Council of Metropolia of the UOC of the USA Meets at the Spiritual Center of the Church
Council of Metropolia of the UOC of the USA Meets at the Spiritual Center of the Church

Comprised of dedicated individuals from various walks of life, both clergy and laity, the Council of Metropolia has the crucial responsibility to ensure the success of the Church, being elected by the Regular Sobor to provide strategic leadership, guiding the Church in its mission and vision.  Arriving on a sunny but chilly Thursday, February 22, 2024, the group met for the first of two days during which they would hear the reports of various Church organizations and institutions and discuss various topics of importance in the life of the Church and her faithful.

The session began with a Moleben, during which His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora, along with His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy and Consistory President, the members of the Council of the Metropolia, along with the Seminarians of the St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary prayed for the Lord’s mercy and guidance, a quick cessation of the invasion of Ukraine and a return to peace and prosperity to their ancestral homeland, for the Grace of the Lord and peace for the world.  With the conclusion of the service, the Metropolitan opened the meeting with a deep reflection on being good servants, and not being complacent in having achieved that which is expected of us, but, to strive to go that extra mile, to do that extra thing, to step outside our comfort zones and do all within our power for the glory of God, the good of the Church, and the salvation of mankind.

Having reviewed the minutes from the previous meeting, recalling to mind what had been discussed, and the goals which had been set, the members got right down to business.  Archbishop Daniel reviewed the news of the Western Eparchy, sharing the great news of numerous new mission parishes opening to fill the spiritual needs of the faithful. Long established parishes have been revitalized with an influx of new immigrants who bring with them enthusiasm and manpower to continue to grow and prosper the various parish ministries.

Property Management was next on the agenda, as the members viewed a prepared presentation, and reviewed the repairs and maintenance that needs to be done on various structures, especially after the huge damage incurred by Hurricane Ida in 2019.  Repairs have been made and mitigation steps are in the plans to ensure that future storms do not wreak the same degree of damage.

The meeting continued with the review of reports from various Offices of Ministry starting with Stewardship.  Very Rev. Robert Holet explained to the Council members the importance of stewardship of their home parishes, and the encouragement of instilling the sense of responsibility in each parishioner.  We are after all not guests in a stranger’s house, but are the faithful in the Lord’s House, and it is on us to maintain it and ensure funds are available to ensure the necessary bills are paid, repairs are done, charitable work is completed, and reimbursements made.

Mrs. Natalie Kapeluck-Nixon prepared a detailed report for the Youth and Young Adult Ministry, reviewing the numerous programs and efforts in place to teach, guide and strengthen our youth in their Faith.  From videos, contests, online magazines, to classes and sessions, the Youth Ministry has been profound in growing our Youth within the Church.  The programs developed by the Youth Ministry of the UOC of the USA have been complemented by and implemented in various jurisdictions throughout the USA and beyond.

Speaking about the Orphanage Mission Program, Archbishop Daniel informed the Board about the situation of the orphans in Ukraine.  Some were transported to Poland during the initial stages of the invasion by Russia but have since returned to Ukraine.  The Church continues to support these orphans via various means and is also exploring new projects as the need as grown exponentially as the number of orphans has increased due to the invasion, killing, and destruction taking place in Ukraine.

The Office Religious Education report was prepared by Very Rev. Harry Linsinbigler who described the various educational materials available for youth and adults online.  The study materials revolve around Orthodox Theology, Lives of the Saints, and other materials for adults, while for the youth there is material to prepare them for their first Confessions.  Parishes extensively avail themselves of this invaluable resource.

The Office of Christian Charity has been fundamental in supporting Ukraine in these dark times.  Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay, President of the St. Andrew’s Society, explained how thousands of dollars have been collected and utilized in providing much needed supplies by both the refugees and the military.  Ambulances and transport vehicles have been provided, along with hygiene products, warm clothing, and staples like non-perishable food items, and fresh fruit.  Items are delivered in person to the remote villages along the front lines, where people in the most desperate need honker down and await a cessation of the invasion.

Archbishop Daniel continued by reviewing the report of the Liturgical Commission which is currently working on publishing a second edition of the clergy Service Book, among other booklets to be utilized for various Sacraments.  The Liturgical Commission is always working on offering both the clergy and the faithful the materials they need to serve, to pray, and to grow closer to the Lord.

Fr. Ivan Synevskyy prepared the report for Public Relations, focusing on the popularity of the Church website, WWW.UOCOFUSA.ORG.  The news of the Church is shared on the website, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, utilizing all the latest avenues and social media, to keep the faithful informed and to enrich their lives.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Word (UOW) magazine continues to be published monthly online, offering the faithful material that is current and designed to enrich their faith through articles, proclamations, and information that is designed to inform and educate.  In addition to the educational materials, icon explanations and reflections, each edition lists the latest Church and clergy statistics, offers a children’s section, and even a monthly recipe.

The session of the first day concluded with a review of the Office of Archives.  Dr. Michael Andrec prepared the report on the Archives, which are currently being digitalized, making them available to a broader audience and ensuring their availability into perpetuity.  Parish records, archives of Church founders, historic records, and information from around the world is being organized, categorized, and made available for future generations.

Friday morning the council members once again gathered to continue with the second day of the meeting.  Finances were the focus of the day, as the board reviewed the Financial Report prepared by Church Treasurer, Very Rev. Stephen Hutnick, and Financial Secretary Mrs. Natalia Honcharenko.  Every aspect of income and spending was reviewed in detail assuring the board members that the finances are being handled properly and in a way that ensures the continued success of the Church.

Much discussion revolved around the proposed budget for 2024, as the board members did due diligence in their fiscal responsibility to the Church and her faithful.  Fr. Stephen explained every aspect and numbers were increased or decreased accordingly.

Both Metropolian Antony, Rector of the Seminary, and Archbishop Daniel, Provost of the St. Sophia Theological Seminary spoke in detail about the current news of the institution.  The Seminary is currently undergoing final steps in achieving ATS accreditation.  This will be a huge step in raising awareness, increasing the student body, and raising the status of our seminary.  Archbishop Daniel began the process years ago by preparing and submitting over 600 pages to the ATS.  Fr. Theophan Mackey has assisted this last year by finishing up the Seminary Self Study and will continue in his role with the Seminary in working towards full accreditation.  Hopefully ATS accreditation will be confirmed in the coming months.

Switching gears, the members of the board reviewed the report from All Saints Camp who are offering a wide variety of programs this year.  Having resolved the water issues from previous years the camp is rented out for the entirety of the camping season.  It promises to be a fun-filled and enjoyable summer for the youth of the Church.  The importance of spreading news about All Saints Camp was made clear.  Sadly many of our parishes do not inform their parishioners of the various programs offered at the camp, and therefore, their children do not participate and miss out on a great opportunity to learn about God, build lifelong friendships, and experience summer camp life.

Dobrodiyka Laryssa Charest, President of the Senior Ukrainian Orthodox League, presented a report on the UOL, explaining the many ways the league plans to make improvements in their programs and ministry.  Like All Saints Camp, many parishes are not aware of the arm of the Church and are missing an avenue to bond with sister parishes and work together for the good of their faithful and the Church as a whole.  New initiatives are underway and wonderful ideas are being implemented in the league.  Exciting times are ahead for the current members, and future members alike.

The Ukrainian History and Education Center report was prepared by Fr. Stephen Hutnick, Board President and Natalia Honcharenko, Director and Dr. Michael Andrec, Archivist.  The museum continues to collect, document, catalogue and archive various aspects of not only Church history, but the history of Ukrainian immigrants throughout the world.  While Covid curtailed physical exhibits, online exhibits drew a huge crowd.  Smaller exhibits have continued being displayed and have attracted people from the Church, and the general public.  Natalia Honcharenko, Dr. Michael Andrec, and Dobrodijka Oksana Pasakas were instrumental in preparing the exhibits and displays.

Very Rev. Andrii Pokotylo and Howard West presented the report on the Guardians of the Metropolia, the youngest organization of the Church. The Guardians were formed as an organization whose main goal is to collect funds to assist the Church with various projects.  Currently the Guardians are sponsoring the printing of the latest Service Book and will be helping out the Seminary.  The organization has a list of items they wish to achieve in the coming years.  Guardians are hoping to increase their membership in the coming year, and thereby be able to take on additional projects for the Church. 

The meeting concluded with a review of upcoming key dates and anniversaries.  While times are tough and much work needs to be done in the life of the Church, with the continued dedication and hard work of her faithful, her clergy, hierarchs, and the various ministries, the Church has a bright future ahead.  As the St. Andrew Memorial Church lights up the darkest night, the UOC of the USA and her faithful continue to light up the world around them, igniting a love and enthusiasm for the Lord.

Two years ago at the meeting of the Council of the Metropolia, as the members sat around the conference table, the news broke of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.  The meeting was paused as everyone attended numerous services to pray for Ukraine.

Two years have gone by, and Ukraine is still defending herself from her invaders.  Millions of people have been internally displaced, millions have become refugees, and half a million have lost their lives.  However, the people fight on, protecting their loved ones, their families, and the entire free world.

Saturday morning, February 24, 2024, the members of the Council of the Metropolia gathered in the St. Andrew Memorial Church to attend a Divine Liturgy and pray for Ukraine, for those who are fighting to stay alive, and for the eternal memory of those who gave their all, those who were murdered, starved, and tortured to death.

The Council of Metropolia members prayed fervently along with their hierarchs and clergy, with heads bowed low before the Lord, asking for His mercy and intercession, and salvation of Ukraine and her people.

It is the responsibility of every Orthodox faithful, not just board members, to pray for Ukraine.  Our persistent prayer and petitions will be heard.  With this conviction in mind, the board members prayed fervently and upon the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy returned to their parishes confident and energized.  May the Lord bless the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, her hierarchs, clergy and faithful, and may they continue to serve Him, shine His light in the world, help those in need, and pray ceaselessly.

Council of Metropolia of the UOC of the USA Meets at the Spiritual Center of the Church

Photos by Subdeacon Maksym Zhuravchyk

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