In the true spirit of Christmas giving, the community of St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and clergy from neighboring parishes gathered together on Saturday, December 22, 2012 with His Grace Bishop Thomas for Vespers followed by a Nativity dinner benefitting the Al-Kafaat Foundation in Lebanon. The cathedral’s parishioners and organizations collaborated and worked together to present a beautiful evening of good food and good fellowship. Full of good cheer, the church hall twinkled with Christmas lights and decorations. The Byzantine choir of the cathedral chanted liturgical hymns of the Nativity and the church school children’s choir sang Christmas carols. His Grace Bishop Thomas spoke of the importance of Al-Kafaat, service, and the blessing it is for each person to have the opportunity to support the Al-Kafaat project. Fr. Demetrios Makoul spoke briefly on the importance of supporting such causes and how they allow us to be a presence of light in the world. The proceeds of the evening were multiplied as parishioner-owned restaurants, as well as philanthropically-minded individuals, completely underwrote the cost of all the expenses for the event.
His Grace Bishop Thomas, Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic, recently spoke with Fr. Chris Metropulos, executive director of Orthodox Christian Network (OCN). The interview is featured on OCN's flagship show, "Come Receive the Light," within the episode titled "Making Choices Concerning Your Children."
In the interview, Bishop Thomas described his experiences as a teacher in public, private, and homeschool settings, and offered his advice to parents on making educational choices for children. He noted that "we shop for everything—things that are of little consequence. This (choosing a school) is extremely important, so I would suggest that in any particiular educational situation parents do some investigation; talk to people who have participated, both parents and teachers to see what the philosophy and theology of the school is." His Grace also discussed the pros and cons of homeschooling, and encouraged parents to avoid "the temptation of isolation."
His Grace Bishop Thomas visited St. Andrew Mission in Lewes, Delaware over the weekend of November 17th - 18th, 2012, and was welcomed by an appreciative congregation for Saturday Vespers and for the Sunday Orthros and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.
Bishop Thomas remarked: "What a difference a year makes!" The previous November we were still meeting at the Grange Hall. This time for Sayidna's visit, we had just been in the new building for six Sundays. It is good to be "home" and we enjoyed celebrating with our beloved bishop. We were encouraged to reach out to southern Delaware with the good news of Jesus Christ and the Holy Orthodox Faith. It was noted that St. Andrew's is the only Orthodox church in Sussex County and that we have a lot of people to reach. We ask your prayers.
During his August 2012 visit to St. Mary Church in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Bishop Thomas repeatedly stressed the importance of the parish’s work at the St. Seraphim Orthodox Center (SSOC) in downtown Chambersburg and urged parishioners to continue and extend this ministry to the wider community.
His Grace was presented with a report on the Center written by one of the parish’s high school students, Ariel Wetzel, who gave an overview of the history of the SSOC, as well as excerpts from interviews she conducted among those engaged in the ministry.
St. John Chrysostom Church in York, Pennsylvania recently welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas on the occasion of its annual patronal feast and 20th anniversary celebration.
Sayedna Thomas began the weekend festivities by attending a dinner with the parish council members and their spouses on Friday evening. On Saturday morning, His Grace had breakfast with the Antiochian Women, the first time that Sayidna had met with the local branch exclusively. Following Great Vespers on Saturday Evening, a gala banquet was held at the Golden Stories Restaurant in Columbia, PA. In addition to His Grace, the Rev. Fr. Peter Pier and the Rev. Fr. Gregory Matthews-Green were in attendance. The Banquet featured a congratulations from His Grace, comments from some of the founders of the church and a slide show looking back over the past 20 years.
Over the weekend of December 7-9, 2012, the community of St. George Church in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania was blessed to host His Grace Bishop Thomas. Friday evening saw a gathering of college students from the local Drexel, Temple, and UPenn chapters of Orthodox Christian Fellowship. During the Lenten meal the students talked with Sayedna Thomas about modern issues facing the faithful, including matters of science, bioethics, and medicine. His Grace encouraged them to always seek Christ and to pray that He sanctify whatever career they pursue so that their talents might glorify God.
His Grace Bishop Thomas writes:
December 6, 2012
Feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
Beloved Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic:
Christ is Risen!
By now, I'm sure you have all heard of the falling asleep in the Lord of our beloved Patriarch Ignatius IV. We are all saddened by the great loss suffered by all Orthodox Christians throughout the world.
I had the opportunity to meet with His Beatitude a number of times during the last twenty years. I first met him when I served as a deacon at the Church of St. George in Houston, Texas, when he underwent open heart surgery. His Beatitude passed on eight years to the day that I was consecrated a bishop. On December 5th, 2004, faithful from all over the world, including representatives from this Archdiocese, gathered at his home in Damascus. His Beatitude personally greeted each member of our delegation at his residence. He presided over the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and laid his hand on my head. I also personally met with His Beatitude at the Patriarchal headquarters in 2008. The genuine love he possessed for me and the faithful of his flock was evident during this visit as well.
Many of you have had the opportunity to meet with His Beatitude and receive his blessing. Those of you who have enjoyed such an opportunity should consider yourselves greatly blessed.
Though His Beatitude has passed on to the Church Triumphant, we remember how he led us, the Church Militant here on earth, time and time again toward the kingdom of God. The Church now calls upon us to remember His Beatitude in our prayers. God willing, as we pray for him, he will continue to pray for us, as he has done for these many years.
St. Herman Middle School Retreat at Antiochian Village
- For students in grades 5 – 8
- "Reading the Holy Scriptures: Weaving Ourselves into the History of God's Love," with Fr. Noah Bushelli
- Retreat package: $90.00 per student, including lodging and meals at the Conference Center
Beloved in Christ,
Greetings in the name of our incarnate God and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ!
However great the heaven of heavens may be, or the upper waters which form a roof over the celestial regions, or any heavenly place, state or order, they are no more marvellous or honourable than the cave, the manger, the water sprinkled on the infant and His swaddling clothes. For nothing done by God from the beginning of time was more beneficial to all or more divine than Christ’s nativity, which we celebrate today. (St. Gregory Palamas, “On Christmas,” The Saving Work of Christ: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas, p. 1)
What a truly awe-inspiring gift we receive in the Nativity of the Son of God, our great God and Savior Jesus Christ! At the beginning of the homily quoted above from St. Gregory Palamas, he says that his festal address “must be exalted therefore in accordance with the greatness of the feast” so that we can “enter into the mystery... that something of its inner power might be revealed to us.”
(Wappingers Falls, NY) On Thursday, October 25, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas was invited to attend a ROCOR Western Rite ordination at the Mount Alvernia Franciscan Retreat Center in Wappingers Falls, New York. His Grace Bishop Jerome, the ROCOR bishop of Manhattan and Vicar of the Diocese of Eastern America, presided over the ordination of Dn. Mark Rowe to the Holy Priesthood, and served as the principal celebrant at the Divine Liturgy. Bishop Jerome, who is bi-ritual and fluent in Latin, adorned western vestments and conducted the ordination service in the Western Rite, and said the Divine Liturgy (Mass) almost exclusively in Latin.
Father James Hamrick, an Antiochian Western Rite priest serving as pastor of St. John the Baptist Mission in Lewistown, Maryland, accompanied Bishop Thomas to the ordination. Bishop Jerome invited Fr. James to participate in the laying-on of hands during the ordination, and to concelebrate at the Mass which followed Fr. Mark’s ordination to the priesthood. Other ROCOR clergy who assisted in the service included Subdn. Anthony Bondi and Fr. Nathan Monk.
Father Mark Rowe was originally ordained an Anglican clergyman in 1997, and in 1998 was assigned as the rector of St. Mary the Virgin in Tampa, FL. Father Mark originally met Bishop Thomas in about 1998, prior to Bishop Thomas’ elevation to the episcopate, while (then Fr. Thomas) was still serving as a priest at St. Nicholas in Pinellas Park, Florida. It was in the years following that Fr. Thomas was instrumental in introducing Fr. Mark and his parishioners to Holy Orthodoxy.