On Sunday, 29 May 2016 in front of a full Cathedral at North Melbourne, in the presence of Bishop Venedykt Aleksiychuk of Lviv Ukraine, numerous priests, deacons, seminarians, religious sisters, family, friends, and parishioners of the parish, His Grace Bishop Peter Stasiuk ordained Father Deacon Justin McDonnell to the priesthood.
Saying the words, “Divine Grace, which always cures the infirm and supplies what is wanting, elevates the devout deacon Justin to the priesthood, therefore let us pray for him.” The cathedral choir sang the responses beautifully giving melody to the deeply meaningful prayers of the rite of ordination, for which they are thanked with hearty enthusiasm. Father Deacons Edward Kostraby and Michael Zylan presented Fr Deacon Justin to the bishop for ordination, and Fr Olexander Kenez then led him around the altar for the singing of “Ye Holy Martyrs” and “O Isaiah Rejoice”. The cathedral was filled with joy and prayer as the newly ordained presbyter was clothed in the vestments of the priesthood. He then joined the rest of the priests in the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.
Father Justin has had a rich variety of experiences on his life’s journey to the faith of the Eastern Catholic Church, but each step has added to, and been a source of, spiritual growth for him. He grew up in a protestant family, was baptised at the Russian Orthodox Church of Sts Peter and Paul in Perth, Western Australia as a teenager, and after attending Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, Jordanville, New York, he joined the Catholic Church in 2007. Several years ago he and his wife, Imost’ Lydia, approached Bishop Peter to become members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, having worshipped for several years in the Latin Church. All together an organically ‘ecumenical’ journey of faith and life! Father Justin and Imost’ Lydia were both grateful to Bishop Peter for his love for them, and the support he gave to them both, gladly accepting and supporting them.
After the liturgy, during luncheon, Fr Justin was able to share a little of his story with us all. All were touched by the story of the friendship that developed between his grandparents and a family of Ukrainian immigrants from Kharkiv, the Kucherenko family, who arrived in Fern Bay, Newcastle, as refugees after the Second World War. This friendship has endured through three generations, and Fr Justin was very delighted that his wife, Imost’ Lydia, met Mrs Kucherenko after they were married in 2011. Fr Justin emphasised that it was this friendship between a Welsh and a Ukrainian family that gave the first opportunities in childhood for him and his sisters to experience the life and faith of the Ukrainian people.
Fr Justin’s parents, John and Susan McDonnell were unfortunately unable to be present for their son’s ordination, due to Mrs McDonnell’s ill health. His parents-in-law, Orban and Gizella Firanyi, were able to attend, and were very pleased to see the ordination of their son-in-law. Fr Justin will start his priestly ministry serving from the North Melbourne Parish, being joined by his wife, Pani Imost’ Lydia. They will be assisting the eparchy to serve the faithful of our church who live in Tasmania, and will be travelling there every fortnight to serve the Holy Services.