For the 62nd time in the history of the Ukrainian Orthodox League of the UOC of the USA, delegates from various chapters of parish families from across the country have gathered in Youngstown, OH for their annual Convention. The hosts for this year’s Convention are the Senior and Junior UOL Chapters and, in fact, all the parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish of Youngstown, OH. What follows below is an outline of activities for the first two days of the convention. An update will appear here at the conclusion of the convention.
Nearly 150 delegates, including clergy and are representing chapters of our UOC of USA’s oldest central organization are participating in this year’s convention. Although this is significantly fewer than the average attendance, due to the difficult economy as a major reason, the participants have been joined by many more people from local parishes for the evening social events. His Eminence Archbishop Antony and His Grace Bishop Daniel are actively participating in the daily sessions of the convention. Unfortunately, however, His Beatitude Metropolitan Constantine is not able to join the delegates for this year’s gathering due to his current hospitalization.
The convention began on a spiritual note with Great Vespers celebrated before the first business session was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 22nd. Following the Invocation, the Presentation of Colors, the Pledge of Allegiance to the USA flag, the singing of the USA National Anthem, opening remarks and greetings were expressed by Senior and Junior UOL National Executive Board Presidents Oleh Bilynsky and Taylor Gladys. Convention Spiritual Advisor Very Rev. Fr. John Harvey, Sr. Convention Committee chairman Robert Mark and Jr. Convention Committee Chairman Josh Auden welcomed all the guests to Youngstown and offered the full services and assistance of the hosting chapters.
His Eminence Archbishop Antony conveyed a greeting from Metropolitan Constantine who remains in the hospital in Pittsburgh, PA and is missing only his second convention in the 42 years of his priesthood and episcopacy. His Eminence informed the guests about the progress of the Metropolitan’s recovery following surgery and later complications and of his expressed desire throughout his hospitalization to “out of here in time to get to Youngstown!” He assured the members of the League of the Metropolitan’s love for them all.
Business sessions recessed at 9:00 p.m. that evening allowing plenty of time for members to meet and socialize during a hospitality evening sponsored by Sts Peter and Paul Chapter.
The Annual Convention Agenda includes several working committees, which develop goals and objectives for the Senior and Junior Executive Boards to implement with and through the UOL’s local chapters. These committees are: Vocations and Clergy Support, Nominating, Resolutions, Ways and Means, Christian Care Giving and Missions, Youth, Membership and Chapter Development, and Education. These committees began their work following the opening ceremonies and the session recessed at 9 p.m. The participants gathered for Hospitality Night, sponsored by the hosting chapters and had time to get to know each other or to renew friendships and acquaintances from years past.
Thursday morning, July 23, began with Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Grace Bishop Daniel, assisted by the spiritual advisors to the Junior and Senior UOL Executive Boards – Very Rev. Fr. Myron Oryhon and Rev. Fr. Anthony Perkins, respectively. In his address to the delegates, the Bishop reflected upon the theme of this year’s Convention “Trust in the Lord with all your heart!” challenging the delegates and the membership of the organization to become a vital instrument of evangelization for our entire Church.
The afternoon session of the convention began with a message by Bishop Daniel. His Grace spoke about vision – opening our eyes to see and understand God’s will for his children in the Church, local parish, town or community, family. Moreover, the Bishop spoke of the seeds of the Gospel as they planted in the World with the blood of many martyrs and the anonymous sweat and sacrifice of countless men and women of our Holy Kyivan Orthodoxy. “We are the fruits of those seeds”, said the bishop. “By their blood, sweat, and sacrifice, we have come to know our Lord – Jesus Christ. We must never forget this.”
In addition, His Grace spoke of the virtues of Christian life that lead us to holiness. To being the people that God created us to be. St. Paul often reminded the first Christians, all baptized believers are “called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7). In other words, each of us is called to be saints, to lead a life of virtues.
In conclusion, the bishop said that “The precepts of our faith are a challenge and a threat to many of the false values of our society. That’s why our society is so concerned to keep religion out of the public square. But we are called to be men and women of faith. During this Convention, promise yourself that you will never turn your back on Christ. Promise yourself that you will never ignore or contradict the teachings of His Church—by either your words or your actions.”
The convention body again broke out into working committees to continue the effort begun last evening. Following the committee meetings, their reports were duplicated for consideration by the entire convention body. These approved items become mandatory for the local chapters to act upon and support.
These first two days of the 62nd Annual UOL Convention concluded with a Hawaiian Luau at the Grand pavilion of the Avalon Inn in Youngstown, OH. Over 200 people enjoyed fine dining and the music of a band from the Bahamas – Rudy and the Professionals, who presented a program of island music mixed with popular songs of the past and present. The evening’s participants thoroughly enjoyed the dining and dancing!
Friday began with the Akathist service to the Mother of God of Pochaiv, served by the Junior UOL spiritual advisor Rev. Fr. Anthony Perkins, reflecting on the history and spirituality of the miraculous icon. The remainder of the day delegates heard, discussed and approved committee reports and recommendations that will be implemented throughout the coming year in all local chapters. The convention body was thrilled at the donation in the amount of $3,000.00 presented to the President of Saint Andrew’s Society Protodeacon Dr. Ihor Mahlay to benefit their Ukrainian Soup Kitchen Project, which was collected during the combined Jr. and Sr. “Souper Bowl” fund raiser.
In his Archpastoral address, His Eminence Archbishop Antony reflected upon the theme of the convention: - “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” – expanding upon the greeting to the this year’s convention body from the Council of Bishops. Trusting in the Lord demands attention to His Holy Wisdom – Christ Himself – rather than depending upon our simple human “wisdom”. Counting on our own wisdom is the philosophy of the secular humanists of society who claim that there is no absolute moral code such as that taught by Christ. The Archbishop called upon all UOL members to be creative in their thinking and in their deeds so that they are always based upon faith, hope and love (charity). If such is the case, no UOL member will ever stand ashamed before the Lord and the accomplishments of the League will ever expand, never resting upon that which has already been accomplished.
Both hierarchs, His Eminence Archbishop Antony and His Grace Bishop Daniel spent time with the Juniors at their sessions. While addressing them, the hierarchs spoke about the necessity of taking responsibility for one’s choices in life. The bishops spoke about their love of the youthful enthusiasm and idealism they see in our Jr. UOL members and called upon them to never lose the sense of hope that good things can be accomplished. They urged the Jr. Members to reach out to those they see suffering and those they see being hurt by society or groups of peers because they are different in some way. They promised the Juniors present that the rewards for such compassion would be immediately felt. The act of giving or sacrificing for others almost always enhances and improves the giver’s life more than the receiver.
The elections of the National Executive Boards of both Junior and Senior UOL were the last order of business on each convention’s agenda. The results were as follows:
Senior: Metropolitan Constantine has re-appointed V. Rev. Fr. Myron Oryhon, Allentown, PA as Spiritual Advisor; Oleh Bilynsky, Philadelphia – President’ Daria Pishko-Komichak, Maplewood, NJ – First Vice-President; Emil Skocypec, South Bound Brook, NJ - Second Vice-President; John Meschisen, Woonsocket, RI – Recording Secretary; Shirley Skocypec, South Bound Brook, NJ – Corresponding Secretary; Martha Misko, Northampton, PA – Treasurer; Alexis Oryhon, Johnson City, NY – Financial Secretary; Eric Senedak, Pittsburgh, PA – Auditor. Appointments: Panimatka Linda Oryhon, Johnson City, NY – Vocations and Clergy Support Commission; Natalie Bilynsky, Philadelphia, PA – Bulletin Editor; Melanie Nakonachny, Parma, OH – Jr. UOL Advisor; Michael Komichak and Alexandra Hucul, Maplewood, NJ – Co-Chairs of the 2010 Convention.
Junior: Metropolitan Constantine has re-appointed Rev. Fr. Anthony Perkins, Woonsocket, RI as Spiritual Advisor; Taylor Gladys, Pittsburgh, PA – President; Gregory Markiw, Carnegie, PA – Vice-President; Lesia Mahlay, Parma, OH – Recording Secretary; Ethan Rock, New Castle, PA – Financial Secretary; Katie Zimmerman, Allentown, PA – Corresponding Secretary and Jessica Roach, Harrisonburg, VA – Treasurer.
The business sessions of the 62nd UOL Convention were closed with the Benediction offered by His Grace Bishop Daniel and the singing of the Ukrainian National.
In the evening, the delegates shared “Ukrainian Night” with a delicious Ukrainian cuisine and entertainment by the Kyiv Dance Ensemble, under the direction and choreography of Natalie Kapeluck-Nixon, followed by dancing to a live band. Following the evening entertainment, Convention participants were hosted by Holy Ascension Ukrainian Sr. and Jr. Chapters, Maplewood, NJ, hosts of the 63rd UOL Convention in 2010. The day ended with Midnight Office served in the hotel chapel by Very Rev. Fr. John Harvey, the Spiritual Advisor of the local Sts. Peter and Paul, Youngstown, OH UOL chapters.
Saturday was the final day of formal activities of the Convention. The delegates and guests participated in two workshops. In the first workshop, Hieromonk Andoni (Colozzo), Pittsburgh, PA, spoke about iconography and its meaning in the life of every Orthodox Christian, calling all to “Theosis” – becoming one with the Divinity of God – not becoming God but so dedicating and committing our lives to His service and to fellow man that God’s Will becomes our will – following the example of the saints depicted in the iconography of our Church. Christ is depicted in His humanity, but the Divine shows through in His icons.
In the second workshop, the “Road to the Priesthood” was discussed under the auspices of the UOL Vocations and Clergy Support Commission. All the clergy and hierarchs present related their personal journeys from youth to ordination, providing a great deal of inspiration to all who heard. As each priest or bishop spoke, the faces of the listeners revealed the fact that these personal stories touched a chord within almost all.
On Saturday evening, the Convention Grand Banquet and Ball took place. The traditional awards were presented, as the final official acts during the Convention, by the Jr. and Sr. UOL Presidents and the LSSK and Seminarian Scholarships were announced. The Protopresbyter Stephen Hallick-Holutiak Sr. Orthodox of the Year Award was presented to Michelle Kapeluck, Carnegie, PA The Sr. Chapter of the Year Award went to St. Vladimir Chapter, Ambridge, PA. The Fr. Volodymyr Bukata Jr. Orthodox of the Year Award went to Joshua Bourgery of Woonsocket, RI and the Jr. Chapter of the Year Award was presented to St. Mary Protectress (Pokrova) Jr. Chapter of Southfield, MI.
Seminarians present to receive scholarships from the Metropolitan John Scholarship Fund were: Subdeacon Vasyl Pasakas, Andriy Matlak and Vasyl Dovhan of St. Sophia Seminary. Also awarded seminarian scholarships were Ivan Kostyshyn and Borislav Kroner of St. Sophia Seminary, Ivan Synevsky of Holy Cross Seminary, Boston, MA, Rev. Fr. Harry Linzinbigler, Dover, FL, studying for his Doctoral Degree. Lynn Sawchuk – Sharon Kuzbyt Memorial Scholarships were presented during the banquet to Zachary Kapeluck, Carnegie, PA and Ariana Rock, New Castle, PA. Also awarded an LSSK Scholarship was Michael Nemeth, Philadelphia, PA.
The Convention came to conclusion on Sunday morning at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Youngstown. Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Archbishop Antony and Bishop Daniel, assisted by parish pastor, V. Rev. Fr. John Harvey, Protopresbyter William Diakiw, New Castle, PA, V. Rev. Oleh Hucul, Woonsocket, RI, Rev. Fr. Anthony Perkins, Woonsocket, RI, Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay, Parma, OH and Subdeacons Joseph Novicky, John Charest, John Meschisen, Vasyl Pasakas and Joseph Garant, who was ordained just before the Divine Liturgy. A Farewell Luncheon followed Divine Liturgy in the parish social center. The delegates and guests of the Convention expressed their sincere gratitude to their hosts – the Jr. and Sr. UOL Chapters of the parish, who fulfilled their responsibilities with the utmost kindness and hospitality.