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.
St. Nicholas Church was established by St. Raphael of Brooklyn and is the oldest Orthodox Community in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. 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 Church is undergoing a new revival this year: our Church is full, our youth groups are active, new families are joining our parish and we are, as said by one of our parishioners at one of our recent luncheons, “alive and well.”
We received great blessings this Holy Week when, starting from the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross, we were visited by His Grace Bishop Alexander, who brought with him an antique cross with a Relic of the Holy Cross embedded inside it to bless our parishioners following the Divine Liturgy.
The next Sunday was the Feast of the Annunciation and we had a fabulous Mid-Lenten luncheon hosted by our very active Antiochian Women. The Sunday after (St. Mary of Egypt), we were visited by His Grace Bishop Luka from our Patriarchate in Damascus. Bishop Luka asked that we pray for the Syrian people and reminded us about Syria’s rich Christian history.
Following the Divine Liturgy on St. Lazarus Saturday, our youth enjoyed weaving palm crosses for our parishioners to carry on Palm Sunday. And on Palm Sunday itself, we were visited again by His Grace Bishop Alexander and we had a police escort around the block for our parish procession. That day we also had our annual bake sale of Arabic sweets prepared by our Antiochian Women, plus we had a sale of handmade goods by the residents of Al-Kafaat (Lebanon).
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church of Akron, Ohio, celebrated 95 years and dedicated its new Family/Youth Center the weekend of April 27. Presiding over the busy schedule of events, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip joined parishioners at the hafli on April 27, at a banquet on April 28, and also celebrated liturgy with the community on Sunday, April 29.
Reporter Kathleen Folkerth of Akron Leader Publications, noted that "Mimi Hicks, president of the Ladies Society, gave Mahashie (Fr. Louis Mahshie) a $25,000 check for the Family/Youth Center building fund, bringing its total donation to $100,000." The Center was built to accomodate the growing and active youth group of St. George, recently named the Teen Club of the Year during a recent youth convention.
The fourth and fifth weeks of Great Lent 2012 were especially spiritually blessed for St. Mary Church in Hunt Valley (Baltimore), Maryland. His Grace Bishop Thomas’ pastoral visit to the parish during the weekend of March 23-25 for the Feast of the Annunciation coincided with these two critical weeks of Great Lent, prayerfully and powerfully linking them in the Church’s journey to Pascha.
During an eleven day stay in the Baltimore area, Sayidna presided over St. Mary’s daily English and Arabic Lenten services in the weeks both preceding and following the weekend of the Annunciation Feast. His Grace’s gentle pastoral presence, sensitive and profound spiritual guidance, and wisdom offered at the end of these services deepened and strengthened the spiritual preparation of the attendees to receive the Risen Lord at Pascha.
The principal liturgical highlights of His Grace’s visit to St. Mary’s were his presiding over the offering of the fourth Akathist Hymn on March 23, Great Vespers of the Annunciation on March 24, and celebrating Sunday Orthros and Hierarchical Liturgy marking the Feast of the Annunciation. Bishop Thomas’ recurring message to the faithful throughout the Annunciation weekend services was that they must constantly strive to fully comprehend the meaning of the “good news” announced to the Virgin Mary by the Archangel Gabriel and individually live out the reality of the Lord’s redemptive love for humanity demonstrated by the Incarnation, just as did the Theotokos.
At the conclusion of the Hierarchical Liturgy, His Grace and all those present proceeded to the newly constructed road that will access the construction site of the new Byzantine-style church the St. Mary’s community is building. Bishop Thomas prayed over and blessed the new road, aptly named “Heaven’s Way."
St. Anthony Church in Bergenfield, NJ Welcomes Bishop Thomas to Commence Parish Life Conference Registration
His Grace Bishop Thomas honored St. Anthony Church of Bergenfield, New Jersey with his annual visit on the Fifth Sunday of Lent. During the beautiful Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, Dn. Peter Boulukos was elevated to Archdeacon as his proud brother and sister-in-law and entire St. Anthony family beamed. After Liturgy, the parish hall was filled as all enjoyed breakfast and entertainment by our children. Inspired by the Creative Festivals theme “The Bible…fills us with eternal joy,” church school students sang a song about Old Testament patriarch Abraham and teens hosted a radio call-in show - featuring audience participation – about the prophesies of the Old Testament.
St. Anthony Parish Life Conference chairs Jim Bach and Lisa Fares, under the guidance of V. Rev. Fr. Joseph Allen, have been working hard to make sure every aspect of this year’s Dioceses of Charleston and New York Parish Life Conference—to be held July 4-8, 2012 at the beautiful Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, New Jersey— is a great event. Bishop Thomas spoke to the faithful about our role in making sure that we use the PLC as a way to spread The Word, as we are all called to do, during this registration kick-off event. A table of materials, a “Top 10 Reasons Why All Should Attend the Parish Life Conference” slide show, and a guided tour of the dedicated PLC web site helped ensure that every parishioner knew “The Top 10 Reasons to Attend,” including to enjoy the camaraderie of diocese Orthodox Christians and participate in the traditional and fun events the conference offers for adults, teens, and children!
To register, obtain schedules, purchase an ad for the souvenir journal, or learn more, please visit http://EasternDiocesePLC.weebly.com.