Braving rain and a cold wind on the Saturday of St. Thomas Sunday, the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA made their annual pilgrimage to the Spiritual Center – Metropolia of the UOC of the USA, especially St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery in South Bound Brook, NJ. Despite the chilly Saturday weather a sizeable group of 2,000 took part in the two-day pilgrimage.
“Come and share in the light, grace and Gospel of the Risen Lord with others!” – with these words thousands of faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of USA and guests were invited to celebrate St. Thomas Sunday in the Metropolia Center of the Church.
With the call to holiness and openness to the Lord’s presence in our lives, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, the ruling hierarch of the Western Eparchy and President of the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, greeted thousands of pilgrims visiting the spiritual center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA in South Bound Brook, NJ on Bright Saturday morning, May 4th, 2019.
As every year the preparations for the annual pilgrimage began weeks ahead. As the early morning sunlight shed upon the center, the first pilgrims started to arrive in order to share the joy of Pascha with each other and the faithful of the Church buried at St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery in South Bound Brook, NJ. Each pilgrim was welcomed to the Metropolia center by the members of the Ukrainian Orthodox League that for the past several years have served as a welcoming committee of the faithful to their spiritual center. The property management crew of the Metropolia Center, under the leadership of Mr. Petro Rudyy, made sure that visitors smoothly approached the parking facilities of the Metropolia Center and utilizing special bus shuttles were able to transition between St. Andrew’s Cemetery and the main offices of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. In order to enrich faithful spiritually during these two days of pilgrimage every day would begin with Divine Liturgy; so everyone had a chance to participate in the Holy Mysteries of Confession and Eucharist.
In the late afternoon everyone had a chance to tour St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary and later on joined the seminarians of the Church for a picnic at the Seminary, which was sponsored by the Seminary UOL chapter. Visitors were treated to hot dogs and hamburgers grilled by our student-seminarians. Both Hierarchs - Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel joined the picnic in order to learn about the culinary skills of the student body and to taste delicious foods. The picnic concluded with Vespers served in the Three Hierarchs Seminary Chapel.
On Sunday morning, May 5th, 2019 the Divine Liturgy was served by His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel. The bishops were assisted in celebrating the Liturgy in St. Andrew Memorial Church by the clergy from the Mid-Atlantic States surrounding New Jersey, and some from beyond that area! As the bells of St. Andrew Memorial Church rang, the bishops walked in a procession to the Memorial Church, an impressive monument commemorating the victims of the genocidal famine created by Josef Stalin and his Communist regime in Ukraine during 1932-1933. The choir of the Church, under the masterful direction of Michael Andrec, prayerfully sang the responses to the Divine Liturgy.
Following the chanting of the Gospel reading, with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Vladyka Daniel preached the sermon. The bishop centered his sermon on the topic of the scars on Christ and on the His Mystical Body - the Church. Vladyka reflected on the pious traditions of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians of visiting the graves of their loved ones in order to share with them the news of the Resurrection of Christ. Archbishop Daniel reflected also on the tragic events of Chornobyl Nuclear disaster that occurred almost 33 years ago...
The archbishop also spoke of the innocent some 15,000 Ukrainian men, women and children that lost their lives due to the barbaric behavior of politically motivated separatists in Eastern Ukraine and throughout the region where people continue to experience Russian aggression. His Eminence spoke of the various historical, political and Church related scars of modern day Ukraine and the United States of America and called upon the faithful gathered in the Church to be true witnesses of the Risen Lord in the world that is so thirsty for a word of love, hope and mercy.
Due to the rainy weather conditions of the weekend, the traditional Memorial Service for all those interred in St. Andrew Cemetery and Mausoleum, all the hierarchs and clergy of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the members of the Fisher Family – original owners of the estate upon which our Metropolia Center is located, was conducted inside the Memorial church. Ukrainian American Veterans formally entered St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church, thus paying a tribute to countless number of Ukrainian-Americans that have offered their lives in the service of the USA. During the Memorial Pankhyda, the hierarchs of the Church commemorated the ten million victims of Stalin’s genocidal famine, the millions of victims of the Soviet repressions in Ukraine, the victims of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster and all those who gave their lives for the freedom and independence of Ukraine and the United States of America, the victims of abortion, numerous natural disasters and terrorist acts throughout the world, especially the suffering Christian communities in Sri Lanka and African nations. Special prayers were offered this year for the victims of the ongoing aggression against Ukraine in Donbas region.
Both days, Saturday and Sunday were filled with the selling of traditional Ukrainian food and folk crafts like pysanky, original oil paintings, ceramics, jewelry, ecclesiastical vestments and vessels, music CD’s and videos in the Cultural Center. Some of the Consistory Offices of Ministry and central organizations of the UOC of the USA offered exhibits about their ministries in our communities: The Offices of Youth and Adult Ministry, Public Relations, Publications, the Ukrainian Orthodox League, St. Andrew Ukrainian Sunday School and St. Andrew Society.
The big side room in the cultural center was also a site for a youth ice cream social hosted by the Consistory Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. This was an opportunity for our youth form all over the country to meet with each other and with our hierarchs of the Church.
Much gratitude is expressed to all those who made the weekend the success it has always been: the Consistory Office staff members and property management staff under the direction of Petro Rudyy, the Cultural Center staff, Pokrova Sisterhood members, Memorial Church choir and the members of the Ukrainian Orthodox League who handled the sometimes difficult parking program.
Memorial Services - Panachydas, served by the hierarchs and seminarians of the Church’s Seminary for Metropolitan Ioan Theodorovich and other hierarchs of the UOC of the USA concluded this year’s pilgrimage.
This annual pilgrimage has seen many generations of Ukrainian immigrations visiting the Metropolia Center. As in the previous years, this annual pilgrimage brought Ukrainians of four if not five generations together to share together their past, present and looking forward to the future. Spiritual pilgrimages and community events like this one are so crucial and greatly benefit our Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian community. The new wave of immigrants from Ukraine joined long time residents and the generations already born in the USA bringing a sense of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
It is so moving to witness an older person telling a young child about the deceased members of their family and their background and roots while standing at the place of repose for their loved ones. It is moving to see that as the older generations pass on, the younger generations readily fulfilling their responsibility in carrying on family and national spiritual traditions.
We hope to see many more of our faithful in future years.
Photos by Seminarian Yaroslav Bilohan and Lev Khmelkovsky