At the Order of St. Ignatius Banquet during the summer convention, outgoing Chair Dan Abraham addressed Order members, reflecting upon his four years of leadership and service. He challenged his listeners to give out of a heart of faith, thanked the people who had shouldered the Chair responsibilities alongside him, and introduced his family members. The following is the text of Dan's speech:
When one assumes the role of the Chair of an organization one must pledge that at the end of his term to leave the organization at least no worse than when he started.
Today The Order has inducted 4,486 members since inception and with a little bit of help from my friends we can cross the 4,500 threshold on Sunday; among them are 353 Life Members. I am also honored that 196 Clergy and/or spouses are members. Mary, I transfer to you an organization that is strong, viable, and ready to welcome new members.
It is however with much sadness, but no regret that I stand here tonight completing my four years as Chair of this wonderful organization – The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch – and ready to pass on the gavel and responsibility to my successor. By the way Ed, you never did pass on the gavel to me! It is a moment of sadness because this office of Chair consumes one’s life to which my wife can attest and now I will assume the office of “Past." George Nassor, Ray Rishwain, and Ed Assile, Past Chairs who are with us tonight remind me that I now am a member of the “esteemed” position of Past Chair. However, I am committed to remain in the present in order to serve the future. Service to our Lord has no end. I have no regrets because I put forth all that was within me and made every attempt to serve to the best of my ability. No, I did not complete all of my goals and visions, but I know my successor will continue on the path set forth as I did following Ed Assile’s leadership. He has been a continual inspiration to me, but he often reminded me that I better not ruin the image of the Chairs who preceded me. I offer my support because The Order has come from nothing to being not only an integral part of our Archdiocese, but a most critical and essential one.
I joined The Order some 20 years ago with no expectation or even a thought of my standing here tonight. I was blessed in that the Holy Spirit stirred my soul and put me on a path of service which I am most grateful. My life before The Order was consumed with working toward post graduate degrees, building a career, saving my money, getting married, and watching my money miraculously disappear. Shame on you; it is not what you think. It is not that at all. I had and continue to have the opportunity to invest in a most precious asset – my wife Kathy. I am fortunate to have a spouse and helpmate who walked side by side with me during my 18 years of service on the Governing Council. To her, I say thank you. Please stand and let everyone else say thank you too.
I have no grand visions of leaving a legacy; I do not suggest I deserve any such greatness. The Order of St. Ignatius however, does deserve to have a legacy and if you were to ask me what it might be I would without hesitation say “we served our young people so that they might see God”. We as members of the Order did what is sometimes referred to as “paying it forward”. Kathy and I donated cookies for the welcome basket and each one had a message to join The Order and pay it forward. What does “pay it forward” mean? It is a concept that dates back to 317BC. In contract law there is a creditor and debtor. This concept introduces third party beneficiaries. The creditor offers the debtor the option of "paying" the debt forward by lending it to a third person instead of paying it back to the original creditor. In our world, members of The Order “lend” their gifts to our young people so they can go to camp, learn leadership skills in Teen SOYO, and participate in college conference to name a few of the sponsorships by The Order. We now seek no repayment, but ask that our successors in life pay it forward by committing themselves to insure those who follow benefit as they have. I received much joy from the young people who we as members of The Order cheerfully served. I invited them as my guests so they could meet you and see and feel what wonderful hearts you have. It is important to note that I have had the pleasure of participating in the Teen SOYO Leadership program since inception. One time Kathy joined me for a joint presentation. I made the mistake of asking the teens who they liked better; Kathy won hands down. I ask way – she brought treats and I didn’t. So now I bring treats, but I don’t know whether it is the treats they like better or me. I am not going to see an answer. Hiba, you and your peers are the legacy I wish to leave as my time ends.
I learned many things during the past 18 years, but two points stand out:
1) We must give from the heart. When we care for the poor from our heart, we who care are transformed. When we care for one another from our heart, we who care are transformed. When we help our young people go to camp, when we care for our seminarians, when we care for the retired priests and their spouses, when we care for those with limited abilities at Al Kafaat we who care are transformed. St. John Chrysostom says, “Give so you do not lose; do not hoard so that you are not in want, and spend so you may gain.” If you give from the heart the Lord will bless you with greater riches.
2) Making this commitment requires faith in our Lord. We are nothing and can do nothing without faith
My one bit of advice to each of you and every member of The Order is to get involved. Make a commitment to serve and do so selfishly. Yes, selfishly. You will gain so much more than you could ever give. His Eminence reminds us that the Order teaches us how to give, The Order teaches us how to sacrifice, and The Order teaches us how to serve. You will embrace the “miracle of giving” – the more you give, the more God gives you to give even more. You will feel the door of your heart open and the Holy Spirit enter. What greater gift is there than to be able to welcome the Holy Spirit within you?
I would like to thank the members of the Governing Council who served with me even when I didn’t deserve it. I would like all the members of the GC past and present to stand and be recognized.
There is one gentleman who I would like to offer my sincere thanks – Bob Laham. His advice and counsel was invaluable to me personally. Thank You, Bob.
I would be remiss if I did not recognize a woman who endured my 11th hour rush to get it done. I tell her each time that I cannot do anything until the Holy Spirit says so. She has been a great asset to my Chairmanship and I say thank you now to our administrator Joanne Hakim. Please stand and be recognized.
I am delighted to introduce my parents who are with us tonight – Wade and Margaret. Yes, I am blessed to have parents who put me on the path that God chose for me. My sister Janet is also here and is a former camper and counselor. Her daughter Rose just returned from camp. Her brother George could not go this year – he was learning to drive.
I am ever grateful for the guidance, spiritual leadership, ideas, and prayers of our North American Chaplain, V. Rev. Fr. Joseph Antypas. I learned finally during these past four years that a Spiritual Advisor is the most important part of the team in any organization in the church. They commit themselves to be ready to give us guidance, especially for the chair, and they pray for us.
I wish to thank our Hierarchs for their support and commitment to The Order. We cannot grow, we cannot do our ministry without you and without you inspiring us to look forward and never give up. I express my heartfelt thanks to each of you.
A special thanks to His Eminence Metropolitan Philip. I thank him for allowing me the opportunity to serve. I thank him for inspiring me to pursue higher and higher goals. I thank him for his God inspired vision to bring this organization to life. I thank him for allowing me the opportunity to leave my footprint in the sands of life in serving this wonderful movement. I did not know what to expect when I became Chair. Today I end my term with the best gift he could offer me – his friendship. Thank you and many years Your Eminence.
I am honored to announce the new officers for the Governing Council for The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch: Secretary – Chris Bezreh; Treasurer – Bill Tsoukalas; Vice Chair – Dr. Elias Hebeka. Please stand and be recognized. I am pleased to announce our first female Chair – Mary Winstanley O’Connor. She is chair not because she is a woman, but because of her commitment of service, her love for The Order of St. Ignatius and her desire to serve our Antiochian Archdiocese. However, let us pray she will be a beacon to all the women of this Archdiocese that your time is now. Your time is now to do what is in your heart. Your time is now to share your tenderness with those in need. Your time is now to become members of The Order of St. Ignatius.
There is one more person to thank – me! Thank you, Dan.
I close with the same message I have closed each of my presentations during the past four years because it so succinctly describes what The Order is all about. It is this from His Eminence – “Blessed are those who give without remembering and blessed are those who receive without forgetting.