Bishop Thomas recently visited St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church  in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. His Grace's visit began on the day of the parish’s Annual Golf Outing. Sayidna came to the game at the Sand Springs Golf Course in Drums, and after talking with some of the parishioners, launched the tournament at 1 p.m. by blessing all of the golfers. During the afternoon he enjoyed the beautiful Pennsylvania weather and foliage, and was escorted by The Very Rev. Fr. David Hester, the pastor of St. Mary, to watch the golfers play. Neither Sayidna nor Fr. David are golfers, but that did not stop them from noticing how well—or poorly—the play was going. At the end of the day there was a meal in the clubhouse, at which Sayidna blessed the food. Sayidna even discovered that one of the golfers, John Charles, was a Wilkes-Barre high school classmate of his mother.
On Saturday, September 28, Sayidna made his annual visit to his family’s hot dog restaurant, Abe’s on Main St., and he saw both family and parishioners in the very busy and popular restaurant.
Later that day he presided at Great Vespers at St. Mary’s after being received at the doors of the church temple and led into the church. At the end of Great Vespers he spoke to the parishioners about how that afternoon he had spent some time looking at the parish’s baptismal and wedding records dating from the 1890s, including some of the records of his family members. Some of the earliest records show that the parish was served by two saints: Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny had performed baptisms at St. Mary, and Protopresbyter Alexis Toth had performed baptisms and weddings at the parish. After Great Vespers, Sayidna joined the parishioners for a dinner prepared by parishioners Riad and Eileen Attar, with a whole crew of helpers.
That evening parishioners spoke with Sayidna about the fact that 2014 will be the 110th anniversary of St. Mary, and plans are underway to have a special celebration in October of 2014. In addition, Sayidna was informed about the vitality of the parish, noting that there are two new families in the parish, and that in the past year, the parish added four infants as members, the first for many years.
On Sunday Sayidna served the Divine Liturgy, and at the end of the Liturgy blessed three children who had received silver or bronze ribbons from the Parish Life Conference. Sayidna mentioned his constant hope that the area of Northeast Pennsylvania, with its affordable housing and beautiful mountainous scenery, will gradually experience an economic rebirth, and that the parish will continue to be a welcoming place for all who look to come to St. Mary.