newsworks.org - Only a few structures still stand in what was Centralia, Pennsylvania. Even fewer are visible through the tree cover from the top of an adjacent mountain overlooking what was once a thriving community.
The most notable and recognizable structure is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, whose bright-blue domes rise out of the foliage on the side of the mountain. Though all but seven of the town’s residents relocated because of the ongoing fire in the anthracite coal mine below its surface, the church continues to serve a successful parish.
On Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, the church was the site of the second annual “A Call to Prayer” pilgrimage. Two years ago, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Sviatoslav Shevchuk visited the church and suggested it as a place for pilgrimage. He marveled at the beauty of the property, the number of vocations from the parish, its rich history in Centralia, and qualities about it that are endearing to prayer and a place for gathering.
“Father [Michael] Hutsko, the pastor here … He was enthusiastic about it. He arranged it with the parishioners,” said Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka. “A tremendous amount of work went into it, but it’s all joyous work on their part …. Isn’t that the best gift? That you not only pray for your own needs but you provide for the journey of faith of others.”
A few hundred pilgrims traveled from as far as Washington, D.C.; New Brunswick, New Jersey; and Philadelphia to focus on their spiritual lives for the afternoon in Centralia. People crowded into the church and out onto the grounds for divine liturgy with Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka as the main celebrant.