Archbishop Daniel Completes Archpastoral Visit to Minneapolis, MN
Archbishop Daniel Completes Archpastoral Visit to Minneapolis, MN

On a crisp Sunday morning, of the 14th of March, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, resplendent in his white vestments, approached the steps of the St. Michael and St. George Parish in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Arriving with him was recently ordained Deacon Myroslav Mykytyuk and Reader Maksym Zhuravchyk, who led the way up the steps of the church as the bells began to happily chime the arrival of the hierarch.

As His Eminence entered the narthex, he was warmly greeted by members of the parish board of administration, headed by Orysia Karkoc Bobchek.   Welcoming the archbishop to his parish, Vladyka Daniel was presented with the traditional loaf of bread, and salt.  Thanking them for the lovely loaf, and warm greeting, Archbishop Daniel accepted the flowers which were handed to him by the young children of the parish.  Accepting the bouquets, His Eminence stated that any parish that has children in it, gesturing to the young girls wearing embroidered Ukrainian shirts, has a bright future ahead.  With a warm smile he disassembled the bouquets and gave each child a flower, receiving a giggle and shy smile in response.

Entering the Nave of the church, the hierarch was greeted by the pastor of the parish, V. Rev. Evhen Kumka, who was this day celebrating his final Divine Liturgy at the parish as he was eagerly anticipating his retirement.  Father Evhen warmly greeted Archbishop Daniel, thanking him for visiting their parish, and honoring him with his presence at his retirement.  He asked for the hierarch’s prayers for himself at his retirement, for incoming pastor, Rev. Myron Korostil and his family, and for the parish which he lovingly served for many years.  In response Vladyka Daniel thanked him on behalf of Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, himself, the faithful of the parish, for his dedication over the previous decades.  His Eminence stated that retirements are always bittersweet, however, they give an opportunity for the outgoing individual to get some well-deserved rest and enjoyment, while the incoming person is able to gain experience, and bring some new ideas and concepts to their new assignment. 

His Eminence accepted the Cross which was presented to him upon a tray by Fr. Evhen, and kissing it, he blessed both priests, the new and the old, stating this was a historic day, as the care of the parish was peacefully handed over through the serving together of the Divine Liturgy.  Archbishop Daniel turned to the people, and blessed them as led by the deacon and clergy, he made his way into the church, while the choir beautifully sang, “Wisdom! O you higher in honor than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, you gave birth to God the Word in virginity. You are truly Mother of God: you do we exalt. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and always and for ever and ever. Amen.”

Having made his way towards the front of the church, His Eminence stood there as the deacon pronounced, “Master, it is time to act for the Lord,” to which Archbishop Daniel loudly proclaimed, “Blessed be our God, always, now and for ever and ever!”

From that point, the Divine Liturgy flowed as if on angels’ wings, the hierarch praying, the people bowing, the choir singing.  Prayers were said for the well-being of God’s holy churches and for the unity of all, for peace in the world and the good health of all the faithful.

The day’s Gospel Reading (Matthew 6:14-21) instructed the faithful on how to properly fast.  To fast before God, not men.  To store up their treasures in Heaven, not on earth, for the earthly treasurers are temporal, but the heavenly are eternal, and where their treasure is, there also will be their heart. 

Having read the Gospel, Archbishop Daniel took a few moments to address the faithful before him.  He expounded that in the Epistle reading St. Paul writes to the Romans, where he contends that due to their earthly wealth they were jealous of one another, and therefore, they argue amongst themselves and have no peace.

His Eminence stated that this jealous behavior is not just something of the past, but, is alive and well today as often seen even at cemeteries, where people try to build larger and more elaborate memorial headstones from the ones around them.  However, through this behavior the faithful lose focus and emphasize the temporal and unnecessary.

Vladyka retold a story of two brother monks - one lived in the city, the other was an aesthetic in the desert.  The desert brother tried his hardest to be saintly, fasting and praying from his heart.  One day a devil came along and decided to tempt him.  However, the monk held to his principles and denied all the temptations that were put before him.  Eventually, another stronger demon arrived and stated he knew exactly how to tempt this pious monk, and he leaned over and whispered in his ear, “have you heard that your brother is now a bishop?”  Immediately this monk became jealous, and he fell physically and spiritually.

Today we are entering the holy season of Great Lent.  We will review our lives and will attempt various fasting rules for ourselves.  Some will give up meat, others will give up wine, dairy, etc.  While this is wonderful that the faithful make a sacrifice for their faith, however, what is the point of fasting if we eat devour one another?

What is the point of going vegan, if we do not forgive our loved ones, strangers, and all others?  If our heart is filled with jealousy and anger, no matter how much we abstain from food products, there will be no room for the Grace of God to enter within.  We must let go of our envy, our pride, our hatred, and make room in our hearts for God.

His Eminence continued by stating that the Lord left us an example when He was preaching, for He taught by example, and not harsh words.  He fell upon His knees before others.  He served all who were in need, and brought countless to salvation by His selfless actions of feeding the hungry, helping the needy, curing the ailing.

As Christians we are the moral compass of the world around us.  It falls to us to speak up when we see injustice, when we see actions contrary to the Law of God, when immorality is lauded, we are to speak up in defense of morality, goodness, and justice.

Speaking to the parishioners His Eminence stated that they are the moral conscience of this parish, of the town, and the society in which they live.  They cannot have the attitude that the parish is small and therefore they do not need to get involved.  Just the opposite.  They need to get engaged, involve their children, correct injustices and change this world for the better.  Too often we are all too happy to just accept what society lays before us, not wishing to rock the boat, or step out of our comfort zones. 

The Lord created all things with purpose.  The animals provide us with bodily nourishment – eggs, milk, meat.  Trees provide lumber.  Rivers provide water.  All things have their design and purpose in life, so what is our purpose?

God has given us freewill and a brain to think with.  He reveals Himself through our thoughts and the choices we make.  Our conscience tells how we ought to live, but, too often we pretend we do not hear it and ignore it.

Our purpose is to us our brains, our God-given abilities, our free-will, to make the appropriate choices that will positively impact the world around us.

His Eminence recalled that when he was in the army, the drill sergeant had instructed the soldiers to always follow his orders (whether they understood them or not), because if they did not follow his orders, someone would die.  In a battle, it is crucial that everyone play the role assigned to them, unless they inadvertently shift the plan and cause someone to be injured or lose their lives.

The same concept holds true in our spiritual life.  We need to follow the Commandments of the Lord, otherwise we may be guilty of killing someone, and bringing about their spiritual demise.  We kill others by the way we speak, the tone in which we talk, the manner in which we post to Facebook or Twitter, etc.  These are the modern weapons with which we destroy others.

Archbishop Daniel continued by sited the day’s Gospel Reading which teaches that when we fast, we are not to make a show of it.  Instead, we are to keep our lips closed and pray silently.  We are not to tell others how we are fasting, for our fast is between us and God alone.  It should never be a point of pride.

As a Christian, we are always to practice moderation in all things.  We are not to eat too much, drink too much, party too much, etc.  We need to be able to control ourselves in all things.

St. John Chrysostom taught that “when you fast, do not eat each other.”

His Eminence invited everyone to a truly genuine fast.  One in which we abstain from meat and dairy products, but, also we fast from evil thoughts, gossiping, anger, and pride.  We need to realize that the food we indulge in is not necessary for our survival.  It is not a medicine, and we will survive without it.  He encouraged everyone to eat more nuts, fruits and vegetables, but, even more so to improve their lives over the next 40 days.  He asked that everyone be kinder, bring peace and joy to their families, speak kindly to each other, tell others they are loved, and take time to sit on the floor and play with their children.  If it is important to us, we will find the time, and the way.

This year, His Eminence asked us to change our lives during Great Lent.  To make an effort to better ourselves and improve our spiritual lives, and not fool ourselves into complacency.  The size of our donations, the number of candles we light, the regularity in which we attend services, all mean nothing if we do not do them for the glory of God.  Fast from meat and dairy, but, go even further.  Find the initiative to change something negative in your life.  Make the effort, for faith without deeds, is dead.

Archbishop Daniel reminded everyone that before you can start a fast, you must first learn to forgive – forgive others, and forgive yourself, for if you are not able to forgive, the fast will be an empty exercise.  If you fast from food, but, gossip about others, it is a useless fast.

No matter how painful or hurtful the past has been, we must turn the page.  We must put it all behind us and start the fast with a blank page.  In order to enjoy the Resurrection, we must clean our lives of pride, laziness, and greed.

His Eminence recalled the previous Sunday’s Gospel Reading about the Prodigal Son.  He stated that everyone focuses on the son who lived sinfully, wasted his inheritance, and then returned to have his Father accept him back into the family and throw him a welcome home party.  However, people often overlook the other brother, the one who was always faithful, and worked hard for his father, and then when he heard that his wanton brother was back and enjoying a party, he got angry and jealous and refused to enter the house and welcome back his returned brother.  This anger, frustration, and jealousy destroyed all the goodness by which he had lived his whole life.

Do not be the older brother.  Rejoice at others good fortune.  When you see someone with riches, proclaim God’s blessings upon them.  When you see someone celebrating, celebrate happily with them.  Do not permit that which you believe you “want” to destroy your inner peace, instead be grateful and enjoy that which you have. 

Archbishop concluded his sermon by asking everyone to not live by the precepts of jealousy, but to forgive all before they begin the fast. 

The sun streaming through the windows cast a warm glow upon all those within the church, adding a sense of peace and joy.  As prayers were raised, hymns sung, the people stood in deep contemplation, rejoicing in the Lord.

When the Royal Gates opened for the Eucharist, and Deacon Myroslav came out on the ambon with the Chalice, a little girl – Sophia, daughter of Fr. Myron Korostil, excitedly ran up the steps and stood expectantly awaiting to partake of the Gifts.  Archbishop Daniel who had already began recited the Prayer Before Communion paused, with a smile on his face, and explained this is how we should all approach, as this innocent child, with anticipation and joy. 

Having communed all the faithful who approached the service all too soon came to an end as the Dismissal Prayers were read.  Before dismissing the faithful His Eminence, inviting Fr. Evhen and Dobrodijka Daria to come and stand to his left, and Fr. Myron and his family to stand on his right, stepped out to say a few words.  Firstly, he expressed his gratitude that even in a pandemic the doors of the church were open to the faithful to worship the Lord.  He then continued by explaining that over a year ago he had received a note from their pastor, Fr. Evhen Kumka, who having served 27 years at the parish decided it was time to step aside as pastor and transfer that honor to the next generation of clergy.  Fr. Evhen would become a priest emeritus, still serving the Church, but, no longer carrying the burden and administrative responsibility of the parish. 

His Eminence thanked Fr. Evhen and Dobrodiyka Daria for their tireless work over the past three decades, and congratulated them for voluntarily and selflessly choosing to step down to give the younger generation the chance to serve and grow. 

Turning to Fr. Evhen, His Eminence reiterated his gratitude for the 27 years of service, performing the Holy Sacraments for countless individuals – marriages, baptisms, funerals, etc. and for always being a remarkable and valued priest in the Church.    

Gesturing to the other side, Vladyka Daniel stated that as we bid farewell to one, we offer a warm welcome to another, as he introduced Rev. Myron Korostil, Dobrodiyka Christina, and their little daughter Sophia to the parish.   His Eminence stated that from today forward, Fr. Myron would be parish pastor, and would be serving the needs to the faithful. 

Before departing, Fr. Evhen stepped up to say a few words to his longtime parishioners, thanking them for their kindness and unity in prayer over the many decades, and wishing them all the best.  Fr. Myron then expressed his gratitude to Archbishop Daniel, Fr. Evhen, and the parishioners for giving him this great opportunity, and that through their prayers, and the assistance of the Lord he looked forward to serving them to the best of his abilities.

His Eminence accepted the parish Blessing Cross from the hands of the outgoing pastor, and ceremoniously passed it along to the incoming pastor with his blessings.  The choir and parishioners joyously sang Mnohaya Lita to both priests and their families, praying that God bless them with good health and happiness all their days.

As the bells began to chime, Archbishop Daniel, flanked by both priests, instructed the faithful that as today is Forgiveness Sunday, we are all to forgive each other.  His Eminence started by asking all to forgive him, and then instructed the people to turn to each other and ask each other’s forgiveness.

With smiles the people all turned to each other, put aside the past, forgave each other, and looked forward to starting Great Lent with a new page in their books, and a new pastor to help lead them towards salvation.

The bells continued to chime, mingling with “Forgive me”… “May God forgive you, and I forgive you…” and so began not only Great Lent, but, a new chapter in the history of St. Michael and St. George Parish in Minneapolis.  May God grant many years to retiring priest V. Rev. Evhen Kumka, and to newly appointed parish priest Rev. Myron Korostil and their families.  Mnohaya Lita!

Archbishop Daniel Visits Minneapolis, MN

The sun streaming through the windows cast a warm glow upon all those within the church, adding a sense of peace and joy.  As prayers were raised, hymns sung, the people stood in deep contemplation, rejoicing in the Lord.

When the Royal Gates opened for the Eucharist, and Deacon Myroslav came out on the ambon with the Chalice, a little girl – Sophia, daughter of Fr. Myron Korostil, excitedly ran up the steps and stood expectantly awaiting to partake of the Gifts.  Archbishop Daniel who had already began recited the Prayer Before Communion paused, with a smile on his face, and explained this is how we should all approach, as this innocent child, with anticipation and joy. 

Having communed all the faithful who approached the service all too soon came to an end as the Dismissal Prayers were read.  Before dismissing the faithful His Eminence, inviting Fr. Evhen and Dobrodijka Daria to come and stand to his left, and Fr. Myron and his family to stand on his right, stepped out to say a few words.  Firstly, he expressed his gratitude that even in a pandemic the doors of the church were open to the faithful to worship the Lord.  He then continued by explaining that over a year ago he had received a note from their pastor, Fr. Evhen Kumka, who having served 27 years at the parish decided it was time to step aside as pastor and transfer that honor to the next generation of clergy.  Fr. Evhen would become a priest emeritus, still serving the Church, but, no longer carrying the burden and administrative responsibility of the parish. 

His Eminence thanked Fr. Evhen and Dobrodiyka Daria for their tireless work over the past three decades, and congratulated them for voluntarily and selflessly choosing to step down to give the younger generation the chance to serve and grow. 

Turning to Fr. Evhen, His Eminence reiterated his gratitude for the 27 years of service, performing the Holy Sacraments for countless individuals – marriages, baptisms, funerals, etc. and for always being a remarkable and valued priest in the Church.    

Gesturing to the other side, Vladyka Daniel stated that as we bid farewell to one, we offer a warm welcome to another, as he introduced Rev. Myron Korostil, Dobrodiyka Christina, and their little daughter Sophia to the parish.   His Eminence stated that from today forward, Fr. Myron would be parish pastor, and would be serving the needs to the faithful. 

Before departing, Fr. Evhen stepped up to say a few words to his longtime parishioners, thanking them for their kindness and unity in prayer over the many decades, and wishing them all the best.  Fr. Myron then expressed his gratitude to Archbishop Daniel, Fr. Evhen, and the parishioners for giving him this great opportunity, and that through their prayers, and the assistance of the Lord he looked forward to serving them to the best of his abilities.

His Eminence accepted the parish Blessing Cross from the hands of the outgoing pastor, and ceremoniously passed it along to the incoming pastor with his blessings.  The choir and parishioners joyously sang Mnohaya Lita to both priests and their families, praying that God bless them with good health and happiness all their days.

As the bells began to chime, Archbishop Daniel, flanked by both priests, instructed the faithful that as today is Forgiveness Sunday, we are all to forgive each other.  His Eminence started by asking all to forgive him, and then instructed the people to turn to each other and ask each other’s forgiveness.

With smiles the people all turned to each other, put aside the past, forgave each other, and looked forward to starting Great Lent with a new page in their books, and a new pastor to help lead them towards salvation.

The bells continued to chime, mingling with “Forgive me”… “May God forgive you, and I forgive you…” and so began not only Great Lent, but, a new chapter in the history of St. Michael and St. George Parish in Minneapolis.  May God grant many years to retiring priest V. Rev. Evhen Kumka, and to newly appointed parish priest Rev. Myron Korostil and their families.  Mnohaya Lita!

Archbishop Daniel Completes Archpastoral Visit to Minneapolis, MN

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