works of the order in action
37 years ago, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip created The Order of St. Ignatius to enable the laity of our Archdiocese to organize and raise funds for various philanthropic endeavors that would make a difference in the lives of many. As you probably know, there is nothing more humbling in life than to learn that one’s act of charity or philanthropy has made a difference in the life of another person.
Over the past several months, you have had the opportunity to read articles prepared by some of those who have received grants from the Order. This year alone, the Order has given $267,340 towards these four specific projects. From its inception in 1975 to the present, the Order has given $260,000 to International Orthodox Christian Charities; $34,600 in scholarships for Orthodox college students to attend Orthodox conferences; $350,000 to enable our clergy to attend parish life conferences, our Archdiocese conventions and clergy symposiums; and over $2 million in scholarships for our children to attend camping programs. These Orthodox organizations and departments are a mere fraction of those that receive funds from the Order.
A ministry supported by The Order of St. Ignatius and many individual Antiochian parishes, Project Mexico is in the midst of its busy summer in Tijuana, Mexico. Home building crews have been working each week since May.
Two types of homebuilding groups participate each summer: small groups, and Orthodox Basic Training (OBT) groups. During small group weeks, teams from one, two, or three parishes construct a single home for a needy family and spend the afternoons interacting with the boys of St. Innocent Orphanage. During OBT weeks, larger groups travel to Tijuana to construct between four to seven homes in one week, and evening speakers each evening discuss a variety of Orthodox Christian topics. Two of this year's presenters are Antiochian priests Fr. Michael Nasser from Bowling Green, KY and Fr. John Bethancourt from Santa Fe, NM.
Ten short years ago in Wichita, Kansas, a group of Orthodox Christians wanted to reach out to struggling moms who had chosen to let their babies live. In addition to praying for them, we wanted to provide tools to help moms take their lives in a positive direction. The Treehouse was born.
Today, we have celebrated 15,755 birthdays and helped change over a quarter million diapers! Our goal is to practice our Orthodox faith daily in everything we do at The Treehouse, teaching moms that they are not alone in their struggles. We want them to know that, when their world seems like a very dark place, they have somewhere to turn for hope. We provide them and their babies with positive Christian role models and basic necessities, such as diapers, formula and an inexpensive thrift store. We offer, too, educational classes to nurture our moms so that their babies can flourish.
Sixteen years ago, at the tender age of twenty-one, Sonia Daly had a vision to open an Orthodox School near her hometown in Massachusetts. With her hard work and by God’s grace, Theophany School opened its doors in 1997. Since then, we have been working hard to foster the intellectual, moral and social development of our students by engaging their minds, nurturing their spirits, and enriching their God-given gifts and talents through the teachings and life of the Holy Orthodox Christian Church. Our small class sizes and child-driven curriculum let us educate the whole child, thereby cultivating each child’s strengths, and encouraging him or her to be an independent thinker and a thoughtful member of our School, and of his or her family and communities, ultimately guiding us all along the path to Christ.
In 1987 our beloved Metropolitan Philip established the Department of Missions and Evangelism, with the commission to bring America home to the Faith of Peter and Paul. This commission and calling, given not only to the leaders of the Evangelical Orthodox Church but to every Orthodox Christian living in North America, rings even truer today, and more urgently.
Without the necessary funds, however, such commissions often go unfulfilled. The Order of St. Ignatius has helped to fund this mission for over 25 years. Under the chairmanship of Fr. Peter E. Gillquist of blessed memory, and the spiritual advice of Bishop Antoun, the Department of Missions and Evangelism has been instrumental in raising up and receiving over a hundred church communities into our beloved Archdiocese. We cannot say that these churches were started only by the clergy, for the laity, moved to serve through the Order of St. Ignatius, provided the necessary funds for these efforts to bear fruit.
I have been so lucky to have served on the Governing Council of the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch for approximately ten years. The Council is a group of volunteers, elected or appointed members of our Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, that has the responsibility to make many of the important decisions for the Order. They are hard-working and dedicated parishioners from all of our dioceses across North America. I have had the pleasure to meet and work with these wonderful people, and the more I got to know them, the more I admired and loved them. They travel all over the U.S.A. and Canada (at their own expense) to attend meetings and to accompany our diocesan bishops during their visits to the various parishes. As an east coast U.S.A. parishioner, I probably would have not had the chance to meet such wonderful people from various parts of North America had I not joined the Order. I am blessed to have had this opportunity.
As Very Rev. Joseph Antypas wrote recently in The Word, “Orthodoxy is not a denomination.” “It is a way of life characterized by discipline, good character and a willingness to reach out to others.” This, in fact, is a great description of the members of the Governing Council of the Order. You can see the influence of the Order in many areas. Parishes are very aware of the Antiochian Village Camp scholarships that the Order gives to our youngsters. There are, however, many other projects the Order supports financially: for example, the annual contribution of $270,000 to the Retired Clergy Housing Allowance; $130,000 for Missions and Evangelism; $100,000 for Internet Ministry; the Married Seminarian Assistance; the Youth Ministry; Christian Education Fund; and many other worthwhile projects.
When Metropolitan Philip was an impoverished seminarian at the Balamand in the 1940s, he vowed that, one day, if it were up to him, seminarians who were willing to devote their life to service in the Orthodox Church would have the financial support from the Church that they need to complete their studies. By the will of God, he became Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and he has followed through on that vow. The Archdiocese supports seminarians in the Master of Divinity programs at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York, St. Tikhon’s Theological Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School in Brookline, Massachusetts who are discerning the call to ordination by providing scholarships for their tuition and a stipend to defray the costs of housing and other costs of living. According to the Annual Financial Report for 2011, 11.3% of the Archdiocese’s expenditures that year were for the education of those discerning a call to ordination. No other Orthodox jurisdiction in America supports its seminarians in this way. What a blessing!
Spiritual retreats, summer camps, and involvement in local Teen SOYO activities are among the many opportunities for teens to learn, grow, and become leaders in our Orthodox Christian Faith. For over 43 years, members of Teen SOYO have ministered to the youth across our Archdiocese. Every year, The Order of St. Ignatius funds Teen SOYO programs, such as Teen SOYO Leadership Training, and Special Olympics Sports Camp. With generous annual funding from the Order of St. Ignatius, Teen SOYO is blessed with many opportunities for development and expansion. Through the gifts and faith of members of the Order of St. Ignatius, Teen SOYO is able to elect new leaders annually and train them, and fulfill its mission of training and empowering youth.
The voicemail came as our family had just arrived at a campground outside Bryce Canyon, Utah, on a dry and dusty June afternoon. After we parked, the rest of the family was in our trailer setting up, while I went outside to return the call to the Archdiocesan office. I sat on the concrete picnic table, grateful for the rusty tin roof providing shade from the scorching sun. Our family had been eagerly awaiting news of my next assignment, having completed three blessed years in residence at St. Innocent Orphanage near Tijuana, Mexico. After leaving Mexico, we traveled around the Western United States both to enjoy some family time after the move from Mexico, and to fill the time as we waited with great anticipation to hear which community in this vast Archdiocese we would next call home.
“There’s something special going on in Bowling Green, Kentucky,” Fr. George Kevorkian, Assistant to the Metropolitan, said with excitement over the phone. As I racked my brain trying to figure out if I had ever heard of Bowling Green, Kentucky, he added, “I think you may want to check it out.” He explained that there was a fairly new mission that had really impressed him, and they were hopeful that they were financially ready to support a priest. Having been given the phone number of the coordinator of the mission, in one phone call I knew Fr. George was right.
Over the next few months, young people will be registering for one of the eight summer camps in our Archdiocese. If you know any of these young people who have been to camp before, you know that they have started their countdowns to the first day of camp. They spend hours on Skype and Facebook talking to their camp friends throughout the Archdiocese, and they go into a post-camp depression when they return home from camp.
So what is it about the camp experience that makes our young people love it so much? Certainly, there are many things that contribute to it: the friends, the activities, the counselors and staff, and being in the outdoors, to name a few. The thing that makes camp so special, however, is the camp environment, which presents a living experience of the Orthodox faith. In 1978, the Archdiocese purchased the Antiochian Village, and His Eminence Metropolitan Philip appointed the Archmandrite Fr. John Namie (+ 2001) of blessed memory as the first Camp Director. Thanks to the vision and leadership of these two great men, this mission of presenting a living experience of the Orthodox faith in the camp setting has become the standard at all of our camp programs in the Antiochian Archdiocese.
When asked by Constantine Nasr in 1998 why campers come to camp, Fr. John Namie responded,
[Christian living–] that’s why people come here: to learn Christian living by doing it. It’s the best way to learn. The best way to learn is by doing things. When you come to the Village, you get to do everything in a Christian fashion. You get to love each other, and that means that you get to share with each other your life.… We get to pray, both privately and in church. We learn church hymns, we have a good time at our meals, and we play a lot and play hard. It’s great to be at camp. It’s one of the greatest experiences that a young person can have.
The 9th Annual Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) College Conferences concluded as they always do – with college students longing for more spiritual nourishment and opportunities to be part of an Orthodox community. Thanks to the generous scholarships provided by The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch, over one hundred Antiochian Orthodox college students attended College Conference, along with their peers from other jurisdictions. One student explained, “I go to school in Arkansas and cannot tell you how grateful I am, both for College Conference, and for the scholarship The Order provided. There are not many Orthodox students at my school, and being here helps me to remember who I am and why my faith is so important to me.”
OCF is host to three separate conferences. One is held in the south at the Diakonia Center, one in the west at St. Nicholas Ranch, and the largest and most established is held in the east at the Antiochian Village.
The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch and International Christian Charities (IOCC)
In the parable of the Sower and the Seed (Matthew 13:1–23), Jesus explains to His disciples that the one “who receives the word on good ground is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Each year the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch makes a grant to International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). This annual grant of $25,000 is much like the seed or word which falls on good ground. IOCC uses this “seed money” and leverages it with grants from governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and churchbased charities to bear fruit in abundance. Here are some examples: