The feast of Pokrova or Protection of Theotokos ‘God-bearer’ Mother of God, is one of the most beloved feast days of Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox people. At the invitation of the Parish priest, Fr Paul Berezniuk, Tatiana Zachariak and Anna Polatajko, representing the Eparchial Financial Council, visited the Parish of the Protection of the Mother of God, in Newcastle on 14-15 October 2017 and attended the Feast of Pokrova as well as attending to other Eparchial administrative matters.

Sunday morning the 15th of October was sunny and warm as we made our way to the Church next to the Parish Presbytery and hall. The 9.30 mass was the beginning of the celebration of the Feast of Pokrova. We entered the church and as on previous visits were overwhelmed by the beauty of the woodwork, carvings and icons. The wooden carved chandelier hanging from a magnificent arched wooden beamed ceiling, (which seemed to be rising to the heavens) and the ornately carved candle stand were sights to behold.

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In Church nearly all the parishioners were wearing Ukrainian embroidery. They sang together throughout the mass – there were not many of them, maybe 30 or so, but they sang with strength, and joy. Once the mass was concluded, Fr Paul blessed the icons and holy pictures of the Blessed Mary Virgin, brought in by the parishioners for this Feast Day. A special icon of the Pokrova was also blessed. This had been painted over several months by Fr Richard Charleswood of the Ukrainian Catholic Perth Parish.

In the presence of more than 50 people, the celebrations continued in the Parish Hall with a three course meal which had been designed and largely prepared by Cameron Clark, a professional chef with Ukrainian heritage. There was also a ‘korovaj’, a large torte and a stand of iced cupcakes .Preparations had been ongoing for days. The hall was beautifully set up. At the back of the stage a drop sheet depicted a Ukrainian village. At the front of the stage was an icon of the Pokrova surrounded by Ukrainian embroidery and wheat, and in front of the stand stood a sheaf of wheat.  Along the stage stood a large number of baskets ready for the lottery. Thanks go to many parishioners, especially Nada Artym for organising the celebration.

The Feast of Pokrova In Newcastle

The Feast of Pokrova In Newcastle / ©Tatiana Zachariak

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Before the blessing of the food, Fr Paul recited part of the prayer of King David, underlining the words that: ..’all we have before us comes from God’. We then all sang the prayer of ‘Our Father’ and as has come to be tradition, Fr Paul was welcomed with the korovaj and salt. The recognition of the tireless work of Ihor Jaremus was very moving. In handing him the icon prepared by Fr Charleswood, Fr Paul called him the ’nameless one’, ‘the dependable honest one, who was always there you needed someone’. October birthdays were also celebrated as well as the 52nd wedding anniversary of Rozaliya & Taras Powazuk; there was a door prize and a general lottery with many prizes.  Bohdan Pastuch on the accordion and Maria Witowycz on an electric organ kept everyone happy with their music and singing. There was a surprise photo session of past altar boys. The parishioners also thanked Fr Paul for his nine years of work in the Parish and keeping the Parish together.  Tatiana Zachariak as Chair of the Eparchial Financial Council, passed on a greeting from Bishop Peter Stasiuk who was overseas and reminded all that October also commemorated Pokrova as the Intercessor and Protector of Ukraine, Ukrainian Cossak day, the establishment of UPA and the anniversary of the death of Stepan Bandera.

Dnister donated $500 and in thanking Dnister, Fr Paul encouraged people to bank with and support our Cooperative. ‘CYM’ Newcastle Branch, through the President Liz Veldman, who was present, also donated $500.

All in all it was wonderful to see this small Parish working together so well – indeed a ‘living Parish’.

Tatiana Zachariak

Eparchial Financial Council