On August 24th, 1958, in a private residence in San Francisco, the first Divine Liturgy of what would become St. Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held. Only a handful of newly immigrated families were in attendance, but they were the newly planted roots of our Parish that would begin to grow and flourish over the years. On November 22nd, 1959, our very first “Khramove Svyato” (Patron Saint Day) Celebration was held and from that day, St. Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church became a centerpiece of our Ukrainian Community here in the San Francisco Bay Area and it has remained so ever since.
On November 18th, 2018, we were Blessed to Celebrate our 60th Anniversary, together with the Feast Day of Holy Archangel Michael, our Patron Saint. His Eminence Metropolitan Antony was our most special guest and celebrated Archpastoral Divine Liturgy with the assistance of our own parish priest, Father Georgiy Tyapko, Father Myroslav Turchak of Holy Trinity Mission in Sacramento, Deacon Adrian Mazur of Holy Trinity Cathedral, New York City and Seminarian-Subdeacons Mykola Zomchak and Ivan Venhryn from St. Sophia Seminary, South Bound Brook, NJ.
The Metropolitan was met at the Church Entrance by children from the Ukrainian School of San Francisco, Parish Board President Petro Redko and many other parishioners. The parish choir sang beautifully under the guidance of choir director, Vera Vizir, creating the spiritual atmosphere of the occasion. Just before the beginning of Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Antony ordained a new Subdeacon for service to our Holy Parish of St. Archangel Michael in the person of Olexandr Leniv. He was first tonsured as a reader and His Eminence reminded him of the enormous responsibilities God has called him to and that he must at all time be prepared to serve His Holy Church and to comprehend everything that he is scheduled to read, for if he does not understand, the message may not be conveyed through his reading to edify those who listen. He also reminded the faithful in Church that they were not just witnesses to the ordination, but participants and thus, bear responsibility to pray for Oleksandr that the Lord will continue to enlighten him and lead him to greater service in the Church.
During his sermon, His Eminence spoke about the importance of Holy Scripture for all Christians and its central role in all aspects of our Church’s life, in particular, the liturgical life of the church. All the content of the Divine Liturgy is quoted directly from Holy Scripture as are most of the other liturgical services in the Church. The Metropolitan taught us that our ancestors – from the moment of the Baptism of Ukraine into the Holy Orthodox Faith – learned scripture by participating in these liturgical services. A thousand years ago, the ability to read scripture was limited to very few educated people, and thus, the language of the prayers and petitions of the services taught them scripture.
His Eminence stated that we were not celebrating just the 60th anniversary of our parish, but also the 1030th anniversary of that Baptism of Ukraine and the 100th anniversary of the foundation or our Ukrainian Orthodox Church here in the USA and very importantly, the granting of Autocephaly to our beloved Church in Ukraine – an independent “Pomisna” Church in our independent nation. Our challenge as we celebrate these immensely important celebrations is to “reevangelize” ourselves. We have the ability to read and comprehend scripture as it is preached to us during the Divine services and through education classes in our parishes. We must return to the desire of our ancestors to comprehend the Gospel as the only real way to celebrate this day. We must choose to make our Lord and His Church the center of our lives if we hope to gain the abundant blessings our forefathers received for their faithfulness. In today’s world, this is a real challenge because we have allowed ourselves to be lured away to so many secular goals of life.
In addition to all of our local guests, we had many new faces join us, like our brothers and sisters from Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Mission in Sacramento. The children from the Ukrainian School of San Francisco were wonderful as well and a special thanks goes out to the teachers and parents for all of their hard work.
After the Liturgy, two of our long term and still active parishioners, Pani Nadia Basalski and Pan Vitali Vizir were awarded the UOC of USA Centennial Anniversary Medal for their years of hard work and dedication over the last 50 years. This is an honor created by our Hierarchs specifically to honor individuals during the 100th-Centenniel anniversary of 2018. Following the presentation of these awards, Metropolitan Antony invited everyone in church to participate in a group photo after the ceremony and over 130 people took part. We are humbled that every year our parish continues to grow back into the strong community it is meant to be.
All the guests then gathered in the parish hall and waited for Metropolitan Antony to enter and he was greeted by Oksana DiRicco of St. Olga Sisterhood, with the traditional bread and salt and a hand embroidered rushnyk. Also greeting the Metropolitan was Nadia Basalski, former President of the Sisterhood. The children from the Ukrainian School of San Francisco sang “Zelenеye Zhuto” while Metropolitan took entered the hall to bless the feast of the Feast. The members of St. Olga sisterhood then served us a delicious luncheon prepared by many of our sisters under the guidance of our Sisterhood President, Vera Vizir while a concert program went on in the background under the guidance of our Cultural Officer, Oksana Stus. The performers included Burevisnyky Dance Ensemble, Ukrainian School of San Francisco and Artist, Poet and Vocalist Solomiya. Greeting our celebration from the government of Ukraine was Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Consul General of San Francisco Sergiy Aloshyn. Our very special honored guest for the celebration was Ukrainian soldier, Victor Lekhodukh, former Commanding Officer from Ukraine who is receiving medical services in Los Angeles and joined us for the weekend.
We’re thankful for such a successful event and thankful for the Blessings of Metropolitan Antony and all who participated. May God Bless our Parish so that we may celebrate another 60 or 100 years or more! As His Eminence concluded his sermon he stated “What our parish, our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA or the entire Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine will be in the decades or centuries to come, depends upon the dedication and commitment of each of us present here this day. May we become the saints of San Francisco to whom future generations will be grateful for their own existence.”
By Oksana DiRicco