The Youth Are “ MEETING CHRIST ” In Whippany, NJ

Wednesday, 11 June 2014, 14:13
On Sunday, June 1, 2014 the youth of the New Jersey Protopresbyterate (Deanery) gathered at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church, Whippany, NJ for a Youth Gathering with the theme “Meeting Christ”. There were about 85 young people, facilitators, clergy, and representatives of the women’s religious orders, Missionary Sisters of Mother of God, Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, and Sisters of St. Basil the Great in attendance.

At the request of our Metropolitan - Archbishop Stefan Soroka, and in keeping with the His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk’s vision of a Vibrant Parish – 2020, the clergy gathered the youth from their respective parishes, age thirteen through college age, to participate in this first such gathering within the New Jersey Deanery. The response was overwhelmingly positive.


The first group arrived by bus from Assumption parish, Perth Amboy NJ, with  twenty-four enthusiastic youngsters ready to register and begin their day. The youth from the northern parish of  St. Nicholas, Passaic, NJ  arrived by car and van and those from the southern parish of  St. Josaphat, Trenton, NJ  and all in between, began to file into the Cultural Center.


Following registration, they assembled in the gathering room to listen to the keynote speaker, Mr. Gerry Tchir. Mr. Tchir is currently President and CEO of Creative Solutions Unlimited, a professor at the Fairleigh Dickinson University, Rutherford N.J and the author of the book, “Dare to be Great”. As he began his talk, he asked the participants to acknowledge the ministry of the clergy and the religious sisters with a big round of applause for their efforts. He also personally thanked members of the religious communities for their sacrifices and contributions in serving Christ and their local parishes.


The young people listened attentively and were interactive with Mr. Tchir. “Most people equate greatness with money, power, and wealth,” Mr. Tchir said, “but I offer the greatness that is much, much more; it is becoming a positive role model to everyone you meet; by demonstrating on a daily basis how you personally treat others; by living the Golden Rule, namely, "Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you." It is always treating people with dignity and respect, and never bullying anyone, and coming to the aid of someone in need of your help. As the future leaders of America and our Ukrainian American community, I challenge you to have the courage and wisdom to establish a new set of priorities for yourself by putting God first, family second, and others things next.” He also shared the following note of inspiration with the audience: "I'd rather attempt to do something great and fail, then attempt to do nothing, and succeed."


Immediately following this presentation the youth proceeded to the church for Divine Liturgy, celebrated by NJ Dean, Very Rev. Joseph Szupa, Rev. Taras Lonchyna and  Rev. Ivan Turyk. After the reading of the Holy Gospel, Fr. Joseph greeted the young people and  Fr. Ivan offered the homily.  Using the image of "The Praying Hands" by Albrecht Durer, Fr. Ivan  encouraged the youth to remain prayerful and to always find ways to draw closer to God. He pointed out that young people are both the present and the future of the church, and that by using their hands, lips and hearts, they must become involved in all levels of the church ministries,  so that when leadership is passed on to them, they will not be found wanting and confused.


Lunch time came and as is the case with growing young people, they quickly lined up to be served a delicious luncheon. Afterwards they returned to the church to witness the play “Damien,” based on the life of the late Fr. Damien, a Belgian Catholic priest who lived and served in the leper colony on the island of Molokai, Hawaii from 1873 to 1889, and who was canonized as a saint on 11 October 2009. The one-man play tells the story of Damien's life in the first person through a series of flashbacks and was presented by the renowned Broadway actor-turned-Ukrainian Catholic priest, Fr. Edward Evanko.


Returning to the Cultural Center, the participants were dispersed into age-appropriated discussion groups led by facilitators, to ponder and discuss the following questions: What do you find most difficult about the Christian life?  Why do people go to Church?  Why do you go? What do you think most young adults need from the Church or hope to get from the Church? If you could ask Christ to change one problem in the world today, what would you like him to change? How would your life be different if you knew Jesus was returning in six months time?


In the eight discussion groups, participants had the opportunity to express their own ideas about their involvement in Church life, and grow deeper in their faith by meeting and interacting with other Catholic youth from different parishes. After the discussions, each individual was asked to complete a survey related to the day’s program. The primary aim of the survey was to better understand young people in the church today, the depth of their faith,  and their involvement with church life. The goal of the NJ Deanery is to use the information gathered to develop appropriate programs and  activities in their respective parishes that are engaging, and speak to the needs of the youth.


Afterwards, refreshments were served and the closing of the Youth Gathering took place. Mrs. Jaroslava Lonchyna wrote a song for the occasion – “Put Your Hand” and the young people, seated in a large circle around the room with an icon of Christ in their midst, listened and sang along. Here again the theme of “hands” reaching out to Christ and to one another echoed through. Following the ‘sing-a-long’, Right Reverend Mitred Protopresbyter Roman Mirchuk, who graciously hosted the gathering in his parish, came forward, stood before the Icon, and requested that everyone stand and hold hands. Then Fr. Roman asked each one to pass on the “spark” of Christ to each other. The “spark” was passed on from Fr. Roman from his right hand and was returned to his left hand. Then again to reinforce the presence of Christ, it was passed from his left hand and was returned to his right hand.  A closing prayer of Thanksgiving was offered, and afterwards everyone got ready for the Volleyball matches. The youth winners of the initial matches were matched against the New Jersey Deanery clergy present. It was quite a game, especially when the Youth beat the Clergy by a very close score.  Prizes were awarded to the youth winners. As the day concluded, the attendees slowly began to depart, leaving with new friends, and a renewed understanding of their relationship with Christ, and with each other.

By all accounts it was an awesome event that enriched the lives and faith of so many young people.  The clergy of the NJ Deanery thank all the parents of the youth for allowing them to participate at this first-ever gathering. They also thank the  volunteers, facilitators and  especially Marion C. Hrubec  and Helen Fedoriw,  members of the League of Ukrainian Catholics of America, LUC, for help in organizing the event.  The combined efforts of so many gifted God loving people, helped to  make the 2014 New Jersey Ukrainian American Catholic  Youth Gathering a meaningful, faith-building and faith-strengthening  gathering of our youth, our future church, in the presence of God.

Please check out the new NJ Youth Facebook Page for more info and pictures:

Rev. Ivan Turyk




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