The Consecrations of Our New Hierarchs, Bishops John, Anthony and Nicholas
On Sunday, December 11, 2011, three new auxiliary bishops were consecrated for the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America at the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand, in Balamand, Lebanon. Their Graces John (Abdalah), Anthony (Michaels) and Nicholas (Ozone) were consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop for Worcester and New England, Auxiliary Bishop for Toledo and the Midwest, and Auxiliary Bishop for Brooklyn and Assistant to the Metropolitan in Englewood, New Jersey, respectively.
His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Patriarch of the Great City of God, Antioch, and all the East, presided at the liturgy and was assisted by twelve hierarchs, including Metropolitans Georges of Mount of Lebanon, Saba of Horan, and Paul of Aleppo, and Bishops Joseph (Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America), Moses (Patriarchate), Luke (Patriarchate), Ghattas (Abbot of Our Lady of Balamand Patriarchal Monastery and Dean of St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology), Demetrios (Safita), Elia (Pyrgou), and Mark (Brazil). His Grace Bishop Joseph represented His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip at the consecrations and was accompanied by more than 60 clergy and laity from throughout the Archdiocese, including many Archdiocesan board members. The group was organized and led by the Vice-Chairman of the Archdiocesan Board of Trustees, Mr. Fawaz El-Khoury, with assistance from Archpriest Thomas Zain.
Orthros began at 8:30 and the Divine Liturgy followed. The monastery church was packed to capacity and the entire service was broadcast live by Noursat Television (TELE Lumiere) in Lebanon and throughout the world. (The broadcast can be seen in the archive section of their website at www.noursat.tv) Just before the Little Entrance during the liturgy, the three candidates were led before the Patriarch to give their confession of faith, affirming and promising to uphold the teachings of the Holy Orthodox faith and pledging obedience to the Patriarch of Antioch, the Holy Synod, and the Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of North America.
Following the chanting of the Patriarchal Phimi, the three candidates were presented by their sponsors for consecration to the holy and sacred episcopacy. Bishops led the three candidates around the altar as the clergy chanted the troparia, and the Patriarch called on the Holy Spirit to descend upon them as the other bishops held the open Gospel book above their heads. After the consecration prayers were complete, the new bishops rose and were vested by their brother bishops to the shouting and repeated chanting of AXIOS! MUSTAHIK! WORTHY! They then took their places around the holy table next to their brother bishops as the liturgy continued. Prior to Holy Communion, while the numerous clergy were communing, the Patriarch addressed the new bishops and, one by one, each responded with dignity and graceful words. They were then presented with their mitres (crowns) and pastoral staffs. At the same time, the Patriarch also made a surprise announcement, elevating Bishop Joseph to the rank of Archbishop in honor of his many years of service as a bishop both in the Archdiocese and in the Patriarchate. May God grant him many years!
At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the three candidates had the opportunity to receive the good wishes of the hundreds of people present. Then the entire group, along with invited guests, enjoyed a wonderful meal and celebration at a local restaurant in the village of Kfar Hazir.
While the highlight of the trip was the Divine Liturgy on December 11, there were many other memorable and significant events before and after that sacred morning. On our first full day in Lebanon, His Beatitude welcomed the delegation at the patriarchal residence at Balamand. We were able to greet and receive the blessing of the Patriarch individually, and to hear his inspirational words of welcome. Following the visit to the Patriarch, we were also welcomed by the President of the University of Balamand, Dr. Elie Salem, and the Dean of Admissions and Registration, Dr. Walid Moubayed, who gave the delegation an overview of the university and its history. Following a brief tour of the university, the delegation was then welcomed at the St. John of Damascus Theological Institute, which is also part of the University of Balamand. After His Grace Bishop Ghattas, the Dean of the theological school, addressed and welcomed the group, the delegation toured the theological institute and monastery.
On Saturday evening, December 10, the then- Archimandrite Anthony was received in his ancestral home of Qalhaat. The entire village awaited his arrival and rang the church bell as our buses pulled up. The village priest welcomed the three bishops-elect and the group in the center of the village. We then processed to the village church for prayers of thanksgiving and a reception in the church hall, before proceeding to the Balamand for Great Vespers. Likewise, on Sunday afternoon, following the banquet, the entire group ascended the mountains to the village of Douma, the ancestral home of Bishop John, and was treated to a similar experience. In both cases, the clergy and faithful of these two ancient and predominantly Orthodox villages warmly received us as though we were family they had not seen in many years, returning from a long journey.
After the visit to Douma on Sunday evening, the group attended a concert at St. George Cathedral in Beirut, part of a Christmas concert series held in many different Christian churches in Beirut. We were fortunate, as the concert in the Cathedral coincided with our visit. We were treated to wonderful Byzantine music by the Orthodox choirs (adult and children’s) of the Archdiocese of Beirut, under the direction of Father Romanos Joubran. Most of the music was from the Nativity Matins service. Everyone was amazed at the beauty of the voices giving praise to God. After the concert, the group had a chance to spend time and explore the cafés and shops of downtown Beirut.
In addition to the official activities, the group had a chance to visit many sacred and other historical sites around Lebanon, including places like Ba’albek, Tripoli, Byblos, Jeita Grotto, Harissa, the Monastery of our Lady of Nourieh, the Gibran Khalil Gibran Museum and the Cedars. There was very little time to rest over the five days, as Fr. Thomas and Fawaz wanted the group to experience as much of Lebanon as possible.
On the delegation’s final day, prior to a visit to the ancient ruins in Ba’albek, we were welcomed at one of the Al-Kafaàt campuses by the Shwayri family (the founders of Al-Kafaàt) and members of the Board of Trustees of Al-Kafaàt. The group was able to tour “The Village,” as it is called, and see firsthand how Al-Kafaàt is helping people with special needs. They could also view the progress of the building of the new structure that is sponsored by the Archdiocese. Everyone was deeply moved and impressed by the work being done there. At the end of the visit, the group was treated to a lovely reception and given a small gift produced by the people at Al-Kafaàt as a keepsake of the visit.
This historic trip was a great experience for all who were able to participate. For many, this was their first visit to Lebanon. For others, this was an opportunity to see and meet old friends. Some members of the delegation were able to visit their ancestral villages for the first time and meet new relatives that they never knew they had. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect, in concrete terms, what before was only an imagination in one’s mind. We were able to receive the blessing of our saintly Patriarch who, at 92 years, has more stamina and strength than most people half his age. We were able to see and touch the places, people and projects that our father in Christ, Metropolitan PHILIP, has often talked about and asked us to support, such as the University of Balamand, the St. John of Damascus Theological School, and Al-Kafaàt. Most importantly, we were able to to witness the consecration of our new bishops, and to chant AXIOS! as people who actually know these three godly men. For all these reasons, we thank God for this holy and sacred journey to our Mother Church. We are thankful to all the people in Lebanon who welcomed us. Everywhere we went, we were treated as family and brothers and sisters in Christ, rather than tourists. Finally, we are grateful to Mr. Fawaz El-Khoury and Archpriest Thomas Zain for all their hard work in planning this sacred pilgrimage to witness this holy and historic event.
May God grant our new bishops many years as they begin shepherding their flocks in our Lord’s vineyard.
Biographical Sketches of Our New Bishops
Bishop John (Abdalah) holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Care from Pittsburgh Theological School, a Master of Divinity from St. Vladimir’s Seminary, a Master’s equivalency certificate in Pastoral Counseling from Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. He is a clinical member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. He taught Pastoral Counseling in the graduate program at the St. John of Damascus Institute at the Balamand in Lebanon. Bishop John served as a priest of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America for 33 years and has been Dean of St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the past 16 of those years. Before that, he served 16 years in New Kensington, and one year in Little Falls.
Bishop John has also served as Editor of The WORD for the past 14 years, the Spiritual Advisor for the Antiochian Women for the past 14 years, and Dean of the Western Pennsylvania clergy and churches the past 24 years. Fr. John also served for 7 years as NAC Spiritual Advisor for the Fellowship of St. John the Divine. Fr. John teaches Priestly Formation for the Antiochian House of Studies and mentors our full-time seminarians for the Antiochian House of Studies programs.
Bishop Anthony (Michaels) attended the University of Michigan, where he received his B.A. in Literature, Science and the Arts, having a double major in History and English literature. Following his university degree he attended St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree and graduated as a valedictorian of his class. Besides English, he has a reading knowledge of biblical Greek and is currently learning Arabic, at the request of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip.
He taught modern philosophy at Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, Michigan, before becoming a pastoral assistant and youth director at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, for two years. He and fellow seminarian Fr. Patrick Kinder held positions of youth coordinators at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Akron, Ohio, while they toured the country giving concerts and retreats as part of the group KERYGMA. Fr. Anthony also spent two years based in Nashville, Tennessee, at St. Ignatius Antiochian Orthodox Church in Franklin, Tennessee, recording for KERYGMA with Fr. Patrick and Fr. Michael (Alan) Shanbour. Bishop Anthony has lectured extensively in North America, speaking to youth groups and church retreats for various jurisdictions besides his own.
Bishop Anthony was ordained to the priesthood on September 19, 2004, at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in West St. Paul, Minnesota. He served his home parish for seven months, then lead the faithful of St. John Chrysostom Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Bishop Nicholas (Ozone) was born in Damascus, Syria, on January 4, 1963. He attended the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. He also attended the French Lycée Laïque elementary and middle school, and the Omia High School. He holds the following degrees from Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts: a Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering; Master of Science in Computer Engineering; and a Specialization Certificate in Object-Oriented Design, Architecture, and Coding. He also has a Master of Divinity degree, awarded with Highest Distinction, from studies undertaken between September 2002 to May 2005 at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He has also attended many professional engineering conferences and courses and conferences on psychology and human behavior. Bishop Nicholas speaks Arabic and English fluently. His second language in Syria was French, which he has used, along with Hebrew, Ancient Greek, New Testament Greek, and modern Greek, to conduct research on theological subjects.
Bishop Nicholas was ordained to the Holy Diaconate by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, April 23, 2004, and to the Holy Priesthood by His Grace Bishop Antoun, January 9, 2005. He was assigned to St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, by His Eminence for the period August 2005 to the present. He was elevated to the dignity of Archimandrite by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip on February 14, 2010.