On June 23, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas was solemnly received at Vespers by Fr. Alban Waggener and the members of Holy Trinity Western Rite Orthodox Mission in Lynchburg, VA. We were doubly blessed to have Fr. Olaf Scott, the Dean of the Virginias, and Kh. Eva in attendance. The Scotts' daughter Lisa and family are members of Holy Trinity. After Vespers, His Grace spoke to the congregation about supporting their priest and encouraged them to seek out ways to be of assistance within the mission. His Grace then joined the mission council for dinner at the Waggener home, where he discussed many topics, including the present situation in Syria.
On Saturday August 18, eight Orthodox clergy, future residents and their families, and friends of the Sheltering Tree gathered in an open lot in Bellevue, Nebraska--despite the threat of rain--to pray with His Grace, Bishop Basil of The Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, as he blessed the building site for The Sheltering Tree I, a communal residence for developmentally disabled persons.
The Sheltering Tree I is the result of much faith and prayer and hard work. This first Sheltering Tree will be a home for 10 developmentally disabled persons who will enjoy independence in their own distinct apartments, surrounding common areas for community life. Live-in managers will provide support for the residents. The two-acre site was secured with funding via a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant, The Topeka Federal Home Loan Bank, and many personal offerings--totaling over $2 million.
God’s presence was evident at the blessing when the rainy clouds dispersed and warm rays of sunshine accompanied His Grace’s arrival at the site.
On the weekend prior to the commemoration of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29, 2012), His Grace Bishop Thomas made an episcopal visit to the faithful at St. John the Baptist Church in Lewistown, Maryland. His Grace presided at Vespers on Saturday, August 25th and at Matins and Divine Liturgy on Sunday, August 26th. The visit marked the fourth time that Sayedna Thomas had visited the mission since it was established by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip on March 20, 2009. St. John the Baptist Mission, located about 65 miles from Baltimore and Washington, is the only Western Rite Antiochian Orthodox church in Maryland.
During the weekend celebrations, Bishop Thomas shared with the people how the commemoration had personal significance for him since he had served his first Divine Liturgy as a newly ordained priest on the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. His Grace proclaimed that the patron of the mission was not one who was politically-correct, but was rather one who was bold in the faith—who had “guts” and was willing to stand for the truth — and who, like the Theotokos, was willing to say “yes” to God, no matter the cost. Bishop Thomas encouraged the people of St. John the Baptist to follow the example of their patron, the Forerunner of Christ.
Christ the Savior Academy opened Monday morning at St. George Cathedral/Wichita, KS. This is the second classical day school in the Diocese of Wichita, the first and oldest being St. Peter's Classical School at St Peter/Fort Worth, TX. Mrs Trent (Jennifer) Sebits, a member of the Cathedral and President of the Academy's Board of Trustees, wrote of Monday's opening: "Thanks be to God! Today marks the fulfillment of the fervent prayers and feverish work of so many people, namely each one of you. As I write this email, the story of our little school opening its doors is reaching online newspapers such as the San Francisco Chronicle, San Diego Bee, San Antonio Express and the Palm Beach Post, not to mention some in Kansas: The Wichita Eagle, Topeka Capital Journal and the Hutch News. After Susanne Tobias of the Wichita Eagle wrote the story, the Associated Press picked it up and newspapers around the country have posted it on their web sites. Please find the story here.
The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch is accepting applications for reimbursement from mission priests for expenses incurred in travel to Parish Life Conferences, the Archdiocese Convention or the Bi-Annual Clergy Symposium. Please note that reimbursement of these expenses is for first pastors of small parishes and missions only, and that relevant receipts must be saved for six months. All requests must be submitted to Sameh Khouzam and received at the Archdiocese Headquarters no later than August 31.
It’s not a monastery. It’s not a retreat.
Rather, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church’s new Bethany House, located on an acre of prime Cordova Road real estate in Santa Fe, is an intentional community.
It’s for “people who have embraced the Orthodox faith,” who have committed to “living in prayer and with the church” and want to form meaningful relationships with each other, Holy Trinity’s Very Rev. John Bethancourt said.
Intentional communities are relatively common across both the religious and secular spectrum as places where like-minded people can live around certain ideals and goals.
For Holy Trinity, Bethany House is where unmarried members of the church can create a deeper sense of community and faith.
To live an Orthodox life in Montreal is a big challenge, and to keep our churches full on Sundays is a bigger challenge for our Montreal clergy. By the grace of God, however, St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church is undergoing a revival this year: our church is full, our youth groups are active, new families are joining our parish and, as one of our parishioners said at a recent luncheon, we are “alive and well.”
St. Nicholas Church was established by St. Raphael of Brooklyn and is the oldest Orthodox community in Montreal. We received great blessings this holy season, starting from the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross when we were visited by His Grace Bishop Alexander, who brought with him an antique cross, which has a relic of the Holy Cross embedded in it, with which to bless our parishioners following the Divine Liturgy.
On the following Sunday, the Feast of the Annunciation, we had a fabulous Mid-Lenten Luncheon hosted by our very active Antiochian Women. The next Sunday (St. Mary of Egypt), we were visited by His Grace Bishop Luka from our Patriarchate in Damascus, who asked that we pray for the Syrian people and reminded us of Syria’s rich Christian history.
St. George Church in Altoona, Pennsylvania welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas for his annual visit on the weekend of May 18-20, 2012. Sayedna Thomas met with the clergy and their wives on Friday evening, and then at Saturday noon with Fr. Stephen Lourie, Kh. Nancy, Choir Director Nadeen Nerenberg and Fr. Dn. Gregory Roeber and the members of the Church Council. Over lunch they took the opportunity to discuss the challenges facing our Orthodox parishes in regions that have been hard hit by the current recession and job crisis. Sayedna urged the Council and clergy to stay in touch with other parishes in the region since many of our fellow parishes face the same issues and we might share both strategies and mutual encouragement in our continued efforts to grow the Church, both in reaching out to those lapsed Orthodoxy and in inviting those who do not know Orthodoxy to “come and see.”
Later in the day, Sayedna also met with two members of the parish who were candidates for tonsure to service in the Church. At Great Vespers on Saturday, Mr. James Johns was tonsured to the office of Reader. Sayedna tonsured Mr. Joshua Kollat to the order of Subdeacon at the close of the Matins service prior to the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy Sunday morning. In his homily on the story of the Man Born Blind, Sayedna urged us all again to be thankful for the blessings that we have received as did the man whose sight was restored and to remember that the Church is the hospital where all of us are being made well. We will only know our physician, however, if we take advantage of the opportunity to worship together and then to love and serve as He has loved and served us.
On Wednesday, April 1, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas presided over the Presanctified Liturgy at St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church in Monessen, Pennsylvania. Fr. Fred Pfeil served, with assistance from Deacon Glenn McIntyre of St. Ellien Church in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. Additionally several area Orthodox clergy were present as well: Fr. Joseph DiStefano of St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Monessen; Fr. Edward Pehanich of St. Nicholas Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church in Monongahela; Fr. George Yatsko of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church in Monongahela; Fr. Rodney Torbic of St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Carmichaels; Fr. Rumen Stoychev of St. John the Divine Russian Orthodox Church in Monessen; and Fr. Samuel Smolcic of Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church in Belle Vernon.
The St. Michael Church choir, supplemented by choir members from some of the neighboring Orthodox churches, sang beautifully under the direction of Mr. George Essey.
At the end of liturgy, Bishop Thomas blessed a new Apostle Book, donated by Mrs. Joan Langan in memory of her brother, the Rt. Rev. John Namie. His Grace then gave an inspiring homily regarding the need for and spiritual value of the holy mystery of Confession.
With great joy the congregation of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Beckley, WV and its priest, Fr. Samuel Haddad, were pleased to receive His Grace Bishop Thomas for a visit to the Parish on the weekend of the Third Sunday of Pascha, April 27 – 29, 2012. The congregation had especially awaited this visit with eager anticipation, as it was to mark the elevation of Fr. Samuel to the dignity of Archpriest.
The busy weekend schedule got underway Friday evening when Sayidna met with the Parish Council. Members had the opportunity to tell His Grace about progress that St. Nicholas has made during the previous year, especially focusing on the congregation’s growth in numbers. Bishop Thomas encouraged the parish council and congregation to continue in their efforts. He also took some time to explain the ongoing efforts of FOCUS (the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve). FOCUS works throughout North America as an expression of Christ’s love, serving the hungry, thirsty, naked, stranger, sick and imprisoned.
On Saturday His Grace met for lunch with the Women of the Holy Myrrh Bearers. Members of the Parish women’s group enjoyed a wonderful time of inspiration and fellowship with Sayidna. The women reviewed their own activities over the past year, and then listened eagerly as Bishop Thomas shared his thoughts concerning the ongoing crisis in Syria and how it is impacting the Orthodox Christians there. Sayidna also gave an update on the Archdiocese’s new Bishops, highlighting the many ways they are now serving in their new capacity.