UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
The simple word “century” can seem very daunting in terms of describing an historical time period. Or the word “century” can seem miniscule when compared to larger historical concepts such as American history, Ukrainian history and especially Church history. However, to combine all three of these concepts in celebrating a century of Christ’s Church in the Ukrainian-American community, the word assumes new resonance.
The parish of St. Mary of the Nativity of the Mother of God Ukrainian Orthodox Church in New Britain, Connecticut, celebrated its first 100 years on September 12, 2010. Culminating in a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy followed by a festive banquet, the anniversary concluded a year-long commemoration of centennial events. In attendance for this special weekend were His Beatitude Metropolitan Constantine and His Grace Bishop Daniel accompanied by several deacons and seminarians as well as priests from the New England Deanery and those from nearby Orthodox churches. (His Eminence Archbishop Antony sent regrets that he could not attend on account of illness.)
The year-long celebration was organized by Father Andrii Pokotylo, Michael P. Wowk, Joseph Kerel and their hard-working committee who produced more than a half-dozen coordinated events throughout 2009-2010 under the devotional theme of “He who trusts in the Lord will prosper.” Centennial Weekend began with a Saturday Vespers service and moving Panahyda commemorating the parish founders as well as a special remembrance for the victims of September 11, 2001. Afterwards, the hierarchs, clergy and special guests enjoyed a light Lenten supper meeting parishioners and sharing mutual interests. Also in attendance for the weekend were several individuals from across the country who came to celebrate with their friends at St. Mary’s, including those from Fr. Andrii’s previous parish in Goshen, Indiana.
Hierarchical Divine Liturgy the following Sunday proved to be an inspiring, memorable event. Following the greeting of the Hierarchs by young children of the parish in Ukrainian costume, His Beatitude Metropolitan Constantine ordained two young men of the parish, Michael Platosz and Michael C. Wowk, to be Readers and ultimately Sub-Deacons. His Grace Bishop Daniel delivered a rousing detailed sermon on all aspects of parish life speaking directly to the faithful. His Grace accompanied Fr. Andrii in distributing Holy Communion to the parishioners of Saint Mary’s as choir director Basil Romanyshyn led members in song and praise.
Following the Hierarchical Liturgy, the celebrants, parishioners and guests continued the festive weekend at the Centennial Banquet. Held at Indian Hill Country Club in nearby Newington, the banquet hosted more than 200 people who enjoyed browsing their commemorative Centennial Yearbooks, special event favors and convivial atmosphere. Amid breaks in the lively conversation, formal presentations were made as emceed by banquet organizer Michael P. Wowk. These included addresses from the Hierarchs who reminded parishioners to look towards celebrating the next 100 years in which everything changes tomorrow as we will be starting at Year 001 again and that we should not tire in devotion to Christ and His Church.
The Honorable Timothy Stewart, Mayor of the City of New Britain, addressed the contributions made by Ukrainians over the years and several parish groups and state-wide organizations presented monetary gifts in honor of the Centennial. A lovely musical interlude of bandura music and song, under the direction of Irene Kuzma, provided the cultural entertainment for the afternoon. A spirited talk on parish history served as an interactive, enjoyable presentation when accompanied by a quick-moving power point slide show of more than 300 photographs, gathered and scanned by parishioners. Attendees reminisced and marveled at the diversity of activities, familiar faces and changing times of the parish that the photos revealed, from the late 19th century through to 2010.
As St. Mary’s parish looks ahead to celebrating its second century, it fully understands the hard work and spiritual growth needed to accomplish this task, concentrating on Christ and serving His Church, all shaping and strengthening our parish community.