It has become an annual pious tradition for the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA to join the parish family of the Holy Great-Martyr George Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Yardville, NJ for the parochial feast day.
On Sunday, May 7, 2023, both Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel, joined by Very Rev. Fr. Orest Poukhalsky and Very Rev. Fr. Vasyl Pasakas arrived in Yardville, NJ for the parish celebration, honoring the contributions of the individual members of the community in the life of the greater Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
The procession of clergy, escorted by the youth of the parish brought many smiles on facial expressions of parents and parishioners of the congregation, especially as the entire Ukrainian-American community continues to embrace and help each other in time of Russian aggression against the people of Ukraine.
Bouquets of flowers were presented to the hierarchs by the members of the parish sisterhood of St. Olga, while members of the parish board of administration offered signs of hospitality to Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel – the bread and salt – baked by the ladies of the parish community.
Very Rev. Fr. Petro Levko – pastor of the parish welcomed the hierarchs into the temple, presenting them with a cross for veneration, and calling upon them to offer intercessory prayers for the well-being of the parish and the people and nation of Ukraine.
At the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, following the chanting of the Gospel reading by Deacon Pavlo Vysotky, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel offered a sermon reflecting on the Reading of the day, which was from the Gospel of John 5:1-15, telling of the Miracle at the Pool of Bethesda.
Having offered teaching and explanation about the healing miracle, Vladyka also reflected: “…When we are strong in our faith… mountains move, prayers get answered and worry disappears. Sounds like a few things we all need but it starts with faith! To be strong in faith we must read the Scriptures, remain in prayer and surround ourselves with people who will assist us in our journey of Faith!
Our Faith in God is revealed not only in our liturgical expressions, but most importantly in our ability to LIVE the life of Faith in Christ by being merciful, loving and kind. It is not enough to know the history of the Church and the facts about Jesus Christ… you must KNOW the SAVIOUR by the way you live your life and participate in His history of salvation…
Jesus teaches us today how to grow in faith. He demonstrates it with the example of His own life and the significance of prayer. It says in the Scriptures “He went up on a mountain by Himself to pray.” Our personal relationship with God, which is fundamental to our Christian life and to a strong faith, has to be nurtured by taking time to be alone with God, to rest in His presence and to listen to Him in the Scriptures. Jesus, while fully God, was also fully human. In His human nature, He turned regularly each day to the Father in prayer. Here, as in countless other elements of Jesus’ life, He says to us, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done…” (Jn 13:15). There is no deep faith in Jesus without deep prayer.
The Lord teaches us another critical way to grow in faith — learn to keep our eyes fixed on Him. Difficulties arise in life; storms come our way. They are inevitable. If we can keep the eyes of our faith fixed on Christ, we can weather these storms of life. By keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord, we find wisdom and strength in Him that lifts us beyond our mere human capacities; we learn to trust that God is there and never abandons us; and we do not grow weary or discouraged.
Finally, our Lord teaches us that true faith flows from love and love casts out all fear.
So, how strong is your faith? At its core, faith is a gift from God; so, ask the Lord to increase your faith, “I believe. Help my unbelief” (Mk 9: 24). Take responsibility for nurturing the faith you have received with a commitment to 10-15 minutes of daily, personal prayer. Develop the virtue of keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ during the challenged moments of life. It takes a great deal of practice. Finally, open your hearts to His amazing love, which will grant you faith to move mountains.”
As His Eminence returned to the Altar, he had left the faithful with much to contemplate and think about, as they wondered if someone they knew was in need of assistance. Together they prayed the Creed, repeated the many petitions to the Lord for health, safety, and prosperity of the world, and with bowed heads in unison recited the Lord’s prayer.
As the children ran to get in line for Holy Communion, the adults also humbly followed. Having received the Body and Blood of Christ, washed anew, spirits lifted, the faithful, with renewed resolve and vigor once again bowed their heads as the hierarchs prayed for the wellbeing of Ukraine, a cessation of the atrocities being perpetrated by the Russians against innocent civilians, and a return to peace.
As the choir sang Mnohaya Lita, the faithful approached to venerate the icon of St. George. Having fed their souls, with warm smiles and twinkling eyes the faithful made their way to the parish hall to continue the celebration of the Parish Feast Day.
During the delicious banquet, the children of the Ukrainian School climbed on stage and chased away all the sorrow and worry and replaced them with joy and hope. The youngsters dressed in their Ukrainian vyshyvanky sang and recited poetry, making their parents and teachers proud. The seminarians stepped into the spotlight and also sang a variety of Ukrainian folk songs.
A loud applause followed the declaration that the parish family had made a generous donation to the UOC of the USA. With gratitude His Eminence Archbishop Daniel accepted the parish donation of $10,000 to aid Ukrainian Orphanages.
The parish joyfully exclaimed GOD GRANT YOU MANY YEARS, while children of the parish presented Archbishop Daniel with flowers and cake, thus beginning to mark the 15th anniversary of archpastoral consecration, which took place on May 9-10, 2008 in St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, OH.
With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, and upon the recommendation of the parish pastor, Vladyka Daniel presented several awards to the most deserving parishioners of the parish family:
Certificates of Blessing: Olha Svitlyk, Helen Dublas, Vitaliy Niavchuk, Mykhaylo Phokshek, Vasyl Skutar, Svitlana Ivasiuk, Maryna Skrutar and pani-matka Mariia Levko
Aid to Ukraine Bronze Trident: Petro Jarmak and Anthony Lesenskyj
Medal of St. Volodymyr: Anatoly Kutovy, Anatolij Mostrowsky, Vasyl Kozak, John Dumych and Very Rev. Fr. Petro Levko.
With smiles the ladies of the Sisterhood and teachers of the parochial Church School happily accepted the flowers presented to them by Metropolitan Antony who declared that the parish was built on the labor of their love. It is the continuous and unfaltering dedication of the sisterhood, their selfless efforts, that have helped this parish flourish and prosper.
With the formal celebration concluded, the faithful lingered in the parish hall enjoying spending time with their hierarchs and each other.
Bidding their farewells, the faithful returned to the world, re-energized and with a renewed commitment to make a positive change in the world around them – near and far. With such a faithful and dedicated flock, the parish of St. George has a bright future.
Many years to the parish as they celebrate their Patronal Feast Day! Mnohaya Lita!