Our SISTERS OF ST. Anna
HOW SISTERS OF ST. ANNA CAME INTO ITS OWN BEING
Though building Mykhailivka was a tremendous teamwork of many everyday families, leaders, and local and even national community organizations, the one organization that our church could not have been built without is without a doubt Our Sisters of St. Anna, referred to often as Sestritstwo. Their full, unique, and rich history cannot be covered by one or several pages. It can only be covered by hundreds of pages, thorough research, lengthy articles, book manuscripts.
Sestritstwo’s being pretty much coincides with Mykhailivka’s being. Both start at about the same time, and both complement each other. Its life and action begin in early 1975. Prior to and during 1975, it is becoming more and more difficult for St. Michael the Archangel parishioners to preserve their Eastern traditions and celebrations according to the Julian Calendar. Not surprisingly, they decide they have enough. They can no longer accept that fact that the only three times a year they are allowed to celebrate according to Eastern traditions are one liturgy service at Christmas, one at Epiphany, and one on Easter Sunday. According to a witness testimony, early 1975, brings more bad news because even the only Easter Sunday Liturgy that was allowed prior to that year, is now taken away. Appealing to authorities, writing letters, spending money, becomes useless, wasteless. It is for that reason that the parishioners decide to hold a special meeting. At that first meeting, on April 27, 1975, they elect their first St. Michael the Archangel Church Paraphialna Rada.
Though after difficult and extensive pursuits, they get their permission to have their Easter Matins morning prayer, yet, they have no priest or cantor. Soon and thanks to the great effort of the newly elected Paraphialna Rada, their prayers are answered. They find the priest they need and are in pursuit of. It is their father Lew Liybinskyj, the newly consecrated by Josyf Slypyj priest, our first parish Father who immediately agrees to and accepts the job to serve at St. Michael the Archangel’s parishioners.
If only having a priest would be enough. It never is. The new parish and parishioners also need a place to hold their services at. That place is yet nowhere to be found until Paraphialna Rada decides to appeal to their Orthodox Parishioners at Sv. Pokrovy church, to which they immediately agree to. It was reported by Paraphialna Rada that they received a positive answer from the Bishop Mstyslav, decan Stephan Biliak, and the archpriest of St. Pokrovy Michael Borysenko.
On November 9, 1975 both father Liybynskyj and archpriest Michael Borysenko have a joint liturgy where the archpriest declares, “Today, St. Michael the Archangel parishioners began to write a bright history of their own existence” (par. 13). Speech by Fathers L and B.
To thank the Orthodox parishioners, Father Liybynskyj replies, “…Because all our aims to get a decent place did not success, we asked for help our Orthodox Brothers. Your love to your neighbor and your kindness enabled you to share your church at the time of our need, and for that I want to thank you on behalf of myself and all our parishioners. May Lord repay you hundredfold and send you his personal graces on our two brotherly churches” (par. 14). Speech by Fathers L and B. His and Borysenko’s words inspire parishioners so much that they immediately begin organizing. That is exactly how Sestritstwo begins its being, its life; that is how it begins writing its own history—December 14, 1975, on the premises of St. Pokrovy on 12 Oak Lane Street in Philadelphia.
As soon as they come into existence, Sestritstwo, dedicates themselves completely to their parish. In about just nine months of their existence, Sestritstwo collects several thousand dollars toward the construction of the new church. Their first organized Easter Bazaar the following year brings generous profit, as it was said “harniy” profit.
Already during their first organized Easter “Swiatchene,” on the premises of St. Pokrovy, they host 180 people. In addition to gathering that many people, they also entertain their attendees with their concert program.
On March 14, 1976, during their first general meeting, they elect their first chair, Olexandra Chubata. They also elect several different committees, including cultural-educational committee, financial committee, economic, and several others. It is decided that they want to self-govern themselves. It is during that meeting that Sestritstwo decides on its name. Though some members argue for the name of St. Olha, majority vote and settle on St. Anna, whom they consider the patroness and the shield of all women.
On May 8th , 1976, they organize Mother’s Day celebration where they have both entertainment and food. As early as August 6th of the same year, they have their first regional meeting during the fourth international Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia, where they discuss and approve their statute and officially elect their chair.
On March 6th, 1977 Sestritstwo is omniscient. They hold their own meetings. At that time, their membership reaches 50. Their budget consists of $14, 682.00, and rather than keeping the money in the bank, they are giving it away. They transfer $7,000.00 into the church construction fund. Additionally, they buy supplies for the church, its kitchen and everything that is absolutely necessary for the parish. They manage to buy vestments for the priest, a typewriter, tablecloths, cookware, food supplies, and others. As of March 6, 1977, Sestritstwo, despite its generous giveaways everywhere and to everyone, it is still in possession of $4,526.00.
Despite the fact that their bank account is not that significant after their giveaways, they have plans and ambitions. Their plan is to expand, to grow their services. In their plan they include another ambitious task—to beautify the newly bought property and making it even greener. They intend to retain and plant as much greenery on the newly acquired premises as possible.
In just a few years since 1976, in 1978, they write their own statute, and not only do they contribute to the church construction fund, but they also organize charity work for sick, poor, and helpless. They visit sick at homes and hospitals. They offer food and money for those who need it. They send packages internationally, including helping students in Germany, and even in Rome they organize help for students who work on the premises of the Patriarch. In fact, they deposit $500 toward the Patriarch Fund. There is nothing Sestritstwo cannot and will not do. They do embroidery; they produce two embroidered banners, one of Virgin Mary and one of Jesus. They create their own embroidery towels, tablecloths. Working so diligently, and in such a short period of their existence, they invest approximately $50,000 toward the construction of the new church. Their life motto is, “Whatever the grain we plant, that is what we will gather.” Despite all kind of difficulties, hardships, lack of help, resources, decent building to work at, they as uttered by Maria Seneyko, the writer of “Bratskiy Listok,” manage to plant “healthy seeds, so that they can bring up healthy and plentiful vegetables.”
47 years later, in 2022, Sestritstwo keeps planting and gathering more and more healthy and plentiful seeds, and nothing, not even pandemic could slow them down. They plan. They implement. They produce. They profit, and they certainly give back. It was reported in their annual 2021-year financial report that Sestritstwo’s total profit for fiscal 2021 year equaled to $69, 987.50. Their expenses, however, equaled to $93, 856.57. Donating $55, 000.00 toward the parish old house remodeling, buying a new TV, and purchasing other gifts to parish from Home Goods, left them with negative savings of -$23, 869.07. Yet, when at their February 13, 2022 general annual meeting someone asked whether they worried about their negative savings, one of the members cheerfully uttered that they were not because as long as they have sisters who are willing to volunteer and help with varenyky making, they will be able to turn loses into gains all over again. Even from the statement of that one member it is pretty clear that not only are Sisters of St. Anna planting and gathering healthy seeds, they are also in possession of healthy attitudes, optimistic reflections, and futuristic mindsets.
Note: There may be some discrepancies between the linked attachment Olexandra Chubata and the dates listed above. Those discrepancies are due to the way dates and years were listed in the archive documents. The archives documents at times show slightly different dates. It could have been a typo that at that time was difficult to correct because the original documents were typed on a typewriter or handwritten. Our apologies; the discrepancies can be corrected as more information becomes available.