Call to prayer at holy site in Centralia set for Aug. 21

·2 min read

Aug. 14—Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia has issued a call to prayer for peace in the homeland.

The Rev. Michael Hutsko, pastor, is inviting pilgrims to pray to Mary, the Protectress and Refuge of All, for intervention in the war that has displaced 12 to 15 million Ukrainians at home and sent refugees abroad.

"It's imperative that we renew this day of prayer," said Hutsko, who is also pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church in Mount Carmel. "In the atmosphere of prayer, we need to bring God into the hearts of our people and the world."

The day of prayer will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 21 at Assumption BVM Ukrainian Catholic Church, which overlooks a valley where Centralia once prospered.

The service returns after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak, who oversees the region's Ukrainian Catholic churches from the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy in Philadelphia, will celebrate a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at noon in the church, a citadel of Byzantine iconography.

The co-celebrants include Bishop Alfred Schlert, of Allentown, Bishop Ronald Gainer, of Harrisburg, and Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy, of Philadelphia.

The Living Rosary will be recited at 2:30 p.m. An Akafist to the Dormition, a prayer to the church's patroness, will be held at 3:30 p.m. The day's activities conclude with a candlelight procession and a Moleben to the Mother of God at 5 p.m.

At the conclusion, pilgrims will be anointed with blessed oil for the protection of body and soul.

The event is free and open to the public.

The pilgrimage had its roots in a visit by Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk to the Centralia church in 2015. Shevchuk is primate of the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic Church in Kyiv, Ukraine.

"He was so moved by the story of the town being devastated by a mine fire that he declared this should be a place of prayer," Hutsko said.

After receiving a letter from the archbishop, the church held its first pilgrimage in 2016.

Shevchuk declared Assumption BVM a holy pilgrimage site in 2020.

The parish was founded on Aug. 15, 1911, and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011. The church's first services were held in 1912.

"The church still serves as a thriving parish family," Hutsko said, "with congregants driving to the hilltop on Sundays and holy days from communities throughout the area."

Contact the writer: rdevlin@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6007