Just over two years ago, twenty Orthodox leaders from various jurisdictions gathered at the invitation of Antiochian philanthropists Charles and Marilee Ajalat, and the Orthodox Vision Foundation. That meeting laid the foundation for the subsequent launch of FOCUS North America (Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding and Shelter), a coast to coast network of Orthodox Christian outreach ministries.
Since its inception, FOCUS has steadily added partner ministries ranging from homeless shelters to medical and counseling centers. On April 3, FOCUS Orange County was awarded the Community of Faith Award, an honor endorsed by the California State Assembly. By the end of 2011, the organization hopes to increase its number of directors, partner ministries, and student volunteers in the Youth Equipped to Serve (YES) program.
Executive Director Fr. Justin Mathewes studied business as an undergraduate and subsequently earned a masters degree and was ordained at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Chrismated in an Antiochian parish, Fr. Justin currently serves at a Serbian parish near FOCUS headquarters. With the Lenten season as a backdrop, we asked Fr. Justin to reflect on his first two years at the helm.
1. Since 2009 you've working to make FOCUS a reality and not just a list of organizational goals. What is the most important thing you've learned?
The most important thing I am learning through our ministry together is that the only person we can attempt to change is ourselves. In these last two years I have kept the basic Orthodox Christian spiritual principle before me of St. Seraphim of Sarov: “Acquire the Spirit of peace and thousand around you shall be saved.”
Antiochian Village Museum Curator Julia Ritter invites you to glimpse the architectural beauty of ancient Christian Syria through the latest exhibit at the Antiochian Heritage Museum.
From the lofty arches of a fifth-century church, to an elaborately carved palace doorway, the stone churches and homes of ancient Christian Syria were built from large, hand-carved blocks of stone, with often graceful results. Remarkably preserved for over a thousand years, these buildings of early Christian life and worship are presented in a series of photographs from the Princeton University archives, taken during American archaeological expeditions to Syria between 1899 and 1909.
The goal of the Syrian expeditions was to study, measure, draw, and photograph the ancient buildings, inscriptions and monuments of Syria, many of which had been abandoned for over a thousand years. Expedition leader Howard Crosby Butler was a Professor of Art and Archaeology, and founder of the School of Architecture, at Princeton University. Braving extreme desert conditions, travelling on horseback, and accompanied by a donkey caravan carrying limited supplies, Butler and his team eventually documented over two hundred ancient sites. Butler recognized the rare and extraordinary opportunity that lay before him: though in a state of partial ruin, these were original buildings, dating to the first centuries after Christ (and earlier), many of them untouched by the renovations of subsequent generations.
The April 2011 issue contains the following articles:
Domestic Violence: Where Are the "Well-Meaning" Men?, pg. 4
by V. Rev. Fr. David Randolph
Why the Church Needs Monasteries, pg. 6
by Roberta Royhab
Letting the Light of Christ Shine Through, pg. 8
by Janet Jaime
Thoughts on Living with Cancer, pg. 11
by V. Rev. Elias Bitar
Leaders as Spiritual Trustees, pg. 14
by Rev. Dr. Frank Marangos, D. Min., Ed. D.
...Nothing in this world but God can fill our heart or fully satisfy our desires. A fire cannot be put out with brushwood and oil, because only water will put it out. In exactly the same way, the desires of the human heart cannot be satisfied with the goods of this world, because only the grace of God can quench the thirst of our desires. + St. Innocent of Alaska
You evangelized the Northern people of America and Asia, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to the natives in their own tongues. O Holy Hierarch Father Innocent, Enlightener of Alaska and all America, whose ways were ordered by the Lord; pray to Him for the salvation of our souls in His Heavenly Kingdom.
-Troparion of the Feast, Tone 2
Listen to Fr. John Dunlop of St. Herman Seminary in Kodiak Alaska tell the story of his life and work.
Registration is still open for the Third Annual St. Emmelia Homeschooling Conference at Antiochian Village. The packed schedule from March 31st through April 3rd, includes side by side sessions for kids and parents, complimented by daily liturgies, akathists, and evening programs. Experienced home educators will tackle a range of workshop topics from the practical ("Drawing with Children") to the sublime ("Building Community").
On the weekend of April 8-10, Fr. Michael Ellias will lead the Antiochian Women of the East through their Lenten retreat with the theme, "Diligence in our Spiritual Life." A few weekends later on April 29-May 1, Dr. Vigen Guroian will head up the Village's "Weed and Feed" service weekend. Dr. Guroian is an Orthodox author and professor of religious studies in Orthodox Christianity at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. His most recent release, The Melody of Faith: Theology in an Orthodox Key, has been well received by Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike.
The editors at antiochian.org recently interviewed Antiochian Women President Cindy Nimey about the active archdiocesan organization and the critical role they play in carrying out the Church's gospel mission. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip has designated every March as Antiochian Women's Month, saying of the charitable group, "Through their hard work, dedication and commitment, they have continued to find many ways to strengthen their ministry." Or as President Nimey expresses it, "Alone we can only do so much, but as a group much work can be done."
1. Cindy, what does your role entail?
As the current president of the NAB (North American Board) Antiochian Women, finishing my second two year term, my role entails many tasks over the course of the year. The president presides over the two annual meetings held each year. Our mid winter meeting is usually held the first weekend of February at the Antiochian Village, our summer meeting is held mid July during the Archdiocese Convention and on the off year at the Antiochian Village. Our meetings are held coinciding with the St. John the Divine and Teen SOYO meetings.
During the year there are numerous tasks to perform, such as writing letters to the married seminarians at Christmas time-this includes a monetary gift of $500 which is gifted from a special account which was set up from funds raised through one of our many Antiochian Women projects.
His Grace Bishop Basil passes along an update from Japan:
Dear Orthodox family, thanks God, through the prayer of Orthodox family, situation of the suffered places is getting better. We appreciate your e-mails with prayer and thoughtfulness. They were translated and uploaded to Japanese page to encourage brothers and sisters struggling in Tohoku. And we were much grateful to know donation for this disaster had started in many places. Yesterday, we received photos of two church located in the Sanriku Coast, uploaded to the website: http://www.orthodox-jp.com/westjapan/earthquake/201103earthquake_en.html. There were five churches along Sanriku Coast, with deeply indented coastline, suffered by tsunami. We found out that one is destroyed, one is still unknown, but the other three were safe, even though minor repairs seemed necessary. Especially, Holy Ascension Church in Sakari (Ofunato) is quite safe, even though City of Ofunato is one of the worst destructed places. Bishop Seraphim of Sendai said the Diocese made contact with 80% of parishioners living in the coastal area and continue investigation on damage of parishioners, too. Please continue keeping us in your prayer. Fr. George and Maria
What is IOCC doing to help in Japan right now? Emergency Response Coordinator Jamie Helfer gives us the latest on the situation on the ground, what help is being offered and what to expect in the upcoming weeks and months. Click here to listen to the interview on OCN.
The latest update from the IOCC:
March 18, 2011
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — With financial support from an emergency grant of $25,000 from the National Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society and contributions by private donors, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) will provide humanitarian assistance such as medicines, food and other essential items to communities in the earthquake and tsunami-damaged Pacific coastal districts of Japan in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaragi. The assistance is being distributed by the Orthodox Church in Japan in cooperation with regional authorities. All of the aid to be distributed is expected to be obtained locally in Japan.
His Eminence Metropolitan Philip writes:
March 16, 2011
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” (Acts 2:44-45)
Once again we are confronted with the images of destruction, death and human tragedy in the wake of the severe earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on Friday, March 11th, 2011. More than 3,000 are confirmed to have died, with the toll expected to be higher. Countless people are homeless or without shelter, and the damage to the nuclear power plant is threatening to cause additional harm to the people and environment for many years to come. We have many Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ in Japan. Many of the churches have suffered damage from the earthquake, and the status of many of the faithful is still to be determined. As the quote above from the Book of Acts reminds us, it has always been the tradition of the Church to help all of those who are in need. As such, we are asking all of our parishes and missions to appeal for prayers and donations in order to assist the victims of this tragedy in Japan.
We encourage all of our faithful and parishes to channel their donations through the IOCC which has already mobilized resources to assist the people of Japan. You may go to www.iocc.org in order to obtain information about the IOCC’s relief effort in Japan and information on how to make a donation.
May our Lord bless the remainder of your Lenten journey.
Your father in Christ,
Metropolitan Philip, Primate
The Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
The faithful of the Antiochian Archdiocese offer prayers and condolences on the passing of Metropolitan Nicholas of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. May his memory be eternal!
Johnstown, PA – His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas (Smisko), primate of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) reposed in the Lord today, March 13, 2011 after a courageous battle with cancer.
Metropolitan Nicholas was born on February 23, 1936. The son of the late Anna (Totin) and Andrew Smisko, he is a priestly vocation from Saint John the Baptist Church, Perth Amboy, New Jersey. After graduating from Perth Amboy High School, he entered Christ the Saviour Seminary in Johnstown, Pennsylvania to study for the Holy Priesthood. Upon graduation, he was ordained on January 11, 1959 by Bishop Orestes in Perth Amboy, N.J. His first pastorate was at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Windber, Pennsylvania, where he served until 1962.
The faithful of the Antiochian Archdiocese wish to offer their fervent prayers on behalf of those suffering from Friday's earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Via his grace Bishop Basil, some information regarding the Orthodox community in Japan from Maria Matsushima Junko:
We appreciate your love and prayer. I received many emails from friends.
Nagoya, where I live is all fine. But northern Japan are suffered much. Vladika Seraphim of Sendai called Tokyo office by his cell phone and said that the cathedral in Sendai is safe, but he cannot contact with parishioners or recognize situation and damage of his territory, as telephone and electricity stopped. There are many small churches and chapels there and many brothers and sisters. Fr. Vasili is old and sick, living near coast.
The March 2011 issue contains the following articles:
Cultivating Inexpressible Joy, pg. 4
by V. Rev. Josiah Trenham, Ph.D.
Two Modes of Christian Being: Individual and Corporate, pg. 7
by V. Rev. Fr. Joseph Antypas
Reflections on Ministering to College-Age Orthodox Christians in a Postmodern World, pg. 8
by Rt. Rev. John Abdalah
How the SMI Changed My Life, pg. 13
by Venise Kousaie
Why Do They Wear Those Red Crosses?, pg. 14
by Robert Scarpa
Wrapping up a busy schedule of winter events, Antiochian Village served as the host for the "Men in Black" Clergy Appreciation Luncheon on February 22. The Village's first event was the January winter camp session. These two events bookmarked several key conferences and meetings which took place in the very busy month of February.
During the first weekend in February, the traditional mid-winter meetings were held for SOYO's leadership. Reports Fr. Joseph Purpura, Chairman of the Department for Youth Ministry, "The February 4-6, 2011 Midwinter Meetings of SOYO brought over thirty teens and advisors from across the archdiocese. SOYO continued its work begun at the 2010 SOYO Leadership Conference. The SOYO Diocesan officers reported on their progress and shared ideas with one another. SOYO Officers continued the development of their leadership skills, as Fr. Fouad Saba explored the scripture and its relationship to leadership. Elizabeth Mamey, a past NAC SOYO Officer, came back to SOYO to share with our current group of officers the skills she learned through her SOYO and Leadership training experiences. It was a weekend rich in fellowship, spirituality and accomplishments for SOYO."
Then on February 8-12, about two dozen OCF chaplains gathered for their three day conference to discuss the theme "Following Christ through Crisis."
"We have all heard our own children, or stories of other children, singing parts of the Divine Liturgy when they were either playing at home or singing in the car when they thought no one else was listening," explains Liz McMillan, Choir Director at St. Elias in Atlanta. Liz has capitalized on that natural love for music through her work with two Archdiocese Departments, Christian Education and Sacred Music; for years, she's taught seminars and written about how to introduce church music to children. Sacred Music recently published her groundbreaking resource guide as a PDF on their webpage. Titled "Introducing Orthodox Liturgical Music to Children", the two versions of the manual (Pre-school to 6 year olds and 7-12 year olds) cover concepts such as how to explain to kids why we sing the music we do, and how to structure music class time.
Antiochian.org interviewed Liz McMillan to find out why she dedicates so many of her volunteer hours to working with children and church music.
1. Tell us a little about your background, and how you came to be so involved in church music.
I started singing with the adult choir of my parish when I was 8 or 9 years old. I grew up singing in Sunday School and was a music major in college. I would say I fell into the music job in my own parish, eventually working with the children there. When His Grace Bishop Antoun visited our parish he was amazed at how our children sang.
The participants in the thirteen committees formed by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops have been announced. Antiochian bishops will be serving on several key committees. All of the members of each committee have been chosen as well as the respective committee Chairs, and the finalized list is available here. Under the oversight of each committee Chair, members will address the tasks as articulated in the Committee Descriptions. Each committee has the goal of assembling a minimum of one time, in advance of the forthcoming meeting of the entire Assembly in May.
In addition to the role His Grace Bishop Basil will play as Secretary of the Assembly, Antiochian bishops will be active in several other capacities. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip will be serving on the Committee for Canonical Affairs; His Grace Bishop Antoun will participate as a member of the Committee for Clergy Affairs; His Grace Bishop Alexander will serve as a member of the Committee for Ecumenical Relations; His Grace Bishop Joseph will chair the Committee for Pastoral Practice; and His Grace Bishop Thomas will chair the Committee for Youth.
February is a season for conferences, as Orthodox Christians go indoors to escape the cold while enjoying fellowship and spiritual enrichment.
In a cyberspace gathering on February 11 and 12, the organization Illumination Learning ("Bringing Together Orthodox Christian Resources to Share with Each Other") will be hosting "Orthodoxy in the Home" in the first annual Orthodox Christian Online Education Conference. The line-up of speakers includes Fr. Luke Veronis, who will talk about how to teach children about missions; the sister singers of Eikona, who will discuss "Teaching Our Families the Hymns of Our Church"; and Antiochian priest Fr. Joseph Huneycutt, who will expound on how humor and the funny moments of family life are teachable moments too. Go here to register virtually, for this virtual conference!
The following weekend, February 18 and 19, The Climacus Conference will tackle great themes in philosophy, theology and literature in their series of lectures held at St. Michael Orthodox Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Clothing, food, Plato, marriage, Dostoevsky, a movie screening and more, will be discussed by academic notables such as Vigen Guroian and by popular authors such as Conciliar Press writer Molly Sabourin.
That same weekend, the pan-Orthodox coalition North Texas Orthodox Missions, is sponsoring the 2011 Festival of Orthodoxy Conference in two Texas cities, Fort Worth and Dallas. Featured guests Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green and Dr. H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr. will speak to the theme, “From Conception to Dying: Orthodox Christian Views in Today’s World.” Go here for information and registration.
The February 2011 issue contains the following articles:
The Jubilee and Grace, pg. 4
by Sandy Hermansen
To Be Loved, pg. 7
by Fr. Michael Nasser
Envy and the Christian, pg. 11
by Fr. Daniel Morton
Global Economic Crisis?, pg. 15
by Fr. Joseph Allen, Th.D.
Christianity's Misbegotten Child, pg. 18
by Carole Buleza
The Promised Land and the Chosen People: The Two-State Solution, pg. 21
by Archbishop Cyril S. Bustros
PITTSBURGH, PA (Jan. 25, 2011)—Speaking to over 450 people at the Jan. 25 FOCUS Pittsburgh fundraising dinner, Theodora Polamalu challenged those present to put their hope and desire to help those in need into action.
Theodora and her Super Bowl-bound Pittsburgh Steelers husband, Troy Polamalu, are committed to caring for those in need. Theodora, FOCUS North America Advisory Board Member, said during her address to the crowd, “to treat every person as an icon of Christ is the foremost principle of FOCUS, the heart of its mission.”
Seeing that mission realized is what brought such a large crowd to the event, which was hosted by Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church’s Philoptochos Chapter and sponsored by the Pittsburgh Clergy Brotherhood. Through tickets sales, auction items, sponsorships and general donations, the event raised nearly $65,000 to further the good work of serving those in need.
"Following Christ through Crisis" is the theme of the 2011 Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) Chaplain Conference, which will be held at Antiochian Village on February 8-10, 2011. This yearly conference, composed of clergy and lay leaders of local OCF chapters, will feature Antiochian priest Fr. John Abdalah in the keynote sessions. Fr. John, a licensed counselor, is a seasoned OCF chaplain who has worked at the University of Pittsburgh. Fr. John is also a founder of the Orthodox Pastoral Counseling Institute in Pittsburgh.
A variety of mini-clinics will be available, featuring topics such as "The First Two Weeks of the Semester," and "Developing Continuity in Student Leadership."
Twenty scholarships covering all travel and registration costs are going to be awarded to qualified applicants, thanks to a matching grant offered by The Lilly Endowment for the Theological Exploration of Vocations. Current OCF chaplains as well as those interested in the chaplaincy are eligible and encouraged to apply.
Antiochian priest Fr. Michael Nasser, OCF's North American Chaplain notes, "It's simply the way things are: the great majority of college students today will face multiple crises during their college years. Most students do well until a crisis hits, and that's when many lose their way. We hope we can better equip our chaplains to help our students get through these challenging times, holding fast to Christ and His Church as their anchor." Click here for more information and here to register.
Byztex Blogspot reports, "On January 17th, birthday and name day of the Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan Antonio (Chedraoui) of Mexico, Central America and Venezuela, the new Cathedral of the Archdiocese, dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul was consecrated. The celebration included many Antiochian hierarchs - Metropolitan Antonio of Mexico, Metropolitan Sergio of Chile, Metropolitan Damaskinos of Brazil, Metropolitan George of Homs (Syria), Metropolitan Paul of Australia and New Zealand, Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo (Syria), Metropolitan Silouan of Argentina, Metropolitan John of Western and Central Europe, Bishop Antoun of Miami, Bishop Ghattas - superior of the Balamand monastery in Lebanon, as well as Bishop Alejo of Mexico (OCA)."
The cathedral is situated at Bosque Real in the Huixquilucan division of Mexico. At the consecration which began at 11 a.m., the attending bishops and clergy served in Arabic, Portuguese and Spanish. The faithful enjoyed the unique rendition of the doxology and psalms sung in alternating fashion by Bishop Damaskinos and the archdiocesan choir.
YouTube is carrying a Spanish summary of the consecration and surrounding events here. A Spanish description of the events can be read here at the cathedral website, while Byztex has provided an English translation to the cathedral report.
"We're looking forward to seeing you in 2011!" says the home page of the 50th Antiochian Archdiocese Convention taking place in Chicago on July 24-31. Hosted by St. George Orthodox Church of Cicero, Illinois, the convention is meeting at the beautiful Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile Hotel, where specially priced rooms are quickly filling up in anticipation of the summer convention. A packed schedule includes SOYO leadership training, a golf outing and a cruise down Lake Michigan, department meetings, a full liturgical cycle of services, Kids Clubs and the Bible Bowl, a Grand Banquet and a Hafli, and several special speakers. Travel discounts are available through United and American Airlines, and Avis and Hertz car rental companies are offering reduced rates as well. All Antiochian faithful interested in attending are encouraged to make their plans now to make use of the available discounts and to secure rooms while they are still open.
For more information, log on to the Convention website.