Consecration of Restored Sts. Peter and Paul Parish
West Islip, Long Island, NY
Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Parish in West Islip, NY was founded on 18 October 1925 and consecrated on Christmas Day of that same year. For the first several years of its existence is was a parish of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, but joined a significant number of other parishes in the late 1920’s, which transferred to the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA under the leadership of then Archbishop John (Theodorovich). The three founding members of the Church were John Petrowski, Peter Podlesny and Michael Levyck, all of whom signed the $2,000 loan note from a local bank to fund the establishment of the Church. A parcel of land carved out of his own homestead was donated to the church by a local fisherman, Captain Roman Litwin and by December of 1925 a building had been acquired (a former ice house) and moved to the present location of the church – 64 Higbie Lane, West Islip, NY. Some pictures of the Church in the early years follow here:
The parish thrived for many decades because of the large Ukrainian population in the area, but began to decline in the 1990’s after many of the aged parishioners fell asleep in the Lord and their children had moved to other areas of the USA. By the mid 1990’s no services were being celebrated in the Church and the very last service was a funeral for the daughter of the above mentioned Mr. Petrowski, Jennie, who along with her husband Daniel Zawyrucha had served for the previous several decades as the leaders of the parish family. For the next fourteen years, the church was unused as a Ukrainian Orthodox Parish. Daria Williams, who lives near the church and is the daughter of the Zawyruchas, cared for the church building and even rented it to various religious groups until it came into such disrepair that it could not be utilized.
The church appeared to be abandoned – in the eyes of mankind – but not in the Wisdom of God. When Daria could no longer care for the building she contacted then Archbishop Antony to determine what course of action should be taken. The Archbishop visited the Church and removed a large number of religious vessels, icons, historical documents, etc. for storage at the Metropolia Center in South Bound Brook, NJ. The decision was made to sell the property because it was no longer in condition to serve as a church. The property was, indeed, listed for sale, but there was little or no interest in it, except by a non-profit organization, which basically wanted to take it as a donation. This “offer” was refused in spite of the Archbishop’s concern about the lack of interest in the building.
It appears that God had his own plans for this little jewel box of a church and was not yet ready to release it for any other purpose. The Archbishop was deeply touched by the history of the church and decided to offer the location to one of his priests with the hope of establishing a revitalized “mission” parish. It took some time and many discussions between the Archbishop and the priest, who was very concerned about what an enormous task it would be to reestablish the parish. Finally, our Lord settled the discussion and the concerns and Fr. Victor, along with his wife Ivanka, set about the task with absolute trust in our Lord and the infinite guidance of the Holy Spirit. For almost a year these two dedicated and devoted servants worked day and night literally stripping the entire interior of the church building and completely rebuilding it, painting it (including golden stars on the entire ceiling), building an iconostas, purchasing all the necessary liturgical vessels, vestments, lighting, iconography, etc., etc., etc – all at their own cost initially and then with additional physical assistance and financial support of faithful who began to attend the liturgical services held throughout the later stages of construction. One significant donor was Fr. Victor’s father, V. Rev. Wolodymyr Wronskyj, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Brooklyn.
Once the interior of the Church was completed, work began on the parish hall beneath the church, on the roof and all the electrical and plumbing that had to be replaced. The assistance of new parish members – from among the many new Ukrainian immigrants establishing residence in the area – enabled the completion of the church hall – social center and the roof. There is still some exterior work to be completed such as new exterior doors and the painting of the whole building, which will certainly be accomplished in the coming months.
After three long years of dedicated effort, Fr. Victor informed Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel that the parish community wanted to invite them to consecrate the restored building and most especially the new altar that was built by Fr. Victor and Matushka Ivanka. What a joy it was for our hierarchs, who arrived with the entire student body of St. Sophia Seminary on Saturday, 29 April 2017, to conduct the consecration. They were greeted at the church entrance by a large group of the parish youth, parishioners and Fr. Victor.
The consecration began with the procession around the exterior of the Church with the relics of St. Basil the Great, one of the three great Holy Hierarchs and Teaches of the Orthodox Church. St. Basil’s relics were placed in the new altar and the Metropolitan assured the faithful that because of their presence, their Church edifice was never “empty”, for St. Basil will always be present offering his prayers to God for their salvation. The Metropolitan led the beautiful and ancient rite of the consecration of a new alter was very moving for all present, followed by the consecration of the entire interior of the Church through the anointment of its walls with Holy Chrism by Archbishop Daniel and the sprinkling with Holy Water.
Immediately following the conclusion of the consecration, the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy was celebrated by the Bishops with the assistance of Fr. Victor and visiting clergy – V. Rev. Fr. Myroslav Schirta of St. Sophia Parish, Bayonne, NJ and V. Rev. Fr. Anthony Perkins of the Protection of the Mother of God Cathedral, Allentown, PA. The seminarians – Subdeacons Volodymyr Jaworsky and Mykhaylo Bokalo, Hryhorij Matviiv and Tadei Surak attended to all the needs throughout the consecration and the Liturgy. The parish choir, under the direction of Matushka Ivanka, was also assisted by seminarians – Subdeacon Mykola Zomchak, Ihor Protsak and Yurij Bokalo. This combined choir created a beautiful spiritual atmosphere with their God-given talents.
Just prior to the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Antony elevated Reader Christopher Brennan to Subdeacon. Christopher is a valuable assistant to Fr. Victor in his pastoral and liturgical service in the parish. At the small entrance of the Liturgy, the Metropolitan announced that the Council of Bishops of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA had determined that Fr. Victor was a worthy candidate for elevation to the rank of Protopriest – Very Reverend – with the right to wear the golden cross. Fr. Victor was visibly moved at this tribute and the expressions of trust and love expressed by the Metropolitan for his priestly efforts.
During his inspiring sermon following the reading from the Holy Gospel, Archbishop Daniel spoke of the sanctity of the parish’s temple and the importance of realization of our vocation as Christians of the 21st century.
Following Divine Liturgy the all the faithful present gathered together for a formal photograph, which will become part of a publication now in preparation for the celebration of our Church’s Centennial in 2018. A family meal prepared by the parish Sisterhood took place in the beautifully renovated parish social center. Present for this meal were Fr. Victor’s parents, Fr. Wolodymyr and Matushka Sophia Wronskyj, who expressed their gratitude to God for the gift of their son and their pride in all that he and Matushka Ivanka have accomplished in the Name of the Lord.
Consecration of Restored Sts. Peter and Paul Parish – 04/29/17