This year Niagara Frontier Council hosted members of the League from all over the tri-state (NY-NJ-PA) area as well as Connecticut, Washington, DC, and even Phoenix, Arizona, at their annual gathering at the Hyatt Place Hotel in Amherst, NY, on the outskirts of Buffalo.
The League had its origins in North America in 1933, Chicago, Illinois, at a meeting of Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy, clergy, and lay persons from the US and Canada for the purpose of organizing the immigrant youth and strengthening the Ukrainian Catholic faith.
1933 was a significant year, indeed. During 1932-33 in communist occupied eastern Ukraine countless Ukrainians tragically perished of starvation during the Stalin- enforced famine (Holodomor). Few survived to tell the story. And for decades their names – adults, children, infants – were unspoken. Eighty-five (85) years later, the Candle of Remembrance, initiated this year in Ukraine travels the world to shed light on this tragedy and to remember the many who perished.
During the League sponsored Panachyda service for deceased members, guests paused to remember these victims with prayer. The Candle of Remembrance was lit and remained so for the duration of the League gathering. The names of 85 children and infants were read to acknowledge these helpless, voiceless victims. Offering the Panachyda service were Bishop Paul Chomnycky, Eparch of Stamford, Rev. Marijan Procyk, National Spiritual Director of the League, Rev. Mykola Drofych, Convention Spiritual Director, and Rev. Andrew Onuferko of Ottawa, Canada, event keynote speaker,.
The program of weekend activities continued with the members’ formal greeting of Bishop Paul marking the 30th jubilee of his priestly ordination. Bishop Paul was gifted with an icon, Christ the Teacher; a copy of the traveling icon of the LUC. Other gifts included a beautiful (and delicious) korovai specially baked by Niagara Frontier Council member Anna Melnyk, and two framed pictures, one of Bishop Paul’s original graduating class from seminary and the other of Bishop Paul himself during that time.
A workshop entitled, “Behind Closed Doors – Hidden Rituals and Prayer” was presented by the accomplished speaker Sophia Scarpelli Shchur. Sophia’s presentation was enhanced by visuals and the actual prayers, spoken by Rev. Marijan, used in preparation for the Divine Liturgy; a behind-the-Iconostasis look of a priest’s preparation for the Divine celebration every Sunday.
Of course no visit to Buffalo is complete without a tour. In this case a boat tour on the Buffalo River and a historical narrative of the many grain mills that line the river banks. During tour, the blowing winds were right for one to smell the roasting of grain for the General Mills cereal of the day, which this day was Lucky Charms. Who knew that Buffalo was once the hub of all grain shipment activity? The narrator described that part of the city’s history with many colorful anecdotes, in addition to viewing the original structural start of the Erie Canal.
Those who have attended past League gatherings know that no banquet dinner is complete without a worthy MC, and Buffalo’s own Diana “Danusia” Chutko graced the guests with her good-natured banter and humor, and had the honor of introducing the keynote speaker. That evening at the hotel, Rev. Andrew Onuferko spoke on the theme of the gathering, “Embracing a Vibrant Parish Through Liturgy and Prayer”. However, in order to prepare for his speech, Rev. Onuferko had to learn a little bit about the League itself, and what better way than to read its newsletter, The Action. Upon completion of his review of the newsletter, Rev. Onuferko was surprised to learn that the League was “the first Vibrant Parish organization”, embracing all – young and old alike and accepted the invitation to be the keynote speaker. The League strives to serve as an invaluable resource as a library and repository of materials and methods for religious education, parish activities on all levels, interaction, reflection, prayer, charitable activities and individual and communal support. In a word, the LUC actively pursues its constitutionally stated Purposes. His speech was both thought provoking and inspiring.
Rounding out the weekend was Sunday Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Buffalo with Pastor Rev. Marijan Procyk concelebrating with Rev. Ray Palko, and Rev. Onuferko. For those unable to attend, the service was live streamed and will be available for viewing on YouTube shortly. Afterwards, the farewell brunch was held in the church hall filled with League guests and parishioners. The food was delicious, the desserts scrumptious, and the impromptu entertainment unequaled. Anna Tklich, an accomplished singer and a parishioner of St. Nicholas, performed a solo rendition of Ave Maria in Ukrainian, set to the music of Bach, to thunderous audience applause of approval and delight!
Niagara Frontier Council member and National Board Treasurer, Elaine Nowadly closed out the weekend event with farewells and an ‘until we meet again next year’. League President, Marion Hrubec, reminded departing guests that “after 85 years, many would be thinking in terms of end of life…however, it is not so for the League of Ukrainian Catholics as an organization – 79 conventions and 85 years of existence is only the beginning.”