METROPOLITAN STEPHAN ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Stephan, Primate of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of North & South America has announced that he will retire from the position of Primate of the Metropolia, effective June 1, 2004.
Metropolitan Stephan, who has led the church since his appointment by the UAOC bishops in Ukraine in 1996 and subsequent election and confirmation by clergy and laity in the United States, said that in the immediate future, he looks forward to the opportunity to participate in various ecclesiastical activities, spend more time with family and relatives, while also being afforded the chance to devote himself to increased prayer and personal devotion. He will continue to participate in Metropolia-sponsored events as circumstances permit. His Beatitude assures all of the clergy and faithful of his continued prayers and blessing, thanking them for their dedicated support over the many years of his ministry.
As provided for in the resolutions of the Sobor of the UAOC of North & South America held in 1998, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Michael, currently Archbishop of the United States & the Americas and Coadjutor to the Primate with the right of succession, will assume the role of Primate of the Metropolia. Plans for the installation ceremony will be announced in the near future, to which the public will be invited.
Love for God, Heritage and Others
Metropolitan Stephan's Contributions to the Re-Birth of the Ukrainian Nation
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Metropolitan Stephan's family immigrated from Ukraine and other areas of Eastern Europe following the Second World War. After graduating from Cleveland primary and secondary schools, he entered the United States Navy from which he received an honorable discharge, before pursuing studies for the holy priesthood. After serving as a deacon for several years, he was ordained to the presbyterate in 1988. As the succeeding priest to the late Protopresbyter, Fr. Lev Ostrowskyj, founding pastor of the Cathedral of SS. Boris & Hlib, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Stephan was for many years, a member of the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America, then headed by Metropolitan Andrei Kushak of blessed memory. Fr. Lev had established the parish as an on-going ministry to serve the spiritual needs of Ukrainian immigrants, who suffered displacement from their homes and villages under the various occupations during the period of World War II. After the war, these same people found themselves in the infamous "DP Camps" in Germany, France, Belgium and throughout Western Europe. It was from these places that many chose to make the difficult and uncertain voyage to the United States, Canada and South America, to seek a new life in an atmosphere of freedom, liberty and the right to the pursuit of happiness. Once in this country, these brave individuals often wished to remian connected to one another according to the particular region or villiage that had been home to them in Ukraine. This was accomplished through the means of coming together as a parish family, in which Fr. Ostrowskyj was instrumental. The church also ministered to those who managed to successfully endure a difficult and life-threatening escape from Ukraine during the Soviet years.
Decades later, building upon these original principles so dear to the heart of Fr. Ostrowskyj, Metropolitan Stephan continued the mission of SS. Boris & Hlib parish, this time serving the "new wave" of immigrants (often called the "third immigration") who made their way to the US after the fall of the iron curtain and the "velvet revolution," In a new and more suitable location envisioned by Metropolitan Stephan, this is a ministry that the parish continues to focus on up to the present time. Over the decades, countless people have been helped to establish for themselves a new life in this blessed land of opportunity. The church was raised to the rank of Cathedral in 1996 and celebrated its 20th. anniversary in 1999, with a Pontifical Divine Liturgy and celebratory banquet, attended by numerous clergy, faithful and public officials. This year, 2004, marks the Silver Jubilee of the parish, which will be observed in the fall.
Most notably, His Beatitude was very active in the revitalization of Ukraine, following the declaration of that country's independence in 1989. Using his diverse God-given talents, he performed many charitable endeavors, including the distribution of much needed food, clothing and medical supplies and equipment as well as liturgical/religious articles, caring for the needy in various Ukrainian regions. By the early to mid 1990s, he had made more than several trips to Ukraine to provide these important services of charity.
From an important historical perspective, while others focused on changes in the make-up of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, Metropolitan Stephan was among the first American clergy to support the newly-resurrected Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which was in need of much help following decades of Soviet occupation. Like other churches in Ukraine, the UAOC, its hierarchy, clergy and faithful were fiercely persecuted under the communistic regime and those churches which supported it, many going to their deaths as martyrs and confessors of the faith, rather than betray the historic church of our ancestors. This mutual experience created a strong bond between the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, both in the Motherland and in the Diaspora. One of Metropolitan Stephan's consistent goals has been to help create an atmosphere of unity and cooperation between the two Ukrainian Churches and its fruits can clearly be seen by the positive repoire among the UAOC of N & S America and the UGCC. His Beatitude has long been a voice from the Orthodox perspective, for the official recognition of a patriarchate for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, at the same time, emphasizing the importance of world-wide acknowledgement of a Ukrainian Orthodox patriarchate which would fulfill the historical role of the Church of Kyivan-Rus in the expansion of Christianity among many of the Slavic nations, in particular Russia, which received the Christian faith from Kyiv and the efforts of Prince-St. Volodymyr and his successors.
He was the first priest of the UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate to be assigned to the United States and later took part in the historic sobor which elected then Metropolitan Filaret to the Patriarchal Office, as successor to Patriarch Volodymyr. One of the historical artifacts of this era is the antimension issued by Metropolitan Filaret in 1994, to then Archimandrite Stephan, for use in the United States. It was the first of its kind to be designated specifically for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in a parish in the USA. This important historical piece is preserved in the museum of the UAOC of North & South America at the Cathedral Church. Subsequently, Metropolitan Stephan himself was elected by the patriarchial curia of the UAOC in Ukraine, to be elevated to the rank of bishop, with the auspicious task of rebuilding an Archdiocese of the UAOC in North & South America, that would serve those dedicated to the principles of a church with close ties to that in the Motherland. During this period of great enthusiasm for Ukrainians across the globe, the Metropolitan emphasized the need for unity among ourselves, an ideal that is still pertinent today, perhaps more than ever.
Acknowledgement of the Civic Accomplishments of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Stephan
While he was focusing upon the spiritual and temporal needs of the people in his ancestral homeland, Metropolitan Stephan was not content to merely concern himself with things oversees. He was honored several times by elected officials in the United States for his contributions to church and society. Most noteably of these was the invitation to offer the opening prayer at a session of the United States House of Representatives, which he was honored to do in May of 2000. Most notably, he was the first hierarch of the Orthodox Church to receive such an invitation, which was an honor both for our church in particular and the Orthodox Church as a whole. Additionally, His Beatitude has worked with local and national elected officials on projects effecting the good of Ukraine and its relationship with the United States as well as efforts towards greater social justice here at home.
Not content with things of a executive nature, Metropolitan Stephan, in his typical concern for those suffering any type of distress, travelled, along with Archbishop Michael, to New York City immediately after the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which destroyed the World Trade Center and much of Lower Manhattan, taking with it thousands of lives and effecting countless others. The two hierarchs worked for over several weeks, often in primitive conditions, ministering to people from all walks of life, from firefighters adn police officers to other recovery workers, family members of those lost, volunteers and many others. While this was no easy task, it was rewarding for the Metropolitan to know that his presence made a difference in the lives of so many of the bereaved through a variety of means, from blessing the remains of those recovered, in a make-shift morgue on site, prayers with the workers and family members or simply a kind smile or handshake that brougt a sense of peace adn the assurance of God's love in the midst of the worst tragedy our nation has yet to see. This is an experience that, in the words of the Metropolitan, "was both painful and encouraging: painful in the tremendous loss for so many innocent people and encouraging in the knowledge that the Grace of God can indeed surpass all evil and suffering, and offer hope where there is none apparant. To encourage people in their faith and to see that faith work when put into action is one of the most rewarding aspects of the priesthood."
An Important Spiritual Legacy of His Beatitude
As part of the legacy he leaves to the church as a whole, is his continued emphasis on unity and cooperation between all of Christ's followers and people of good-will. We are reminded of one very constant and important theme of his archpastoral preaching: that we are all called to witness to Christ in our own day, keeping in mind that among the many uncertainties of life, two things are absolutely certain, that,
"We have all been born and we will all die one day. We have all been born into this physical world and will all one day pass from it, to a spiritual life in God's kingdom . . . When the Lord calls us to himself, we will discover, perhaps to the dismay or surprise of some, that there is neither an Orthodox heaven, a Catholic heaven, a Protestant heaven, a Jewish heaven and so forth . . . What we will discover is that there is but one God, who loves us all and who calls us to love one another in the same way that he has shown us his mercy, forgiveness and love. With that in mind, we must emphasize those things that we share in common, rather than constantly dwell on what separates us. It is at the Lord's table, as we share in his Body and Blood that our unity in Christ is most strongly realized and manifested. Therefore, it is not our place to decide who is worthy of participation in the Eucharist, but God alone can determine what is in the hearts of people and the love they have for Him and one another. When we take it upon ourselves to judge the worthiness of others, God tells us himself in Sacred Scripture, that we also will fall under judgment in as much as we have judged or accepted and forgiven others, despite how different we may see things. Therefore, rather than using the communion line to pass judgment and delinate differences, we must, in answer to Christ's own prayer, use this great sacrament as one of forgiveness, unity and love."
This great spiritual legacy of Metropolitan Stephan has inspired many over the years and should continue to teach us an important lesson about the all-encompassing love of Almighty God. If we do so, much division can be eliminated among those who call themselves followers of Jesus.
A retirement dinner will be hosted for Metropolitan Stephan later this year, in recognition of the many years of priestly and episcopal service he has provided to the Ukrainian Church as a whole and our Metropolia in particular. He has truly been an inspiration to many and has long expressed a spirit of deep insight and vision for the church that stems from his love of God and others and the desire to see unity, love and peace among all Christ's followers. For that witness alone, the church will be forever enriched by his years of ministry. The retirement observance will be planned according to the wishes of His Beatitude, in a simple and unassuming manner. May God grant to Metropolitan Stephan many more happy and blessed years as he enters this new chapter of his life. Na mnohaya i blahaya lita!
PRESS OFFICE OF THE
UKRAINIAN AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX CHURCH
OF NORTH & SOUTH AMERICA
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