CENTRALIA, Pa. – On the grounds and inside Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, located on the serene mountaintop overlooking the abandoned, desolate borough of Centralia, the second annual Call to Prayer Pilgrimage will be held Sunday, August 27. This date is the eve of the Feast of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God, according to the Julian calendar.
The pilgrimage begins at noon with the celebration of the divine liturgy with Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka as the main celebrant and area clergy as concelebrants. The homilist will be the Very Rev. Archpriest John M. Fields. The Rev. Paul Spotts will serve as deacon. Responses to the liturgy will be led by the choir of the Patronage of the Mother of God Church in McAdoo, Pa.
After the divine liturgy, a procession with a replica of the Icon of Our Lady of Pochayiv will be held from the church to the outside chapel.
At 1:30-3:30 p.m. confessions will be available for the pilgrims at various locations throughout the church grounds.
A Living Rosary will be prayed at 2 p.m. before the historic and jeweled 18th century copy of the Icon of Our Lady of Pochayiv. Father Martin Kobos, OFM Conv., pastor of Mother Cabrini Church in Shamokin, Pa., will provide a reflection at the conclusion of the Living Rosary.
At 3p.m. the Rev. Msgr. James T. Melnic will celebrate with the pilgrims the Akafist to the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God before the Holy Shroud of the Dormition.
At 4:30 p.m. all will gather at the outdoor chapel for a candlelight procession to the church for the celebration of a Moleben to the Mother of God. Archbishop Soroka will again be the main celebrant as well as the homilist.
At the conclusion of the Moleben, prayers for healing and the anointing with holy oils for the healing of soul and body will take place. Pilgrims will have an opportunity to venerate the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaiv as well as the icon and relics of Blessed Martyr Bishop Mykola Charnetsky, CSsR, the healer of souls.
The icon and relics of the martyr will reside in the church for veneration throughout the day.
During his historic visit in November 2015, Major-Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, primate of the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic Church, marveled at the continuing presence of the church in Centralia. He also noted how this coal region parish has fostered four priestly vocations and three sisters to the religious life.
Patriarch Sviatoslav said he felt a sense of true holiness which pervades the entire church property. His desire is for all people of faith to come and experience this holiness, sanctity and serenity as pilgrims to this holy place on the mountain.
As a result of the visit of Patriarch Sviatoslav, and with the encouragement of Metropolitan-Archbishop Soroka of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, the place was designated a holy site of pilgrimage.
The first pilgrimage was held in 2016, and the Very Rev. Michael Hutsko, pastor, invites all people of faith to participate in this year’s day of prayer and spiritual blessings.
Six years ago, on Sunday, August 28, 2011, Archbishop Soroka was the main celebrant and homilist when the parish celebrated the centennial of its founding.
“The main thing is that I want you to hear beyond the words,” the archbishop said. “This church is standing after 100 years, despite the mine fire and the town leaving, to deliver a message to the world: We are to be like your namesake, the Mother of God, to be servants to others”
While the town of Centralia was destroyed by an underground mine fire, which resulted in the relocation of almost all the residents and the demolition of all but a few buildings, the stately white Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Church capped with its three onion-shaped blue domes still sits on a hilltop overlooking the once-thriving town as it has since the first services were held there in 1912, after the parish was founded on August 15, 1911.
Today, while the town is a memory, the church still serves a thriving parish family, with congregants driving to the hilltop on Sundays and Holy Days from communities throughout the area.
Food service will be provided during the pilgrimage from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. Handicapped parking will be provided on the church grounds; off-site parking and shuttle van service will be provided from specially designated areas near the church. This is a rain or shine event.
The church is located two blocks north of Route 42 in Centralia at the following mailing address: 1130 Summit Hill Road, Aristes, PA 17920. For more information readers may contact the church rectory at 570-339-0650.