Through the hand of God, the first Pan-Orthodox vespers service outside of Great Lent was held at SS. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in Buffalo on the very evening that the parish had planned a farewell dinner for Archpriest Volodymyr and Matushka Jeanne Zablotskyy. On Saturday, November 9, 2019, the priests and the faithful of several of the Orthodox churches in western New York joined Father Volodymyr and his parishioners for the vespers and dinner. Serving at the vespers with Father Volodymyr were Father John Hutnyan (retired), Father Jason Vansuch (St. George Church, Buffalo), and Father Vladislav Golić (St. Stephen Church). Father John Boddecker and Deacons Andrew and George Hammond, from SS. Theodore Church, also were present. Singers from the various parishes, including St. Stephen, joined the SS. Peter and Paul choir to sing the responses, and about twenty people from St. Stephen were among approximately 100 worshippers.
In a touching reflection following the service, Father Volodymyr expressed the joy he has had while feeling at home in every local parish and the sorrow he feels upon leaving the place where he has served God and made many friends in the eight years since his appointment to SS. Peter and Paul. He called St. Stephen Serbian Orthodox Church his second home in western New York, and, indeed, he has been a second father to our parish, standing in during +Father Rastko’s illness at festal liturgies, weddings, baptisms, and funerals. He is dear to many of our parishioners, who will miss him when he relocates to serve Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Yonkers, New York on November 20, at his bishop’s behest.
Following the dinner prepared by the parish sisterhood, the clergy, on behalf of the Council of Orthodox Christian Churches on the Niagara Frontier, presented Father Volodymyr with an icon of St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Apostle to America, who consecrated Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers and blessed one of the bells at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Buffalo. The Council gave Matushka Jeanne a wooden carving depicting Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Theotokos, and St. Nicholas. In addition to the Orthodox faithful who offered their thanks and best wishes to Father and Matushka, a group of people from the Orchard Park Senior Center, where Matushka has worked for several years, joined the prayers and festive dinner. They expressed their gratitude to Jeannie for the loving care she gave them through the meals she prepared, and they gave her a commemorative plaque in remembrance of the time she spent with them.
Godspeed to Father Volodymyr and Matushka Jeanne as they travel to Yonkers. May God grant them health, length of days, a peaceful life, victory over adverse powers, and salvation. Many years!