SOUTH BOUND BROOK, N.J. – As the sun rose over the Metropolia Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. on Saturday, April 14, the faithful began to arrive for the St. Thomas weekend events, which began with a divine liturgy celebrated by Archbishop Daniel at St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church.
Archbishop Daniel joined the faithful outdoors and walked through the cemetery stopping at various gravesites to pray and pronounce the good news of the Resurrection, sprinkling them with holy water. All through the cemetery could be heard “Christ is Risen!” in English, Ukrainian, Romanian, Polish and Portuguese. From every corner came the words proclaiming the Resurrection. The living sharing in the joy of salvation with the departed.
Once the gravesites were blessed, weary travelers sat and wiled away the hours enjoying the company of friends over a tasty meal at the Pokrova Sisterhood Hall. While some remained in the hall, eating and telling stories, others walked to the Ukrainian Cultural Center to check out the many vendors. The St. Sophia Seminary bookstore had many items for sale including religious items, seminary polo shirts and books. Other vendors were selling gold and silver medallions, earrings and necklaces, as well as embroidered shirts, scarves, and T-shirts; while still others sold pysanky, paintings, and various Ukrainian traditional ornamentation. Here too, was found food for the hungry with a variety of scrumptious items to pick from including varenyky, halushky, and kovbasa.
The festivities continued until late afternoon, with the entire Metropolia Center abuzz with activity. As the mini-bus shuttled visitors from the various parking locations to the cemetery and back, groups of people pitched canopies and enjoyed time with their families in the sunshine, playing games, sharing stories, and simply enjoying time together.
As the afternoon wound down, everyone headed to the St. Sophia Seminary where they were treated to a barbeque of hot dogs and hamburgers with all the fixings. Free-will donations were being accepted for the Ukrainian Orthodox League and their worthwhile projects. As the final burgers were served, and the sun began to wane in the west, the faithful climbed the steps to the St. Sophia Seminary to participate in the vespers service at the Three Holy Hierarchs Seminary Chapel.
As much as Saturday was sunny and hot, Sunday began rainy and cold. However, the strong winds and drizzle did not stop the faithful from arriving early and filling the St. Andrew Memorial Church beyond capacity.
Divine liturgy was led by Metropolitan Antony, Archbishop Jeremiah of the Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchy of South America (Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina), and Archbishop Daniel.
The hierarchs blessed the newly installed icons in the church, the Pochayiv icon of the Mother of God, which is suspended in front of the iconostas (icon screen), and can be lowered for veneration. There were two additional new icons, one being the “Savior of Chornobyl” and the icon of Venerable Fathers of the Monastery of Kyiv Caves. Taking turns blessing the various icons, the hierarchs also blessed the two new banners hanging on either side of the Solea, one of the Pokrova of the Mother of God, in honor of the parish sisterhood, and the other depicting St. Andrew, patron saint of the parish.
Due to the inclement weather, the memorial service that was traditionally held at the central cross of St. Andrew Cemetery was served inside the church. A contingent of the Ukrainian American Veterans entered carrying flags representing various branches of the Armed Services.
At the conclusion of the service, the Pochayiv icon was lowered so that everyone had the opportunity to venerate the icon. Young and old shuffled forward, humbled at this chance to present their love, respect and petitions before the Mother of God.
The hierarchs led a memorial service at the crypt of Patriarch Mstyslav at Holy Resurrection Mausoleum. This was followed by a service at the National Ukrainian American Veterans Memorial situated in front of the church.
The St. Sophia Theological Seminary hosted an “Ice Cream Social,” where young and younger gathered to enjoy a bowl of ice cream with a variety of toppings.
For more information, and to view additional photos, readers may visit www.uocofusa.org.