The Ukrainian Weekly - February 8, 1998

Archbishop Antony celebrates 25th anniversary

by Irene Jarosewich

SOUTH BOUND BROOK, N.J. - An atmosphere of respect and admiration, as well as great love and affection, prevailed during the celebration here on January 17 of the 25th anniversary of the priestly ordination of Ukrainian Orthodox Archbishop Antony. The daylong commemoration began with divine liturgy at St. Andrew the First-called Apostle Memorial Church, followed by an afternoon banquet at the Ukrainian Orthodox Cultural Center.

Archbishop Antony, eparch of the Eastern Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. and president of the Church's Consistory, was ordained to the diaconate on October 1, 1972; several weeks later, on November 26, he was ordained to the priesthood.

During his remarks at the banquet in his honor, Archbishop Antony offered his recollections from the day he was consecrated bishop in 1985. The thoughts from that day, he said, reflect his feelings as accurately on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, as they did then:

"There I was, carefree, walking, working, playing, and suddenly God seized me and I heard his voice abruptly - His voice calling to me to give the oath that I would live for Him only. I am amazed and overcome that God Himself has bent down in order to embrace me - an unworthy, poorly endowed and the weakest of beings - to give me shelter under His wing ... I think in the weakness of my humanity that I offer myself to God, but in reality, He makes a gift of Himself to me and I am bathed in His Grace and in His light. ... I invite that gift."

During his remarks, Metropolitan Constantine, eparch of the Central Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A., who ordained Archbishop Antony to the priesthood, stated:

"Twenty-five years have passed since the "Axios" (he is worthy) was pronounced in a small parish in Sharon, Pa. ... Axios is both an affirmation by the congregation, and at the same time it is a goal ... because worthiness, it is not automatically given ... it is a process, a lifelong struggle for a priest, for a bishop ... it is a directive from God ... upon hearing his directive from God, he assumed the various duties and responsibilities of the holy priesthood. ... Archbishop Antony, for 25 years now, has proven his love ... has spread the Good News ... and we are deeply in gratitude to you, and to Almighty God, for having sent you to us ..."

Archbishop Antony, baptized John Scharba, was born to Dorothy and John Scharba in Sharon, Pa., in 1947. Friends and family from his youth, from his first parish in Ambridge, Pa., from his days as a seminarian at St. Andrew College in Winnipeg, as well as dozens of leaders of Ukrainian community and religious lay organizations came to honor and celebrate with him.

Also among the 325 guests attending the liturgy and banquet were Archbishop Vsevold, eparch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC/U.S.A.; the Very Rev. Protopresbyter William Diakiw, vice-president of the Consistory; Ukrainian diplomats, including Ukraine's representative to the United States, Ambassador and Mrs. Yuri Shcherbak; Ukraine's representative to the United Nations, Ambassador and Mrs. Volodymyr Yelchenko; Consul General Viktor Kryzhanivsky; and Embassy Cultural Attaché Vasyl Zorya.

Attending as well were Bishop Basil Losten of the Ukrainian Catholic Diocese of Stamford, Metropolitan Maximos of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Pittsburgh, Bishop Vincent D. Breen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., and a representative of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark. Bishop Nicholas of the Capatho-Rusyn Orthodox Church was unable to attend due to illness.
Metropolitan Maximos brought letters of greeting from Archbishop Spyridon of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who praised Archbishop Antony for his integral role in developing the relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Mother Church of Constantinople.

Metropolitan Maximos praised Archbishop Antony for being not only a fine administrator and teacher, but a defender of those who are powerless. "I am thankful to my brother in the episcopacy, Archbishop Antony, for being a representative of true clergy," he said.

In a remark that received a great deal of applause, Metropolitan Maximos continued, "We also expect Archbishop Antony, along with Metropolitan Constantine, to play an important role in the restoration of the autocephaly of the Kyivan Church in Ukraine ... to be fully restored to its canonical, autocephalous status."

Ambassador Shcherbak also echoed the theme of autocephaly. He brought greetings to the assembled Ukrainian Orthodox hierarchs from the government of Ukraine and to the guests assembled for the archbishop's 25th anniversary celebration. He praised Archbishop Antony and expressed his belief that given the archbishop's talents and skills, it would not be long before a "free and independent Ukraine would see its own autocephalous Orthodox Church. We resolutely believe in this day."

Alluding to the complex situation in Ukraine where there are now "four branches of one Orthodox Church," Ambassador Shcherbak commented that the hierarchs in the West having been doing more than the hierarchs in Ukraine to bring about Orthodox unity. "We believe that from here will come the impetus for the long-desired and long-awaited unity," he added. Given that the Church in the West has exhibited exceptional leadership in uniting the Churches in the West under the omophor of the Ecumenical Patriarch, this Church, continued Dr. Shcherbak, "now has the full moral right to insist on unity" for its sister Church in Ukraine, and can be instrumental in bringing about this change.

There were many personal, anecdotal recollections of the archbishop offered among the public greetings and private remarks.

Dr. Stephen Sivulich, the banquet's master of ceremonies and Archbishop Antony's cousin, recalled with fondness some of the antics of the archbishop during his seminary days, while the Very Rev. John Nakonachny, pastor of St. Volodymyr Cathedral in Parma, Ohio, who attended the seminary with the archbishop, also recalled a seminarian "who was highly respected in his student days, and very active in student life."

Daria Pisco, representing the Junior Orthodox League, thanked the bishop for "his guidance over the years," and recalled the first league meeting she attended presided over by a new, young priest, the Rev. John Scharba, who had come to her parish. As an expression of gratitude for his support and efforts on behalf of the Senior Orthodox League, Helen Greenleaf, the league's president, presented the archbishop with a small, engraved glass sculpture.

And the archbishop's mother, in a quiet moment, confessed that throughout the day her eyes had been filling with tears of joy and pride.

After the banquet, more than a hundred guests waited patiently to personally offer congratulations and thanks to the archbishop.

The St. Sophia Seminary Choir, as well as soloist Natalia Honcharenko, sang several selections during the banquet as part of the musical program.

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[ The Ukrainian Weekly - February 8, 1998, No. 6, Vol. LXVI ]