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Archpastoral Visit To Stratford 9/8/18

On the weekend of September 8-9, 2018, His Grace, Bishop Gregory traveled to St. John The Baptist Orthodox Church in Stratford, CT (Broadbridge Avenue) to lead the parish in the celebration of the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Ordination to the Holy Priesthood of their Pastor, the Very Rev. Protopresbyter Peter Paprosk..The parishioners were delighted to welcome His Grace, Bishop Gregory for his second visit to parish. His Grace presided over Great Vespers on Saturday evening and celebrated his first Hierarchical Liturgy in the parish on Sunday Morning. His Grace was welcomed prior to Divine Liturgy with the traditional gifts of bread and salt by Parish Council President William Bilcheck, and was greeted by Fr. Peter and presented with the parish hand cross.

Celebrating Divine Liturgy as a parish community with Bishop Gregory presiding over the Eucharist was a fitting way for Fr. Peter and the faithful of the parish to offer their thanksgiving for Fr. Peter’s twenty five years in the Holy Priesthood and as Pastor of St. John’s Church. A large number of parishioners, friends and family members took part in the Liturgy which was sung by all in attendance in the traditional Carpatho-Russian Plain Chant which was led by Fr. Peter’s sons Daniel and Timothy. Nearly all in attendance approached the chalice to receive the Holy Eucharist, which was distributed by Fr. Peter.

At the end of the Liturgy, His Grace, Bishop Gregory offered an inspiring homily on the importance of maintaining unbroken the sacred Traditions of the Church. His Grace encouraged the faithful to practice the following pillars of the Orthodox Faith: Daily prayer and reading of Holy Scripture, attending Divine Liturgy every Sunday and on major holy days; fasting according to the calendar of the Church, and participating regularly in the Holy Mysteries of Confession and Communion. His Grace reminded those present that our earthly lifetime is short and that our number one goal in life must be to choose rightly and pursue the path of holiness that leads to Paradise.

Following Divine Liturgy and a group photo, the faithful gathered briefly in the parish hall for light refreshments before traveling to nearby Vazanno’s Restaurant where a celebratory luncheon in honor of Fr. Peter was to take place.

A beautiful afternoon of good food, fellowship and reminiscing on the past twenty five years of parish life and Fr. Peter’s priesthood was enjoyed by many of the parish faithful, family members of Fr. Peter, Deanery and area Orthodox priests and friends. Parish Council President William Bilcheck served as the toastmaster for the formal program, bringing to mind many touching and humorous moments of parish life during Fr. Peter’s pastorate. Presentations and remarks were made by Very Rev. Protopresbyter Luke Mihaly, Dean of the New England Deanery and various parishioners and friends.

His Grace Bishop Gregory, in his address, reflected on the Holy Priesthood and reminded Fr. Peter and the other priests in attendance that it is the Lord who chooses men to become priests even before they are born, when they are still in their mother’s womb. The Holy Priesthood, His Grace pointed out is a sacred calling to selflessly serve the flock to whom they are entrusted by their bishop. Today, His Grace noted, we are here to honor the priesthood of one of our brothers. On a personal note, His Grace remarked that even though he was not Fr. Peter’s ordaining Bishop they shared a special spiritual connection, as the actual date of Fr. Peter’s priestly ordination, November 27th, is the same date as his consecration as Bishop. After thanking Fr. Peter for his diligent priestly labors on the parish level, and as Technology Director and Webmaster of the Diocese and as National Senior ACRY Spiritual Advisor, he turned the microphone over to Fr. Peter who offered his profound gratitude for being privileged to serve the Church as a Priest.

Fr. Peter began by thanking the parish for making the weekend celebration possible and for their support over the years. . He reminded them that the celebration was as much a parish celebration as a personal one for him, as his entire priesthood has been spent at St. John’s Church. In his remarks he called to mind the priests of his youth and His ordaining Bishop, Metropolitan Nicholas of Thrice Blessed Memory, as well as his paternal grandmother, who nurtured his vocation to the Holy Priesthood.
In particular, Fr. Peter thanked his sons Daniel and Timothy for their love and support over the years and for all of their immense assistance to him in various capacities in parish life. He especially thanked them for keeping the faith as they endured the struggles that all “PK’s” face such as sharing their Dad with everyone else, having him miss concerts and sporting events and other important things, waiting forever for him to get done talking to someone, and being the first to arrive and last to leave church events.

Saving the best for last, Fr. Peter recognized his beautiful wife of almost 26 years, Pani Carol for all she has done to support him and his priesthood. He said that without Pani Carol by his side he would not be standing here today and therefore this celebration should really be for her. He thanked her for the many sacrifices she has made for the good of the parish, and to help him do the work of the Church.
As the formal speaking program drew to a close, and before the closing prayer was offered by His Grace, Bishop Gregory, a very beautiful poem was read by Church President and toastmaster, William Bilcheck. This poem, titled Always For Others, by Easter Almuena, was a fitting conclusion to a beautiful day of prayer and celebration of the dignity of the Holy Priesthood which was being honored and recognized on that day in the person of Fr. Peter.

May God Grant Him Many More Years of Service in the Vineyard of Our Lord.

Always for Others
By Easter Almuena

You are the image and likeness of God
But with you the morning awakens
With the call to rise
Not for you
But always for others.

God handpicked you from a myriad of souls
Molded you since you were a babe
To prepare you for a journey
Not for you
But always for others.

God blessed you with wisdom
To use to give form to his plans
And love to carry them out
Not for you
But always for others.

Mary walks with you
Guiding and loving you
For to her you are a Christ
Not for you
But always for others.

You hold the Body of Christ
Embrace his name and proclaim it
And a father and counselor you have become
Not for you
But always for others.

God forever bless you
Walk and carry you when your feet are weary
Bring peace and joy to your heart
For though your life is never for you
It is Christ’s and he delights in you.
Saturday Evening Great Vespers.
Bishop Gregory recites the Creation Psalm.
Fr. Peter Paproski offering the Prayers of Light.
Following Great Vespers, His Grace offered a few words of spiritual edification.
His Grace stressed the importance of keeping our youth and young adults connected to the Church.
Fr. Peter offered words of welcome to Bishop Gregory and congratulated him on his recent elevation by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to the rank of Metropolitan.
The Gospel Reading
Bishop Gregory Delivers The Homily
Bishop Gregory and parish family following Divine Liturgy.
Bishop Gregory with young adults at the Anniversary Banquet
Bishop Gregory with the Paproski Family.