JENKINTOWN, Pa. – Following a lengthy period in which members of the Ukrainian American Senior Citizens Association of Philadelphia (UASCA) were unable to meet because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, members of the group gathered for two spring trips.
During the first trip on April 5, 35 seniors visited the Ukrainian Museum and Library of Stamford, Conn., an institution dedicated to the collection, documentation, preservation and exhibition of artifacts dealing with Ukrainian culture and heritage.
In 1933, Bishop Constantine Bohachev-sky had the foresight to buy the Quintard Estate in Stamford, Conn., for $50,000, with the intent of creating on its premises a Ukrainian Catholic High School, a seminary and a cultural institution. In 1937, the Ukrainian Museum and Library of Stamford, Conn., was officially opened. In 2000, it was incorporated in the state of Connecticut as a non-profit cultural institution with the purpose of educating the public on all aspects of Ukrainian culture.
The building in which the exhibits of Ukrainian Easter eggs (pysanky), paintings, embroidered fabrics and historical artifacts are housed is a treasure into itself. It looks like a stately mansion but was actually built as a private school for women. In 1997, the library, which is located in the former St. Basil Preparatory School building, was officially opened. The library is now being renovated.
The seniors thanked the curator of the museum, Lubow Wolynetz, for her warm and gracious welcome, for hosting a delicious lunch and for her very informative and interesting remarks about the institution.
The trip was highlighted by the unexpected arrival of Bishop Paul Chomnycky, OSBM, and Bishop Emeritus Basil Losten, both of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford. The bishops spent an extended period of time with the group and posed for pictures.
The seniors’ memorable trip was followed by another to four upstate Pennsyl-vania churches. On May 10, 45 seniors visited four beautiful and interesting churches.
The trip was organized by one of its members, Yurko Danyliw. Mr. Danyliw has spent many years researching the history of Ukrainian churches, particularly their iconostas. In fact, as part of his research, he has visited over 100 churches in Pennsylvania.
This was the group’s fourth visit to the churches in upstate Pennsylvania. They previously visited St. Michael’s Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Shenandoah, the first Ukrainian Catholic Church in America; the Church of Transfiguration of Our Lord in Shamokin, the oldest surviving Ukrainian Catholic Church in America (the original church in Shenandoah burned down); and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Centralia, which was declared a pilgrimage sight by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.
On May 10, the seniors first visited St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church in Scranton, Pa., and its pastor, Rev. Myron Myronyuk. The original church, which was just a hall, was established by Bishop Soter Ortynsky in 1908. The first parishioners were poor but hard working and they cherished their beloved Ukraine, its language, customs and their rite. The present structure, constructed in 1959, boasts a beautiful iconostas with 24 icons.
The seniors next visited Ss. Cyril and Methodius Ukrainian Catholic Church in Olyphant, Pa., and is pastor, Rev. Nestor Iwaskiw, a Philadelphia native. The construction of the present church edifice was started in 1908 and the grand dedication of the new church took place in May 1910. In September of that year the parish was honored with a visit by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. Ss. Cyril and Methodius is the third oldest Ukrainian church in America and has one of the most magnificent iconostases in Pennsylvania. It includes 52 icons in four tiers. The icons were brought in pieces from Ukraine and were assembled and installed in the church. The parish is very proud that, since it was established, 14 parishioners have entered the priesthood and an additional 14 people entered the religious life.
During the visit, the seniors learned that life for the early pioneers of the parish was not easy. They worked hard, mostly in the mines, and got paid very little. Their faith in God and love for their church, however, sustained them and set an example for other members of the community.
The seniors then visited St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Blakely, Pa., and its pastor, Rev. Mykola Danczak. In 1948, about 30 families left Ss. Cyril and Methodius and organized their own church, which has now grown to include some 80 families.
The last stop for the seniors was St. George Orthodox Church in Taylor, Pa. The interior of the church is awe-inspiring with beautiful icons adorning every inch of the church, including the modern styled iconostas. The church, however, is known for the Myrrh-Streaming Icon of the Blessed Mother, also known as “Kardiotissa,” The Tender Heart. The pastor of the church, Rev. Mark Leisure, said the myrrh-flowing miraculous icon has drawn thousands of people to the parish. Rev. Leisure was kind enough to allow the group to touch the icon and to pray before it. This experience will not soon be forgotten.
It is important to emphasize that, even though most of the parishioners of these churches are fourth- and even fifth-generation Ukrainian Americans, they remain faithful to their Ukrainian church and traditions.
The members of UASCA thanked Mr. Danyliw for his exceptional effort in organizing the trip. They also thanked the Ukrainian Community Foundation of Philadelphia and the Ukrainian Selfreliance Federal Credit Union for partially funding their trips.