HIS BEATITUDE METROPOLITAN JOHN – FIRST PRIME HIERARCH OF THE UOC OF USA
REMEMBERED AT THE 52ND ANNIVERSARY OF REPOSE
Metropolitan John (Theodorovyh) served as Prime Hierarch of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA from his arrival from Ukraine in 1924 to his repose 84 years later on 1 May 1971 – 47 years! He was remembered in prayer to our Lord on 3 May, 2023 before his grave behind St. Andrew Memorial Church, Somerset, NJ with all our Metropolia Center employees present along with His Beatitude’s grandson, Emil Prosen, Jr. from Massachusetts and his great-granddaughter, Emily Robbins from New York City. Serving the Memorial Service were Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel, assisted by Protopresbyter Stephen Hutnick and Very Rev. Fr. Vasyl Pasakas. Singing responses for the Panakhyda were the Seminarians-Subdeacons of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary.
Following the service, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony spoke of his relationship with Metropolitan John from his childhood through the first five years of his seminary education. He spoke fondly of the immense influence Metropolitan John had on his life from the visits that this humble but very powerful presence exhibited as he made to various parishes in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. He told of Metropolitan John’s charismatic personality and his loving and teaching sermons that truly brought the faithful closer to God. Further, when His Beatitude spoke of his life in Ukraine prior to arriving in the USA, his listeners were enthralled at how the church had grown under the guidance of a powerful corps of Bishops who were dedicated to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s right to exist and to serve the faithful in their own language and according to their own traditions.
Just before then Archbishop John, departed from Ukraine, his life was in extreme danger because the soviet regime had begun to execute the bishops who were part of that corps of Bishops. There were 37 of them and by 1927 all were murdered and taken off for burial in places unknown to this day. Their leader, Metropolitan Vasyl was place under house arrest until he was finally executed in 1937 and also buried in an unknown grave. Archbishop John Theodorovych barely escaped with his young daughter and found safety in serving our Church here in the USA. His family members remember, however, that he was never able to feel completely free for most of his life, worried that the soviet agents would come after him here in America.
Metropolitan John built our Church from a small collection of individual parishes into a thriving force in service to our Lord. He was finally successful in 1950 in uniting the two separate Ukrainian Orthodox Churches in the USA into the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, which continued to grow. In cooperation with Archbishop Mstyslav Skrypnyk, our Metropolia Center was established and became known throughout the world as the Ukrainian Jerusalem, where the treasury of Ukrainian Orthodoxy was preserved, protected against unending soviet aggression against the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful, destruction of thousands of ancient Ukrainian Orthodox parish churches and horrific genocide – much like what we see being repeated today in Ukraine.
Metropolitan Antony declared that Metropolitan John was the driving force behind all the growth and development of our church throughout the critical decades of his leadership. We must never forget him or his life-long commitment to God in the Holy Trinity and to God’s people wherever he found them. He was the founder of many new parishes throughout the midwestern states and was well known in ecumenical circles throughout the United States and Canada because he taught himself the English language from the day he arrived in the USA and was able to communicate easily with the nation he believed was his own.
Mr. Prosen and Ms. Robbins were guests for a coffee hour at the Seminary following the Memorial Service and they were able to share with the gathered bishops, clergy, seminarians and faithful their personal memories of “Grandpa”. This was a very moving and interesting gathering. My His Beatitude rest peacefully awaiting the Last Day and the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He left to all of us a spiritual legacy worthy of emulation and prais