9 December 2011
Subdeacon Yuriy Ostapyuk (left) plays games with the children at Druzhba Camp.
(photo: Petro Didula)
It is 10 a.m. Photographer Petro Didula and I are attending a liturgy in the Druzhba Camp for children and teenagers in the village of Svirzh, about 39 miles from Lviv. We were invited by Yuriy Ostapyuk, a recent seminary graduate and subdeacon, whom I had never met before and whose cheerful voice on the phone (we had to call him a hundred times to find the camp!) surely indicates his friendly and easy-going personality.
Surrounded by children, a young man of medium height with light hair is speaking into a microphone in a loud voice. This man, who we discover is none other than Yuriy, welcomes and introduces us to the children as journalists from Lviv. All the children turn their attention to Petro’s huge camera; their heads follow him like sunflowers following the sun. The liturgy starts.
All together, 140 orphans and children from low-income families and 16 deaf-mute children are now staying at the camp. Approximately half of them attend the liturgy, which takes place in a small, shadowy yard in front of the main camp building.
The children are praying, yawning and whispering. Some of them furtively say “hello” to me and touch my clothes. No one dares to go to confession until Father Roman Prokopets says in his homily that during confession they will be meeting directly with Jesus Christ.
In response, a line forms to Father Bohdan Kulyk, who is sitting on a stool, hearing the children’s confession. One boy near me asks his friend whether Father Bohdan is Jesus, and they both join the line.
Yuriy, his friend Volodymyr Chuprin, and a deacon Nazar Balinsky assist with the liturgy. “What beautiful voices,” a teacher exclaims, and then asks the older boys to stand up from their bench.
Now it’s the time for the celebration of the Eucharist. Some children make faces, indicating they are not fond of the taste of the sacrament. Yuriy explains to the children that they should swallow it immediately and not hold it in their mouths until the end of the liturgy as happened last time. That made me smile.
The liturgy ends and all the children gather around the chaplains to play some long-awaited games. First they sing a few Christian songs with Deacon Nazar. I have the opportunity to meet Yuriy, and I realize I’ll be able to interview him and his friends only after all the activities, lunch and the after-lunch portion of activities – probably not until around 5 p.m.
Now, the children are having their “time to shine,” and Yuriy is a brilliant cheerleader for them. “He always feels what children need at any given moment,” says Father Roman. “Yuriy knows the games they will be able to play and which ones they won’t. Our secret in working with these children is simply in trying to be simple like they are.”
In 2009, Subdeacon Yuriy and Father Roman founded the Center for Orphan Care, located in the Mriya Rehabilitation Center in Lviv. Today their Center is managing three boarding schools and two orphanages for preschool children in Lviv as well as five boarding schools in the town and villages of Briukhovychi, Chervonohrad, Livchytsi, Zhovtantsi and Zhuravno. It also publishes a four-page quarterly called Visnyk (or, The Herald, in English). The chaplains usually conduct liturgies in different chapels in or near the orphanages, centers and camps. If there is no such place, they improvise, as they did today.
Their hard, day-to-day work brings them a great amount of joy, but also numerous challenges.
For more, read Answering the Call, from the November 2011 issue of ONE.
8 December 2011
Tags: Ukraine Children Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Msgr. Kozar meets with the children of Blessed Sacrament Orphanage in Ain Warka, Lebanon.
After breakfast overlooking the sea high up on a hill in Beirut, Father Guido and I were escorted by our regional director, Issam Bishara, to the residence of the apostolic nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia. As nuncio, Archbishop Caccia directly represents the Holy Father in ecclesiastical matters to the state of Lebanon and to its Catholic hierarchy.
We were warmly received by His Excellency and had a very engaging conversation with him over a cup of tea. His understanding of the complexities of the religious and political realities in Lebanon, mixed with its history of civil war and occupation, could not fail to impress. The nuncio has visited North America several times and I invited him to visit again and to stay with us in our new residence in New York.
Our next stop was an amazing jump into the history of the church in Lebanon: Blessed Sacrament Orphanage. How could an orphanage place us in the context of church history? Well, our story begins with the construction of this castle-like edifice in the 1600s. Over the next 400 years, this structure has served a variety of purposes. But it is known for housing the first school in the area and later as the Maronite patriarchal chancery and seminary. Today, it is home to 80 girls, who are lovingly cared for by the Blessed Sacrament Sisters. For years, CNEWA has supported this excellent facility through our needy child sponsorship program.
We were warmly greeted by the present superior, Mother Francoise Doueihy, and a number of the other sisters. As we tried to meet everyone present, the grand entrance into the hall filled with singing, smiling and happy girls between the ages of 5 and 16. They welcomed us with some songs and dances, dressed patriotically in the colors of Lebanon: red, white and green, especially green, representing the famous cedars of Lebanon.
What a loving and lovable group of young ladies. I shared with them that the children of North America sent them their love and their prayers and they offered the same to all of our children back home. We had some real fun taking photos with all of them. Their radiant faces truly expressed the presence of Jesus on their faces and in their hearts. What a wonderful visit.
From the orphanage we headed to the Maronite Patriarchal Seminary, where we were greeted by Msgr. Maroun Aammar, rector, and other members of the faculty. After a brief tour of this architectural gem, we headed to the church for the Divine Liturgy. Yours truly was invited to be the celebrant of the liturgy in the Latin rite and in English. Msgr. Aammar explained that, since the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is the patronal feast day in the United States of America, it would be a good experience for the seminarians to be exposed to a Latin rite Mass.
The priests and seminarians were wonderful in assisting me to vest, since I did not know how to dress with Maronite vestments.
After Mass we joined the rector, faculty and seminarians in the dining hall for a lovely lunch. Plenty of food and even more smiles. I complimented the rector on the spirit of his seminarians. By the way, these young men are supported in their preparation for the priesthood by benefactors through CNEWAs seminarian sponsorship program. They warmly expressed their appreciation to their CNEWA friends and promised to continue to pray for all of you.
Our next stop, a visit with Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch. Patriarch Gregory is a very warm, humorous and lovable man. He enlightened me on some of the subtle differences between the various Eastern churches present in Lebanon and gave us some most interesting sketches of his own history and the dimensions of his ministry. As part of a brief tour of the patriarchal headquarters, he showed us the grand receiving room, which is a fixture at every patriarchate we have visited. He jokingly commented that his receiving room was not as nice as that of Maronite Patriarch Peter Bechara I told him his chairs were nicer and he laughed and said, You are right.
This evening, Father Guido and I will host the papal nuncio, a number of hierarchs, religious superiors and heads of Catholic agencies that cooperate with CNEWA and the Pontifical Mission in Lebanon. This will take place in a dining room here at our residence with the Franciscan Sisters. This is mostly a social gathering so that we might express our solidarity with them, since we otherwise do not have the opportunity to greet them during this first visit.
And with that, I thank you for what you allow CNEWA to do on your behalf in a far away place called Lebanon. As I continue to tell everyone I meet, even the children today at the orphanage, we are all one family, Gods family. So your family in Lebanon sends you their love. Check out a video from our visit below.
7 December 2011
A farmer from Deir el Ahmar in northern Lebanon discusses the reclamation of his fields with Msgr. Kozar and Kamal Abdel Nour, an engineer who manages projects in our Beirut office.
We have all heard the axiom “water is the stuff of life.” Father Guido and I spent today with a group of Maronite Catholic farmers in Deir el Ahmar, a village in northern Lebanon. Their lives have been changed by a water project engineered by the staff of the Pontifical Mission, CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East.
We left our Beirut residence in the warm morning sun and began what seemed like a never-ending uphill climb on windy roads. As we climbed we observed only rocky terrain and the temperature plummeted to freezing — I did not expect to find such radical extremes in climate.
On the other side of the mountains, we descended some 5,000 feet and met some members of a farming cooperative who couldn’t wait to show us their artificial lake and the success of their reclaimed land, which is now being planted with apple trees.
How could anyone farm on this land, I thought. Typically, 10 feet of snow blankets the area and just last week, the roads were blocked — we were lucky to get through.
About 15 years ago, our Beirut staff began working with these Maronite Catholic farmers who feared that, without new opportunities for their children, their farming community would collapse and their families would be dispersed.
Armed with initiative, a few loans and the ingenuity of our staff, the villagers built a lake about 7,000 feet above sea level. A vast area was lined with an artificial membrane, which sealed the soil and collected water from rainfall and melting snow. Our engineers then laid more than 10 miles of plastic pipe to channel water over a large area to help “reclaim” the land. Meanwhile, the villagers transported topsoil and planted fruit trees, especially hardy apple trees. It took two years to change this rocky terrain — devoid of any topsoil — into a fertile, thick blanket of deep (nearly 7 feet) dark topsoil. While the trees are already bearing fruit, they will reach maturity in another six years or so.
The change in Deir el Ahmar is significant. Thanks to our generous donors, our Beirut staff has provided a future for these farmers (who once grew hashish, the only plant hardy enough to grow in these severe conditions), enlivened the local economy and maintained a Christian presence in a land that has offered refuge to the followers of Jesus for more than a 1,000 years. Keeping together their families and their faith, they said to me, means more than anything.
The villagers also took us to see their new church, which remains unfinished but usable enough to celebrate the sacred mysteries. Though begun 11 years ago, the community is no hurry. They are determined to build it stone by stone. And it happens to be located right next to a newly “reclaimed” hectare of land. So, as the apples mature the church, too, will be completed.
From there we traveled over some rough terrain, often seeing the miles and miles of irrigation pipes that delivers the water down to the farms. We met a farmer considered the best of the best, and we enjoyed chatting with him as he pruned some of his trees, much like a barber giving a fine cut.
Expressing hospitality to visitors is important in the Middle East. And the lunch at the house of one of the leaders of the cooperative was fit for a king. Many times over the farmers and their wives expressed their thanks to all of you who support CNEWA for changing their lives and giving them the dignity of just being good Christian farmers. Their life is very hard work, but they do it lovingly and cooperatively. And, best of all, they are filled with faith.
I have to tell you, as wonderful as the food was at this banquet, all of which came from their own land and from their own hands, the best was one of their apples.
They all awaited for a sign from me about their apples: Did I like the taste? Was it as good as the apples in the United States? You bet it was! It was a County Fair Award-Winning Apple if I ever tasted one.
They were relieved and happy to get a thumbs up and a big smile.
I have a great appreciation of how water can change lives. I also have a better appreciation of how the human spirit can accomplish wonderful things with just a little bit of assistance. And that’s where CNEWA can really help make a difference in the lives of so many people. Just a little help can be enough to encourage people to do great things.
Next time you enjoy an apple, think of these great friends of ours in Lebanon. Pray for them as they certainly remember you, their benefactors, in their own.
By the way, we’ll end our day with these delicious apples. I brought back a few to our residence here in Beirut; they’ll be plenty for our meal tonight.
Below is a short video with some highlights of our day.
7 December 2011
Tags: Lebanon Msgr. John E. Kozar Beirut Water
An altar server stands near a statue of the Virgin Mary in greater Stockholm’s
Syriac Catholic church. (photo: Magnus Aronson)
According to the Latin calendar, tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Roman Catholics celebrate 8 December as the day that Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother free from original sin. Many churches in CNEWA's world, meantime, observe the feast on the following day. You can find out more by visiting the online Catholic Encyclopedia.
6 December 2011
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Syriac Catholic Church Sweden
Msgr. Kozar is greeted by a girl at the inauguration of Saint Moura multi-purpose hall, a CNEWA-supported project in Kobayat, Lebanon.
Msgr. John E. Kozar is the president of CNEWA.
Here is a report on a wonderful day of activities, centering on the longtime agricultural assistance given by CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission, to the Catholic community in Kobayat, a village in the northeastern part of the country.
After a full night of sleep, we headed out for a three-hour trip to the northeastern part of the country. As we traveled along Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast, our host, Issam Bishara, took us on a mini pilgrimage to an ancient shrine carved out of the rock.
Dedicated to Our Lady of the Light, the shrine is the fulfillment of a promise made in the fourth century to a pagan captain, whose ship was caught in the troubled seas. One of his sailors told him to pray to the Virgin Mary and she would intercede to God that he and all his shipmates might be saved.
And so it happened ... his prayers were answered, he embraced the Christian faith and built a shrine to Mary to honor the great gift bestowed on him.
We left our car in the parking lot of a more modern monastery and began walking to the shrine down a path carved into the rocky surface of this mountaintop. We arrived at a heavenly site: Far in the distance stood Lebanon’s snow-capped mountains, below us a beautiful sea with clarity and a blue to feast the eyes, and best of all a magnificent little chapel literally carved into the stone like a cave. We paused and prayed. In just a few minutes, we had made a mini retreat. [You can read more about this shrine in an article profiled in our magazine in 2000.]
On to Kobayat. Our first stop here was the olive processing mill that was running at full tilt, even though the olive season has just about ended. We were warmly greeted by the president of the cooperative association that oversees the pooled efforts of hundreds of farmers as well as by friends and coworkers.
As the machinery hummed along, our hosts took us on a simple tour. They demonstrated how bags of olives brought in from outlying farms were sent through a series of machines and ended up a high quality olive oil. Needless to say, we had to each try a sample of the work.
What touched me the most about this operation and all the workers involved was their pride and appreciation to CNEWA and the Pontifical Mission for the abiding confidence placed in them and in their hard work. And, as Maronite Catholics, they expressed their gratitude that work such as this helped keep their faith-filled community alive.
Msgr. Kozar visits a local market in Kobayat, Lebanon.
Our next stop was an impressive market center. This multipurpose center, built with the assistance of CNEWA, gives area farmers a well-situated venue to sell their produce, to store it in a clean and refrigerated environment, and a meeting area where agricultural and business professionals offer the farmers classes and presentations on new techniques of farming and management and marketing for their products. It was a special treat to witness customers coming in from the highway and buying local produce, and what a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables! Fresh has taken on new meaning — eat your hearts out supermarkets back home.
After visiting, we went to the parish church in the village of Martmoura, which is dedicated to an early Christian martyr named Moura. There, the parish priest and his parish committee warmly greeted us and escorted us into church to concelebrate with him the Divine Liturgy. For me, it was a special honor to concelebrate the Maronite eucharistic liturgy, or Qorbono in ancient Syriac, which was conducted in French, with some elements in Arabic and Syriac.
Now this is important: Perhaps the most impressive moment of the day during this pastoral visit with my farming friends was how important it was that we gather at the altar. The Eucharist was the focal point of their lives, and defines who they are as Maronite Catholics.
The underlying support of CNEWA all these many years has preserved this Catholic Christian farming community in the heart of the Middle East. Without the seed monies shared with them, and the abiding moral and technical support given to them, many would have fled, abandoning all that they knew in order to remain good farmers and good Christians.
They are grateful that we — and by this I mean our CNEWA family worldwide — have helped them to maintain their ancient Christian community.
After the liturgy we had a brief tour and a formal opening of a newly constructed parish multipurpose hall. Wouldn’t you know that the ladies had some delicious sweets ready for us and we toasted this “grand opening” and happy occasion with our glasses in hand.
But our hosts had one more treat for us: A never-ending meal with too many courses and plates to count. The food was superb, but the company was the best. Now that I have family in Kobayat, I promised to return. And, dear friends don’t forget, they are also part of your family.
Tomorrow, we travel East for another rural visit and more families to meet.
Below is a short video with a few highlights from our day.
6 December 2011
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Middle East Msgr. John E. Kozar
An 18th-century Russian icon of St. Nicholas the Wonder Worker
hangs in CNEWA’s New York offices.
Today, throughout the universal church, Christians celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas, a reluctant bishop of the early church in Asia Minor. Before the Communists suppressed the Orthodox Church in Russia, St. Nicholas the Wonder Worker virtually dominated the popular piety of the nation. Countless churches were dedicated to him. Russian men, from the exalted tsar to the humblest peasant, honored him as their patron. A pious peasant asked to identify the Holy Trinity would, more often than not, mutter the names of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas the Wonder Worker. Icons of this trinity, enshrined in every Russian home, reinforced this understanding.
Devotion to the Wonder Worker has not been confined to Russia. England, Greece, Holland, Lorraine, Sicily and southern Italy all honor him as patron. And his influence has spread to the New World, where it has taken on new life, particularly among children during the Christmas season, who associate him with Santa Claus.
In 1997, I traveled to the Italian region of Puglia, home to my paternal ancestors. While there, I visited the basilica in the city of Bari that has housed his relics for more than 900 years. “Nowhere is the universal nature of St. Nicholas’s popularity more apparent than in the southern Italian city of Bari,” I wrote in our magazine in an article entitled “Bari’s Borrowed Wonder Worker.”
One Russian family caught my eye. The father watched his youngest child as his wife and daughters, their heads covered in colorful scarves, lighted candles, kissed icons, pressed their heads to the sacred images and prostrated themselves before the altar. Although they abstained from the Eucharist, this family and the other Orthodox pilgrims who were in attendance rushed to the iconostasis to receive the blessed bread and to be anointed with the holy myron, or oil, of St. Nicholas.
“In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith, an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence,” exclaims the Troparion for today’s feast. “Your humility exalted you; your poverty enriched you. Hierarch Father Nicholas, entreat Christ our God that our souls may be saved.”
6 December 2011
Tags: Russia Greece Saints Christian Italy
Charitable Giving Advisor Megan Knighton, Father Antoine Rizk, B.S.O., honoree Gregory Oussani and CNEWA's Director of Major Gifts Bob Pape celebrate at the Salaam Club holiday party last weekend. (photo: Marc Hibsher, Brooklyn Eagle)
CNEWA would like to congratulate our dear friend, Gregory Oussani, for receiving the Man of the Year Award from the Salaam Club of New York. Founded in 1945, the Salaam Club describes itself as “a dedicated cultural fraternity of men of Middle Eastern descent.” Its motto is “That Better Understanding Among Men May Prevail.”
I joined our Director of Major Gifts Bob Pape Saturday evening to celebrate with Greg at the Salaam Club’s holiday party in Brooklyn, where Greg humbly received his honor.
Greg, as the award duly notes, is a dedicated humanitarian and philanthropist who actively supports the mission of CNEWA and other Catholic organizations. In fact, just last year, Greg and the members of the Salaam Club helped CNEWA in a most meaningful way. CNEWA urgently needed to secure funding for a life-saving medical treatment for Sally, a young Chaldean Catholic who, along with her family, had to flee Baghdad for fear of kidnapping. After finding refuge in Jordan, Sally needed urgent medical treatment for a tumor in her leg. Sally and her family had nothing; the situation looked bleak. Thanks to the efforts of Greg and the members of the Salaam Club, Sally was able to receive the life-saving treatment!
We shared the evening with Greg’s family and friends, including Greg’s pastor, Father Antoine Rizk, B.S.O., who was a previous beneficiary of our seminarian program.
We can all attest that Greg is certainly worthy of such recognition. CNEWA appreciates all of Greg’s efforts in supporting the mission of CNEWA, which allows us to help our brothers and sisters in need overseas.
Congratulations, Greg! God bless you.
5 December 2011
Tags: Health Care Relief Donors Seminarians
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, meets with Ignatius Joseph III, Syriac Catholic
patriarch of Antioch.
Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president, began his pastoral visit to the Holy Land today. His first stop: Lebanon. He met with Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Joseph III, who assured Msgr. Kozar of his continued prayers and support as he begins his first journey to the Holy Land. Late today, Msgr. Kozar e-mailed us his first impressions of his trip:
What a wonderful first day in Lebanon — hard to believe this is my first visit to this part of the world. I say this because everyone thus far has made me feel so much at home and as part of the Lebanese church.
I think Father Guido Gockel, Issam Bishara and I set a Guinness Record by visiting four patriarchs in one day.
We began by meeting the Syriac Catholic patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Joseph III, who had spent many years in our region as a bishop in New Jersey. He warmly welcomed us and showed us some very poignant reminders of the ugly civil war that had gutted this small nation. This was evidenced by the remnants of shelled buildings standing in the shadows of newly constructed buildings. He told us how as a young priest he would run between the chancery and the cathedral, hoping not to be shot by snipers armed and ready to kill.
He also sends special greetings to all his many friends in the greater New York area.
On to a visit with the Armenian Catholic patriarch, Nerses Bedros XIX, who invited about a dozen chancery officials, clerical and lay, to share with us their roles in the administration of the Armenian Catholic Church. It was a good time for sharing and for me personally to continue to get a fuller picture of the political and religious realities in Lebanon.
On our next stop we visited with some religious women who represented congregations that are especially active in collaborating with CNEWA: These are the women on the “front lines” in offering help to the poor. The discussions were very open and frank, and I especially appreciated how they portrayed the significant and very frustrating challenges in giving service to the poor. The government does not have any public child care institutions and relies on the Catholic Church to fulfill this need, promising to reimburse it for her service. But there is no reimbursement. The need for assistance is most compelling, and this also applies to clinics and hospitals and services to special needs groups.
Our visit with Aram I, the Armenian Catholicos of Cilicia, was very warm. He is a graduate of Fordham University in New York and speaks glowingly of his time in New York. Father Guido and I each received copies of his recently authored books and he promised to visit us next October when he comes to the United States.
The crowning jewel of the day was a dinner with the Maronite patriarch of Antioch, Bechara Peter Rai. Before being greeted by His Beatitude, I was interviewed by members of the press. Afterward, we were taken to the chapel to greet the patriarch. There, we had a big surprise: With him was a line of special ecclesial dignitaries that included the patriarch emeritus, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir; the bishop of Beirut; the patriarchal vicar general, Archbishop Paul Sayah, a good friend from the recent visit of the patriarch to New York and five other bishops.
We were all warmly escorted to the dining room to join the patriarch in a lovely dinner. The mood was totally upbeat and the patriarch was in rare form. After dinner, we retired to the formal receiving room for tea. The patriarch noted that in the very chair in which I was sitting he sat when he was called in to be told that he had been elected patriarch of the Maronite Church. Cardinal Sfeir was also in good humor and I made a point of brushing off his comment that he is now old and invited him to come to New York, where he would feel young again.
Considering Father Guido and I only arrived at 2:30 this morning, we certainly had a full day, and a very happy one. I already feel at home in Lebanon.
Tomorrow, I want you to join us as we go on a long trip to the countryside to meet some special farmers who are part of our CNEWA family.
*Editor’s Note: Msgr. Kozar is in the Holy Land as part of his first pastoral visit to the region as president of CNEWA. Traveling with him is CNEWA’s vice president for the Middle East, Father Guido Gockel.
In Lebanon, he is joined by CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon and Syria, Issam Bishara. They will be joined by Ra’ed Bahou, our regional director for Jordan and Iraq, while in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In Israel and Palestine, the team will be joined by our regional director there, Sami El-Yousef.
Also today, he met with the Pontifical Mission staff in Beirut, and with a number of sisters, lay people and religious who are carrying out CNEWA’s work. Below is a brief audio clip from the meeting in which he shared his enthusiasm and excitement:
5 December 2011
Tags: CNEWA Middle East Msgr. John E. Kozar
Petro Moysiak is ordained at the Church of the Transfiguration. (photo: Petro Didula)
While preparing Answering the Call, her article appearing in the November 2011 issue of ONE, Mariya Tytarenko attended a Ukrainian Greek Catholic ordination. Presented below are some of the thoughts and impressions she recorded at the midsummer event.
July 12, 2011, The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in Ukraine
After almost five hours in photographer Petro Didula’s old gray Zhiguli car, we finally arrive in the town of Kolomyja in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, some 124 miles from Lviv. It takes us a while to find the Church of the Transfiguration, where the subject of our story, Petro Moysiack, will be ordained as a priest. Thankfully, we arrive just in time.
The liturgy is conducted in the church basement, since the church is under repair. Although it is a weekday (Tuesday), the church is overcrowded with parishioners because of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and also because of the rare ordination event.
During the 90-minute-long liturgy, I try to guess the character of Petro just from his looks and behavior. I had never met him before. He is slim, not tall, with a short haircut, and wearing glasses with tinted lenses. At one point he forgot the words to the Symbol of Faith prayer; I assume he is more than a bit nervous!
After the liturgy, I learn that Petro’s birthday was yesterday and that today is the birthday of his spiritual counselor, Father Petro Holiney (also named Petro!). By coincidence, it is their saint’s name day, too. “Too many Petros and holidays for one day!” I exchange smiles with the one other Petro – the photographer – while he takes his last picture in the church.
We are already one hour and 25 miles away from Kolomyia, in the small old village of Deliatyn, where our central character is from and where he is celebrating his first liturgy as a priest in the little chapel of Saints Peter and Paul. There are so many people that those who came late are standing behind the chapel fence along the road, right under a huge nest of five beautiful storks.
All the village parishioners are in their Sunday best, many of them wearing Ukrainian embroidered shirts, including Father Holiney and Father Moysiak – the former is wearing a black shirt with black embroidery, the latter a white shirt with white patterns.
After the Divine Liturgy and before the traditional ceremony of blessing with water near the chapel cross, young Father Petro speaks from the chapel porch to his fellow villagers, promising that he will live up to their hopes; he also thanks his mentors, relatives, and friends. Suddenly his deep and loud voice breaks. Some of the parishioners, especially the elderly, start crying.
In a minute, gaining control over his emotions, he gives his first priestly blessing to all the parishioners, including his grandparents, all his family, and his former girlfriend. “The blessing of a newly-ordained priest has special power,” I hear from one old lady who is standing in an extremely long line to greet the young priest.
I’ve been waiting for almost an hour to get his blessing – and after I receive it, the early-morning headache I got from our trip disappears.
The photographer and I are invited for a big holiday dinner in the town of Nadvirna, half an hour from Deliatyn. It is the perfect place to meet everyone I need to interview in an informal setting. It is here that I first speak to Father Petro Moysiak and am amazed by his profound thinking, strong faith and firm will. Here I also get to know his family. Everyone is very proud of him. His grandparents are happy about his entering the priesthood. His mother seems wise. The other seminarians and priests in the community are friendly and close to one another. They will all miss Father Petro when he leaves for Argentina in September.
The photographer and I are driving to the village of Dora close to Deliatyn together with Father Petro Holiney to see the legendary Underground Ecclesiastic Seminary, founded by Mitred Priest Mykhailo Kosylo, whose influence on local priests and seminarians, including Father Moysiak, is hard to overestimate. That piece and more will be part of our story!
Neighbors and relatives congratulate Father Petro Moysiak after his first liturgy.
(photo: Petro Didula)
5 December 2011
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Priests
Boys at Bhorathannoor Ambeaker Harigen Colony show off hats the village sells in larger towns. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
The work of priests in CNEWA’s world is often crucial to the communities they serve. In the November 2005 issue of ONE, writer Paul Wachter explored the sometimes challenging ministry of priests in rural India, work which can even include helping people learn new skills — such as how to weave hats like those pictured above:
Bhorathannoor Ambeaker Harigen Colony is home to 700 families, 100 of whom are Catholic and the remainder Hindu. Most of the Catholics entered the church about 10 years ago, the priests said.
The villagers live in small brick homes — they have one or two rooms each and the roofs are made of coconut leaves. There is a lone, tiny convenience store in the village, which sells a few staple goods and packets of candy that are popular with the children.
“There is a general lack of education in the area,” Father John said back at St. Mary’s. “There is a lot of unemployment and most people are small farmers who work only here and there throughout the year. That is why we try to introduce programs such as basket weaving or making other handicrafts.”
For more from this story see, Village Priests.
Tags: India Kerala Village life