March 17th, 2013

Bishop Richard visits St. Sophia

Bishop Richard with St. Sophia YouthWe were blessed today by a visit from Bishop Richard Stephen (Seminack) of our St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy in Chicago.

His Grace processed in with men of the parish, escorted by the Knights of Columbus from Holy Cross Roman Catholic parish across the street.

Children of the community greeted him with the traditional bread and salt.

The bread represents hospitality, the warmth of Ukrainian hospitality from the rich black fertile soil of Ukraine. The salt symbolizes friendship, an eternal friendship that will never sour because salt is never corrupted by time therefore, never loses its taste. -Excerpted from House of Ukraine

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Bishop Richard asked us to pray especially for the newly elected Pope Francis. He went on to offer a beautiful homily with a theme of service to the Lord. The homily was punctuated by a story about his grandmother. Bishop Richard was the oldest of seven children who comprised a household of 11, including his grandmother.  She could not write and could hardly read and was concerned what she might possibly have to say to the Lord upon her death. Bishop Richard told her that she need not say anything, only show Him her hands. They were a testament to a life of service to God.

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Once again I am happy to be here amongst you during this holy season of the Great Fast. In a few weeks, we will be celebrating the feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord. With great anticipation, we look to Great Week or Holy Week, with its traditional richness and expression of our Byzantine-Ukrainian faith. I am overjoyed at seeing all of you again and to spend a few moments with you while we recollect the purpose of our being here for the celebration of Divine Liturgy and the purpose of our life as Christians, or believers of Christ.

I ask you to think of the words of today’s Gospel that say, “the Son of Man Himself did not come into the world to be served, but to serve.” I think of these words in regards to my own ministry as a priest early in my young adult life. I always wanted to serve Christ and His Church with all my heart and soul and mind and I was always in the presence of good, trustworthy priests as a child and a young man. I was surrounded by men of God who served with faith and courage the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America. Many of our priests were immigrants who came to this country because they were forced away from their own country due to church persecution.

In those early days, back in the ’50s and ’60s, priests had to be men of service. The parishes were small and the duties were overwhelmingly strenuous. The stress and stain upon the lives of the priests in those early days was great. I remember when I was a child helping priests who used to go house to house to bless Easter food on Holy Saturday, and some of them would even begin on Good Friday. Homes would be annually visited by the priests with the Jordan waters. Pastors went long distances to visit the sick. Ukrainian Catholic priesthood was at that time a good indoctrination for those who wanted to serve Christ and the Church. So Fr. Pavlo can reconcile this today with his duties as pastor in your parish. The many difficulties and stresses and strains that he must go through in order to keep this flock of God, this group of sheep, together in the name of the eparchy, in the name of the whole church. 

The times have changed and today’s culture is much different. One factor remains the same: in those earlier days, the faithful made the difference. The laity were a strong body of believers who dedicated their time, talent, and treasure for the good of the church. They were service people. -Excerpt from Bishop Richard’s Homily

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Following Liturgy, the bishop greeted the children of the parish.

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Fr. Michael Holmberg from Holy Cross joined us for a scrumptious luncheon put on by his parish’s Knights of Columbus. One of the Knights, Bob Adkins, took the majority of the pictures you see here and generously shared them with the parish. They cooked an amazing fish fry to give Bishop Richard a taste of southern hospitality. We are very grateful for their presence, support and service.

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Three types of fish were accompanied by potato pierogies, green beans, rolls, salad, and cake. Some of our guests tried pirogies for the first time!

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The Vaselka Ukrainian folk choir sang 5 songs and children from the parish sang and recited poetry to the enjoyment of all. The parish gifted Bishop Richard a basket of Texas-made goods. Father Pavlo warned him to beware the sauces, saying everything is hotter in Texas. Natives Texans don’t think that’s the case, but maybe there’s a reason our Jalapeño-Potato-Cheese pierogies are the best selling variety!

We were blessed by a fruitful visit and we pray for Bishop Richard’s safe travels.

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