By: Katherine Massopust
PERTH AMBOY – On Tuesdays in May, the Moleben to the Most Blessed Mother of God is celebrated at the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Assumption. The Moleben is a devotion to Mary. On one Tuesday in May, it has become a modern tradition to invite members from other local churches and parishes to attend the Moleben and celebrate the devotion to Mary together at The Women’s Evening of Prayer. This event was put on hiatus for three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year the event resumed on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, and over 100 people attended the service.
The Sister Servants of the Lord and Virgin of Matara, Perth Amboy, NJ sang the Opening Hymn, “Immaculate Mary,” in Ukrainian. Very Rev. Ivan Turyk, Pastor of Assumption Parish led the Moleben service which was sung in both English and Ukrainian. The Gospel was Lk: 1,39-49.56: which is when Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth.
Rev. Ivan Turyk introduced The Rev. Archpriest Michael Hutsko, Pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Church, Mount Carmel, PA and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Centralia, PA. Archpriest Hutsko drove three hours to get to Perth Amboy.
Archpriest Hutsko gave the Homily titled: “Mary: Mother, Intercessor, Protector.”
“This morning, I saw the post on Facebook, and I saw the picture of me as a young man and wondered how many people would expect to see a young man and see an older priest. When I came here and saw all the Jersey plates, I realized (like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz) “I’m not in Kansas anymore.” When I was asked to give the homily, the threefold role of Mary: the devotion states: Mother of Our Christ God; Mother of Eternal Love; Mother of Divine Grace; Immaculately Conceived… All the challenges we face in our daily lives – every one of us here this evening is one of these things or more – the human condition. Mary was entrusted to the Apostle John (when Jesus was on the cross). Mary is portrayed in prayer. I can remit three instances:
1.) The Feast of Protection of the Mother of God: On October 1, every year since the year 911, when our church first celebrated the Feast of Protection of the Mother of God. The people of Constantinople gathered in church and prayed to the Blessed Mother to protect them and their city. The church had a relic of Mary in it. Mary appeared in the center of the church with her arms open. She took her veil off and spread I her arms symbolizing to the people that she was an intercessor protecting them. The city was saved. The heavenly protection of Mary is in all of our hearts.
2.) St. Sophia’s Church: In the Capital City of Ukraine, Kyiv, in the Church of St. Sophia, there are frescos, icons, of Jesus, the apostles, saints throughout the ages. Behind the altar, there is a mosaic of the Most Holy Mother of God. As you gaze at her, you can see her motherly care of her hands extended. She is the intercessor on our behalf for the safety of her people. The mosaic is known as the Indestructible Wall. The belief is as long as that wall stands, Ukraine will never be defeated by its enemies. Ever since this was known, enemies have tried to damage the wall. During the (Communist) Revolution, there was an attempt to shoot that wall – the bullets bounced off that wall. She is the wall who protects us against the devil himself. She is the indestructible agent of the power of God. As we pray, our prayers will be answered. She will pray for us as our protector. Hundreds of thousands of people prayed the rosary and prayed for the corrupt (communist) government to be overthrown – and it was.
3.) Mystery Solved: Archpriest Hutsko explained that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Centralia PA is built in a mining town. In 1962 there was an underground mine fire. Forty years ago (1983 – years after the residents were evacuated and money was allotted for the residents to relocate), we were asked by the government if the church should stay or leave. Archbishop Sulyk spoke with the people and asked them what they thought. He prayed to Mary. He said to drill some holes by the church. There was no coal found underneath the church. They said the church stands on solid rock. Hutsko stated this blue domed church stands on top of a mountain and the presence of God is here. Bells ring during the liturgy which calls all the people here to come worship and pray. A stone wall surrounds the property. In 2015 Patriarch Sviatoslav came for a visit. We went to church and prayed. He saw the icon of Our Lady (icon of the Mother of God of Pochaiv). We had found it in the closet and put it on an altar for veneration. Patriarch Sviatoslav saw the icon and stated that the church must become a place for prayer and pilgrimage to pray before this icon. I wondered why. Mystery Solved – I was reading the book: At the Foot of the Cross: Lessons from Ukraine an Interview with Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk. In the book, Archbishop Sviatoslav states: “I was thirteen years old. I visited the monastery in Pochaiv on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Because of the feast, the miraculous icon of eh Mother of God of Pochaiv was brought down and people were allowed to come venerate it. I was waiting to see the icon and I was praying. I was praying, “Mother of God, I want to be a priest. I know it is impossible; I know that everybody will say that I’m crazy. But for you, nothing is impossible. I approached the icon and kissed it.”” – Mystery Solved! The icon is still on display in the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary. It is funny how God works. Mary has so many names and is revered in many ways. The best way to refer to her is as the God-bearer. We are all called to be God-bearers – not as she did but carrying her in heart and sorrow. The sovereign redeemer – His will and all called to God – will bring Christ and the word of the divine.”
Two hymns were sung by all: “Always Protect Us,” in both Ukrainian and English, and Immaculate Mary in English. Fr Ivan said, “Mary was a doer. She always listens, always intercedes on behalf of us. She is the Holy Theotokos.” He thanked Archpriest Hutsko for coming despite the long trip and giving the homily. He thanked The St. Ann’s Society and President Melanie Fedynyshyn, for coordinating the event and providing refreshments. He also thanked parishioner John Baginsky for making the program.
At the reception under the church, President of the St. Ann’s Society Melanie Fedynychyn spoke, “I sent letters to 19 different parishes.” There were participants from Ukrainian Assumption Church, St. John Paul II Parish, Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish, St. James Church (Woodbridge), and other churches.
Mrs. Fedynychyn spoke how Ukrainian Assumption Church was founded over 100 years ago in 1908 on Wayne Street, Perth Amboy when the grandparents of many of today’s parishioners were teenagers and immigrated from Ukraine. She explained that every local catholic church had an organization for women and for girls (sodalities). “Once a year in May, the Blessed Mother was crowned in Waters Stadium. The bleachers on both the home and visiting side were packed. I had to walk from my home on Kennedy Street because it was so overcrowded. But, little by little there were less and less sodalities, so around ten years ago, I thought that all the women in the catholic community could gather together for the Moleben. We celebrate the Moleben every Tuesday in May, and you are welcome to come.”
The evening ended with refreshments and fellowship with all the participants.