On Saturday evening April 1, 2006 and Sunday morning April 2, 2006 His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago & Detroit, made an archpastoral visit to St. Vladimir Parish in Ann Arbor, MI. This year marks the 25th anniversary of this parish, and Bishop Peter’s Great Lenten visit marked an important milestone in the history of the community.
On Saturday afternoon the parish was still abuzz with the work of the parishioners: the St. John Brotherhood putting the finishing touches on the expanded parish church which they had built with their own labor, the St. Xenia Sisterhood preparing the meals that would be eaten by the parish family after Vigil that night and after the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy the next day, and the St. Herman Youth Group busily cleaning the church in preparation for Bishop Peter’s arrival. His Grace surprised the assembled workers with an early arrival to inspect the work. The workers, far from being disappointed that their archpastor had arrived for a “surprise inspection”, rather understood this as Bishop Peter’s care for them and their pious tasks and redoubled their efforts. And in fact, their efforts were not in vain, as by 5:00 p.m. all major work had been completed and the pannykhida was served for the parish departed.
Bishop Peter arrived for the vigil to the pealing of bells at 6:00 p.m. His Grace was joined at this service by the parish Rector, Rev. Fr. Gregory Joyce, as well as the retired Rector of the parish Very Rev. Fr. Paul Karas, Rev. Fr. Victor Trotskyy (Holy Ghost Church, Sterling Heights, MI), and Rev. Fr. Kristian Petrovich – a former parishioner of St. Vladimir Church (St. Petka Serbian Orthodox Church, Troy, MI). The choir sang magnificently under the direction of Julia Easson-Meyer, the parish Choir Director. Following the Vigil a trapeza was held in the parish church.
On Sunday morning Bishop Peter was greeted by the Starosta and several of the parish children in traditional Russian dress at what seemed like a very early 9:00 a.m. (the time having changed the night previous). The parish’s long time Starosta, Milivoje Radulovic, spoke of his joy at being able to greet Bishop Peter with the children, noting that his age precluded him from holding the bread and salt for His Grace, but that the future of the parish (the assembled children) were holding the traditional gifts reserved for dignitaries in the Russian culture as a symbolic sign of their future role in the life of the parish family. Bishop Peter blessed the Starosta and the children, and the service began.
After the vesting of the hierarch in the middle of the church the rite of the Lesser Blessing of a Church was performed by Bishop Peter. After the traditional prayers, as His Grace sprinkled the entire church with Holy Water, the choir, again under the direction of Julia Easson-Meyer, sang the ever so familiar refrains of the troparion to the Great Prince Vladimir: “Like a merchant seeking a precious pearl…”. During the reading of the Hours Reader John Feloniuk was raised the rank of Subdeacon for service at St. Vladimir parish.
Bishop Peter’s sermon was an entreaty to the 125 or so assembled believers to follow the admonitions found in “The Ladder” by St. John Climacus. Namely, His Grace expressed his desire that the faithful first always turn to God and His Church for the healing of their spiritual illnesses, and that the faithful avail themselves of this healing through the Grace of the Sacrament of Confession while educating themselves in the precepts of the Holy Faith given to us by the Physician of our Souls, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Following the Divine Liturgy, Thanksgiving Gramotas were presented to several of the parishioners who had performed exemplary tasks, especially in the building of the parish expansion. Those so honored were: Mercurius Meyer & Julia Easson-Meyer, Eugene Poplavsky & Elena Ermak, the St. John of Shanghai & San Francisco Brotherhood, and the St. Xenia of St. Petersburg Sisterhood. Following the awarding of the Gramotas Deacon Eugene Kallaur (who had joined the parish from Jordanville, NY for the special celebration with the blessing of His Eminence, Metropolitan Laurus) intoned many years for Subdeacon John and his family, and for those who received special recognition for their good works.
After the kissing of the cross and the hearing of the thanksgiving prayers after communion by those who had partaken of the Holy Mysteries, a festive trapeza was held in Bishop Peter’s honor at which His Grace instructed the flock on various topics. Bishop Peter then departed for Chicago with his retinue to the pealing of the parish bells as the parishioners, tired but exhilarated, again showed their care for the temple entrusted them by our merciful Lord, cleaning in preparation for the next Lenten Divine Service while anticipating the next visit of their archpastor on July 28 of this year for the 25th anniversary celebration of the parish. It is hoped that His Eminence, Metropolitan Laurus, will be able to head the celebration at the patronal feast of the St. Vladimir parish family this July.