Melissa Scheck holds tiny Benedict Basil, with Christopher Scheck looking on at the Ukrainian Catholic Mass in Mount Angel Aug. 31. The young family made the drive from their home in Newport. Their second date, they said, was Mass at St. Irene Church in North Portland. That parish is another Byzantine Catholic church, celebrating the Ruthenian rite. (Kristen Hannum/Catholic Sentinel)
Melissa Scheck holds tiny Benedict Basil, with Christopher Scheck looking on at the Ukrainian Catholic Mass in Mount Angel Aug. 31. The young family made the drive from their home in Newport. Their second date, they said, was Mass at St. Irene Church in North Portland. That parish is another Byzantine Catholic church, celebrating the Ruthenian rite. (Kristen Hannum/Catholic Sentinel)
MOUNT ANGEL — A shady drive, lined with mossy Douglas fir trees, leads to the Goff family farm, with its century-old farmhouse and groves of filberts.

On the last Sunday in August the afternoon scene included the glint of the altar servers’ gold robes, chairs arranged under birches, masked worshippers patiently waiting and clutches of children making the most of the last moments before the liturgy began.

Father Richard Janowicz stood in prayer at a makeshift altar.

The priest, longtime pastor of Nativity of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Parish in Springfield, made the trip to the Goff farm to celebrate a Mass with the Andrey Sheptytsky Ukrainian Catholic Apostolate of Portland. This was the group’s first anniversary.

After the Mass, Father Janowicz described the apostolate as being a little like the hopeful, would-be founders of a mission that doesn’t yet exist. “They have a great dedication to keeping the prayer life and to grow, despite the many challenges of this past year,” he said.

The apostolate includes people like Nada Holovcuk, who worshipped in Ukrainian-rite churches in Bosnia as a child.

“When you go to a service you grew up with, it’s close to your heart,” she said.

Holovcuk arrived in the United States in 1997, and her children and grandchildren attended the service. She wants the Ukrainian rite to be part of their memories as well.

Others at the Mass were converts who were drawn to the Ukrainian Catholic rite — for the most part because of its beauty and sense of authenticity.

Christopher Scheck, for instance, was raised a Lutheran. He became attracted to Eastern-rite churches for aesthetic reasons. “It engages all five of the senses,” he said.

Melissa Scheck, his wife, who was raised Roman Catholic, agreed. “I feel most comfortable in this rite.”

Kellene and Jared Goff, who hosted the liturgy and reception afterward, came from the Mennonite and evangelical Protestant traditions respectively.

When Jared Goff began his theological studies, focusing especially on the history of the liturgy, he became certain that the Catholics and Orthodox traditions had preserved a basic truth of faith, a connection between the past and the future that encompassed the present day.

He describes the Ukrainian Catholic Church as being unique in that it is rooted in Slavic history, looking back to when Sts. Cyril and Methodius brought Christianity to the Slavs, and is completely true to its Slavic nature, and yet has looked both to the East and the West.

Kellene Goff, despite being the daughter of a Mennonite minister, followed her husband to the Catholic world — but to the Roman Catholic rite, not the Ukrainian. Because the Ukrainian Catholic and the Roman (or Latin) Catholic rites are in full communion with each other, Kellene could receive Communion at the Mass and fulfill her obligation to attend Mass (suspended during the pandemic, but embraced when possible).

There are differences in the traditions, including in the most basic tenets: how we receive the Eucharist.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church uses leavened bread for Communion. It must be baked by a person in good standing with the church — Father Janowicz baked the loaf used for the Mass for the Andrey Sheptytsky Apostolate.

Communion is never received in the hand, but is rather distributed with a golden spoon to each worshipper. During the pandemic, Father Janowicz has been using wooden spoons, one for each worshipper. He burns the spoons afterward.

The Ukrainian Catholic rite is the largest, other than the Roman Catholic Church. In the Archdiocese of Portland, other allied rites are the Maronite, at St. Sharbel in Southeast Portland, and the Ruthenian, at St. Irene Parish in North Portland.

St. John Paul, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have especially fostered good will between the Roman Catholics and the Byzantine rites. For example, in 2011, Pope Benedict prayed that “the Eastern Catholic churches and their venerable traditions may be known and esteemed as a spiritual treasure for the whole church.”

In their first year, the Andrey Sheptytsky Apostolate worshipped together 18 times, averaging more than once every three weeks. They did so with the support of three priests, including Father Janowicz, and at several locations. To do this, they equipped a mobile chapel that fits in the back of a pick-up. It includes the book of Gospels, the book of epistles, icons, censers, vestments, icon screen and banners.

They apostolate incorporated as a nonprofit organization and raised $15,000.

More than half of their first year took place during a pandemic.

After the Mass, the families enjoyed a meal together. Holovcuk brought enough sarma (stuffed cabbage rolls) and pita to feed the crowd, and there were salads, sides and drinks as well.

Looking over the scene, Jared Goff recalled that the Ukrainian Catholic Church had been almost completely suppressed during the Soviet era in Ukraine. “Everyone has the right to maintain tradition,” he said.

And, clearly, to adopt and nurture an ancient tradition.