Byzantine Catholic Church in America: News of the East

Byzantine Catholic Community in Ireland Celebrates First Baptism


By Archimandrite Serge Keleher

DUBLIN, IRELAND -- (8/30/1999) -- Sunday, 15 August 1999, was a milestone in the life of the Byzantine Catholic community in Dublin: the first Eastern Catholic Baptism known to have occurred in Ireland took place at Saint Kevin's Oratory in the Pro-Cathedral.

The Irish Byzantine Catholic community has developed gradually over seven years; most of the faithful are indigenous Irish Catholics who are interested in the Eastern Churches and who formed a choir to sing the Divine Liturgy. For a long time, services were held at Saint Paul's Church, which closed at the end of 1998. The Archbishop of Dublin decided that the Divine Liturgy should continue at Saint Kevin's Oratory in the Pro-Cathedral, and Bishop Fiachra O'Ceallaigh instructed the priest, Archimandrite Serge Keleher, that the Archdiocese was aware that recently Eastern Catholics in significant numbers were moving into Ireland; the Archdiocese hoped that providing this regular celebration of the Divine Liturgy might be of assistance to these people. Faithful from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and the United States have begun attending the Divine Liturgy at Saint Kevin's regularly; after the Divine Liturgy there is a social hour which has become quite polyglot (it is not unusual to hear five languages in one conversation). Most of the new arrivals are young and energetic, and are anxious to see the congregation grow and make progress. Mr. and Mrs. Valery Cherko arrived recently in Dublin from their home in Mariupil, Ukraine (in the Donbas region on the Tahanrih Bay, Mariupil was renamed "Zhdanov" by the Communists, but since Ukraine became independent Mariupil has resumed its historic name). Their first son, Andrew, was born in Dublin in July. They invited Archimandrite Serge to visit Mrs. Cherko in the hospital, and then asked him to baptize Andrew. For godparents Mr and Mrs. Cherko chose Mrs. Joanna Gallagher, a Ukrainian Catholic lady from Chicago who has been living in Dublin for about twenty years, and Mr. Christopher Banks, of Dublin, who has become a close friend of the family.

The Byzantine Catholics in Dublin have no baptismal font, so a font suitable for immersion was improvised from a large plastic basin; it proved quite suitable. On Sunday, Saint Kevin's was quite filled with the faithful and guests anxious to participate in this grace-filled, momentous and historic event. The Cherko family arranged to have the celebration video-recorded, to send to Mariupil so that their parents could see the Baptism of Andrew, the grandson who is unlikely to meet his grandparents for several years. With this in mind, much of the actual Baptism and Chrismation was done in Church-Slavonic, so that the grandparents would find it familiar. The exorcisms, the reception of the catechumen, and the scrutinies, with the recitation of the Creed, were all done at the western entrance to Saint Kevin's. The procession to the font, the blessing of the water and the oil, and the anointing of the candidate followed as usual; then everyone craned their necks so as to watch the actual baptism by triple immersion; Andrew cried quite satisfactorily when the priest plunged him into the water, but by the second plunge he seemed to be enjoying it. The godparents had provided a lovely set of Irish christening robes, blessed immediately after the Baptism. For the Chrismation, Father Serge used Holy Chrism consecrated by Patriarch Miroslav-Ivan Cardinal Lubachivsky on Holy Thursday of 1991 in Saint George's Cathedral; Father Serge had been privileged to concelebrate with His Beatitude on that occasion and had received a vial of Holy Chrism. The use of this Holy Chrism for the Baptism of Andrew stressed his unbroken links to the homeland of his ancestors.

After the Chrismation and the procession around the font, with the singing of "As Many are Baptized into Christ ." the Epistle and the Gospel followed, each read in Irish and in Ukrainian. Father Serge preached, explaining certain of the high points of the Baptism according to the teaching of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem; Father also charged the parents and the godparents to recognize the great responsibility they had taken upon themselves in accepting Andrew as a gift from God. At the Divine Liturgy three acolytes (one from Ireland and two from Ukraine) assisted Father Serge as the chanters sang in Greek, Church-Slavonic, Ukrainian and Irish. Andrew's godmother presented Andrew to be the first to receive Holy Communion; many of the congregation also came forward for the Eucharist.

At the end of the Liturgy Father Serge tonsured Andrew, and then surprised the parents by presenting Andrew with a traditional Slav-style baptismal cross, which had been ordered from the United States. The Divine Liturgy concluded with a resounding "Many Years" for Andrew, his parents, his god-parents, and the whole community. In honor of Andrew's baptism several of the faithful (both the Irish and the new arrivals) brought some special foods to share during the social hour.


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Last Modified on 09/05/1999.