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BRAMA, September 20, 2001, 12 pm ET

Parish in Need of a Spiritual Leader (updated)

When there is chronic physical pain or illness a person seeks medical help. When the soul is troubled, one turns to God and the Church for solace.

The New York Tragedy of September 11 of this year shocked the whole world. People of different backgrounds and in different countries stood stunned in front of TV screens and watched it unfold.

It is in such extreme circumstances that the true character of a people and nation manifests itself - high moral values, patriotism, self-sacrifice, refrainment from exploitation as well as other virtues. These sorts of exemplary qualities are nurtured in good families, schools and organizations such as PLAST, CYM, and religious organizations. Are they not?

And the bitter time for testing our level of humanity has arrived.

For various reasons a large part of the Ukrainian-American community lives in the Lower East Side of New York City, sometimes known as the "East Village", or even the "Ukrainian Village". Here several generations of Ukrainian immigrants have settled; here also, one can find St. Georges Ukrainian Catholic Church, St. Georges Ukrainian Academy, the Ukrainian National Home, the Shevchenko Scientific Society, Taras Shevchenko Place as well as many other Ukrainian-oriented stores, credit unions and other organizations. This is our Little Ukraine which is situated almost adjacent to the location of the recent Tragedy.

As with everyone, so too in Ukrainian homes this memorable mornings rankness had begun to settle in, and an immeasurable pain began to crush the heart. It is impossible to grasp and deal with the enormity of this crisis intellectually. Because of their own bitter memories of thunderous bombings and other difficult experiences surrounding World War II older Ukrainian-Americans who live in the East Village took the news with great pain. In the peaceful times of living in America since their arrival, superficial wounds may have healed, but the memory of pain has remained. Our people remember the nature of world conflict.

And suddenly, unexpectedly, came a new disaster. With the two explosions and the subsequent buildings collapse many were overcome with deep spiritual strife. Physically we may be healthy, but our souls were and are shaken and are in need of solace. This is understood by those who are called into the service of God and people. St. Patricks Cathedral opened its doors to the suffering. In the windows and streets votive candles appeared and multiplied. People were praying.

From the start of this tragic period and in the ensuing days places of worship in the East Village opened their doors widely: Grace Episcopal Church on Broadway between 10th & 11th Streets; Middle Collegiate Church on 2nd Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets; the synagogues along 6th Street; the mosque on the corner of 1st Avenue and 11th Street. At the entrances phrases such as "The Church is open for prayers", "Open for Meditation" were prominently displayed. Only our beautiful gold-domed Church, with its mosaics of images of God-fearing laborers and peasants over the entrance, was closed.


I telephoned the Pastor,

"Father, people are profoundly shocked; they need help, but the Churchs doors are closed. It would be good if you if you also opened our Church. Please, do this. Open the Church!"

Continuing I told him that numerous friends had telephoned me and in conversation expressed their dismay. They asked,

"Dont our priests understand that parishioners and people have a need for peace and balance within their souls?"

He replied, "We have no one to sit in the Church with them."

"Father, all churches are open. We will be shamed by our Church. How will our Ukrainian community look in thhe eyes of our neighbors? My friend saw journalists who were photographing the Church."

"I saw no journalists", he replied.

"It is because you are indoors and not out here on the street."

"Very well then, well think of something," the priest answered.

Obviously, the pastor must have thought long and hard because as the Tragedy continued to unfold the doors to St. Georges remained closed.

The next day others began to call the Pastors office and begging him to open the sanctuary. All of the responses from the office staff were rude. The Pastor had his own absurd retorts - "I dont have time", "I have to go to the bank", "I have to take care of business issues", and other such nonsense.

Suddenly, it became clear, and I remembered that our priests did indeed have serious and challenging business concerns:

- trying to overcome the objections of the community to closing/selling the school;
- the very recent proposal to close Taras Shevchenko Place (helping their business partner Cooper Union to realize that plan).

Youre right Father, you *do* have some serious business concerns.

But who is going to deal with the people, not only in the course of ordinary events, but also when they are truly in need?

Our lives are now seen across a threshold - life before and life after the Tragedy. Soon it will be Sunday and the doors of the Church will be open. People will come with disheartening memories of the events of the tragic September morning; they will come for spiritual nourishment; they will come for the lessons of the Lord. They will come ... because in Scriptures it is written, "Come and bow before Him."

We will come. And we will listen to your Sunday sermon. You will speak of the heartlessness of the terrorists; you will teach us to love and empathize those who suffer, because it is all our suffering. And we later will ask you, "Are your words sincere? Do you really empathize with those who are suffering?" If you really are sincere, then why didnt you open the Church

- for all of those who needed a lone moment to converse with God;
- so that we could come into Gods Sanctuary
- so that through the holiness of our Churchs structure, through the presence of the Holy Spirit under the golden dome which is united with Jesus Christ we could understand Gods blessings.

We will come ... .

And will you tell us why we couldnt come here when our souls were aching for those blessings?

Lord have mercy, but as You know, to speak and hear the truth is difficult.

translated from Ukrainian by HK/MP

©SC/BRAMA 9/13/01, 2:00pm

St. George Church - closed
©VL/BRAMA 9/15/01, 2:30pm

Woman kneels to pray where a flower and candle memorial was placed by the Ukrainian National Women's League of America on the steps of St. George Church.
©SC/BRAMA 9/13/01, 2:00pm

Middle Collegiate Church - open
©SC/BRAMA 9/13/01, 2:00pm

Sign at Middle Collegiate Church
©VL/BRAMA 9/12/01, 4:00pm

Grace Episcopal Church
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