JAMAICA PLAIN, Mass. – May 3 was a very special day for the parish of Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jamaica Plain, Mass. On that date the Boston-area community marked the 25th anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of its pastor, the Very Rev. Dr. Yaroslav Nalysnyk, marking this occasion with both solemnity and joy.
The main celebrant of the pontifical divine liturgy of thanksgiving was the eparch of Stamford, Conn., Bishop Paul Chomnycky, OSBM, assisted by the jubilarian and the Revs. Bohdan Nalysnyk (brother of Father Yaroslav Nalysnyk and pastor of the cathedral parish of St. Nicholas in Chicago), James Morris (pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Salem, Mass.) and Msgr. Roman Golemba (pastor of the churches of St. Michael in Woonsocket, R.I., and St. John the Baptist in Fall River Mass.).
In his sermon Bishop Chomnycky surveyed the quarter century of service by Father Yaroslav Nalysnyk in extraordinary historical times. The future priest found his religious calling and undertook theological studies at a time when the Church was illegal in the Soviet Union. He was ordained on April 30, 1990, in secret – not in a church, but in a private apartment. The beginning of his service coincided with the emergence of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church from a legacy of persecution to freedom and growth. In these early years his ministry reflected the fate of the faithful in newly independent Ukraine. Bishop Chomnycky thanked Father Nalysnyk for his service in Boston and beyond.
The celebration continued at the Four Points by Sheraton in Norwood, Mass., with over 200 parishioners and guests in attendance. The master of ceremonies was attorney and parish lawyer Walter Lupan, who skillfully interwove his introductions with facts from Father Nalysnyk’s biography and anecdotes from his parish experiences. A slide show that ran during the course of the dinner presented numerous photos from the jubilarian’s life in Ukraine and his years of service in New England, offering a broad panorama of life in the vibrant parish.
The introduction to what became a long list of tributes fell to Dr. Lubomyr Hajda, associate director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and lifelong parishioner of the parish. In humorous fashion Dr. Hajda noted that, despite his years, until Father Nalysnyk’s arrival he could be counted among the “youngest” parishioners. With the collapse of the USSR, the local community grew substantially with new arrivals from Ukraine, most significantly youth and young married couples. The rejuvenation of the parish is especially evident in the increasing numbers of marriages and baptisms. Adult baptisms are another sign of growth, and intermarriage has increased church membership, which has enriched the community and won new friends of Ukraine. Dynamism in the parish is evident in catechism classes for children, as well as Bible study, lectures and discussion groups on religious and church-historical themes for adults.
The key to the success of Father Nalysnyk’s ministry, Dr. Hajda opined, lies both in his remarkable gift of empathy and in the unique combination of experiences in his professional life. Father Nalysnyk was, in the first instance, trained as a medical doctor whose calling was to heal, to alleviate the pain and suffering that so often accompanies the human condition. He then fulfilled his military service as a physician in the Soviet army – an experience that on the one hand cultivated strict responsibility and self-discipline, but also exposed him to the system’s injustices and cases of human despair. Indeed, it was in these circumstances that he heard the call to service in a religious, spiritual dimension, a call that led him to priestly ordination in the last year of strict illegality of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Soviet Ukraine.
The integration of these three backgrounds has become the hallmark of Father Nalysnyk’s service in Boston, Dr. Hajda continued. It can be seen in his higher theological studies that culminated in a doctorate with a thesis on theology of health and mind-body medicine – combining the spiritual, the psychological and the physical on the model of the healing ministry of Jesus. It was shared in classes he organized in this field for parishioners. Most significantly, it is evident in his ministry to the sick and the elderly in the parish, those in need of advice in difficult moments or consolation in bereavement.
Highly unusual and effective is Father Nalysnyk’s dedication to the needs of the many children from Ukraine who come to Boston for specialized medical treatment, especially burns and malformations, at the Shriners’ Hospital for Children, and assistance to their accompanying family members. Very helpful here is Father Nalysnyk’s familiarity with Boston’s medical establishment, since he also works as chaplain in one of the country’s top oncological centers, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Among the numerous greetings from community leaders and organizations were those of Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization, the Ukrainian American Youth Association, Ukrainian Federal Credit Union, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and the Boston branch of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. Extending his congratulations on behalf of the Ukrainian American Educational Center of Boston, its past longtime president, Walter Boyko, presented a princely gift to the parish – a check for $ 125,000. (See story on page 16.)
There was warm applause for the felicitations read on behalf of an eminent former parishioner, Bishop Borys Gudziak of the St. Volodymyr Eparchy of Paris and president of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. Proclamations by the governor of Massachusetts and the mayor of Boston were read by parishioner Mary Wasylyk, who works as an official in the Massachusetts legislature.
A high point among the tributes was the recollections of the honoree’s younger brother, Father Bohdan Nalysnyk, who described the nurturing and religious upbringing in the family of five children that fostered two religious vocations.
Father Yaroslav Nalysnyk’s youngest and most loved parishioners – the children – presented poetry and joyful song, captivating all present with their talent and sincerity. The children’s presentation was organized with artistic skill by Oksana Syneyko.
To commemorate the occasion Father Nalysnyk was presented with a collective gift from the parishioners: a portrait by Eugene Shcherba, a graduate of the renowned Lviv National Academy of Arts and the 2012 recipient of the gold medal from the Guild of Boston Artists in the Regional Painting Competition.
The festive occasion drew to a close with words of thanks from the jubilarian himself. Father Nalysnyk stressed that this was not just his personal anniversary but also a community celebration, for he became a priest to serve God and people. He expressed gratitude to his mother, Korneliya, and his late father, Petro, who inculcated in him from childhood a love of God and the Church and respect for the dignity of every person, and he gave special thanks to his wife Dr. Luba Nalysnyk (with whom he recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary) and children Ostap and Marta, with her husband William.
Father Yaroslav also shared his reminiscences of some milestone events on his path toward the medical profession and then to the priestly vocation, with studies in the underground seminary of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. The lessons were conducted in private homes; those who hosted the seminarians often put themselves and their families in jeopardy.
The jubilarian mentioned his earliest ministry at the Dormition Church in the town of Yavoriv and in the village of Prybylchi (Yavoriv district), the birthplace of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky. He subsequently served in the region of Zolochiv and Pidhorone, where the imposing church of St. Michael was constructed on his initiative. Following additional studies at the Theological Faculty of Zagreb University, armed hostilities in the former Yugoslavia forced him to emigrate, and in 1992 Father Nalysnyk arrived in the United States. He returned to his theological studies and received a master of theology degree from the Holy Apostles College and Seminary, while serving simultaneously as administrator of the Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Willimantic, Conn. In 1994, Bishop Basil Losten of Stamford appointed him as administrator and later as pastor of Christ the King Church, and later as protopresbyter of the Boston Deanery.
Over the two decades of his service in Boston, Father Nalysnyk – together with the church committee and the support of the parishioners – successfully completed a series of important projects, including renovations of the church building, expansion and modernization of the physical plant, and beautification of the expansive church grounds. The parish made a significant contribution toward the construction of the patriarchal cathedral in Kyiv, constantly supports the educational programs of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv and has raised large sums to support those who suffered at the hands of the Ukraine’s former criminal regime on the Maidan and since then the defenders of Ukraine’s independence.
Thanks to the goodwill shown by both pastors and congregations, relations between Christ the King and St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church are close and warm, as evidenced by such cooperative ventures as traditional joint Christmas and Paschal meals and support of charitable activities in Ukraine, such as orphanages.