SOMERSET, N.J. – The 74th Convention of the Ukrainian Orthodox League held its annual convention virtually via Zoom on July 24. The convention was originally planned to be hosted by the UOL chapter of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia, but due to pandemic precautions it was moved to an online, single-day format.
Elected to the UOL’s National Executive Board for 2021-2022 were: Archbishop Daniel (spiritual advisor), President Karen Ferraro, First Vice-President Anna Anderson, Second Vice-President Oleh Bilynsky, Corresponding Secretary Matushka (Pani Matka) Laryssa Charest, Financial Secretary Joe Goodge, Treasurer John Stasko, Auditor Alex Shevchuk.
Appointees to the UOL National Board included UOL Bulletin Editor Natalie Bilynsky, and Public Relations Commissioner Chris Mills.
The Junior UOL’s National Executive Board members for 2021-2022 are: the Rev. John Charest (spiritual advisor), President Natalie Hrytsay, Vice-President Rachel Harendza, Treasurer Natalie Swann, Secretary Mia Zetick and Financial Secretary Stephen Sheptak. The Junior UOL met at All Saints Camp in Emlenton, Pa., on July 12.
The convention conversations and addresses noted the challenges of the pandemic and the years that will follow, but these challenges were presented as opportunities for evangelization to focus on the UOL’s mission of being dedicated to the Church and devoted to its youth. Opening with a moleben prayer service, led by the Very Rev. Taras Naumenko of St. Vladimir Cathedral, the convention meeting was called to order by President Ferraro. A moment of silence was observed for all of the UOL members and clergy who reposed in the previous year.
Metropolitan Antony greeted the convention with the wisdom gained from his 49 years of priestly ministry, encouraging participants to live in Christ, applying the lessons of the lives of the saints, and he reminded convention participants that Christ is concerned with “mercy more than sacrifice,” reflecting on whether we demand more of people than Christ Himself does. He noted the challenges facing the Church, highlighting the drift from the Church among local parishes, families, dioceses and faithful, and challenged the UOL to re-energize a culture that naturally treasures community and to not rest on its laurels.
Archbishop Daniel focused on the toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has had throughout the world, and noted the difficulty in understanding the depth of the crisis, but reminded convention participants that our hope should always lie with Jesus Christ. The analytic framework of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (known as VUCA) was reworked by the archbishop to a new response of “Vision, Understanding, Courage and Action.” Citing scripture that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:24), the archbishop encouraged participants “to embrace Christian VUCA in your chapters, parish communities – but most importantly in your life and your personal encounter with Christ the Savior!”
Discussions addressed the needs of starting a UOL chapter at local parishes, and ideas were presented to limit the requirements of a full roster of positions to start a new chapter. Other needs included outreach and education among young and not-so-young adults, as well as revisiting bowling leagues and their modern equivalents.
The Very Rev. Anthony Perkins expanded on themes begun by Archbishop Daniel and the role that the UOL can play in being Ukrainian cultural ambassadors to mission parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. (UOC-U.S.A.) through events such as varenyky making and pysanka workshops.
Hearing directly from the youth, Rachel Harendza, outgoing president of the Junior UOL’s National Executive Board, encouraged the use of social media to promote in-person activities and events, including lock-ins, meals for the homeless, clothing/food/toy drives, Angel trees, secret Santa, picnics, candle making and escape rooms.
Scholarship and award recipients announced at the convention were: Subdeacon James Cummings (the Rev. Protopresbyter Stephen Hallick-Holutiak Senior Recognition Award), Ss. Peter and Paul Senior UOL Chapter of Carnegie Pa. (named UOL Chapter of the Year), the Rev. John Charest (Metropolitan J. Baran Award), and Metropolitan John Scholarship winners were: Deacon John (Robert) Cummings, Subdeacon James Cummings, Subdeacon Volodymyr Pichkurov, Deacon Myroslav Mykytyuk, Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan, Subdeacon Pavlo Vysotskyi, Reader Andrii Vatrych, Reader Maksym Zhuravchyk, Seminarian Andrii Akulenko and Seminarian Mykola Stefanyck.
The convention concluded with a preview of the 2022 UOL Convention, which is tentatively planned for July 27-31 in Carnegie, Pa. For additional information, readers can visit the UOL website, www.uolofusa.org.