While preparing Answering the Call, her article appearing in the November 2011 issue of ONE, Mariya Tytarenko attended a Ukrainian Greek Catholic ordination. Presented below are some of the thoughts and impressions she recorded at the midsummer event.
July 12, 2011, The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in Ukraine
After almost five hours in photographer Petro Didula’s old gray Zhiguli car, we finally arrive in the town of Kolomyja in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, some 124 miles from Lviv. It takes us a while to find the Church of the Transfiguration, where the subject of our story, Petro Moysiack, will be ordained as a priest. Thankfully, we arrive just in time.
The liturgy is conducted in the church basement, since the church is under repair. Although it is a weekday (Tuesday), the church is overcrowded with parishioners because of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and also because of the rare ordination event.
During the 90-minute-long liturgy, I try to guess the character of Petro just from his looks and behavior. I had never met him before. He is slim, not tall, with a short haircut, and wearing glasses with tinted lenses. At one point he forgot the words to the Symbol of Faith prayer; I assume he is more than a bit nervous!
After the liturgy, I learn that Petro’s birthday was yesterday and that today is the birthday of his spiritual counselor, Father Petro Holiney (also named Petro!). By coincidence, it is their saint’s name day, too. “Too many Petros and holidays for one day!” I exchange smiles with the one other Petro – the photographer – while he takes his last picture in the church.
We are already one hour and 25 miles away from Kolomyia, in the small old village of Deliatyn, where our central character is from and where he is celebrating his first liturgy as a priest in the little chapel of Saints Peter and Paul. There are so many people that those who came late are standing behind the chapel fence along the road, right under a huge nest of five beautiful storks.
All the village parishioners are in their Sunday best, many of them wearing Ukrainian embroidered shirts, including Father Holiney and Father Moysiak – the former is wearing a black shirt with black embroidery, the latter a white shirt with white patterns.
After the Divine Liturgy and before the traditional ceremony of blessing with water near the chapel cross, young Father Petro speaks from the chapel porch to his fellow villagers, promising that he will live up to their hopes; he also thanks his mentors, relatives, and friends. Suddenly his deep and loud voice breaks. Some of the parishioners, especially the elderly, start crying.
In a minute, gaining control over his emotions, he gives his first priestly blessing to all the parishioners, including his grandparents, all his family, and his former girlfriend. “The blessing of a newly-ordained priest has special power,” I hear from one old lady who is standing in an extremely long line to greet the young priest.
I’ve been waiting for almost an hour to get his blessing – and after I receive it, the early-morning headache I got from our trip disappears.
The photographer and I are invited for a big holiday dinner in the town of Nadvirna, half an hour from Deliatyn. It is the perfect place to meet everyone I need to interview in an informal setting. It is here that I first speak to Father Petro Moysiak and am amazed by his profound thinking, strong faith and firm will. Here I also get to know his family. Everyone is very proud of him. His grandparents are happy about his entering the priesthood. His mother seems wise. The other seminarians and priests in the community are friendly and close to one another. They will all miss Father Petro when he leaves for Argentina in September.
The photographer and I are driving to the village of Dora close to Deliatyn together with Father Petro Holiney to see the legendary Underground Ecclesiastic Seminary, founded by Mitred Priest Mykhailo Kosylo, whose influence on local priests and seminarians, including Father Moysiak, is hard to overestimate. That piece and more will be part of our story!