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On the weekend of May 28-31, 60 families were in attendance at the Antiochian Village Family Camp for a weekend of prayer, fellowship and fun in the sun. As part of the Morning Program on Saturday, the children were able to visit the Convent of St. Thekla in groups. It was a beautiful day, and they were able to walk down while enjoying the sights and sounds of the woods surrounding the Convent. During their visit to the St Thekla Chapel, Mother Alexandra spoke about importance of prayer and how God helps us through prayer. To the children's delight, the bird that nests next to the chapel was also present sitting on her eggs. No news yet of baby thrushes.
The Antiochian Women of the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest invite women to the fifth annual retreat Friday-Sunday, May 14-16, 2010 at Dormition of the Mother of God Orthodox Monastery located at 3389 Rives Eaton Road in Rives Junction, Michigan.
Mother Abbess Alexandra of the Convent of St. Thekla at Antiochian Village will present the retreat, “Create in Me a New Heart,” focusing on the Holy Spirit in our lives. She will bring together reflections on the actions of the Holy Spirit through salvation history from the Scriptures and the Fathers with emphasis on our practical, daily synergy with the Holy Spirit.
The icon illustrates an ancient understanding of Jesus' resurrection as the gift he offers to all humanity on a renewed Earth. While all Orthodox churches are filled with icons, the Resurrection icon in the camp chapel at Antiochian Village retreat and conference center is one of the largest in Pennsylvania and possibly the United States.
"An icon is theology in color," said Mother Alexandra, founder of the Convent of St. Thekla, which also is on the grounds of Antiochian Village in Bolivar, Westmoreland County. The center, which also houses a museum and bookstore, is a ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Church.
On Pascha Sunday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published Orthodox Icons Are Seen As "Theology in Color", with extensive comments from Antiochian monastic Mother Alexandra. Click here to enjoy the article in full.
On March 3, 2010, an unexpected and out of the ordinary visitor arrived at the edge of the Antiochian Village property. A small black bear was sighted in a tree. A Game Comissioner was called in. He sedated the bear and gave it a mask to protect its eyes and mouth while being moved.
The Game Comissioner confirmed that this is out of the ordinary. After examination, it is clear that this young bear is ill and thin. He came out of hibernation early, and finding no food, he tried to locate some in the neighbor's garbage.
The Game Commission assured Mother Alexandra that sleeping beauty will be medicated, fed, and released somewhere good for bears.
The weekend of February 19-21, 2010, Mother Alexandra visited St. Nicholas Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. She presented two talks, “Monasticism and St. Thekla Convent,” explaining the history of monasticism, the monastic presence, and the monastic life, ministry and plans for construction of the Convent of St. Thekla at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania; and “Great Lent: Renewing Our Hearts and Minds,” discussing our journey as Orthodox Christians as a whole throughout our lives and also on a daily basis, highlighting Lenten themes, the sacramental life, personal prayer, and communion with God and each other.
During her visit, she was able to reconnect with some Antiochian Village campers and looks forward to seeing them this summer. She attended the services at St. Nicholas Church and also traveled with parishioners to Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers in Tarpon Springs. Mother Alexandra thanks Fr. Michael and Kh. Virginia Massouh and the faithful of St. Nicholas for their friendship and hospitality.
On Saturday, January 30, 2010, over 70 faithful gathered at St. George in Norwood, Massachusetts for a day of retreat, “Back to the Future with St. Ignatius of Antioch” sponsored by the Antiochian Women of the Diocese of Worcester and New England. Attendees included not just the women of AOCWNA, but even some of the teens who met Mother Alexandra at camp at the Village this past summer. The day began with Divine Liturgy followed by refreshments and included a fine Middle Eastern luncheon prepared by the women of St. George. Mother Alexandra presented two talks, drawing from the life and experiences of St. Ignatius of Antioch to provide reflections for daily Orthodox Christian living. The wisdom of the Saint provides real and practical direction for us today, if we take the time to read and hear his words.
On Sunday, January 31, Mother Alexandra attended the post holiday gathering of the Order of St. Ignatius at the Sheraton Four Points. As the afternoon’s speaker, she gave an overview of the plans for the Convent of St. Thekla, which have been fermenting over many years as a part of the growth of the Antiochian Village. Numerous women have contacted her since last summer, and some have come to visit, both encouraging signs for the blossoming of a monastic community. Presently, the site survey has been completed and now the work with architects can begin, so that by God’s grace the convent might begin construction of its new home.
Recently, some additions were made to the Convent of St. Thekla Chapel with the arrival and installation of lampadas and a silver cross. The cross belonged to Archimandrite John Namie, who was Camp Director at the Antiochian Village from 1978 to 1988. May his memory be eternal. As for the lamps, these beautify the chapel and remind all who pray herein of the constancy of faith required in our Christian lives. May our lamps be found burning brightly!
Over 20 youth attended the Middle School Nativity Retreat at the Antiochian Village Conference Center in Ligonier, Pennsylvania from December 11-13, 2009, where they learned more about God, themselves, their faith and each other. The theme, "In His Image", was presented by Mother Alexandra in three presentations: an informal discussion, a comprehensive look at the identity of Jesus Christ, and a reflection on how we can be living icons. Mother used many images of icons via Powerpoint to illustrate and aid in reflection. Other activities included indoor wacky and not-so-wacky games, a service project, craft opportunities, outdoor football, sledding, a camp fire with Christmas caroling, and a night hike. Fr. Anthony Yazge led the group in worship and in games, crafts, and teaching about almsgiving. On Saturday morning, there was a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Herman with a Supplication Service. Great Vespers was celebrated on Saturday evening and Orthos and Liturgy on Sunday morning, both in Ss. Peter and Paul Chapel. We wish to also thank Barli Brown who coordinated the retreat and chaperoned; Marek Simon, who led the night hike; and all of our chaperones: Paul and Debra Finley, Tad Klopcic, Anna Stickles, and Alex Vernet. Even if you don’t see a bright safety green “I am a Living Icon” T-shirt, remember that we are living icons and God is glorified in His Saints!
Thanks be to God, the Convent of Saint Thekla has been founded on the property of the Antiochian Village in July of 2009 by His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip. The Archbishop had long foreseen the establishment of a community of traditional nuns involved with pastoral ministry, withdrawing to pray and then returning to share their monastic life with the faithful. The plan is that the nuns will maintain a monastic schedule of services, private discipline and prayer, involve themselves in the many ministries at the Antiochian Village, and accept invitations from local parishes.
As Acting Superior of the Convent, I hit the ground running when I arrived, only unpacking some daily items, praying for the success of the seed the Lord has planted in His vineyard, and then walking over to the camp to greet the Staff and meet the campers. They have been eager for the presence of monastics and they came to me to introduce themselves and to ask for prayers. Many times I was told, “Welcome Home.” After only a couple of hours, I knew that I had met my newest, closest 250 friends. Over the next few days I had the opportunity to pray with our young faithful, to lead discussions, and to speak with them about our faith from the heart. Yes, there was the occasional football toss, the discussion of martial arts, our culture, and everything a person would ever want to know about nuns. We had a lot of fun, and it is meet and right that we should have enjoyed each other.
On Saturday, October 17, 2009, St George Orthodox Church in Houston, Texas presented a Special Banquet honoring His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP and the Archdiocese Board of Trustees to benefit the Convent of St Thekla. His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP, His Grace, Bishop ANTOUN, His Grace, Bishop ALEXANDER, and members of the Board of Trustees were among the honored guests. The Banquet was hosted at the Hilton Houston Post Oak where over 400 faithful enjoyed an evening of fellowship, fine food, and excellent music provided by the Lex Valk Trio. Thank you to our beloved Hierarchs, Board Members, clergy and faithful for their continued support of the Convent. Pictures taken by Judy Braun can be found at http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/AOCAphotos by clicking on St George Houston Banquet.
Heartfelt gratitude is extended to Fr. John Salem and St. George in Houston; Nijad and Zeina Fares, who were the Banquet Chairpersons and Sponsors; Mr. Ralph Albercia and Mr. Elias Shaheen, who were the Honorary Chairpersons; and the following: