On the 24th of July, the Ukrainian Orthodox League held its 74th annual Convention, hosted by St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia, PA. The thing that set this convention apart was the way it stood, Lord willing, on the threshold between the worst of the COVID-time and what comes next. All of the addresses and conversations recognized the challenges of the coming years, but framed them as opportunities for evangelization, the very thing that the UOL – dedicated to the Church, devoted to its youth – was made for. With the energy, devotion, and clarity of vision evident at this convention, there is every reason to expect success in this time of opportunity.
The Convention began with a Moleban at St. Vladimir’s, served by the long-time Senior UOL Spiritual Advisor, Very Rev. Fr. Taras Naumenko. Afterwards, Karen Ferraro, the President of the Executive Board of the UOL called the meeting to order and we offered a moment of silence and prayed for the blessed repose of all the UOL members and clergy who reposed in the past year. She then set the agenda: it is time for us to take action and lay the groundwork for the future of the Church. She noted that we are called to be beacons of the light of Christ – it is time for us to step up to that cause.
In his opening remarks, His Eminence, Metropolitan Antony shared the wisdom his 49 years of priestly ministry have given him. As always, he encouraged us to live in Christ, applying the lessons of the saints, to include Saints Olha and Volodymyr, the enlighteners of Rus’-Ukraine, as we share His love. He reminded us that Christ wants “mercy more than sacrifice” and asked us whether we demand more of people than Christ Himself does. Later he remarked our great need for connection and lamented the way our families, parishes, dioceses, and faithful have drifted apart. He challenged the UOL to re-energize a culture that naturally treasures community and not rest on our laurels. After commending us all for our work and service, he finished by paraphrasing the words of Christ (Matthew 25:23); “‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over more. Enter into the joy of your master.”
His Eminence Archbishop Daniel began his remarks by noting the great toll that COVID-19 has had throughout the world. Nor have Christian leaders been immune; “bishops, pastors, evangelists, and other church leaders have succumbed, as well as their flocks… ministries throughout the world that have lost their leaders and members are on the verge of collapse.” He noted that analysts use the analytic framework of VUCA, “Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity” as a way to help us understand the depth of our crisis, but added that that in Christ there is always hope; “God is in control and His purposes for His people and for the world WILL be fulfilled.” He reworked to VUCA to describe the Christian response to crisis: “Vision, Understanding, Courage, and Action.” He developed this theme as follows;
Understanding. We need to understand the times. Yes, we need science to give to us rational explanations of what is happening, but also we desperately need – US – His creation, the men and women of God who will make plain the vision, set it in our context, enabling us to understand what is happening and our part in it.
Courage. We need courage not to retreat, not to sink under heavy burdens, not to see only opposition and obstacles in our path. Habakkuk was surrounded by catastrophe but feared only the Lord (Habakkuk 3:2) We need courage to go forward when all seems hopeless, to go forward with compassion and a heart of love to bring comfort to the afflicted. St. Paul wrote to us and encouraged not to constrain the love of Christ, which compels us to move on.
Action. All this must lead to action. Action requires resolve. It means taking the initiative, breaking out of our apathy, deciding what is to be done and doing it. It means seeking God’s will and guidance and then acting according to His calling.
He finished by calling us to faith in God and His victory, noting that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:24) and encouraging us “to embrace Christian VUCA in your chapters, parish communities – but most importantly in your life and your personal encounter with Christ the Savior!”
Later, Oleh Bilynsky moderated a discussion on how to rejuvenate UOL chapter life so that we can better serve the needs of the Church and its youth. One of the most interesting ideas was reducing the organizational and managerial load of running a chapter by allowing parishes to have a chapter without the full roster of positions, perhaps with a coordinator who would serve as liason with the rest of the UOL and main facilitator of local activities. A similar idea was to allow proximal parishes to have a shared chapter. This would also satisfy the noted need of reversing our growing parochialism. Fr. John and Matushka Larissa Charest both noted the need for outreach and education for young (and non-so-young) adults. Fr. John pointed out that short videos are popular and may be a good way to reach and further evangelize our youth and young adults. Another awesome idea was to bring back bowling leagues and their modern equivalents as way to build community and inter-chapter fellowship.
When asked what the UOL had to offer mission parishes, Fr. Anthony Perkins developed a theme that Vladyka Daniel had started: many people have had a taste of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, but want so much more. We can’t have Orthodoxy without culture, and converts want more of that context. In part because it is largely a lay organization, the UOL is ideally suited to share the treasures of Ukrainian-American Orthodoxy with our missions. Not only will they love it (who doesn’t love perohi and pysanki?!), it will become as dear to them and will help provide the cultural and community support our missions crave. He encouraged the UOL to keep sharing this culture, especially through its national conventions and by sending teams to our missions. The idea there would be less to encourage the formation of new chapters than to witness their love of Ukrainian Orthodoxy and to welcome all of us into it as family.
Next, Rachel Harendza, the Jr. UOL National Executive Board President, shared ideas and best practices for getting our youth involved. These included using social media to invite people to (face to face!) activities like lock-ins, providing meals to the homeless, clothing, food, and toy drives for those in need, Angel trees, Secret Santa, picnics, candle making, and escape rooms. It is always such a joy (and relief) to see just how capable and in-Christ our next generation of leaders are!
After the new leadership boards were elected and approved, they dedicated themselves to Christ and virtuous service through their roles. We then prayed and sang that they would serve the Church for many blessed years!
The 2021-2022 Jr. UOL National Executive Board is:
Spiritual Advisor: Fr. John Charest
President: Natalie Hrystsay
Vice-President: Rachel Harendza
Treasurer: Natalie Swann
Secretary: Mia Zetick
Financial Secretary: Stephen Sheptak
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The 2021-2022 Sr UOL National Executive Board is:
Spiritual Advisor: His Eminence Archbishop Daniel
President: Karen Ferraro, Philadelphia, PA
1st VP: Anna Anderson Youngstown, OH
2nd VP: Oleh Bilynsky, Philadelphia, PA
Corresponding Secretary: Pni-matka Laryssa Charest, Carnegie PA
Recording Secretary: Teresa Link, New Britain, CT
Financial Secretary: Joe Goodge, Youngstown, OH
Treasurer: John Stasko, Carnegie, PA
Auditor: Alex Shevchuk, Maplewood, NJ
UOL Bulletin Editor: Natalie Bilynsky, Philadelphia, PA
PR Commission: Chris Mills, Carnegie, PA.
Awards and Scholarships were also announced.
The Very Reverend Protopresbyter Stephen Hallick-Holutiak Senior Recognition Award: Subdeacon James Cummings
Chapter of the year: Sts. Peter & Paul Sr. UOL Chapter, Carnegie PA
The Metro J. Baran Award: Fr. John Charest
Metropolitan John Scholarship:
Deacon John (Robert) Cummings
Subdeacon James R. Cummings
Subdeacon Volodymyr Pichkurov
Deacon Myroslav Mykytyuk
Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan
Subdeacon Pavlo Vysotskyi
Reader Andrii Vatrych
Reader Maksym Zhuravchyk
Seminarian Andrii Akulenko
Seminarian Mykola Stefanyck
The meeting finished with a preview of what we can look forward to (aside from meeting in person, Lord willing!) at the 75th Annual Convention in Carnegie, PA from 27 – 31 July, 2022.
Until next year, in Carnegie, PA!
Written by Very Rev. Fr. Anthony Perkins