Embracing Tradition, Faith, and Service: Reflections on the Annual St. Thomas Sunday Pilgrimage
Embracing Tradition, Faith, and Service: Reflections on the Annual St. Thomas Sunday Pilgrimage

In the heart of South Bound Brook, New Jersey, a sacred tradition unfolds each year, drawing the faithful and clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA to the spiritual center of the Church for the Annual St. Thomas Sunday pilgrimage. This pilgrimage, occurring on Antipascha – Sunday After the Glorious Feast of Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, marks a poignant moment as faithful gather at the Spiritual Center of the UOC of the USA in South Bound Brook/Somerset, NJ - St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery in South Bound Brook, NJ to proclaim the triumphant words: CHRIST IS RISEN! The significance of this event transcends time and space as it honors the timeless Christian tradition of sharing the joy of Pascha/Easter with our deceased loved ones.

At the forefront of this year's pilgrimage was the ordination to the Deaconate of Subdeacon Maksym Zhuravchyk, a graduate of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary. The emotional ordination ceremony served as a testament to the deep bond between the deacon and his teacher, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, whom Deacon Maksym fondly referred to as his mentor and spiritual father. As Archbishop Daniel led the faithful in prayer, the essence of spiritual guidance and nurturing mentorship permeated the sacred space, affirming the enduring legacy of faith.

Throughout the pilgrimage, memorial services were held to honor the souls of approximately 9,700 individuals resting in the embrace of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery. Archbishop Daniel presided over these solemn moments on both days of the Pilgrimage – May 11-12, 2024, offering prayers of remembrance and gratitude at the mausoleum of Holy Resurrection, the crypt-burial place of Patriarch Mstyslav. Additionally, homage was paid to Ukrainian-American Veterans, whose sacrifices in the armed forces of the US are eternally cherished and honored.

The hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA prayerfully welcomed to the Metropolia Center - Very Rev. Fr. Charles Baxter, Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthdoox Church of Canada, who offered greetings of the hierarchs of the UOCC to the Council of Bishops, clergy and faithful of the UOC of the USA.

The pilgrimage unfolded over two days of spiritual reflection and communal worship. On the first day, Archbishop Daniel led the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. Andrew Memorial Church, where numerous pilgrims received the Holy Eucharist. Memorial services were conducted at the gravesites of distinguished clergy and pani-matkas, including the first metropolitan of the UOC of the USA – His Beatitude Metropolitan John (Theodorovich), embodying a profound connection to the Church's rich history.

Sunday morning witnessed Archbishop Daniel's inspiring sermon, delivered amidst the warmth of congregational fellowship. Despite Metropolitan Antony's absence due to illness, the spirit of unity prevailed as the youth of the 57th Bound Brook chapter of CYM and members of the Pokrova Sisterhood of St. Andrew Memorial Church welcomed the hierarch with reverence and love. Pastor of the Memorial Church, Protopresbyter Yurii Siwko, beseeched Vladyka Daniel to intercede with prayers for the victims of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, highlighting the Church's unwavering commitment to peace and justice.

Archbishop Daniel's sermon, rooted in the gospel of Christ appearing to Holy Apostle Thomas, resonated with profound wisdom and compassion. His message of peace as the harmony of spiritual and moral values reverberated deeply, reminding the faithful of their collective responsibility to uphold these virtues in an ever-changing world. Embracing timeless faith and moral values, Archbishop Daniel urged the faithful to manifest their beliefs through actions of love, compassion, and charity, transcending mere rhetoric and ceremonial observance.

The culmination of the pilgrimage was marked by the convergence of clergy from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and Ohio, who joined Archbishop Daniel in a unified expression of faith and devotion. Amidst the cultural festivities celebrating Ukrainian heritage, the essence of spiritual renewal and communal solidarity flourished, as approximately 3 thousand pilgrims traversed the gates of the Spiritual Center of the UOC of the USA.

As the echoes of the Annual St. Thomas Sunday pilgrimage fade into memory, its profound impact resonates within the hearts of the faithful, igniting a flame of renewed dedication to tradition, faith, and service. In the sacred soil of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery, the souls of the departed find solace in the eternal embrace of Christ's love, while the living are inspired to walk the path of righteousness, guided by the timeless wisdom of their spiritual leaders and the enduring light of Christ's resurrection.

Embracing Tradition, Faith, and Service: Reflections on the Annual St. Thomas Sunday Pilgrimage

Photos by Subdeacon Mykola Stefanyk

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Mailing Address
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
P.O. Box 495
South Bound Brook, NJ 08880

Offices:
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Metropolia Center
135 Davidson Avenue
Somerset, NJ 08873