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DIOCESE OF EASTERN CANADA: August 14, 2007
The Fiftieth Anniversary of Smolensky Parish in Beryozki

On Sunday, August 5, 2007, the Parish of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, located fifty miles from Toronto, in Jackson Point (better known among Russian Canadians as "Beryozki"), celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.

On August 10, 1957, the feast day of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, a group of young Russian Canadians from Toronto had their new summer cottages blessed, which they built among a multitude of birch trees [ beryozki in Russian], which reminded them of the central latitudes of Russia. It was decided to build a Russian church here in honor of the Miracle-working Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. The foundation was laid in 1958; in 1981, it was replaced by a splendid stone church designed by the architect BA Lebedinsky.

On the eve of the celebration, Saturday, August 4, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of Eastern America and New York, officiated at all-night vigil, which was performed amid exceptional warmth, humility and meekness. On the feast day itself, Sunday, August 5, His Eminence was joined by His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan, Administrator of the Eastern Canadian Diocese; Protopriest Vladimir Malchenko (Rector of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Toronto, ON); along with Protodeacon Victor Lochmatov, Deacon Basil Milonov and Deacon Alexander Morin. The choir sang under the renowned director George Anatolievich Skok. Holy Trinity Church's second priest, Fr Viacheslav Davidenko, arrived in Beryozki after the service in the Cathedral in time for the trapeza feast.

In his sermon, His Eminence congratulated the parishioners on their anniversary and reminded them of the wondrous Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, which tradition holds was painted by Apostle and Evangelist Luke himself. This icon was mystically bound to the history of Russia from ancient days. His Grace Bishop Gabriel then read aloud a gramata [decree of blessing] from the Metropolitan given to the entire parish on their holiday.

Over five hundred pilgrims from all over Canada and the US were treated to a splendid luncheon prepared by the parish sisterhood. The Minister of the Federal Government, representatives of the Provincial and local municipalities and a member of the Russian Consulate in Toronto were in attendance and expressed their congratulations as well.

The celebration was significantly enhanced by musicians who performed mostly Russian melodies, as well as the beautiful weather.

A Participant