His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, accompanied by seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary (South Bound Brook, NJ) Reader Andrii Vatrych and Andrii Akulenko, visited St. Anthony of the Desert Ukrainian Orthodox Mission in Las Cruces, New Mexico on the weekend of Myrrh-bearing Women – May 6-8, 2022.
In 2021 the mission received a new pastor – Rev. Fr. Mark Phillips, and the community is strong with a current membership of about 50 adults and 15 children. Six new members were Chrismated on Pascha 2022, and several catechumens are progressing toward full membership.
Archbishop Daniel and seminarians arrived on Friday evening and had an opportunity to visit with Fr. Mark Phillips, learning about the pastoral successes of the mission. On Saturday afternoon Vladyka Daniel met with a dozen parishioners, including members of the parish council, addressing pastoral questions and offering theological spiritual guidance to those in preparation for the Holy Mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation.
Fr. Mark served Great Vespers at 5:00 PM, with Archishop Daniel delivering comments at the conclusion of the service, reflecting on the spiritual meaning of the weekend, and offering reflection on the ongoing war in Ukraine. The archbishop stated that there is no justification for the severe loss of human life in Ukraine, the destruction of maternity hospitals and schools, the genocidal slaughter of children and elderly. “As Orthodox Christians, the people of God - we must do everything possible to stop this attempted invasion of Ukraine and the murders which we witness daily on our TV screens.”
At the potluck supper, which followed, Vladyka Daniel was greeted by the children of the mission and presented with stuffed toys for the children of Ukraine.
On Sunday at the Divine Liturgy for the Myrrh-Bearing Women, Fr. Mark Phillips, assisted by the representatives of the mission’s board administration and the youth of the community formally greeted the eparchial bishop to the parish.
Archbishop presided at the liturgy, assisted by Fr. Mark and Fr. Gabriel Rochell (pastor-emeritus), with subdeacons and seminarians as altar servers. Vladyka Daniel spoke in his sermon on the spiritual notion of courage that the Myrrh-bearing women practiced and the courage we are called to live by as we witness the Salvific Message of God’s love in the world. Moreover, Vladyka honored mothers of the mission as the world-wide community marked Mother’s Day. Greetings the mothers, the archbishop spoke of the courage of mothers as they are tasked with the sacred responsibility of raising children and setting them on the path of spiritual success. The Liturgy was well attended by over forty people.
In his remarks, following the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Fr. Mark once again welcomed the archbishop to the mission and called upon the youth of the parish to present Vladyka with a gift of icons, which were written by Sara Edenburn Harper. The iconographer wrote two icons of the newly-glorified saints of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Metropolitan of Kyiv, Galicia and All Rus Joseph (Nelyubovich-Tukalsky) and the benefactress of the Kyiv Theological Schools Elizabeth (Gulevich) in the traditional Ukrainian Folk style, yet reaching into the local sacred tradition of New Mexico.
Following the Liturgy, Archbishop Daniel, assisted by Fr. Mark presented the ladies of the mission with the flowers, thus honoring them on Mother’s Day.
Archbishop Daniel’s official visit concluded with dinner on Sunday Evening with members of the mission’s board of administration. Discussion on strategy for the growth of the parish was exceedingly fruitful, according to those who attended, and several ideas for new initiatives arose during that time.
The members and friends and catechumens of St. Anthony of the Desert Mission were deeply grateful for this year’s archpastoral visitation and look forward to another year of service to parish and community as we contemplate and act upon our Archbishop’s charge to us.