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Brief History of Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Saint Volodymyr

Saint Volodymyr

In 988, the the grand prince of Kyiv, (Kyiv, Ukraine) Volodymyr accepted Christianity from Constantinople. The Kyivan church established in the 10th century by Volodymyr is the precursor of the present Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). By contrast, Moscow at this time was just a minor outpost and was of no significance until the fifteenth century; hence the Moscow-controlled Russian Orthodoxy did not come into existence for another five centuries.  In fact, the state of Muscovy was renamed Russia by Peter “the Great” in the 18th century in order to claim lineage with the Kyivan state called Rus.

Prior to the Russian revolution (1917), Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire for over two centuries during which time only the Moscow-controlled Russian Orthodoxy existed in Ukraine.

In 1918-1921, Ukraine was briefly independent and UOC-Ukraine was resurrected before being re-occupied by Soviet Russia. Following Ukraine’s loss of political independence to Soviet Russia in the early 1920’s, the short-lived resurrected UOC-Ukraine was systematically destroyed by the Soviet regime. The Soviet Regime saw the murder of virtually every one of the bishops and priests of the UOC-Ukraine, and millions of Ukrainian Orthodox laity. During the Holodomor  (murder by starvation) in1932-33, some 7-10 million Ukrainians were starved to death within a period of less than two years (See British  journalist’s diaries).

Patriarch Mstyslav

Patriarch Mstyslav

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of USA (UOC-USA) was organized in the United States in 1925 as an integral part of its Mother Church, the Autocephalous [i.e. independent] Ukrainian Orthodox Church established in Kyiv, Ukraine.

For more than half a century, the UOC-USA diocese and its bishops resolutely held themselves out to the public as the key diocese of the UOC-Ukraine in exile, intent on preserving its independence from foreign rule and on the reestablishment of and reunification with its Mother Church in Kyiv, Ukraine.

In 1989, the Mother Church was again reborn in Ukraine as a result of the disintegration of the Soviet Empire and the ensuing Ukraine’s independence.  Metropolitan Mstyslav of UOC-USA was elected as Patriarch of the UOC-Ukraine and of its worldwide dioceses, including the UOC-USA diocese. (see video Mstyslav Enthronement)

Following the death of Patriarch Mstyslav in 1993, Archbishop Antony [an Archbishop within the UOC-USA] was a candidate at the “Sobor” [conclave] of the Mother Church in Kyiv, Ukraine, to succeed him as Patriarch of the UOC-Ukraine. Archbishop Antony subsequently was unsuccessful in his candidacy, and shortly thereafter, together with his followers within the UOC-USA, contrary Patriarch Mstyslav’s declaration to remain independent  (see video: Mstyslav Enthronement),  clandestinely entered into contracts, and understandings with the Greek Patriarchate Church of Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey).

Patriarch Filaret

Patriarch Filaret

Archbishop Antony and his followers eventually became hierarchs of the Greek Patriarchate Church and assumed Greek Bishop Titles.  The Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople now claims that the UOC-USA is under its jurisdiction.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Ascension Church in Clifton, NJ did not follow Archbishop Antony to the Greek Patriarchate Church of Constantinople but chose to remain with the Mother Church in Kyiv.

In 2004 Patriarch Filaret of UOC-Ukraine in Kyiv designated the Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Ascension Church in Clifton to a Cathedral status.
For more information click:
History of Christianity in Ukraine  also see:
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

Brief History of the Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Ascension Parish
Clifton, New Jersey

Original Church on Hope Ave

Original Church on Hope Ave

The history of the Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Ascension Parish is essentially the history of Ukrainian immigration to America. The first Ukrainian immigrant to the America, (click) Ivan Bohdan sailed with John Smith to the Jamestown colony in 1608 and we should mention that  early records reveal that Ukrainian Americans served in George Washington’s army during the American Revolution [1]. However, the first mass wave immigrated to USA in the late nineteenth century, followed by the second period between the two world wars, the third after the Second World War, mostly refugees fleeing the oppressive Soviet Regime, and the final wave after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Although the founders who came in the second period deserve most of the credit for the Church’s existence, nevertheless every migratory wave has made its contribution to the preservation of the Holy Ascension Parish.

 

By the early nineteen hundreds there was a sizable established Ukrainian community in  Passaic County, NJ, and in 1925 his Excellency Metropolitan Theodorovich consecrated the original Church of Holy Ascension. The Church was not only a place of worship but a place where Ukrainian Americans and their children and grandchildren gathered to celebrate their Ukrainian heritage.

The Parish survived the Great Depression and by 1945 the Parish prospered and no longer had a mortgage. As the Parish continued to prosper, it was able to purchase new real estate including burial grounds for the use of its parishioners. In 1962-1963 the Parish adopted a Constitution and By-Laws that now serve as the basis for the management of the Church.

Plashchanytsya & Iconostas

Plashchanytsya & Iconostas

During the pastorate of the Very Reverend Theodore Forosty, land was purchased for the present House of Worship and Rectory. Mr. Jaroslav Sichynsky was chosen as the Architect for the present Church. In September of 1968 the last Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the old Hope Avenue, Passaic site, and that same month His Beatitude Metropolitan John Theodorovich conducted the ground-breaking ceremony for the new structure. The new structure is a masterpiece in blending the Byzantine with  contemporary architecture. The interior of the Church is composed entirely of glass, wood, and decorative brick. The eight arched laminated beams draw the viewer’s attention upward toward the central dome. The completely air-conditioned structure is accented by the massive stain glass windows on all sides. The altars of the Church are made of imported white marble and the crystal chandelier, composed of Austrian made crystals, was brought from the Hope Avenue Church.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of USA (UOC-USA) was also organized in 1925 as an integral part of its Mother Church, the Autocephalous [i.e. independent] Ukrainian Orthodox Church established in Kyiv, Ukraine.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1990 Metropolitan Mstyslav of UOC –USA was elected as Patriarch of Ukrainian Orthodox Church Ukraine and of its worldwide dioceses, including the UOC-USA diocese.

Patriarch Filaret & Iconostas up close

Patriarch Filaret & Iconostas up close

Following the death of Patriarch Mstyslav in 1993, Archbishop Antony [an Archbishop within the UOC-USA] was a candidate at the “Sobor” [conclave] of the Mother Church in Kyiv, Ukraine, to succeed him as Patriarch of the UOC-Ukraine. Archbishop Antony subsequently was unsuccessful in his candidacy, and shortly thereafter, together with his followers within the UOC-USA, entered into contracts and understandings with the Greek Patriarchate Church of Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey). Archbishop Antony and his followers eventually became hierarchs of the Greek Patriarchate Church and assumed Greek Bishop Titles.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Ascension Church in Clifton, NJ did not follow Archbishop Antony to the Greek Patriarchate Church of Constantinople but chose to remain with of the Mother Church in Kyiv and remain true to Patriarch Mstyslav’s decree to remain independent. (see video Mstyslav Enthronement)

In 2004 Patriarch Filaret of UOC-Ukraine in Kyiv designated the Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Ascension Church in Clifton to Cathedral status.

[1] Ukrainian Americans served in George Washington’s army during the American Revolution. Mykola Bizun, Ivan Lator, Petro Polyn, and Stephen Zubley are just some of the Ukrainian names that are listed in Washington’s register.

 

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development - priest Oleksii Holchuk