necessities of life – food for their nourishment, coal to keep them from freezing, and a kind word to lighten their heart and bolster their spirits.  These acts of love were made possible for the most part, by the kind and generous donations to the St. Andrew Society, which makes all its contributions through our Holy Church.

Sometimes, it is the simplest thing that makes the biggest difference.  A cup of oatmeal, a cup of warm tea, a sandwich.  Archbishop Daniel once again led by example when he joined in feeding the hungry in the glorious capital city of Ukraine, Kyiv.  On a cold winter night, people lined up, stomping their feet to keep warm, and waited to be handed a morsel of food.  While the tea warmed their bodies, shared words with His Eminence warmed their souls, as he spoke to each person, giving them individual worth and bolstering their resolve.

Following all these examples, many of the parishes of the UOC of the USA also redoubled their efforts in helping the increasing numbers of people in need.  Many parishes served hot meals, others held coat and clothing drives, while others simply handed out necessities to homeless individuals on the corners of lonely and dark streets.  Every effort lives out Christ’s Commandment to care for others.  To put the interest of others before one’s own.  To cry when others cry and to lift them up.  Many additional charitable initiatives are planned for this coming year, and Archbishop Daniel explained what a great opportunity it is for the Church to make a difference and to touch the lives of so many individuals. 

His Eminence wrapped up his report on the Ministries of the Church by reviewing last year’s accomplishments by the Liturgical Commission, which through the intense efforts of Fr. Michael Hontaruk, has completed additional service books. St. Sophia Seminary will soon be publishing a 3-volume Catechism of the Orthodox Church by Fr. Dr. Harry Linsinbigler

Every day the public is reached through a myriad of Public Relation avenues, ranging from daily livestreams via Facebook and YouTube, Scripture Readings posted daily, email blasts, daily updated Web Page, mailed out circulars, and monthly editions of the Ukrainian Orthodox Word (UOW) which features articles on the latest Church News, spiritual reflections, recipes, a children’s section, plus all the vital statistics for the month, and advertisements for upcoming events and celebrations.  His Eminence thanked Fr. Ivan Synevskyy – our Website Manager, Elizabeth Symonenko – UOW Editor, Fr. Michael Hontaruk and Joshua Oryhon – editors of the UOC of USA Facebook Page.

The discussion continued about the Metropolitan John Theodorovych UOC/St. Seminary Library and the bookstore, both of which are flourishing and acquiring additional materials on a regular basis.  The bookstore sales have increased as the public has become comfortable ordering items online.  His Eminence thanked Dob. Oksana Pasakas, our Librarian and Fr. Vasyl and Dob. Olena Shak, our Ecclesiastical and Bookstore managers.

Fr. Stephen Hutnick gave a presentation on the financial status of the Church.  As other organizations, the Church has suffered financial loss during the pandemic.  Even though corners were cut, and belts were tightened as much as possible, income was drastically down, and the Church suffered a loss.  There is hope that with the pandemic subsiding things will begin to return to some semblance of normal and that this coming year might turn around.  The Council members approved the budget for the coming year and agreed to do what they could to assist the Church with her finances.

Metropolitan Antony discussed the status of the St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary.  He thanked Archbishop Daniel for the immense effort he has put into ATS certification for the institution.  Archbishop Daniel, in turn, expressed his gratitude to the Seminary Staff – Fr. Vasyl Pasakas, Dean of Students, Fr. Theophan Mackey, Vocations Director, all the teaching staff from Professors to Lecturers, and very importantly, Maria Morozowsky, the cook who keeps the staff and students healthy. The seminary is flourishing with 29 full and distance learning students and will have a number of graduates this year.  The resident students are studying well, with a recent ordination of Deacon Mykola Mykytyuk and two additional ordinations to the Deaconate to take place in March – Mykola Zomchak and Ihor Protsak. 

Metropolitan Antony spoke at the presentation of a very professional All Saints Camp report, which was submitted by V. Rev. John Haluszczak, chairman of the Camp Committee and Joshua Oryhon, Camp Manager.  Unfortunately, the camp was not open for encampments last summer because of the pandemic and the decision about opening this year will be made in early April.  There is significant hope that at least some encampments will be possible during the summer months, depending upon whether or not herd immunity has been accomplished in the country. During this “time off” the maintenance committee has been able to attend to many of the repairs that were necessary.

Karen Ferraro, President of the Sr. Ukrainian Orthodox League gave her report on both the Sr. and Jr. League stating that this year has been difficult for the members, as churches are under restrictions, and people are not free to meet.  Nonetheless, there has been some activity.  The UOL continues its charitable work, holds virtual retreats and ZOOM sessions, and has organized a “Praying Together through Great Lent and Advent” programs, where those who have signed up read a portion of the Psalter every day, with enough people reading the various Kathismas, that each day the entire Psalter is read by members of the Church.  This effort not only solidifies and unifies the people, it enlightens, bolsters, and comforts the souls of those who do the reading.  As with All Saints Camp, a decision will be made in early April about the annual UOL Convention scheduled for July.  If it is not possible to gather again this year in person, then a virtual convention will once again be developed.

The Historical Education Complex report, another very professional presentation was submitted by Michael Andrec, PhD, Director of Archives, Natalia Honcharenko, Museum Director and Dob. Oksana Pasakas, Collections Manager.  All three of these individuals have become full-fledged educators through the many and varied virtual programs and museum exhibits that have been mounted over the past year. Fr. Stephen Hutnick, President of the UHEC Board of Trustees presented the Report and spoke of the efforts to begin a major capital fund drive in the near future, along with expressing gratitude to the entire staff and all the Board members for their continued efforts.  All the virtual offerings presented to the public over the past year have attracted hundreds of participants.  The Center is most widely know fore our “Nashi Predky” ancestry project, teaching people how to research their family trees and offering conferences for professionals who offer insights into the ancestry world.  Metropolitan Antony expressed his gratitude to all the Center Staff for untiring efforts.

The Metropolitan followed with a discussion about the 22nd Regular Sobor of our Church, which will be held in October 2022 and appointed a Pre-Sobor Commission, which will make all the preparations for the event.  He also appointed a Constitution Commission to consider any amendments that might be necessary since our last revision of the Constitution in 2010.  Finally, he announced that a special part Zoom, part in person, seminar event will be conducted on St. Thomas Sunday in memory of Metropolitan John Theodorovych, the first Metropolitan of our Church at the 50th anniversary of his repose.  This event will be conducted one week after Pascha, which is the date of our Annual St. Thomas Sunday Pilgrimage.  The Pilgrimage and accompanying programs and food service will not be held this year due to uncertainty about the state and threat of the pandemic.

Before leading the closing prayer, Archbishop Daniel thanked all those present, and all those who work behind the scenes to make the Church the success it is.  Without the assistance of everyone, the Church would not be able to minister to so many people in so many ways.  He expressed his heartfelt gratitude to His Eminence Metropolitan Antony for responsibly leading the Church, with wisdom, kindness and love.  Metropolitan Antony also expressed his gratitude to all the members of the Council, of the various Ministries of the Church, and to the faithful whose hard work, and sincere prayers are making a positive impact on the life of the Church.

Asking for the Lord’s guidance and protection, Archbishop Daniel concluded the meeting with prayer.  With final waves and smiles, the members of the Council of the Metropolia signed off, eager to begin work on all the tasks their hierarchs had assigned to them.  The plans are solid, the people are willing, and the coming year is full of promise.

Council of the Metropolia Meets in Virtual Annual Session

Photos by Elizabeth Symonenko

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