A Journey of Faith and Healing to Our Lady of Lourdes.

View Image Gallery from the trip here.

Dear parishioners, I would like to share with you some details from my eight days trip to France that included the Priest Forum Conference and a Pilgrimage to Lourdes. I find it difficult to put into words what it was like to walk where St. Bernadette walked and pray at the Grotto where the Blessed Mother appeared.

In this article, I will try to give you an understanding of what it was like. On the day we arrived, Bishop Andriy Rabiy, Fr. Stepan Bilyk, Pastor of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Whippany, NJ and I, went straight from the airport to St. Vladymir Cathedral in Paris, where we celebrated a beautiful Liturgy for the Feast of Protection ( Pokrov ) of the Theotokos. The French croissant and coffee after the Liturgy helped to overcome the jet legs and gave us enough energy for the afternoon tour to the famous Louvre Museum where I caught a glimpse of the famous Mona Lisa. Art journey was fabulous and now I have a completely new appreciation for fine arts and the history associated with it.

Next day we traveled to the charming town of Senlis, forty kilometers from Paris to celebrate Divine Liturgy and to pay tribute to Anne de Kyiv, the youngest daughter of the Kyiv Prince Yaroslav the Wise and his wife Ingegerd. The queen Anne married French King Henry I and was the mother of King Philippe I. She also founded the abbey of St.Vincent and her statue stands in front of the Abbey. On 27 September 2013, the Ukrainian Eparchy of St. Vladimir in Paris headed at that time by our by our current Archbishop Boris Gudziak purchased a church in Senlis with the aim of transforming it into the current Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church where the Cultural Center of Anna Yaroslavna operates.

The following day we took a five hour ride on train to the city of Lourdes, the most famous healing shrine in the world. Upon our arrival to Lourdes, we met other priests from Europe who stayed with us for the Clergy Forum Conference for the next two days.After a long day of traveling and checking into a hotel, together with Bishop Andriy Rabiy and Fr. Stepan Bilyk we took a walking tour to see the sites of Lourdes where, in 1858, Mary appeared to young Bernadette Soubirous.

Though I had traveled to holy sites around the world, I had never visited one so packed with pilgrims. Many in the crowd obviously suffered from some sort of illness or disability, but the atmosphere felt celebratory, not desperate or sad. We visited the Grotto, the Spring and the healing Baths, as well as the Sanctuaires Notre-Dame de Lourdes, a soaring Gothic cathedral built over the grotto where Bernadette had her visions. I went to the outdoor baths, an experience like nothing you can imagine. You lowered into a marble tub filled with freezing cold water from the spring. You silently bring all of your intentions to the bath and then pray to the Blessed Mother and to St. Bernadette. When you leave the bath, you feel like you were just baptized again, cleaned of all your sins and healed. After the baths experience, I spent some time in silence praying at the Sanctuary for family, friends and parishioners as well as my own direction, purpose and strength.
We returned into a hotel and after a dinner, we all prayed at the Ukrainian Catholic Parish of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Lourdes. On the third day of our trip to Lourdes, Bishop Andriy Rabiy presided and preached at the morning Liturgy, inviting bishops and priests from different countries to join him in prayer for a unity of all Christians. Then the morning priest’s conference was devoted to the heroic qualities and virtues of Blessed Hieromartyr Clement Sheptytsky and Blessed Priest-Martyr Omelian Kovch.The afternoon conference continued with a presentation by Bishop Josyf Milyan, Head of the Pastoral and Missionary Department of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. He talked about problems and needs of Ukrainians living abroad.
After dinner, Bishop Andriy, Fr. Stephen and i shared our thoughts about our ministry and work at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The group discussion sessions after each conference were a time for us to sit and reflect and think about what unites us, moves us spiritually and makes us good shepherds to our people. All participants of the conference were also happy to receive a Scype call and a blessing from the Archbishop Borys Gudziak, who couldn’t come to Lourdes this year because of his illness.
That night, together with many pilgrims from Ukraine and Europe, we walked in the candlelight procession, praying the rosary in many languages, singing and lifting high the candles when the refrain of Ave Maria was sung. The faith of thousands of pilgrims lifting up lighted candles and singing hymns to Mary was inspiring. I sang along in English and Ukrainian, fully swept up by the spectacle. After the procession and recitation of the rosary, i paused to light a candle at the Grotto, praying for the intention of all the parishioners and students of ACS.

In the second part of the priests’ forum conference next day, the unity – communion topic was considered on a global scale. Bishop Andriy Rabiy, read a presentation prepared by Archbishop Bishop Borys Gudziak who couldn’t be present, in which the Metropolitan explained the global communion on the example of Blessed Martyr Omelian Kovch, who is known throughout the world as the pastor of Majdanek. Fr. Omelian was a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic priest murdered in Majdanek concentration camp.

Another important topic of the priest’s forum conference in Lourdes was unity and community involvement. Sister Lubomyra Nadich, gave a presentation on Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska, co-foundress of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate and her example of communion service to her religious sisters and the people of God.

Next morning, Bishop Hlib Lonchyna held the Youth Gathering meeting at the parish church and then a Pontifical Divine Liturgy led by Bishop Hlib was celebrated in the Church of Saint Bernadette, an awe inspiring setting, where we were joined by many Ukrainian pilgrims of the European diaspora from Italy, Spain, France and Ukraine. In the late afternoon, many pilgrims joined Bishop Andriy Rabiy and clergy for the Moleben to the Holy Theotokos.

After a good dinner, I returned to the large cathedral complex at Lourdes to attend my second 9:00 pm candlelight procession. Seeing the huge number of people professing their faith in Jesus Christ together in the procession was hugely inspiring. It is an indescribable feeling, watching the young, old, sick, and well just stopping to pray, in front of, the Crown Virgin statue, because, “they and I believe”.I have never been prouder to be a Catholic.

That night I made my way back to the hotel for some welcomed rest, being completely full up in spirit from a busy day with Our Lady.

On Sunday morning at 5:45 am the head of UGCC Pastoral-Mission Department, Bishop Joseph Milan, Bishop Andriy Rabiy and all priests celebrated Liturgy at the Grotto in Lourdes for all Ukrainian pilgrims. Over two thousand pilgrims gathered together in prayer in the place where Bernadette met Mary, Our Lady.

Later on the afternoon, we took plane and returned to Paris. We changed our cloths and headed to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel tower and took a Versailles castle trip. We had such a marvelous time in Paris and discover that city is lovely but even lovelier at night when it is all lit up. I truly loved each and every day of this trip and am still overwhelmed from the sights, smells and tastes.

My experiences in Paris but especially at Lourdes were surreal and one that words can barely describe. I was touched by God. I was touched by Mary. With each candle lit, with each prayer said in Grotto where beloved Bernadette communed with Mary, I felt their presences.

I also have made some friends during my trip and we’ll be staying in touch. Thanks to Archbishop Borys Hudziak for organizing the trip and to Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, priests and workers of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saint Vladimir the Great of Paris for creating the trip of a lifetime for me and our group.

Au revoir! Merci beaucoup Lourdes and Paris!

By Rev. Ivan Turyk – Pastor…

Parish Bible Adventure Camp in Perth Amboy, NJ.

Day 1. For the 4th year in a row the children of Assumption parish are enjoying Vacation Bible Discovery Camp with this year’s theme: Adventure in the Bible. Fr. Ivan Turyk, the parish Pastor started the first day’s activities with an experiment using rice, a tennis ball, a lime, and an egg. His demonstration inspired the children to place God first in their daily lives. After Father’s experiment, the children went downstairs to the church hall to enjoy the first snack of the day while art supplies were distributed and upcoming activities were announced. The campers learned from Mrs. Melanie Fedynychyn, the instructor of the camp that they would be painting and coloring as in the past, but this year they would be using modeling clay to design their own individual jugs and jars like Jesus and Mary might have used in their daily lives. They would be letting their pottery air dry overnight and painting it the next day.
 
The group gathered for story time as a few of the boys took turns at the microphone reading as Jesus’ voice in the book Notes from Jesus: What Your New Best Friend Wants You to Know. The children heard how Jesus wants everyone to have faith that is “rock solid”. To reinforce that idea, the campers each chose a river rock that they painted in a background color of their choosing, knowing that the real design would be completed the next day. While the rocks dried, it became time for a walk around the block, stopping by the sunflowers in front of the church. Fr Ivan cut open the flower heads and showed the children how sunflower seeds are harvested.
 
Upcoming activities include the art of decoupage where each child selects a small picture of Jesus, Mary, or one of the saints, and then places it on a wooden plaque, seals it, colors the sides, and creates their own “icon” to be taken home. Outdoor fun time will allow for the blowing of “the world’s largest bubbles” that can float up in the air, reminding the children of how their prayers go up to heaven.
 
Day 2. The second day of Assumption Parish Bible Camp saw the second and third steps of the decoupage icons, and while the children were waiting for their artistic endeavors to dry, they were treated to an up close examination of the iconography in the parish church. The campers admitted that they had never realized the richness of the colors and the textures in the depictions of Jesus, Mary, and the saints on the iconostasis. They also learned how iconographers prayed and fasted before they began their work. No doubt the future will find them looking around the church with the beginnings of a new appreciation of Ukrainian Catholic traditions. In keeping with the camp theme of action and adventure in the Bible, each child became familiar with one of “God’s Heroes” as each painted and colored the image of one of God’s special friends. The older campers came up to the microphone to tell the story of that person, while the younger ones got ready for their upcoming special presentation, David and Goliath which will show the bravery of a young boy not much older than they themselves. Day 2 ended with some of the campers lamenting that their own adventures at Assumption Parish Bible Camp would be coming to an end the next day.
 
Day 3. The day began with the arrival of eager children anxious to check on the drying status of their pottery projects and decoupage icons. Once they saw that their junior masterpieces were intact it was time to make a church visit to have their icons blessed by Fr. Ivan and to listen to him speak about “the Light of the World.” Campers helped Father to tie a new set of white ornamental ribbons on each of the candles that stand before the iconostasis. They felt honored to help with decorating the church.
 
Next it was time for Fr. Ivan to bless the icons which the children decoupaged. He placed them on the tetrapod and explained to the children that once he recited the prayers of the blessing and sprinkled the holy water on the icons, what was once just artwork would then become a sacramental. At the conclusion of this special little service, the campers processed out of church, reverently carrying their newly blessed icons.
 
The moment then arrived for the painting of the pottery. Campers selected their colors, brushes, and other decorating tools and enthusiastically dove right in to the much awaited activity. Soon silence fell in the church hall as twenty young artists showed their talent and creativity. While the paint dried and older children listened, the younger group offered their final rendition of David and Goliath. They were very proud of their oral presentation and showed off their artwork as well. After all the discoveries of “God’s Special Friends in the Bible”, it was time for the children to return to church to see where these biblical heroes of both Old and New Testament were depicted in the nave and sanctuary. Campers were also shown the three flags that are always displayed in their church— The Ukrainian flag, the Papal flag, and the Stars and Stripes. The conclusion was easy: “We are 1)Ukrainian 2) Catholics who are in 3) America!” With all that the campers had been shown, parents should not be surprised to see their children looking up and around at all the visual richness of the traditions of their faith the next time their little Bible scholars go to church.
After a full morning of faith, facts, and creativity, the children were ready for lunch with Fr. Ivan— which has become somewhat of a final day of Bible Camp tradition. This year’s treat included lunch inside the rectory itself. The children were amazed that their pastor might even have a kitchen in his house! They divided themselves, sitting around the dining room table, the kitchen table, and the living room coffee table to have an “indoor picnic”, complete with hot dogs, fries, chicken nuggets, chips, watermelon, and ice cream. At the conclusion, Fr. Ivan distributed gifts to the campers from Metropolitan Borys Gudziak and Bishop Andriy Rabiy. Each camper got an earth-friendly and ecologically sound reusable water bottle with the unique “Heart to Heart” logo revealed at His Grace’s Enthronement in Philadelphia.
 
Lunch was followed by everyone’s favorite: ” The Bouncer”. A new activity was introduced this year: Monster Bubbles. A record bubble of 7 feet long and flotation of 47 seconds will be the records to beat next year! It was heart warming to see so many children play so well together with such cooperation, sharing, and understanding of each other. A group of twenty two children in grades 1 thru 6 who could play and work together for hours without bickering, teasing or drama of any kind is not easy to come by. As the campers learned last year, “With God, all things are possible.”

Parish Festivals Bring Community Together.

On Saturday, June 22, 2019 beyond our expectations, the church grounds of the Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Church in Perth Amboy, NJ swelled with neighbors and those who traveled quite a distance to appreciate Ukrainian culture, crafts, foods and entertainment at the 7th Annual Parish Festival. Throughout the sun filled day, more than 3,000 guests, could be seen enjoying themselves, eating the delicious Ukrainian food, and there certainly was plenty for everyone, listening to lively Ukrainian music, visiting our beautiful church at the church tours, socializing with friends and neighbors, and enjoying the entertainment of our incredible Ukrainian dance performances.

Fr. Ivan Turyk, the pastor of the church said that “festival creates an atmosphere of hospitality”, as people can come and have fun, and at the same time, it becomes an expression of our faith.

God blessed us with perfect weather which helped to bring many people to the Festival. The reviews were wonderful; a lot of people told us that, “It sure is a big crowd this year,” and “We had such a great time.” We were honored with the presence of NJ Congressman Frank Pallone, Mrs. Wilda Diaz, the mayor of the City of Perth Amboy and His Grace Bishop Andriy Rabiy, auxiliary bishop for the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy who opened the festival with his blessing and prayer.

A great time and great food was enjoyed by all those who attended. We served 6 thousands of purohys, 1, 550 Stuffed Cabbages, 250 pounds of kovbasa, 80 cases of the Ukrainian beer ( 20 bottles in a case), hundreds of pieces of homemade desserts and we used 415 pounds of meat to prepare our delicious shish kebab.

It was amazing to see so many people enjoying the day together! It was also wonderful to know that we have so many hardworking parishioners and school parents who are doing their best to help keep our church and school financially stable. It was another proof that Assumption Parish Community shines when we all work together as one family.

Women’s Evening of Prayer.

The St. Ann Society of Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Assumption in Perth Amboy sponsored a Women’s Evening of Prayer on May 7, 2019. Catholic women from the surrounding communities joined together with Assumption parishioners who participated with fervent and prayerful song in a Moleben to the Blessed Mother of God with responses sung alternately in both English and Ukrainian. The homilist for the evening was Very Rev. John Seniw, pastor of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Northampton, PA., who offered his meditation on Blessed are the poor of heart: The life of Mary.

The members of Altar Rosary Societies, Ladies Guilds, and Sisterhoods of numerous Roman Catholic parishes joined with Assumption parishioners in contemplation of how Mary’s life is a reflection of what her Divine Son teaches in each of The Beatitudes. For those who were not familiar with the Theotokos of the Eastern Church, Father’s informative homily explained how, in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the Bohoroditsya is revered and not worshipped, as many misinformed Protestant Christians believe. He also explained the Marian dogmas as proclaimed in Church Councils, including the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. At the conclusion, Fr. Ivan Turyk, pastor of Assumption Church and spiritual advisor of St. Ann Society, underscored the homily and added the visual component by pointing to the mosaic icon of the Mother of God, Oranta, who wears a handkerchief in her belt which reminds us of how she is always ready to dry our tears.

The Marian hymns for the evening, Immaculate Mary , a Roman Catholic favorite, and Always Protect Us (O Spomahay Nas) the Ukrainian Catholic selection, were sung by all in attendance, providing a unified manifestation of faith, reflective of the Universality of the Church. Following the Moleben, visitors were guests of St. Ann Society who provided a light buffet. The joint breaking of bread and fellowship with neighboring parishes reinforced a mutual love for Mary, her Divine Son, and respect for each other’s traditions.

Happy Easter!

On behalf of all our parish staff and parish leadership organizations, I wish all of you a very blessed Easter. Enjoy the weeks ahead!