Diocese of Charleston News
(Adapted from The Word, March 2013)
Last fall, the Antiochian parish of St. Mary in Chambersburg, PA, began its fourth year of service to the surrounding community through the St. Seraphim Orthodox Center (SS OC). Affiliated with the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS), the ministry serves lunch to some 35 to 45 guests on Thursdays and Saturdays, complimenting the lunch schedule of the local Salvation Army.
During his August 2012 visit to St. Mary Orthodox Church, His Grace Bishop Thomas repeatedly stressed the importance of the parish’s work at the Center in the downtown area, and urged parishioners to continue and extend this ministry to the wider community.
“Our Roots Run Deep” was the theme for St. George Orthodox Church’s 100th Anniversary Celebration which was celebrated with much joy and enthusiasm on the weekend of November 3, 2012.
The 100th anniversary celebration actually had kicked off a year prior, on November 5, 2011, with our Fourth Annual Sacred Arts Festival (see article on p. 28 in May 2012 issue of The Word magazine). It was a successful event and a great opportunity to share our Orthodox faith and Syrian heritage with the local community. The event included speakers, iconographers, vendors, our own bookstore, and a Byzantine choir concert.
Next, we remembered our heritage at our annual St. George Day Brunch held on May 12, 2012. At this annual feast day celebration, we recognize church school students, altar servers and high school seniors. Additionally, we recognized a couple of parishioners who were nominated for having admirably served the church.
His Grace Bishop Thomas came to visit St. Raphael of Brooklyn Church in Chantilly, Virginia on the weekend of December 15-16, 2012, and presided at Vespers on Saturday evening, as well as Orthros and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday.
This was the culmination of another successful year for the mission, which was established in 2006 and located 20 miles west of our nation’s capital. The mission has grown from 20 members to its present 140 under the leadership of Fr. Thomas Palke. The congregation has made the transition from setting up for Sunday liturgies in an established location that offers a sizable sanctuary, nave, and narthex, plus classrooms and a social area. During the past two years the parish has built an iconostasis that can be expanded as the congregation grows. A lovely platytera icon adorns the wall behind the altar, and the nave is surrounded with a complete set of festal icons.
The former Deacon A. Gregory Roeber of St. George Orthodox Church in Altoona was elevated to the priesthood as Father Anthony in services on Saturday, February 9, 2013.
The Right Reverend Thomas Joseph, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese was the ordaining hierarch. The ordination occurred during the bishop’s annual visit to the Altoona parish. He was assisted by priests and deacons from his diocese, the Diocese of New York and Washington, D.C., the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania, Orthodox Church in America, and the Carpatho-Russian Diocese of North America. The Very Rev. Anthony G. Yazge, Interim pastor of St. George, and the Very Rev. Donald E. Shadid, pastor of St. Mary Church, Johnstown were the sponsors for the new priest. Priests and deacons who concelebrated included The Very Rev. Nicholas Alford, Washington, D.C., The. Rev Joseph Gereige, visiting from Lebanon, The Very Rev. Nicholas Ferencz of Scranton, Pa.,The Rev.Deacon Glenn McIntyre, Brownsville, The Rev. Deacon David Jacobs, Antiochian Village, and The Rev. Deacon Alexander Cadman, State College. These clergy were assisted by Subdeacon Todd Mokhiber, Antiochian Village, Bolivar; and St. George members Subdeacon Joshua Kollat, Reader James Johns, and Acolyte Ethan Kollat.
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.
Over the weekend of October 19-21, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas, visited Holy Ascension Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania. His stay began with prayers at Daily Vespers on Friday evening, followed by a fine Mediterranean dinner at a local restaurant with our parish council. There, the parish council invited His Grace to come back next Spring for a proposed “ground-breaking” prayer service and ceremony to kick off our expansion project. That project includes growing our existing place of worship, in addition to adding more classes for Sunday School, a new kitchen, and a modest size parish hall. His Grace blessed the idea and has scheduled to visit our parish March 23-25, 2013. He also challenged the parish to plan for a Pan-Orthodox Vespers service to be held at one of our local Orthodox parishes for that Sunday evening, which happens to be the Sunday we commemorate the Triumph of Orthodoxy, and is the Vespers service for the Great Feast of Annunciation. Excitement is growing over this idea as our parish desires to come more fully to know our Orthodox clergy, brothers and sisters of our surrounding parishes.
On October 9, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas of the Diocese of Charleston received a missions report from the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church of Göteborg, Sweden. Last summer two Swedish Orthodox Christians, Herman Fields and Mikael Fälthammar, had participated in a two-week residency at the Antiochian Village in Pennsylvania as part of the St. Stephen's Course, in the Antiochian House of Studies School of Orthodox Theology. "We were immensely blessed," wrote Mr. Fields and Mr. Fälthammar, "by meeting many Orthodox brothers and sisters in the United States.
"We want to express a special thank you to Fr. Joseph (Allen), Adn. Peter (Boulukos), Cheri Mullins and all the faculty of the House of Studies," they continued, "as well as to our hosts His Grace Bishop Thomas, and Paul Finley, for all your help and hospitality. We felt rejuvenated and encouraged by two intense weeks of spiritual fellowship and learning."
The rest of the newsletter reported on the work of the Swedish mission. "In the heart of Göteborg, we are very blessed to be able to borrow a basement venue, under a large church.
On the weekend of October 14, 2012, Sayidna Thomas visited St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Sayidna arrived on Friday afternoon and that evening had dinner with the Parish Council and their families. Suanne Moses, the President of the Council, welcomed Sayidna and hoped that he would have a good visit at St. Mary’s. During the meal they spoke about the life in the parish and about the economic growth in the area which is connected mostly to the service industry. Sayidna noted that there were several new hotels in the area and stated that they would provide an opportunity for interested Antiochian Orthodox to find work in this area. He particularly noted how in Pennsylvania the price for housing is relatively inexpensive compared to other metropolitan areas. He hoped that this would be attractive to people looking for a less expensive life in a beautiful geographic area who could become viable members of our Orthodox parish.
In 1987, in the beautiful Pennsylvania borough of Emmaus in the Lehigh Valley, the third largest metropolitan area in Pennsylvania, the mission church of St. Paul was officially founded as a mission of the Antiochian Archdiocese with the blessing of the parish constitution by His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip. Over the past twenty-five years, the parish was led by its founding pastor, the V. Rev. John Kahle of blessed memory (1987-1999), the V. Rev. Theodore J. Mikovich (1999-2009), and the current pastor, the Rev. Andrew Stephen Damick (2009-present).
During its time in the Lehigh Valley, St. Paul Church has been a haven for English-language Orthodox Christian spiritual life and is known both locally and beyond for its love and hospitality to visitors of every background. On the weekend of Oct. 5-7, 2012, St. Paul’s celebrated twenty-five years of this witness, including a full two days of liturgical services (Great Vespers, Matins and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, two days in a row), celebrating not only the regular Sunday services but also on Saturday the feast of the Apostle Thomas, the nameday of His Grace Bishop Thomas, who presided over the weekend celebrations. The anniversary weekend also included a brief and challenging retreat led by the V. Rev. Dr. Alexander Atty, Dean of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.
It’s a place we call home, a place where our youth gather every summer, a place where relationships are formed and strengthened, a place that is so difficult to leave, and a place where Christ is truly present. This special place is the Antiochian Village Camp, a family that has influenced our Archdiocese for many years in inexplicable ways. I have been involved with the Village for the past fifteen summers— nine as a camper and CIT, and the past six as a staff member. Every year I fall more in love with the Village, the ministry, and the Orthodox Church.
The influence the Camp has had on our youth is incredible! I have grown up at St. Mary’s Church in Johnstown, a small town in Western Pennsylvania. I have seen the effect the Village has had on our youth in my home parish, our diocese, as well as the youth from around the country.
Fr. Noah Bushelli of St. Philip Church in Souderton, Pennsylvania writes:
It is always a blessing to be Orthodox and to be laboring in God's Vineyard, but this blessing is highlighted with an archpastoral visit. Bishop Thomas's stirring sermons, practical wisdom and common touch inspire us to bear greater fruit to God's glory. We are laboring day and night to building up our parishioners in ministry and also to build up our parish through outreach efforts. Glory to God! Here are some of our efforts:
"Oh your mark, get set, go!" Antiochian Village's annual 5K Trail Run will benefit the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, and many runners have registered to participate in the event, slated for Saturday, October 6, 2012. Special Olympics PA provides year-round training and competition in 23 Olympic-type sports, to more than 20,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. One hundred percent of the AV5K Trail Run registration fee goes to Special Olympics.
Antiochian Village is an ideal setting for this event. At this time of year, spectacular fall color will welcome runners and walkers of all ages on a moderately challenging wooded course. Prizes and refreshments will be awarded at the finish line.
The run comes just two weeks before Special Olympics Awareness Day, which is sponsored by SOYO and aimed at raising funds to underwrite the Village's summer Special Olympics program.
Registration will be open the day of the Run at 9 a.m. in the Village Conference Center.
Pilgrims gathered for the annual St. Thekla Pilgrimage at the Antiochian Village from September 21-23, 2012, joined by presiding hierarch His Grace Bishop Thomas, and the Abbess of the Convent of St. Thekla, Mother Alexandra. The Pilgrimage began on Friday evening with Great Vespers, followed by dinner, a showing of the Oscar nominated movie "The Help," and a discussion led by Fr. Anthony Yazge, Antiochian chair of the Department of Camping.
On Saturday, the Pilgrimage continued with a Hierarchical Liturgy at St. Ignatius Chapel at the Camp, followed by fellowship at brunch and an afternoon of activities which included workshops and discussion on "The Family and the Media" and "The Sacraments." Pilgrims also attended the Supplication Service to St. Thekla with anointing with oil from the Shrine in Maíaloula, Syria, and enjoyed a Chapel tour with Village Director Paul Finley. Afterwards, there was time for prayer, rest and reflection, and an opportunity to tour the Antiochian Heritage Museum.
2012’s clergy retreat for the Eastern Dioceses (the Dioceses of New York and Washington, D.C.; and of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic), held from September 17-21, centered on the spiritual life of the pastor. Its keynote speaker was the distinguished Dr. Christopher Veniamin, Professor of Patristics at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. Dr. Veniamin spoke with thoughtful and true words about spiritual renewal, but “beyond that,” he said, the retreat was really about “inspiration: the art of inspiration in the Orthodox patristic tradition.”
The deacons of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic met with His Grace Bishop Thomas Joseph for their fourth annual retreat. This year, the retreat was held jointly with the annual Saint Thekla’s Pilgrimage at the Antiochian Village, September 21-23. For the first time, deacons from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America and the Orthodox Church of America also participated in response to Sayedna Thomas’ invitation to deacons from all canonical Orthodox jurisdictions who had received a blessing from their hierarchs to attend.
Registrations will be accepted until October 30, but PLEASE HELP US OUT BY REGISTERING TODAY!
Please download and send in your form so we can make class handouts. See you soon!
Now is the time to register for the Orthodox Institute 2012: Culture. Morality. Spirituality. Held at Antiochian Village, Ligonier, PA, on November 1–4, this year's conference will survey current cultural views, beliefs of the church, and the challenges facing young people. Registration is open until October 14. Keynote Speaker Dr. Peter Bouteneff of St. Vladimir's Seminary will be joined by Featured Presenters Dr. Vigen Guroian (University of Virginia) and Dr. Philip Mamalakis (Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology). The conference offers panel discussions, lectures, and fellowship for Orthodox educators, parents and clergy.