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Diocese of Wichita News

Updates to St. Raphael Clergy Brotherhood Web Site

Bishop BASIL writes:

Please note that our St. Raphael Clergy Brotherhood's Liturgical Resources web site has been redesigned and has a new address: Many and most sincere thanks to Reader John Michael Press of Ss. Peter and Paul/Topeka, KS who has served as our web master since the site's inception.

Basil Esper: Memory Eternal!

Bishop BASIL writes:

Dear to Christ, Fathers and Brothers:


Basil Esper: Memory Eternal! Basil Esper of the Syrian port city of Lattakiya, the father of His Eminence Metropolitan SABA of Bosra-Hauran, fell asleep in Christ on Saturday, December 13th.  Please join me in praying a rope for the repose of his soul, saying, "O Lord Jesus Christ, grant rest to the soul of Thy departed servant."

May his memory be eternal, and may you be granted long life.

In Christ Who is our Resurrection and our Life,

+ B A S I L
Bishop of Wichita and the Diocese of Mid-America
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

DOWAMA's 2009 College Mission Trip: Bosra-Hauran

As part of the sister diocese relationship between the Archdiocese of Bosra-Hauran and the Diocese of Wichita and Mid America, Father Richard Petranek of St. Paul Church and Father Matthew MacKay of St. Joseph Church of Houston, Texas, have been blessed by Metropolitan PHILIP of New York, Metropolitan SABA of Bosra, and Bishop BASIL of Wichita to lead a group of eighteen college age students from the Diocese of Mid- America on a Mission Trip to the ancient Archdiocese of Bosra in southwest Syria.

The purpose of the two week Mission Trip (May 24th-June 7th, 2009) is to join with Metropolitan SABA and his clergy and laity who are valiantly laboring to rebuild the church temples, shrines and ministries of the Archdiocese. Our group will assist in refurbishing some of the church temples and properties of this ancient See. In addition, the group will go on pilgrimage to several of the most famous monasteries, shrines and historical sites of the Patriarchate of the Great City-of-God Antioch and all the East.

In addition to work projects, the young people will also make pilgrimage to many of the most revered holy sites within our Patriarchate, including the house chapel of St. Ananias where the Holy Apostle Paul was baptized and the Patriarchal Cathedral and residence in Damascus, the women's monasteries of Our Lady in Saydnaya and St. Thekla in Ma'aloula, the men's monastery of St. George Al-Humayrah in the "Valley of the Christians," the reliquary shrine of the Martyr and Unmercenary Healer St. Julian (Mar Ilyan) in Homs.  The group will return to the U.S. in time to attend our Parish Life Conference in Wichita where they, along with Metropolitan SABA, will share their experiences with us. 

Cost is $2,000.00 per person (including round-trip airfare from Houston, lodging and meals).

It is our hope that we will have young people from every DOWAMA Deanery on this trip!

Bishop BASIL's Christmas Letter 2008

The Nativity 2008

To the Right Reverend Archimandrites, the Very Reverend and Reverend Priests and
Deacons and their families, the Venerable Monastics, and all the Christ-loving Faithful of
the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America:

I embrace and greet you with a holy kiss in the Name of the Incarnate Christ. I
send to each of you and your communities my paternal love, festal greetings and prayerful
best wishes for the merriest of Christmases and a healthy and happy 2009.

Glorify Him!

In Christ Jesus the Incarnate Word,

+ B A S I L
Bishop of Wichita and the Diocese of Mid-America
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

2009 DOWAMA Clergy Brotherhood Retreat


The 37th Annual DOWAMA Clergy Brotherhood Retreat

February 3-6, 2009

The Spiritual Life Center – 7100 East 45th Street, North – Wichita, Kansas – (316) 744-0167

"All Scripture is Given by Inspiration of God"

BishopMARKThe Right Reverend Bishop MARK of Toledo and the Diocese of the Midwest has graciously accepted the invitation to be the featured speaker at the 37th Annual DOWAMA Clergy Brotherhood Retreat, which will be hosted at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, KS, Tuesday through Friday, February 3rd through 6th, 2009.  The theme of the retreat is "All Scripture is Given by Inspiration of God" (II Timothy 3:16a).

Download a detailed schedule (PDF format)

Winter Camp St. Raphael

Winter Camp St. Raphael Winter Camp St. Raphael, hosted by DOWAMA SOYO, will be held at Camp St. Raphael in Wagoner, OK, January 16th-19th, 2009.  This first-ever weekend event is open to teens who are in 7th-12th grades.  For more information and registration materials, please contact CSR Director Fr. James Shadid at or DOWAMA Youth Director Camille Baba at

Click here to download the Winter Camp St. Raphael application and flyer (Adobe PDF format).

Photos from Bishop BASIL's Visit to Rocky Mountain Deanery

A selection of photographs from His Grace Bishop BASIL's visit to the Rocky Mountain Deanery in late September and early October, 2008:

September 27, 2008 - 1st Rocky Mountain Deanery All-Parish Picnic and Vespers in Denver, CO.

Fr. John Salem to be Elevated to Archpriest

Fr. John Salem

Bishop BASIL writes:

AXIOS! Father John Salem of St. George Church in Houston, Texas will be elevated to the rank and dignity of Archpriest this coming Sunday, November 2nd, during festivities marking the 80th anniversary of the founding of St. George Church.

Diocesan Pilgrimage Commemorates Fr. Nicola Yanney

Bishop BASIL writes:

Consecration of  Fr. Nicola's GraveBY YOUR PRAYERS, the Diocesan Pilgrimage held this past weekend in Kearney, NE was a truly blessed event.  Twenty priests, five deacons and over 150 laity from twenty-three of DOWAMA's fifty congregations joined our hosts Fr. Christopher Morris and the Christ-loving faithful of St. George/Kearney, NE for a weekend filled with divine services, homilies, historical talks and presentations (not one business meeting!).  Numbered among the pilgrims were many of Father Nicola's grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

The Pilgrimage (held in lieu of our Fall Gathering) began on Friday afternoon with the Akathist to St. Raphael at St. George Church.  The rousing congregational singing was led by Subdeacon John Wolf, Protopsaltis of St. George/Kearney.

Diocesan Pilgrimage Schedule

Wednesday, October 22nd is the deadline to register for the Diocesan Pilgrimage! If you have not yet registered, contact FATHER CHRISTOPHER MORRIS of St. George/Kearney, NE today by email ( or by telephone (308-234-9252 or 308-234-6969). 

The Pilgrimage Schedule is as follows:

Friday, October 24th

  • 4:00 pm—Akathist to St. Raphael of Brooklyn at St. George Church
  • 5:00 pm—Blessing of Father Nicola’s new gravestone at the Kearney Cemetery
  • 6:00 pm—Dinner and keynote address by Bishop Basil at the Ramada Inn

Saturday, October 25th

  • 8:45 am—Orthros at St. George Church
  • 10:00 am—Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and Trisagion Prayers of Mercy
  • Noon—Lunch and address by Father Paul Hodge at the Ramada Inn
  • 3:00 pm—Great Vespers at St. George Church

(Conclusion of the Pilgrimage.  For those staying over:)

Sunday, October 26th

  • 8:45 am—Orthros at St George Church
  • 10:00 am—Divine Liturgy presided over by Bishop Basil

Clergy are reminded to bring with them GOLD vestments for concelebrating divine services.

Register for the 2nd Annual DOWAMA SOYO Basketball Tournament

An important note from our Diocesan Youth Director, Camille Baba: 

Registration for our 2nd Annual DOWAMA SOYO Basketball Tournament & Retreat (November 14th-16th) is happening right now!  Visit for all the forms, but what is MOST important is each individual's registration form and medical release form attached to this email be completed and mailed.  Please have each of your teens complete this form and send it directly to: St. Elijah Orthodox Church - Attn: Erin Learned - 15000 N. May Avenue - Oklahoma City, OK 73134. If for any reason your teens cannot do this before the November 1st deadline, please call Erin (405-755-7804) and tell her exactly how many teens will be attending from your parish. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at my office at the Cathedral (316-636-4676).

Download Parental Authorization and Medical Consent Form (PDF Format)

Metropolitan SABA to Speak at 2009 DOWAMA PLC

Met SABA and Bp BASILHis Eminence Metropolitan SABA, Archbishop of Bosra-Hauran, will be the keynote speaker at the 2009 Parish Life Conference of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America. The PLC will be held during the fast-free week after Pentecost from June 10-13, 2009. The host parish will be St. Mary Church in Wichita, Kansas.

For more information on Metropolitan SABA and the Archdiocese of Bosra-Hauran, please visit The Hauran Connection, the web page for the Sister Diocese Program between Wichita and Bosra-Hauran.

2nd Annual DOWAMA SOYO Basketball Tournament

The 2nd Annual DOWAMA SOYO Basketball Tournament will be hosted November 14th - 16th at St Elijah Church, Oklahoma City, OK.  Registration fee is $50.00 per team.  For further information go to or contact the DOWAMA Youth Director Camille Baba of St George Cathedral/Wichita, KS at camillesbaba [at] yahoo [dot] com or the DOWAMA SOYO Spiritual Advisor Fr. Antony Bahou of Ss Constantine & Helen/Dallas, TX at antonyel [at] hotmail [dot] com.

A Son's Journey to the Priesthood

During the weekend of June 7–8, 2008, clergy, family and friends gathered at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to witness the ordination of Fr. Daniel Bethancourt by Bishop BASIL – first to the diaconate and then to the holy priesthood.

Fr. Daniel is the son of Archpriest John Bethancourt, Holy Trinity’s pastor. “Holy Trinity is my spiritual ‘hometown,’” said Fr. Daniel, “where I was raised during the early years of my life as an Orthodox Christian. It was wonderful to be ordained there with my parish family-of-origin present. I felt surrounded by love and prayers.”

Fr. Daniel’s sponsors to the diaconate were Holy Trinity’s Archdeacon Basil Rives and Dn. Justin Havens of Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Salt Lake City. His sponsors to the priesthood were his father, Archpriest John Bethancourt, and his spiri­tual father, Archpriest Paul Moses Jaroslaw.

This was a special privilege for both father and son. “I was overjoyed to have my natural father and my spiritual father as my sponsors,” said Fr. Daniel. “They’ve both been mentors to me in the past, and I’ve already gone to both of them for advice since my ordination.” Fr. John added, “There is within me a feeling perhaps somewhat akin to that of the aged Simeon in the Temple: now I can die in peace.”

A number of other area priests served along­side Bishop BASIL at the two hierarchical divine liturgies, including Hieromonk John Anderson of St. Michael’s Skete in Canones, Economos Demetrios Demopulos of St. Elias Church in El Dorado, Fr. John Hennies of St. Dimitri Church in Los Alamos and Fr. Luke Huggins of St. Juliana Church in Santa Fe. Holy Trinity’s Subdeacon Raphael Nava and Subdeacon Joseph Olas, a classmate of Fr. Daniel from St. Vladimir’s Seminary, also served.

The Hauran Connection Sister Diocese Program Online

The Hauran Connection The Department of Internet Ministry has recently created a dedicated web page for The Hauran Connection, the Sister Diocese program between the Archdiocese of Bosra-Hauran in Syria and the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America. The Sister Diocese program aims to provide material support and prayer and to foster increased awareness of the circumstances of our fellow Orthodox Christians in Syria.

In the words of His Grace, Bishop BASIL:

"One of the most venerable Archdioceses of our Patriarchate, the Archdiocese of Bosra now finds itself facing very difficult times. Due to the frequency of warfare in that area, the occupation of much of its territory by a neighboring unfriendly nation, and the resultant unemployment and poverty, most of its people are economic refugees, having relocated to Damascus or departed for the Americas, Australia, Europe or the Gulf States.

In a gesture of Christian love and support for Metropolitan SABA and his flock, the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America has committed itself to a “Sister Diocese” relationship with the Archdiocese of Bosra."

2008 Diocesan Pilgrimage and Fall Gathering, October 24th-25th

On October 24th and 25th, 2008, faithful from throughout the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America will gather at St. George Church in Kearney, Nebraska for a diocesan pilgrimage to honor Fr. Nicola Yanney, the first priest of our diocese, on the 90th anniversary of his repose.

Please join us for this historic event!

For directions, logistical information and registration, please click here.

The Reverend Nicola Yanney, a native of Fi’eh, Lebanon,  emigrated to the United States, arriving in Nebraska on December 1st, 1892. During his lifetime, Fr. Nicola was a man of several notable firsts. On April 3rd, 1904, Fr. Nicola became the first priest to be ordained by Bishop Raphael of Brooklyn after the saint’s consecration to the holy episcopacy. Taking up the cross of his priesthood and returning to his parish of St. George in Kearney, Nebraska, Fr. Nicola became the first resident Orthodox priest in what is now the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America.

Ordinations and Elevations

AXIOS!  Stephen DeYoung, a DOWAMA vocation from St Nicholas/Shreveport, LA and a senior at St Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, PA, will be ordained to the holy diaconate by Bishop THOMAS of Charleston at St. Mary's Church in Wilkes-Barre, PA on Sunday, October 12th.

MOUSTAHIQ!  Fr. John Salem of St. George Church in Houston, TX will be elevated to the rank and dignity of Archpriest on Sunday, November 2nd, during festivities marking the 80th anniversary of the founding of St. George Church.

HE IS WORTHY!  John Ballard, a DOWAMA vocation from Ss. Constantine & Helen Church in Dallas, TX and a middler at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY, will be ordained to the holy diaconate by Metropolitan PHILIP at St. Nicholas Church in Bridgeport, CT on Sunday, December 7th.

Bishop THOMAS Visits St. George Church in Houston, TX

Bishop THOMAS visited St. George's Church in Houston, Texas on September 7, 2008:

Ike Updates from Texas and Louisiana

Here are some updates from Bishop BASIL on the parishes in the path of Hurricane Ike.  From the reports that have come in so far, all clergy and their families are safe, and their homes are mostly unharmed, with only minor damage (at least, as can be determined now). Several priests have not been able to travel to their churches or contact their parishioners, so please continue your prayers for our Orthodox brethren as they clean and rebuild.

Donations for the hurricane relief effort can be made through the I.O.C.C. (International Orthodox Christian Charities) here, or through many other charitable groups.

New Mosaic Icons at Cathedral Attract Attention


St. George Cathedral in Wichita, KS has recently been featured on local news broadcasts covering the installation four new mosaic icons on its exterior facades.  The icons are beautiful reproductions of well known, ancient icons, including images of Christ, the Theotokos, and St. John the Forerunner from the 12th century mosaic from Hagia Sophia, which can be seen here and the 13th century icon of the Great-Martyr George in the Church of St. George Struga on the shore of Lake Ochrid in Macedonia, which can be seen here

The mosaic icons are done by Bruno Salvatori, a master mosaicist from Florence, Italy.  Mr. Salvatori is the same artist who has done the five mosaic icons that adorn the exterior of the Cathedral's eastern apse.

A video on the new mosaics, produced by the local NBC affiliate, can be seen here: (cut and paste link into your browser).

Hurricane Ike Threatens Texas Parishes

From Fr. John Mefrige of St. Ephraim Church in San Antonio, TX:

The oncoming projections of Hurricane IKE places its path DIRECTLY over San Antonio.  Despite being 150 miles from the ocean  it is possible that we could experience 100 mile an hour winds should this make landfall as a category 4 or 5. Presently it is predicted to make landfall between Port O'Connor and Corpus Christi as a category 3 on early morning this Saturday. At present there is a 40% chance of Tropical Storm Force winds hitting us. For more information and up to the minute coverage see:

Despite the incoming track of Hurricane Ike, we WILL have Saturday Great Vespers and Sunday morning Services at the usual time. However you are urged to pay close attention to the weather and follow appropriate emergency measures, especially all evacuation orders. Services are only going to be held because Fr. John does not need to drive to the Church as the parish house is next door.

If there are any parishioners that feel that their homes will not be able to weather the storm they are directed to follow official evacuation orders or to PORT SAN ANTONIO where FEMA and Emergency Authorities are holding evaquees. Fr. John Khouriee Janet and the girls will be riding out the storm in the church which is a concrete structure.

From Deacon Elias of St. John the Divine Church in Lake Charles, LA:

Chaplain Congratulated by President for Help in Hurricane Relief


Orthodox chaplain Fr. Mark Sahady (pictured left) was congratulated by President Bush for helping minister to  evacuees from the Hurricane Gustav in San Antonio, TX.  Fr. Mark organized the Chaplain Corp at Lackland Air Force Base (near San Antonio) to greet the evacuees when they arrived and to give them pastoral care while they were waiting to be sheltered. 

Fr. Mark says, "I also was involved three years ago with Hurricane Katrina doing the same thing and also caring for them [the evacuees] in the shelters.  This time the organization was much better and everything went much smoother.  It was very impressive how quickly and smoothly the evacuees were cared for this time."  

Bishop BASIL to Visit St. Mary's, Wichita


His Grace, our Bishop BASIL will visit the congregation of St. Mary in Wichita this weekend for the celebration of their maternal feast - the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. In addition to their maternal feast on Monday, September 8, Bp. BASIL will celebrate Divine Liturgy on Sunday as well.  The schedule of services for the weekend is: 


5:00pm Great Vespers


9:15am Orthros

10:30am Hierarchical Divine Liturgy

5:00pm Great Vespers


7:00am Orthros

8:00am Divine Liturgy

DOWAMA Clergy, People, Churches Safe from Hurricane Gustav

His Grace, Bp. BASIL reports that the clergy, people and churches in western Louisiana and eastern Texas have escaped unscathed from the damage and flooding of Hurricane Gustav. Praise God!

A Letter from Camp

Beloved Sayyidna Basil and my Brothers of DOWAMA:

Camp1-web Greetings from Camp St. Raphael (YABOY)!

Thank God, by your holy prayers we had a wonderful first session and are ready to welcome the second group of campers this afternoon.  The weather has been perfect and the campers and staff have had an amazing time so far.

From Christian Ed. to Sports to Divine Services, it's very easy to see the Holy Spirit's presence in everything happening here.

Camp3-web It has also been very nice to worship in our newly renovated St Raphael Chapel.  New sheet rock, paint, ceiling and air conditioning have all enhanced the chapel.  This, as you know, was done through the generosity of the faithful of our Diocese.  If there is any way any of you can journey up to CSR this week, it would be OUR delight to welcome you to camp.


Thank you all for the sustaining prayers you have offered and continue to offer, and for the campers and counselors your parishes have sent to us.  They are our greatest joy.  Please continue to keep us in your holy prayers.