From fund drives for existing church properties in the U.S. and the construction of a new church in Palatine, Ill., to the consecration of new bishops around the globe and moves made in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 was certainly an eventful year for our Ukrainian Churches. Following, in chronological order, are major developments of the year.
In the January 5 issue of The Ukrainian Weekly, readers learned about the ASC Capital Campaign, a fund drive launched in August 2019 for All Saints Camp in Emlenton, Pa., which is owned by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. (UOC-U.S.A.). The drive aims to make necessary upgrades with the camp’s approaching 50th anniversary in 2028, to allow the camp to grow, so that a safe and fun encampment facility can continue to offer programs for all ages. Proposed upgrades include two new wash houses, an expanded garage, pool area expansion, path and trail upgrades, sports courts redesign for additional sports, new volunteer lodging, Millennium Cultural Center renovation (which in 2019 included new ADA-compliant restrooms and shower facilities, climate controlled heating and cooling and an expanded lounge), equipment acquisitions, road resurfacing and a restoration of the amphitheater area.
Founded in 1978, the camp property was provided an $80,000 mortgage by the Ukrainian National Association and $100,000 from funds raised by the Ukrainian Orthodox League. The property has grown to include All Saints Chapel, built through an anonymous donation, which was consecrated in 2008. With a goal of raising $1 million, the fund drive has raised $10,977.66, with donation pledges of $35,407.26.
The St. Nicholas Eparchy of the Ukrainian Catholic Church also launched a capital campaign, “Building Our Faith Together, in Unity and with Gratitude,” with the goal of restoring the 112-year-old St. Nicholas Cathedral in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village. Launched in May 2019, by January 2020 the campaign completed the first phase with the fund surpassing the $2 million mark. The goal is to reach $3.65 million, and the funds will be used not only by St. Nicholas Cathedral, but as a seed for an endowment fund to better support all parishes and missions with the eparchy (which includes 43 parishes, missions and monasteries), and to further develop eparchial resources and the continuing education of priests, deacons and laity. The second phase of the campaign will aim for improvements to the five other Chicago-area parishes, and Phase 3 will focus on the remaining 37 churches and properties of the eparchy.
The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC) on January 12 welcomed the consecration of the world’s youngest bishop, when the Rev. Stepan Sus, 38, was consecrated at the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kyiv. Bishop Stepan was elected curial bishop of the Major Archeparchy of Kyiv-Halych by the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and was confirmed by Pope Francis on November 15, 2019. He was informed of his election two days after running in the Marines Marathon 10K in Washington with wounded Ukrainian veterans. Ordained to the clergy in 2006, Father Sus served as a military chaplain, as a parish priest of the Garrison Church of Ss. Peter and Paul in Lviv and as an advisor to the Lviv Archeparchy. A native of Lviv, he studied at Ukrainian Catholic University and Holy Spirit Major Seminary in Lviv before earning a master’s degree in theology from the Catholic University of Lublin. Bishop Stepan was consecrated by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.
Three new episcopal appointments for the Ukrainian Catholic Church were reported in January.
Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski of the New Westminster Eparchy of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada was appointed by Pope Francis on January 15 as head of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy in London, England (Eparchy of the Blessed Virgin Mary in London). The London Eparchy, established in 1957, was an exarchate until 2013, when it was elevated to an eparchy by Pope Benedict XVI. Bishop Kenneth was ordained to the priesthood in August 1989, studied at St. Thomas Aquinas Pontifical University in Rome, the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, and served as vice-chancellor to Cardinal Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky in 1991. He returned to Canada in 2001 as rector of Holy Spirit Ukrainian Seminary in Ottawa, and since 2006 was chancellor of the Saskatoon Eparchy. In June 2007 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him bishop of the New Westminster Eparchy, with episcopal consecration and enthronement in July 2007.
Since Bishop Kenneth was enthroned in London on April 7 during the pandemic, he turned to social media to connect with his flock amid the coronavirus restrictions. In the Cathedral of the Holy Family, which seats up to 850 people, there were empty pews. In place of Patriarch Sviatoslav, who was to preside at the ceremony but could not due to travel restrictions put in place and the closure of Britain’s borders, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, presented Bishop Kenneth with the crosier and the papal bull of his appointment as the new eparch of London. Joining the archbishop were eight clergy members. Bishop Kenneth said the experience reminded him of his seminary days when divine liturgies were broadcast to the Soviet Union via radio, with only the priest and the seminarians in the studio. He stressed that the distancing measures underscore the need for priests to communicate and noted that the Internet is among the new innovations that can be used to reach a larger audience. The London Eparchy, which includes 18,000 people, with 14 priests responsible for 27 parishes and missions throughout England, Scotland and Wales, has already held clergy videoconferences at this time of COVID-19.
As announced by Vatican officials, Pope Francis on January 15 accepted the abdication of Bishop Petro Stasiuk of the Eparchy of Ss. Peter and Paul of Melbourne, Australia, which serves the needs of Ukrainian Catholics in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania. The Rev. Mykola Bychok, a Redemptorist hieromonk and since 2005 a parish associate at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Newark, N.J., was appointed as the eparchy’s new bishop. The Rev. Bychok had studied in Ukraine and Poland prior to his ordination to the priesthood in 2005. He served churches in the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the U.S. Bishop Petro, 77, had headed the Eparchy of Melbourne since its elevation from an exarchate to an eparchy in 1992; he resigned when he turned 75 in 2008.
Father Bychok was consecrated by Patriarch Sviatoslav as ruling bishop for the Eparchy of Ss. Peter and Paul on June 7. The consecration took place at St. George Cathedral in Lviv, and Patriarch Sviatoslav was joined by Metropolitan-Archbishop Ihor Vozniak of Lviv and Bishop Petro Loza, auxiliary bishop of the Sokal-Zhovkva Eparchy in Ukraine. Born in 1980 in Ternopil and ordained to the priesthood in 2005, Bishop is the third Ukrainian Catholic bishop of the Melbourne Eparchy.
Also in January, the Religious Information Service of Ukraine carried news that Bishop Ivan Kulyk of the Eparchy of Kamianets-Podilskyi, was consecrated and enthroned at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in Khmelnytskyi on December 1, 2019, with the service led by Patriarch Sviatoslav. The historic consecration was noted by Patriarch Sviatoslav, who underscored that it was the first time in the history of the UGCC that an episcopal consecration took place in Khmelnytskyi. Participating in the ceremony were representatives of the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The decision to create the eparchy of Kamianets-Podilskyi was made by the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC on December 11, 2015, separating the new eparchy from the Ternopil-Zboriv Archeparchy of the UGCC.
A survey conducted by the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center and published on February 3 showed that 34 percent of Ukrainians identified with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). Fourteen percent identified with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), and 8.2 percent said they belong to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. Orthodox Christians who did not affiliate with either the OCU or the UOC-MP made up 27.6 percent of respondents. Since being granted autocephaly in 2019, some 600 parishes in Ukraine had shifted alliance from the UOC-MP to the OCU, which had registered 7,000 parishes, 77 monasteries and 47 dioceses. The UOC-MP said it had registered 12,300 church communities, which experts said was an inflated number, noting that 9,000 to 10,000 parishes would be a more accurate count. The survey did not include occupied Crimea or the areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that were beyond the control of the Ukrainian government.
Christopher Guly’s book “Strangers in a Strange Church? New Faces of Ukrainian Catholicism in Canada” profiled the revitalization of the parish life of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Shrine in Ottawa. The driving force for this renaissance was a group of young people, none of them ethnic Ukrainians and many not raised Catholic. The Rev. Peter Galadza of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at the University of Toronto, in the introduction to the book, described these young people as “among the best ‘Ukrainian’ Catholics I’ve ever met.” Speaking with the Rev. Galadza, Mr. Guly discussed the high level of energy from this group of young people, which had expanded to the rest of the congregants, who have become active participants in the services, even reviving a Pascha Agape Vespers service tradition.
The book, which highlighted this transformation in the parish life and profiled nine of the young parishioners, was launched on January 23 at St. Patrick Basilica, a Roman Catholic church. At the launch, five of the nine spoke in a panel discussion to share their own stories on why they joined the Church, based on a “passion for forging new relationships with others [that]has helped expose those who actually are of Ukrainian ancestry to the deep, rather than simply folkloric, grounding of their own Ukrainian spiritual tradition,” the Rev. Galadza wrote in his introduction to Mr. Guly’s book. Landon Coleman (who joined the parish in 2008) said in the book: “I want Ukrainians to know that what they have is beautiful and should be shared – and that there has to be a balance struck between preserving the traditions and looking outward to try to make it easy for people to enter if they want to. …I’m hopeful that our community will get some of the non-attending Ukrainian Catholic back to church and minister to the non-Ukrainians as well.”
The Spiritual Center of the UOC-U.S.A., while closed to visitors during the lockdown, marked World Health Day on April 7 by honoring those on the frontlines of the pandemic – health-care workers, first-responders, chaplains and service personnel – by lighting up St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church in light blue colors.
The Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great in Fox Chase Manor, Pa., shifted their activities during this coronavirus year from the usual routine to include making face masks for local health-care workers. Sister Theodora worked at a sewing machine, while Sister Olha ironed and stacked the material, as the masks were prepared for shipment to Holy Redeemer Hospital. In this spontaneous initiative that was born out of a need and conceived during Holy Week, the sisters combined the rich Ukrainian heritage of embroidery and sewing handed down for generations in Ukraine. The sisters’ involvement in health care dates back to Basil of Caesarea himself, whose monastic foundation in 4th century Asia Minor helped address the medical needs of the poor. Thus, by responding to the needs of today’s difficult time, they were able to maintain their founding mission.
All Saints Camp in Emlenton, Pa., like other groups that hold summer camps, decided to move its camp experience online due to the pandemic. Camp spokespeople were optimistic that there would be a possibility to reopen later in the year. A plan was being formulated and finalized with the UOC-U.S.A. Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, directed by Natalie Kapeluck-Nixon, and Josh Oryhon, camp director at ASC. Former campers and those interested were asked to fill out a survey to help inform the decisions that would shape the camp program during 2020.
On May 11, Bishop Basil Losten, the emeritus bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Conn., received greetings from Patriarch Sviatoslav on the occasion of his 90th birthday. The patriarchal letter cited the many achievements of Bishop Basil, and thanked God for his pastoral service to the Church, including development of St. Basil Seminary in Stamford. Born in 1930 in Chesapeake, Md., Bishop Basil was ordained to the priesthood on June 10, 1957, was consecrated a bishop on May 25, 1971, in Philadelphia, and installed as bishop of the Stamford Eparchy on December 7, 1977. In keeping with Church law at the time, having reached the age of 75, Bishop Basil submitted his resignation in 2006.
The UOC-U.S.A. partnered with the SALT Foundation for the weekly “Community Love Pop-Up Drive-Thru Food Pantry” set up at the Spiritual Center of the UOC-U.S.A. in Somerset, N.J., with the program beginning on May 13. Food bags, prepared by Archbishop Daniel, clergy and seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, as well as volunteers from the SALT Foundation, were loaded into the trunks of vehicles free of charge. In addition to the food, recipients received a booklet for children, “Discover My Plate,” printed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reinforce good nutritional habits. The SALT Foundation, founded by Claudia Wheeler, began the distribution on March 18 at various locations in Somerset County, and its partnership with the UOC-U.S.A. began on April 29. The foundation also delivers books, clothes, supplies and other educational goods and services, to children and adults in need.
The Consistory of the UOC-U.S.A. announced on May 29 and updated on June 2 a list of specific parishes that were able to resume liturgical services in person. Parishes in the Metropolitan New York/New Jersey area were for the most part still restricted from resuming services, except for Holy Trinity parish in Trenton; while in New York state, churches in Cheektowaga, Johnson City, Rochester and Troy were able to reopen. The phased reopening was done in accordance with state and local regulations, and parishes held meetings online with the hierarchs to get their blessing to reopen after each parish submitted a plan for reopening. Parishes had been informed by a May 20 letter from the Council of Bishops of the UOC-U.S.A. to initiate steps towards reopening.
The Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia announced on June 11 that its churches in the state of New Jersey could hold public divine liturgies beginning on June 20-21. Most churches in Pennsylvania were able to resume in-persons services on June 6-7, while some in the state were able to reopen as early as May 16-17. Ukrainian Catholic Churches in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia were also open by mid-May, with some announcing outdoor liturgies. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia hosted its first divine liturgy open to the public on June 7, with social distancing measures and other precautions in place.
On June 11, the Council of Bishops of the UOC-U.S.A. issued a statement in response to the violence that erupted following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. The hierarchs underscored the horrific and unjustifiable nature of Mr. Floyd’s death, which they noted was not an isolated incident of police brutality. They also denounced all forms of racism, even among police officers, and expressed hope that this latest event could lead to long-lasting change. The hierarchs also denounced the violence that occurred during the demonstrations and protests. Silence was not the answer, the letter continued, but a renewed willingness to make the necessary change could become reality.
The Ukrainian Orthodox League (UOL) of the UOC-U.S.A. hosted its 73rd annual convention on July 25; as was the case with many other such gatherings, it was held online via Zoom. In addition to regular business addressed by the convention meetings, the Senior UOL presented a check for more than $10,000 to the St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Society from proceeds from the 2020 Souper Bowl Sunday fund-raiser; Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay highlighted the work of the St. Andrew Society aiding flood victims in western Ukraine; and awards were presented to senior and junior members of the UOL for their service to the organization. In addition, $13,000 in scholarships through the Lynn Sawchuk-Sharon Kuzbyt Memorial Scholarship fund and $6,000 from the Metropolitan John Scholarship Fund to St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary’s full-time students were announced. New national boards for the senior and junior UOL were elected and installed. The 74th annual UOL Convention is scheduled for July 21-25 in Philadelphia.
Saint Basil Academy in Jenkintown, Pa., founded as an all-girls’ high school in 1931 by the Sisters of the Sisters of St. Basil the Great, on October 8 announced it would close at the end of the 2020-2021 school year after nearly 90 years of service to the community. In a statement posted on Facebook, the sisters explained: “As we close this final chapter in our school’s history, we will continue providing quality education for our students until our last day, and we will work closely with families and faculty to help them find alternative choices for their futures.” An informative online meeting on October 13 was held to answer many questions from the community amid the painful and difficult decision, as well as to explained the plan for the next eight months. A Sustainability Campaign was unable to meet its goals of establishing a $3 million to $5 million endowment, which was expected to generate $300,000 in annual giving, and of retaining at least 60 students for the freshman class.
Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church in Palatine, Ill., consecrated its new church and shrine with Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk leading the services on October 10. The parish grounds will be the site of the Eparchial Shrine of the New Martyrs of Ukraine for the Chicago-based St. Nicholas Eparchy. The consecration also included the elevation of the Rev. Mykhailo Kuzma to mitred archpriest. Reflecting the style of a traditional Hutsul wooden church, architect Joseph Mycyk’s design was inspired by the church’s Hutsul bell tower that had been erected in 1988 by the original founders of the parish. Mr. Mycyk died of cancer just two months prior to the consecration of the new church. The milestone had been long-awaited by the parish, which had been making preparations for the past 10 years.
The Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation and the Midwest Friends of the Ukrainian Catholic University hosted an online fund-raising event on November 8 for the Chicago area, with the keynote addresses by Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor. The event also included musical entertainment by Taras Chubai of the Ukrainian rock band Plach Yeremii.
Archbishop Chrysostomos II, primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, officially recognized the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) on October 24 during a divine liturgy and episcopal consecration in Pathos, Cyprus. The move was welcomed by the OCU and its hierarchs, but irked Moscow, as its narrative of a split Orthodox world was being perpetuated by the Russia Orthodox Church (ROC) and a few of its isolated allies. The UOC-MP echoed the sentiments of the ROC in denouncing the move by the Church of Cyprus and the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s decision to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly to the OCU.
The Orthodox Church of Cyprus joined the Orthodox Church of Greece, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarchate of Alexandria as official Churches that have recognized the OCU as independent. Several bishops of the Church of Cyprus voiced dissent about the recognition of the OCU, but a later Synod affirmed the decision of Archbishop Chrysostomos. It was hoped that the Church of Jerusalem and the Romanian Orthodox Church would be next to recognize the OCU, with many of these decisions being delayed due to the pandemic.
The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus confirmed the decision by Archbishop Chrysostomos during its meeting on November 23 in Nicosia, Cyprus. Ten out of 17 bishops voted not to contest the archbishop’s decision to recognize the OCU and its prime hierarch, Metropolitan Epifaniy. Among those who dissented was Bishop Nikiforos, who claimed that the vote was not binding, while the Holy Synod’s spokesman, Bishop Gregorios, said the decision was binding. In response, the OCU issued a statement of gratitude to the Church of Cyprus and Archbishop Chrysostomos, the Cypriot hierarchs and its Holy Synod. Archbishop Chrysostomos confirmed that there is no schism within the Church of Cyprus and refuted disinformation related to such a narrative, which was echoed by Stanislav Osadchiy, Russia’s ambassador to Cyprus.
Pope Francis on October 24 appointed Bishop Dionysiy Lyakhovych as apostolic exarch for Ukrainian Catholics residing in Italy. The Apostolic Exarchate for Ukrainian Catholics of the Byzantine Rite residing in Italy was created on July 11, 2019, by Pope Francis, and the exarchate, based at Ss. Sergius and Bacchus Church in Rome, will serve the 70,000 Ukrainian Catholics in Italy. Born in 1946, Bishop Dionysiy was ordained to the priesthood in 1972 and is a graduate of the Pontifical Institute of St. Anselm and the Pontifical Gregorian University, with pastoral experience in Brazil, where he was rector of the seminary and the Institute of Philosophy in Curitiba. He was consecrated a bishop in 2006 in Brazil and in 2009 was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to the office of the apostolic visitator for Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Italy and Spain.
Archimandrite Mykhailo Onyshchenko, exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate since 2018, was elected on October 6 by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for elevation to bishop, with the titular see of Comana (an ancient Christian city in Turkey). Bishop Mykhailo studied for 10 years in Greece and served as a priest in Lutsk, Volyn Oblast, and later as rector of the Church of St. Alypius the Stylite of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Antalya, Turkey. The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine is based at St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Kyiv, which was transferred to the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the Verkhovna Rada in 2018. The church is a stavropegial church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew prayed for the victims of the Holodomor on November 28 at the Patriarchal Church at the Phanar in Istanbul. Present at the prayer marking the 87th anniversary of the Soviet genocide against Ukraine were the consul general of Ukraine in Istanbul, Oleksandr Gaman, and Archimandrite Charalampy Nichev, who is responsible for the Ukrainian community in Istanbul. They were joined by hierarchs and clergy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The primates of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, the Orthodox Church of Greece, the Patriarchate of Alexandria and the Ecumenical Patriarchate sent letters of greeting to Metropolitan Epifaniy on December 15 to mark the two-year anniversary of the Unification Council of the OCU that elected Metropolitan Epifaniy to head the newly created OCU. The letters were a clear signal from the primates that they stand in solidarity with the OCU, and its prime hierarch, in working toward unity among the Orthodox Churches of the world. The letters were signed by Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece, Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and all Africa, Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Patriarch Bartholomew said he was anticipating his meeting with Metropolitan Epifaniy in Kyiv in 2021 for the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, at the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Toward the end of 2020, St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Bloomingdale, Ill., which is under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, celebrated its 50th anniversary on December 13 with an online event. An in-person divine liturgy and moleben service to the Holy Mother of God were served by the Rev. Mitred Archpriest Victor Poliarny. Members of the church recounted the history of the parish, the developments in Ukraine following renewed independence, and the growth of the parish grounds from its early beginnings to include a cemetery, cultural center and banquet hall, a school of Ukrainian studies, a branch of the Self Reliance Ukrainian Credit Union, as well as monuments to the Holodomor victims and the Heavenly Hundred heroes of the Revolution of Dignity.