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On Sunday, December 19, 2004, the Sunday of the Geneology of Christ (Sunday before Christmas) according to the Gregorian Calendar, His Eminence, Vladyka Michael, Archbishop-Metropolitan of the United States & the Americas, made a pastoral visitation to St. George parish in Yonkers, NY. The Archbishop was greeted at the church entrance by parishioners and clergy before the 3:00 p.m. Pontifical Divine Liturgy.

The Archbishop-Metropolitan with concelebrating clergy and ordinandi. (l-r) Subdeacon Balsm Marji, V. Rev. Yuriy Kasyanov, Vladyka Michael, Rt. Rev. Canon John Tokarick, Deacon Samir AlejilatUpon entering the church, the hierarch and clergy recited the "prayers before the iconostasis" and prior to the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence had the opportunity to hear the confessions of those who approached the sacrament, in preparation for the Christmas holydays. The Eucharistic Sacrifice began with the singing of Christmas Carols in English and Ukrainian, during the incensing of the church, after the Metropolitan had blessed the four corners of the earth with the trikerion and dikerion. The day also coincided with the Feast of St. Nicholas on the Julian Calendar. The singing of "O kto, kto, Nikolaja L'ubit" was particularly notable.

Concelebrating the Liturgy with the Archbishop-Metropolitan were the Rt. Rev. Canon John Tokarick, protosyncellus and pastor of St. George parish and Holy Trinity Orthodox Greek Catholic Church, Lancaster, PA. (Fr. Tokarick also serves as dean of the East Coast deanery of the Archeparchy); and the V. Rev. Yuriy Kasyanov, of Long Island and administrator of the newly-established community in Brooklyn, NY.

Sayedna Michael with newly-ordained Deacon Samir AlejilatDuring the course of the Pontifical Divine Liturgy, several important milestones in the life of the parish took place. Before the Great Entrance, parishioner and Lector Balsm Marji was ordained to the rank of subdeacon. Following the Anaphora (eucharistic prayer), Subdeacon Samir Alejilat was elevated to the major order of deacon. Fr. Tokarick presented the ordinand to the Archbishop-Metropolitan, while Fr. Kasyanov assisted the hierarch at the altar.

The candidate had been previously ordained to the minor orders of lector and subdeacon at St. Elias Church, Allentown, PA, during the canonical visit of Metropolitans Stephan and Michael to that parish on October 10, 2004. Bishop Alexy Bondarenko, who was present and concelebrated the liturgy with the other hierarchs in Allentown, conferred the two minor orders upon Deacon Alejilat, on behalf of Metropolitan Michael, the UAOC eparchial bishop of the United States.

Deacon Alejilat, along with his Pani Matka (Kouria) Rania have been instrumental in the foundations of the Yonkers parish. He will continue to work with the pastor, in the evangelical and temporal growth of the community.

Also during the service, Archbishop Michael blessed Yazan Alejilat, son of the newly-ordained deacon, to serve at the altar wearing the crossed orarion. Fr. Yuriy Kasyanov, of Brooklyn, NY was given the right to wear the gold pectoral cross, with the title of Very Reverend Father.

The Archbishop-Metropolitan with Fr. Tokarick, pastor, newly-ordained Deacon Samir Alejilat, Kouria Rajina Alejilat, their children and other parishioners.In his homily, His Eminence spoke about the coming celebration of Christ's birth, taking the theme from the day's Gospel reading which speaks of Jesus' family lineage. Keeping with the theme of his Christmas pastoral letter, the Archbishop spoke of the great compassion of God in the birth of his only Son into our fragile human form, emphasized by the Gospel's inclusion of the list of Jesus' relatives, and the corresponding love and kindness we all must have toward each and every other man and woman in our lives and in the world.

Near the conclusion of the homily, Sayedna Michael conducted an impromtu question and answer session with the children of the parish, who had many things to ask their Archbishop regarding Christmas, Jesus' birth and the place of St. Nicholas, the predecessor of the contemporary Santa Claus, in the celebration of the holidays.

The children listened with close attention as Sayedna Michael explained the association of St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia with our present image of Santa and the giving of gifts to one another as expressions of love and compassion. His Eminence, in order to procede with the sacred liturgy, concluded the lively session by encouraging the young people to continue learning and expanding their faith and association with the church - the People of God, and to keep studying and asking questions about things pertaining to our religion.

Following the Pontifical Divine Liturgy, His Eminence met with several members of the parish council, before leaving the church for the social which followed.

The Archbishop-Metropolitan with concelebrating clergy and ordinandi. (l-r) Subdeacon Balsm Marji, V. Rev. Yuriy Kasyanov, Vladyka Michael, Rt. Rev. Canon John Tokarick, Deacon Samir Alejilat A dinner in honor of Archbishop-Metropolitan Michael was held at Bennigan's in North Yonkers. In attendance were the members of the clergy, their families and parishioners of St. George parish. In his short exhortation at the dinner, Sayedna Michael spoke of the great potential for evangelization and growth in their community, especially to the unchurched, and encouraged the people to follow God's lead and work together for the building up of his church.

"We have a mission," the Archbishop reminded everyone, "to reach out to all those who for whatever reason feel alienated from their churches or from religion in general. These people, who do not lack personal faith in their hearts, must be made to feel that God's house is a place for them too, where they can feel at home and be able to live their lives around the sacraments, especially the holy Eucharist, and baptism . . . We must have the heart of Christ towards others, always showing understanding and compassion, and then they will come to see our parishes as real places of God's presence."

Deacon Alejilat has been assinged as "pastoral associate" to assist the pastor, Fr. Tokarick in the ministry of the community. The newly-ordained is presently finishing his theological and liturgical studies at local institutions in coorporation with our Archeparchy.

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