“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV))
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
These promises are truths that have never been as evident in my life as they are today. I would love to take this opportunity to introduce myself and to share with you the wonderful beauty of God fulfilling his plans in my life, giving me hope and a very bright future.
I am Odeese M. Ghassa-Khalil, an Antiochian Orthodox, Arab-American parishioner blessed to be a member of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am also blessed to be the very proud mother of two wonderful young boys. As an Arab-American family, it is very important to us that we stay in touch with the Arabic world, our roots and history. It is also my desire one day to see and hear my two wonderful sons read the Holy Bible in Arabic. Because of my family and my church family, who have supported me and encouraged me to pursue and enjoy the many blessings and fruits the Lord had in mind for me, I currently hold a position at California University of Pennsylvania as the program coordinator and instructor of a new bachelor’s degree program in Arabic Language and Culture.
Every first Saturday of the month, our parishioners at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral gather for Divine Liturgy celebrated in the Arabic language. After I have chanted the Communion hymn, in Arabic, during Holy Communion at the end of liturgy on Sundays and on the first Saturday of the month, I am blessed with comments such as, “Wow, God bless you; that was beautiful!” “That was really beautiful!” and “Can you help me say this prayer in Arabic?” My brothers and sisters in Christ, your interest in my native culture and all of these wonderful words always bless me and brighten my day. Knowing that so many have shown interest in the Arabic language and culture, I become consumed with the desire to take everyone and anyone moved by my native tongue and teach them not only the prayers they want to say in Arabic, but also how to read and write in Arabic on their own. It is this God-given desire that has become my reality!
Today I am blessed with a job that allows me to share what I know about the Arab language and culture. This has been important to me as a wife, a mother and a professional, but it is very significant to me as an Arab-American woman. The Lord has blessed me with the opportunity to be involved in designing, planning and implementing an entirely new language program, teaching the language and the culture that I call my own. It has been such a great honor to be involved in such an endeavor. My excitement over having such an honor has been fueled by hearing and seeing the interest displayed by our parishioners, so I would like to share what I do with them.
Just recently, California University of Pennsylvania made history when the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and its Board of Governors approved the university’s bachelor’s degree program in Arabic Language and Culture. With this decision, Cal U becomes the first stateowned university in the nation to offer an online four-year degree in Arabic Language and Culture.
The Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at Cal U, working with the university’s Global Online Program – ranked No. 1 in the nation for Internet-based degree programs – now is offering a major, a minor and a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture. The program began in fall 2011. What makes it so special is that it is offered completely online. This means that the program is open to students anywhere in the world, and that they can obtain a degree from the comfort of their homes.
So if you are one of our parishioners who has the desire to learn Arabic, or if you want your children to learn this beautiful language, this opportunity is yours. Whether for work, for a future career, or for your personal enrichment and interest, you now can learn the Arabic language and explore the rich Arabic culture from the comfort of your own home. What’s more, you can actually earn a degree! In addition to learning about the beautiful Arab culture, its history, its strong family ties and structure, you can also meet a need in the American workforce. Research has shown that there is a critical need among our federal agencies for employees who can read, write and speak the Arabic language and understand Arabic culture.
If you are interested in learning Arabic, please let me know and I will be honored to help you get on board. I would be blessed by the opportunity to work with you while you learn the beautiful language and culture of the Arabic world. Please feel free to email me at Khalil@calu.edu, and I will be more than happy to answer your questions.
Finally, I must admit that I had an idea of what I might want in my life, but the Lord already knew the desires of my heart and had a plan to fulfill them in my life. Again, His words are truth, and I am proof of how He always fulfills His promises to help us prosper and to give us hope and a future.
Odeese M. Ghassa-Khalil
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral, Oakland (Pittsburgh), PA