Diocese of Wichita News
The tradition of baking and cutting a special "pita" (which can mean a loaf of bread, a cake, or even a pie) each year on January 1st is observed in honor of our holy father Basil the Great, archbishop of Caesarea in Cappodocia-- hence its name "Vasilopita" meaning "St. Basil's Bread." This tradition is observed in both parish churches and in the homes of the faithful. What is the meaning of this tradition and how did it begin?
For centuries upon centuries, parents, grandparents and godparents have related the following to Orthodox children about St. Basil and the Vasilopita. One year, during a time of terrible famine, the emperor levied a sinfully excessive tax upon the people of Caesarea. The tax was such a heavy burden upon the already impoverished people that to avoid debtors' prison each family had to relinquish its few remaining coins and pieces of jewelry, including precious family heirlooms. Learning of this injustice upon his flock, St. Basil the Great, the archbishop of Caesarea, took up his bishop's staff and the book of the holy Gospels and came to his people's defense by fearlessly calling the emperor to repentance. By God's grace, the emperor did repent! He canceled the tax and instructed his tax collectors to turn over to St. Basil all of the chests containing the coins and jewelry which had been paid as taxes by the people of Caesarea. But now St. Basil was faced with the daunting and impossible task of returning these thousands of coins and pieces of jewelry to their rightful owners. After praying for a long time before the icons of our Master Christ and His All-Holy Mother, St. Basil had all the treasures baked into one huge pita. He then called all the townspeople to prayer at the cathedral, and, after Divine Liturgy, he blessed and cut the pita, giving a piece to each person. Miraculously, each owner received in his piece of Vasilopita his own valuables. They all joyfully returned home, giving thanks to God who had delivered them from abject poverty and to their good and holy bishop St. Basil the Great! In remembrance of that miracle wrought by God as a result of St. Basil's love and defense of his people, Orthodox Christians have observed the tradition of the Vasilopita each year on January 1st-- the date on which St. Basil reposed in the Lord in the year 379.
Recently, the St. Romanos Chorale gave a concert at St. Joseph Orthodox Church in Houston, Texas. Titled "God With Us," the concert was recorded and is now featured on AFR as a Christmas special.
The St. Romanos Chorale takes its name from the Syrian religious poet and hymnographer of the Orthodox Church, St. Romanos, who is considered to be the greatest of the Byzantine melodist-poets. The Chorale is composed of singers from Orthodox Christian churches in the greater Houston area, including many Antiochian Christians. The music is sung a capella in both Byzantine and Slavonic styles, predominantly in English, but also in Greek, Arabic, and Slavonic. The Chorale has presented beautiful Orthodox Christian music to audiences throughout Texas and neighboring states at venues including major colleges and universities.
The pan-Orthodox chorale is directed by Dr. William Attra, who directed the choir of St. George in Houston for many years.
His Grace Bishop Basil passes along this note from Metropolitan Saba of DOWAMA's sister-archdiocese of Bosra-Hauran:
Dearest and beloved brother in Christ, Bishop Basil: Thank you very much for your kind greeting on my Name's Day. Be assured that you, your clergy and all in your Diocese are in my prayers always. I want to thank you and all in the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America for the very generous donation of US$30,000.00 which, I know, was collected for us by much sacrifice and love. I received it last Tuesday before I left for Geneva to attend a consultation about what is transpiring in my country. How we need your prayers! I return to the Middle East tomorrow to take part in the consecrations of the new bishops for your Archdiocese, then I shall go back to my Diocese. Please ask your clergy to pray for us, our Church and our country.
A note from Claire Brandenburg of DOWAMA's newest congregation, Holy Annunciation Chapel in Taos, New Mexico (served from Holy Trinity/Santa Fe):
Dear Bishop Basil and our brothers and sisters of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America:
We thank you so much for DOWAMA's monthly mission grant to Holy Annunciation Chapel here in Taos. We were pleased at our Saturday Divine Liturgy that Fr. John Bethancourt made two new catechumens. We are now blessed with a family of four that are our first disciples in Christ here in Taos. Your donation is greatly encouraging. By God's grace and mercy we will continue to grow in His Name. Thank you - thank you!
In Christ Jesus,
Claire Brandenburg and all at Holy Annunciation in Taos
His Grace Bishop Basil writes:
To the Christ-loving Priests, Deacons, Monastics and Lay Folk of this God-protected Diocese:
I embrace and greet you with a holy kiss and the joyous festal proclamation:
Christ is born – ألمسيح ولد
Χριστὸς Γεννᾶται – Христос рождается
Hristos se rodi – Hristos se naşte
May God the All-holy Trinity grant you and your households the happiest of Feasts and a New Year filled with His abundant and rich blessings.
With assurance of my continued love, prayers and blessings, I remain
In Christ the Incarnate Word of God,
“The last one out of Oklahoma, Turn out the lights.” That’s what the T-shirt said. It was 1982. The collapse of the Penn Square Bank in Oklahoma City had set in motion a domino effect. What the whole country would experience with the collapse of the housing loan market in 2009, Oklahoma faced in 1982. Banks failed. Businesses and stores closed. Many lost their jobs.
Times were tough in Oklahoma. Times were tough at St. Elijah Orthodox Church in Oklahoma City. Church attendance had dwindled and along with it—the offering. Discouraged and disheartened—it was easy to complain and be divided.
It was 1982 when Fr. Constantine Nasr arrived with his wife, Sharon, and their young sons, Constantine and Philip. Fresh from their successful years at St. George in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, they found themselves in a raw, young state three months short of its 75th birthday. It was a state hardened by the frontier and toughened by tornadoes, the Dust Bowl years, and the changing price of oil and cattle.
His Grace Bishop Basil writes:
AXIOS! Deacon Philip Begley, son of Fr. Thomas and Kh. Beth Begley, formerly of St. Thomas Church in Sioux City, IA and now of St. George Church in West St. Paul, MN, will be ordained to the holy priesthood by the soon-to-be-consecrated Bishop John of the Diocese of Worcester and New England on January 8th, 2012. Deacon Philip is a senior at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA.
The First Annual Bible Lecture Series, featuring Fr. Paul Tarazi (firstname.lastname@example.org), will be hosted at by Fr. Aaron Warwick (email@example.com) and the congregation of St. Mary Orthodox Church in Wichita, Kansas, Friday and Saturday, October 28th and 29th.
Fr. Paul is a renowned author and speaker, and is Professor of Old Testament at St. Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood, New York.
The topic will be The Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Ephesians. For details view the lecture series flyer or contact the office at St. Mary Church (firstname.lastname@example.org). The flyer explains, "The epistle functions as a farewell speech similar to the one he gave to the elders at the Ephesus Church before heading towards his death. As both a final testament and universal letter to all the Pauline Churches, Ephesians is rich in content and addresses all major issues related to Paul's mission to the Gentiles."
His grace Bishop Basil writes:
AXIOS! On Sunday, October 2nd, 2011, Fr. Elias Issa of St. Basil the Great Church in Kansas City, Kansas will be elevated to the dignity of archpriest.
WORTHY! Subdeacon Mark Telschow of Holy Cross Church in Midland-Odessa, Texas will be ordained to the holy diaconate at St. George Church in Houston, Texas on Sunday, October 30th. Fr. Joseph Huneycutt of St. Joseph Church in Houston, Texas will be elevated to the dignity of Archpriest at St. Joseph Church on November 3rd. Subdeacon David Cook of St. Paul Church in Houston, Texas will be ordained to the holy diaconate at St. Joseph Church on November 3rd. Deacon Michael Fulton of St. Joseph Church in Houston, Texas and a senior at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School in Brookline, Massachusetts will be ordained to the holy priesthood at St. Joseph Church on November 3rd.
MABROUK! St. Anthony Church in Spring, Texas, where Fr. Anthony Baba is proistamenos, will be consecrated on the weekend of November 5th and 6th.
His Grace Bishop Basil recently recieved this letter of thanks from Hunger Relief International, the recipient of DOWAMA's 2011 charitable contribution as recommended by Fr. Seraphim Gisetti of St. John Chrysostom Church in Golden, Colorado and decided upon during the General Assembly at this summer's Parish Life Conference in Shreveport, Louisiana:
Dear Bishop Basil:
Our thanks to Bishop Basil and all the faithful of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America (DOWAMA) for the generous gift of $500.00 donated to Hunger Relief International. These funds will be utilized to provide food staples to the school-based feeding program run by the Orthodox Church in Port au Prince, Haiti. We will be providing rice, beans, pasta and oil to the school in early September, right before classes begin.
We appreciate your compassion and generosity in helping us to assist children living in extreme poverty in Haiti.
Hunger Relief International, Inc.
October 15, 2012, 2:00 pm– 4:00 pm
St. Basil the Great Orthodox Church
9302 Riverview, Kansas City, KS 66112
E-mail your attendance numbers to: email@example.com
Download Flyer (PDF)
St. Basil Antiochian Orthodox Church is offering a 2-hour workshop for Sunday School Teachers, Parish Councils, Priests, day care providers in your Parishes, or anyone interested in learning more about child abuse and how to best deal with it in your congregation or work.
The award-winning video Hear Their Cries: A Religious Response to Child Abuse & Neglect on the role of clergy and lay leaders in ending child abuse is a critical resource for all congregations. Produced by the FaithTrust Institute.
This movie will be the basis of a Mandated Reporter Training offered to all Orthodox Church Priests, Sunday School Teachers, and any day care providers in their congregations by Kh. Jeanetta Issa at St. Basil’s.
For more information, please download the event flyer (PDF).
His Grace Bishop Basil writes:
This Sunday, September 11th, 2011, is the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks upon our nation which took the lives of thousands of innocent civilians and first responders at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and in the peaceful farmland outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Attached hereto are texts which may be appended to this Sunday's Divine Liturgy (the first attachment is a prayer for those following the Byzantine Rite, which prayer is to be said after "Blessed be the Name of the Lord" and the Trisagion Prayers of Mercy; the second attachment is for those following of the Western Rite, which text is to be said after the Dismissal, Blessing and Last Gospel).
September 8, 1921 - September 5, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - Esther Massad Samara fell asleep in her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on September 5, 2011. She was born on September 8, 1921 in Drumright, Oklahoma to the Very Reverend George R. Massad and Khouria Bediyah (Hamra) Massad. The family then moved to Oklahoma City in 1937. She attended Classen High School and graduated in 1939. From 1939 to 1941 she attended Hills Business College, earning an Associate's Degree. Concurrently with school, she worked at the "Indian Post," a local mercantile store. On July 29, 1951 she married George R. Samara and together raised 3 children.
Camp St. Laurence near Canon City, CO
September 30-October 2, 2011
Download Flyer and Registration Form (PDF)
A Women’s Retreat with Lynette Smith and her book Voyage will be offered at Camp St. Laurence near Canon City, Colorado from Friday afternoon, 30 September, and concluding with Sunday Liturgy and brunch, followed by quiet time and departures for home.
Camp St. Laurence is an entire mountain valley surrounding Tallahassee Creek about twenty miles west of Canon City off Hwy 50. The valley is surrounded by National Forests and very quiet while revealing much of what makes Colorado such a beautiful and appealing place with great forests on the hillsides and cottonwoods and aspens along the creek. Lodging and meals are included in the modest tuition of $ 75 for a shared room. Private rooms are $95 and available on a first come basis.
Lynette Smith is a recognized Bible scholar and author and very committed to the Orthodox Christian Faith. She is a member of the choir at St. Columba’s Church in Lafayette, Colorado and has taught at other Orthodox parishes in the Diocese of Wichita.
For more information and a registration form, please download the event flyer (PDF).
5th Annual DOWAMA SOYO Basketball Tournament & Retreat
St. Elijah Church, Oklahoma City, OK
October 7-9, 2011
Featuring Speaker Alex Younes
What you need to know…
- Registration is only $20 but…
- …we’ll be staying in a hotel so you will need to pay for that (See flyer)
- Team registration cost is $50
- Individual registration and medical form MUST be turned in BEFORE the deadline of October 1st!
Please send release forms and team registration forms to:
St. Elijah Orthodox Church
Attn: ERIN LEARNED
15000 N. May Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK 73134
Questions? Contact DOWAMA Youth Director Erin Learned at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By His Grace Bishop Basil
Mary the Theotokos is very close to my heart, and, I am certain, close to the hearts of all who love her Son, Jesus. I can hardly think of her name without tears.
The August 6, 2011 Religion section of NewsOK published a profile of retiring priest Fr. Constantine Nasr written by reporter Carla Hinton. Hinton explains in the feature post that Fr. Constantine and Kh. Sharon have served the community of St. Elijah for 29 years, and Father will preach his last homily on August 14.
Assistant Priest Fr. Jeremy Davis is quoted as saying, “In terms of his legacy, he is the longest-serving priest at St. Elijah in its history....When he came here 29 years ago, the parish was divided, there were financial problems, lots of angst and turmoil. Now he leaves the parish in place of peace and harmony, in good standing.”
The article explains that Fr. Constantine has been noted for his ministry of developing young men for the ministry. Hinton writes, "...he saw St. Elijah's as a sort of training center because so many students and seminarians made their way there over the years in search of guidance and fellowship." Considered a hub for evangelism and outreach, the parish-under Fr. Constantine's leadership-spearheaded a 2009 pan-Orthodox evangelistic effort in the Oklahoma City area, "Discover Original Christianity."
The article concludes, "Nasr said he is excited about discovering the new ways the Lord will use him after he leaves the pastoral ministry. He said his excitement stems from his observation that numerous people are being drawn to the Orthodox Christian Church these days."
DOWAMA'S CAMP SAINT RAPHAEL (Ya Boy!) just concluded its 11th summer season. On behalf of our Clergy Brotherhood and entire Diocese I convey most sincere thanks to CSR's Executive Director GAYLE MALONE (email@example.com) and Camp Director FATHER JAMES SHADID (firstname.lastname@example.org) and all the volunteer counselors and staff members for all they do for our children and young people. Many years! Here follows a note from Father James as well as several photos from CSR's 2011 season. "Dearest Sayyidna BASIL, thanks be to God, another wonderful two weeks of CSR has happened. Though our time at camp has ended, the memories will last forever! Thank you, Sayyidna and all members of our DOWAMA Clergy Brotherhood, for the prayers and support you have always given the Camp. We are especially grateful for the wonderful priests you sent (Fathers Mark Haas & Joseph Huneycutt and Fathers Anthony Baba & David Lewis) to minister to the children and staff. They were phenomenal! We had over 150 campers each session from all over the Diocese. Videos from this year's two sessions can be viewed at Session ONE: www.youtube.com/watch?v=c... and Session TWO: www.youtube.com/watch?v=o... Again thank you for all the love and support. Your son, Father James"
A note form Fr. Daniel Bethancourt of St. Nicholas in Shreveport, LA: "Christ is risen! Please remember that PLC Early Bird Registration ends this Sunday, May 15th. The brothers might consider announcing that in their parishes this Sunday. Registration may be done online at www.antiochianevents.org/61 Thank you! Forgive me, Priest Daniel" Father Daniel may be contacted at email@example.com
A note from Dr. Nada Farah, president of DOWAMA's Fellowship of St John the Divine: "Dear Bishop Basil: Christ is risen! Please remind our clergy that 2011 PLC Parish Delegate/Report Forms are to be returned to me ASAP at firstname.lastname@example.org These forms as needed so that we can have accurate reporting of Diocesan statistics duringthe General Assembly at the PLC in Shreveport next month. I have received only 15 of 50. Thank you. Yours in Christ, Nada"
An important new resource has just been produced for Orthodox couples. In Mastering the Art of Marriage: Staying Together When the World Pulls You Apart, Antiochian priest Fr. Constantine Nasr (St. Elijah, Oklahoma City) writes about the love, commitment and hard work involved in making marriages last. "As a pastor for the last 38 years," he notes, "I have had many young couples discuss their plans for marriage with me. I have seen their joy, their excitement and their eagerness to enter into marriage. During the same 38 years I have had many married couples come to me with their marriages in trouble. These same young couples that had been filled with happiness were now filled with anger, distrust and pain. It is staggering to hear that two out of three marriages will end in divorce. It is not the statistic that staggers me. It is the massive pain of divorce that staggers me."
Fr. Constantine continues, "The old signs that guided couples are gone. Today young couples head off in any number of directions hoping it will lead to happiness. Sadly, those roads most often lead to divorce."
Bishop Michael Dahulich of the Orthodox Church in America calls the book "...a resource masterpiece (which) combines the wisdom of the Scripture and the Holy Fathers throughout the centuries and the guidance of modern scholarship and marriage counseling from our own time."
And he said to them, 'Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He said to you.' St. Mark 16:6-7
To the Reverend Priests, the Deacons in Christ, the monastics, and all the pious and Christ-loving Orthodox faithful in our beloved nation,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is risen!
On this radiant and sublime feast the sorrow of the disciples of our Lord was turned to astonishment and joy. Those whose world had seemingly come to an horrific end, found that their world had, in fact, begun anew and with splendor. The great enemies of the human race: death, sin, the devil and his twisted cohorts, lay collectively defeated, mauled and ruined in the tomb. Hades laments at its loss. No more was sin to tyrannize us. No more was the uncertainty of death to hang around our necks like a mighty millstone bending the human race down to the ground.
Claire Brandenburg, founder of Holy Annunciation Chapel and manager of the Heavenly Ladder Bookstore in Taos, New Mexico, speaks with Bobby Maddox about her efforts to spread Orthodoxy in northern New Mexico and about a new CD featuring the writings of Archpriest Sergius of Kasimov.
Fr. Theodore Ziton, formerly of St. George Cathedral in Wichita, Kansas (1963-66) and retired from St. George Church in Canton, Ohio, fell asleep in Christ this past Friday, April 8th. He is the father of Fr. Stephen Ziton, formerly of St. Mary Church in Wichita. Fr. Theodore was preceded in death by Khouriya Vivian. The schedule of divine services for Fr. Theodore (all to be held at St. George Church in Canton, OH) is as follows: Thursday, April 14th - special funeral service for a priest at 7:15PM; Friday, April 15th - usual funeral service at 10:30AM followed by graveside prayers, interment and the meal of mercy.
May his memory be eternal!
Pastor Emeritus of St. George Antiochian Church passes away at age of 81
The St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Canton, Ohio mourns the loss of their longtime pastor, The Very Rev. Fr. Theodore Ziton, who served the parish from 1975 to 1996. He passed away this past Friday, April 8, 2011.
Fr. “Ted” was born in Toledo’s north end neighborhood on August 7, 1929, the second of three boys, to Julia (Sabback) and Elias K Ziton. After high school graduation with honors, he attended the University of Toledo then transferred to Columbia University in New York when he was accepted into St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. He attended both institutions simultaneously, and in June ‘54 he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Science and a Master’s in Divinity.
The Teen SOYO of St. George Cathedral in Wichita will be hosting a 24-hour retreat on the Friday/Saturday of Bright Week, April 29-30, 2011. While the retreat is especially targeting teens from the Kansas Deanery, all teens of the Diocese of Wichita may participate. For details, please contact Fr. James Shadid at email@example.com.