Bishop Nikolai of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska visits St. Joseph Church, Wheaton, Illinois

With the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Job of Chicago, Saint Joseph Church here hosted His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska on Meat Fare weekend, March 1-2, 2003. His visit coincided with the parish’s 14th Anniversary.

On Saturday, Bishop Nikolai attended the Vigil, concelbrated by Fr. John Matusiak, Rector; Frs. Joseph Kopka and Michael Sekela, Associates; and Deacon John Coleman.

On Sunday morning, Bishop Nikolai celebrated the first Divine Liturgy. Fr. Matusiak and Mr. Jan Labun, Council President, greeted Bishop Nikolai as he entered the church. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, Bishop Nikolai thanked the faithful for their support of the Diocese of Alaska and for being charter members of the Distinguished Diocesan Donors. Fr. Matusiak then presented Bishop Nikolai with a $1400 check for the ongoing work of the Diocese and for Alaska’s needy families.

After the first Liturgy, Bishop Nikolai addressed over 100 Church School students and teachers on Church life in Alaska and answered dozens of questions from the children. The students presented Bishop Nikolai with commemorative bookmarks they made for distribution to children in Alaska.

Fr. Mykola Bodnarchuk celebrated the second Divine Liturgy for the parish’s growing number of immigrants from central and eastern Europe, after which Bishop Nikolai returned to the church for the celebration of a Moleben in honor of the North American saints. Saint Joseph’s parish possesses a locally venerated icon of the American saints, in which relics are embedded. Several gold and silver crosses also adorn the icon, signs of prayerful thanksgiving from individuals whose prayers had been answered through the intercession of the North American saints.

Following the second Liturgy, Bishop Nikolai presided at a festive banquet in the parish hall.

Bishop Nikolai’s visit to Saint Joseph’s coincided with his visit to the Chicago area to speak at several gatherings sponsored by the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. A highlight of his visit was a banquet at Saint John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, DesPlaines, IL, to raise funds to send Chicago-area young adult OCMC missionaries to Alaska to do missionary work this summer.