UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
St. Thomas Chapel Consecrated
at All Saints Camp of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Every year, as the Church celebrates the feast of All Saints, the roads to All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Camp in Emlenton, PA see a multitude of cars bringing the youth of the Church to their Camp. This year would not be so different from the past years, if it were not for a wonderful and spiritually rewarding event in the life of the faithful – the consecration of the newly constructed Chapel of St. Thomas the Holy Apostle on the camp grounds. It has been a long time dream of generations of campers, clergy and the camp staff to erect a permanent chapel, where the youth can worship God and be instructed in the precepts of the our Faith.
Various committees have worked throughout the years searching for the ways and means to build the chapel. It was not until three years ago that a generous donor approached Metropolitan Constantine offering to donate the funds necessary for the construction of a permanent home of worship for the youth from our parishes all around the USA and Canada who spend part of their summer vacation time at All Saints Camp participating in various encampments of the Consistory’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, directed by Natalie Kapeluck-Nixon: Church School Camp, Teenage Conference, Mommy/Daddy and Me. In addition to these programs there are many other events that take place at the Camp during camping season, bringing the faithful closer to God and instructing them in the rich traditions of their Ukrainian heritage.
The weekend of June 21-22 brought about 400 people to the Camp grounds to participate in the consecration of the chapel. The weekend began long before the official program started; namely, dozens of alumni campers along with the clergy arrived to the Camp grounds to conclude the final preparations for the consecration, which were headed by Rev. Deacon Dr. Ihor and Iryna Mahlay. Both Dn. Ihor and Iryna spent months working with various parishes and faithful to make the weekend successful and spiritually rewarding. Their dedicated effort met with great success. The celebrations were conducted by all three of our Holy Church’s hierarchs: Metropolitan Constantine, Archbishop Antony and Bishop Daniel, assisted by twenty clergy taking part in part in the liturgical services or in other capacities during the weekend.
Iconographer Michael Kapeluck and Very Rev. Fr. Stephen Repa conducted a seminar on Saturday afternoon discussing the iconography which richly adorns the chapel throughout as aids to worship in the newly constructed chapel. Michael Kapeluck, who is a member of the Metropolitan Council of the Church as well as a member of Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Parish in Carnegie, PA, is a renowned iconographer and wrote all the icons located in the chapel. Fr. Steve, who made all preparations, along with Fr. John Haluszczak, for the liturgical services of the weekend and Michael explained to the faithful the canons of the Church concerning the iconography and the reach spiritual significance of icons in the life of an Orthodox Christian. Following the presentation, Very Rev. John Nakonachny, pastor of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox cathedral in Parma, OH, served a Moleben with all the youth already participating in the Church School Encampment and visitors present. In his remarks, Fr. John called upon the youth to be proud of their Ukrainian Orthodox Christian heritage and to treasure their Faith and ethnic heritage!
Later on Saturday afternoon, Maestro Oleh Mahlay, Conductor of the Taras Shevchenko Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus, presented a workshop on Ukrainian Sacred music, which described in detail the development of the various chants and music of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The seminar participants were enthralled with the details of this presentation especially as Maestro played many recorded selections illustrating the historical development of our chants and music. Unfortunately, the schedule for the evening necessitated an end to his presentation.
Following dinner, the solemn procession was formed at the camp pavilion and proceeded to the newly-built chapel, which is constructed in the style of a traditional wooden church found all over the Carpathian Mountain regions of Ukraine, bringing the Relics of St. John Chrysostom, prayerfully carried by His Grace Bishop Daniel, to be placed in the altar of the chapel sanctuary where the relics were placed on a table before the icon of Christ our Lord on the iconostas. Vespers service then began, served by Very Rev. John Haluszczak, pastor of St. Volodymyr parish in Pittsburgh, PA. Prior to the service, Fr. John explained to the faithful the spirituality of the liturgical actions of consecration, which would take place in the chapel the next day.
On Sunday morning, cars and busses from various parishes of the Church brought the clergy and faithful for the life-affirming event of consecration of a new church. Another procession of clergy, campers and visitors led our hierarchs to the chapel. The hierarchs were greeted at the chapel entrance by the chairman of All Saints Camp Committee, Emil Skocypec, Camp Director, Stephen Sheptak, Church School Camp Director, Melissa Haluszczak and Fr. Paisius McGrath, Camp Chaplain, the campers and the faithful, who all asked them to pray for the founders of the Camp, donors of the Chapel as well as the campers and the faithful of the entire Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
Metropolitan Constantine, Archbishop Antony and Bishop Daniel with assistance of six clergy members Protopresbyter William Diakiw, Protopresbyter George Hnatko, Very Rev. Fr. John Harvey, Very Rev. Fr. Taras Naumenko, Rev. Fr. Zinoviy Zharsky, Rev. Fr. Paisius MacGrath and four deacons Protodeacon Mykola Dilendorf, Rev. Deacon Ihor Mahlay. Rev. Deacon Dennis Lapushansky and Rev. Deacon James Stickel, celebrated the consecration of a new chapel.
The consecration followed the traditional ancient and solemn rites of the Orthodox Church with the consecration of the new altar and the installation of the Holy Relics of St. John Chrysostom therein following another procession with Archbishop Antony bearing the Relics around the outside of the Church and Bishop Daniel blessing the exterior of the Chapel with holy water. The Chrismation of the interior of the chapel was accomplished by Metropolitan Constantine anointing the four walls of the building. The iconography was blessed with the sprinkling of holy water by Bishop Daniel. It was an extremely moving and emotional service, which brought tears to nearly all the faithful participating in the event.
Once the consecration concluded, the Divine Liturgy began with responses being sung by the youth of the Church School Encampment, under the direction of Kira Haluszczak and Natalie Kapeluck, along with the Bandurist Chorus, under the leadership of Maestro Oleh Mahlay. At the small entrance, as the Holy Gospel Book was brought in front of the hierarchs, at the center of the nave, and Metropolitan Constantine announced Chapel that by the decision of the Council of Bishops of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA – for his dedication and sacrificial love for Christ and His Church, the Rev. Deacon Ihor Mahlay had been elevated to the rank of a Protodeacon. Once again, one month following the Episcopal consecration of Bishop Daniel, the clergy, the youth and the faithful of the Church sang the most humbling exclamation: AXIOS! AXIOS! AXIOS! – HE IS WORTHY! Confirming the elevation of Protodeacon Ihor, a man whose life and devotion in and for the Church and his ethnic heritage touched not only to the faithful of the UOC of the USA but also our brethren in Ukraine and throughout the world. Protodeacon Mahlay for years has served on the Executive Board of St. Andrew’s Society, as well as Orthodox Christian Mission Center and many other charitable institutions providing both physical and spiritual support for those in need.
During the Liturgy, the hierarchs prayed for the all campers, founders and benefactors of All Saints Camp and most especially for the benefactors of the Chapel. The Liturgy concluded with the profound prayers for both the ancestral homeland Ukraine and the United States of America. Following the Liturgy, Metropolitan Constantine, speaking again on behalf of the Council of Bishops of the UOC of the USA, presented certificates of appreciation to Pani Matka Mary Ann Nakonachny, Diane Senedak and Irene Carman for their dedication and work on the Ukrainian Orthodox League’s All Saints Camp Chapel Iconography and Liturgical Vestments and Vessels Committee, which was responsible for collecting funds for the final needs of the Chapel construction and furnishing project. Christopher Burgan, a son of Debra Burgan of blessed memory, accepted a certificate of appreciation awarded to his mother posthumously for her dedication, zeal and work on this Committee. The Metropolitan also presented beautifully framed pictures of the Chapel to the sisters of Thomas Tychonia, a member of St. Nicholas Parish, Troy, NY, whose estate provided the funds for the chapel construction; to Michael Dobronos, of St. Volodymyr Cathedral, Parma, OH, whose company donated the beautiful domes, which beautifully adorned and completed the exterior of the Chapel building; and to Dn. Ihor and Ira Mahlay for their dedicated efforts in organizing the consecration celebration.
In his remarks, the Primate of the Church – His Beatitude Metropolitan Constantine reflected upon the life and humility of Mr. Tychonia, who was his spiritual child when he served as Pastor of St. Nicholas Parish in Troy. He would have been extremely proud of what his life’s work had accomplished in the building of this home of worship, which will affect the lives of so many of the faithful of our Church for generations to come. The Metropolitan called all present to rededicate themselves to the support of the camp ministry of our Church and most especially to send their children to participate in the various encampments, which all serve to keep our children in the Faith. Many of those present were visiting the camp for the first time and they were urged to carry the joy of the day’s events home to their parishes.
Both His Eminence Archbishop Antony and His Grace Bishop Daniel personally greeted each person present at the consecration of the Chapel, as they approached to venerate the cross at the conclusion of the services. The entire celebration took place during the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the dedication of All Saints Camp, which took place on All Saints Sunday in 1978 – providing the camp with its patronage – under all the saints of the Church. The Teenage Conference, the next encampment scheduled for this summer, will take place for two weeks in July – 6-18. The Conference celebrates its 50th anniversary this year on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, 12 July. The encampment took place for twenty years prior to the purchase of All Saints Camp at Camp Kon-O-Kwee, a YMCA Camp in Zelionople, PA.
Following the liturgical services a luncheon was held in the camp pavilion followed by a beautiful concert presented the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus and the Ukrainian Dance Group of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Carnegie. A wonderful and spiritually uplifting joy filled the entire weekend and all those who participated traveled back to their homes with a deep sense of satisfaction and gratification to all who made the weekend’s events a success.