Diocese of Charleston News


2014 Paschal Greetings from Bishop Thomas

His Grace Bishop Thomas writes:

GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA 2014

Beloved in Christ,

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

The Apostle Paul reminds us of what is central to our Faith: the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, along with his appearances. We are fast approaching the greatest celebration in our Orthodox Christian calendar; let us open our hearts to celebrate this Good News with eagerness and embrace it fully.

The death of Christ is not only for our sins, but serves as our example of how to live for others a life of sacrificial love. The resurrection is the evidence that Christ was blessed by the Father, though on the cross he was cursed for our sake. The resurrection appearances of Christ to the Apostles were the call to them to proclaim what he had done through his cross. The apostolic witness to us is a call for us to do the same.

Let us not keep this resurrection joy to ourselves. Let us be like the myrrh-bearing women who left the empty tomb with great joy, and proclaimed the good news: He is risen!

Yours in Christ,

Rt. Rev. Bishop Thomas (Joseph)
Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic

Bishop Thomas Announces Events with Metropolitan Silouan in PA for April 4,5

His Grace Bishop Thomas, Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic, announces:

His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan, who is serving as our Patriarchal Vicar, has expressed a desire to meet with as many of our Antiochian clergy and laity as possible. This weekend there will be two opportunities to do so in the Western Pennsylvania area.

Friday – Akathist: On Friday evening, April 4, His Eminence will be with us for the Akathist Service at Ss. Peter and Paul Chapel at the Antiochian Village Heritage and Learning Center. The service begins at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a gathering to meet with His Eminence.

Saturday – Vespers and IOCC Syrian Relief Dinner: On Saturday April 5, His Eminence will be presiding over Vespers at 4 p.m. at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Pittsburgh followed by attendance at the IOCC Syrian Relief Dinner. More information and registration for the IOCC dinner can be found at the IOCC's Website, or you may call Zelfa Khalil at 412-417-4706.

Overnight accommodations can be secured at the Antiochian Village Center by calling 724-238-3677.

Bishop Thomas Visits Holy Ascension Church + West Chester, PA

On March 1st and 2nd, 2014, Holy Ascension Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania was blessed by the presence of His Grace Bishop Thomas to celebrate the beginning of Great Lent. Bishop Thomas celebrated several services at the parish, including Sunday liturgy.

During the Sunday service His Grace gave a very personal homily where he confessed his own sins to the congregation and spoke of the importance of Great lent as a time of spiritual self-reflection. At the end of the service, Bishop Thomas inducted two parish members into the Order of St. Ignatius. After lunch His Grace meet with the children of the parish and spent time with them. The day concluded with the service of Forgiveness Vespers.

Memory Eternal! + Samuel Essey

Samuel Essey, 93, of Monessen, PA, died Wednesday, March 12, 2014. He was born in Syria, the son of the late Esper and Anna Abraham Essey. Sam was a 1939 graduate of Monessen High School and a member of St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church, where he served on the Board of Trustees and was the treasurer for 30 years beforer retiring.

As a veteran of WW II, Sam served with the U.S. Navy on the U.S.S. Arkansas in the American Theater and the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. He retired from the Monessen Plant of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation, then became the administrative assistant to the late Pennsylvania House of Representative Majority Leader, James J. Manderino.

Samuel is survived by his wife of 68 years, Elmunda "Munda" (George) Essey, a son and daughter-in-law, Alan and Teri Essey, a daughter, Ginger Gerdish, a son-in-law, Gregory Gerdish, a brother, George Essey of Monessen, four grandchildren, Jarrod, Cory, Dillion and Chad.

Bishop Thomas Opens Meeting at West Virginia State House of Delegates

His Grace Bishop Thomas recently opened a West Virginia House of Delegates meeting by presenting a prayer on the State House floor.

IOCC Hosts Syrian Relief Gathering in Pittsburgh, PA

Syrian Relief Dinner & Prayer Service
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
985 Providence Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA 15237
(opposite La Roche College, 9000 Babcock Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA 15237)
www.iocc.org/pittsburgh

Tickets $50.00 per person (age 18 and under $20, age 6 and under free)

Prayer Service begins at 4 p.m. - Lenten dinner and Reception from 5 - 7 p.m.

Additional donations will be appreciated. Net proceeds will benefit Syrian Relief Efforts.

Hosting this event will be the following Hierarchs:

  • Greek Diocese - His Eminence Metropolitan Savas
  • Antiochian Diocese - His Grace Bishop Thomas
  • Orthodox Church in America - His Grace Bishop Melchisedek
  • Serbian Diocese - His Grace Bishop Dr. Mitrophan
  • Ukrianian Orthodox Church - His Grace Bishop Daniel
  • Carpatho-Russian - His Grace Bishop Gregory

Sponsoring organizations: Philoptochos of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, IOCC Pittsburgh Metropolitan Committee, and Antiochian Orthodox Community

For Reservations

Online (preferred method): www.iocc.org/pittsburgh, or
Call Sophie at 412-341-6869, farahs32@gmail.com, or
Laura at IOCC 877-803-4622, or
Mail: IOCC, 110 West Road, Suite 360, Baltimore, Maryland 21204, or
Ask if tickets are available in your home parish.

Apply Now for Camp Scholarships: Deadline is 3/1

Antiochian clergy and parishioners should be reminded that camper scholarships are again available to each parish and mission in the Antiochian Archdiocese through the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch. Applications were mailed to all parish priests on January 16, 2014. If you are a priest and have not received that mailing, please be in immediate contact with Fr. Anthony Yazge of Antiochian Village, at franthony@antiochianvillage.org. Please note that applications to receive your scholarships ($700 per parish) must be received by Fr. Anthony no later than Saturday, March 1, 2014. More camping information is available from the Department of Camping.

Memory Eternal! + Beatrice Monsour Davis

Beatrice Monsour Davis, beloved wife of David L. Davis of blessed memory, passed into eternal life on Sunday, February 2, 2014, one week shy of her 99th birthday, in her adopted home of Naples, Florida.

She was the cherished mother of Samuel and Marcia Davis, Archpriest Joseph and Diane Shaheen, and of Laila Corey.

Her love and devotion to her grandchildren was boundless: Just ask Rebecca and Richard Cosentino, Joseph and Maria Shaheen and Philip Shaheen; George and Lucy Corey; David and Megan Corey; Michael and Grisel Corey and Jonathan Corey; Christopher and Suzanne Davis and Jennifer Davis.

She was Grammy to: Gabrielle, Laurence, Frederique, and Lucas Cosentino; Matthew and Augusten Corey, and William and Addy Davis.

2014 PLC Theme is Love the Lord - Love Your Neighbor

It's time to plan to register for your diocese's regional Parish Life Conference (PLC)! As always, this year's theme, love for God and neighbor, will be the focus of the Creative Festivals, a highlight of the conferences. Youth and organizational meetings, spiritually edifying speakers and services, and social events for kids and adults alike, all make the PLCs one of the Archdiocese's most established and popular traditions.

To facilitate your parish participation in the Creative Arts, Bible Bowl and Oratorical Festivals, all resources are available in the Festivals 2014 section of Antiochian.org. Additionally, ads for the souvenir journals can be purchased and registrations can be submitted through the Department of Conventions and Conference Planning's Antiochian Events pages.

"Writing Icons of the Kingdom" is Youth Conference Theme

The 12th Annual Orthodox Christian Camp and Youth Workers Conference took place at Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA from January 23-25, 2014. Over 80 youth workers from across the United States and Canada gathered together for this year's conference, sponsored by the Orthodox Christian Camps Association and youth departments from different jurisdictions. This year's conference was co-hosted by the Youth and Camping Ministries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. The theme of the Conference was "Writing Icons of the Kingdom: Understanding our Youth as Icons we are Helping to Write."

Ruling Hierarch of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese His Grace Bishop Gregory of Nyssa was the keynote speaker. In his first address, Bishop Gregory spoke about the unity required of us in youth ministry in order to effectively "write" icons for the kingdom. For his second address His Grace stepped aside for a very special presenter, Protopresbyter Mark Leasure, his priest from St. George Church in Taylor, PA, who brought the myrrh-streaming icons of the Mother of God that reside in his parish.

Village Hosts Homeschooling Conference: March 27-30, 2014

Dr. Christopher Veniamin, professor of Patristics at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, PA, will deliver the keynote addresses at the St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschooling Conference at the Antiochian Village in March. Children's workshops will be held for ages three and up. Presentations are meant to cover the spectrum of interests and concerns of parents from "Homeschooling 101" beginners to veterans who are homeschooling teens. Three tracks are offered at each session, focusing on "big picture" questions, ages and stages, and practical tips and techniques.

Registration fees, lodging, and meal packages are offered as economically as possible, with a special pricing cap so families will pay food expenses for their four oldest family members only. Register before February 27 for an early-bird price! In addition to the sessions, which cover homeschooling topics from theological and practical, general and specific perspectives, attendees will participate in services and have beautiful opportunities to experience works from photographer Jocelyn Mathewes, artist Leila Chokheli, illustrator Niko Chocheli, and author Chrissi Hart. Family photo sessions with Jocelyn Mathewes are also offered. 

Download the flyer

Pan-Orthodox Blessing of Waters at Moraine State Park

On Sunday, January 5, 2014, the three Orthodox parishes in Butler, PA got together and served the Great Blessing of the Waters outdoors, at Lake Arthur in the Moraine State Park. The event was covered by journalists from Butler and Ellwood City, and even made the first page of the Butler Eagle!

The parishioners of St. Anthony Orthodox Church (Antiochian), St. Andrew (Orthodox Church in America), and Sts. Peter and Paul (Ukrainian) had grown accustomed to the beautiful practice of worshipping together on their patronal feast days and during Lent, or for the evening Liturgies of the Presanctified Gifts. Yet the outdoor Blessing of Waters was a first. God sent us a relatively mild day in the middle of the famous "arctic vortex" which brought to the area some of the coldest temperatures in decades.

Bishop Thomas' Nativity Visit to St. George Cathedral + Pittsburgh PA

On December 24, 2013, St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was graced by the presence of His Grace Bishop Thomas to celebrate the feast of the Nativity. The cathedral celebrated the Hours of the Nativity, followed by the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil on the morning of Christmas Eve. Later that evening, His Grace celebrated Matins and Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, a blessed service in which Bishop Thomas ordained two men from the parish, Michael Janakis and John Norman, into the sub-diaconate.

During the service, Sayedna Thomas spoke about the significance of the feast, and the importance of being spiritually awake and keeping Christ as the true meaning of Christmas instead of other worldly ideas of the holiday. At the end of the service, Bishop Thomas inducted three very dedicated and inspired people into the Order of St. Ignatius. The congregation broke the fast together downstairs with a meal and much love and joy.

Nativity Greetings from Bishop Thomas

NATIVITY 2013

Beloved in Christ,

Greetings in the name of our incarnate God and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ!

Glory to that Hidden One, Whose Son was made manifest! Glory to that Living One, Whose Son was made to die! Glory to that Great One, Whose Son descended and was small! Glory to the Power Who did straiten His greatness by a form, His unseen nature by a shape! With eye and mind we have beheld Him, yea with both of them.

Bishop Thomas Makes Annual Visit to Chambersburg, PA

23-24 November 2013

The weekend before Thanksgiving, His Grace Bishop Thomas visited St. Mary Church in Chambersburg, PA. He was welcomed at his arrival on Saturday afternoon by the pastor, Fr. Theodore Pulcini. That evening members of the parish community assembled for Vespers, at which Sayidna presided. Afterwards the Parish Council and their spouses gathered at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Nagib Khalifa for a reception to welcome His Grace as well as Mary Winstanley-O'Connor, North American Chair of the Order of St. Ignatius, who was also visiting the parish that weekend.

The next day, after Orthros, His Grace celebrated the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, assisted by Fr. Ted, Dn. Evangelos Prieston, Dn. David Jacobs, Sdn. Ben Daniel, and the parish's acolytes.

Bishop John Visits Holy Trinity Mission + Lynchburg, VA

His Grace Bishop John visited Holy Trinity Mission in Lynchburg, Virginia over the weekend of November 23-24, 2013. After an unexpectedly prolonged sojourn at the Charlotte, North Carolina airport, Bishop John arrived in time to preach at Vespers after his solemn reception. On Saturday evening, His Grace was guest of honor at a dinner with the lay leadership of the mission. At Sunday Matins and Liturgy, His Grace eloquently wove all the Scripture readings together into their theme of Eucharist, answered questions at a festive coffee hour afterwards, and later treated Fr. Alban Waggener and Kh. Helen to dinner. It was a joyous weekend. We are greatly blessed with Bishop John's leadership and charisma as the overseer of the Western Orthodox churches of the Archdiocese.

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Philip in Souderton, PA

View the photo gallery of His Grace's visit

Being Orthodox means having a rich liturgical, spiritual, ministry life. It also means being part of the One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church. When our bishops visit, they remind us that our parish is part of the Church that Christ's established and gave into His apostles' hands for safe-keeping and spreading. St. Philip Orthodox Church in Souderton, PA recently had the great blessing of our bishop's visit to mark some very important occasions in our the life of our parish and to encourage us along in our life in Christ.

First, he presided over our patronal feastday for the Holy Apostle Philip. In his stirring sermon he reminded us to "be like the bee, rather than the fly" in our relationships.

Monessen, PA: St. Michael Commemorates 100 Years of Ministry

Bishop Thomas elevates Fr. FredBishop Thomas elevates Fr. FredThe first weekend in November was more than a normal weekend for the congregation of St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church in Monessen, PA. The parish began the celebration of their 100th anniversary, first celebrating Great Vespers on Saturday evening. Bishop Thomas, Auxiliary Bishop of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic, spoke after the service, encouraging us to honor our forefathers' and mothers' memories by working to keep the parish a healthy Orthodox presence in Monessen. On Sunday, Orthros and a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was concelebrated by Bishop Thomas and Bishop Basil, Auxiliary Bishop of Wichita and Mid-America. Following the Liturgy a 100th anniversary luncheon and program was held at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Hellenic Center.

St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church was founded in 1913 by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants as a place where Orthodox Christians were able to worship and seek salvation. The church was one of many that owes its organization to then Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny (St. Raphael).

Bishop Thomas visits St. Paul and Eastern Pennsylvania

During October 12-16, His Grace, Bishop Thomas made his annual pastoral visitation to St. Paul Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, as well as making other stops in the Eastern Pennsylvania area. During his visit to St. Paul's, His Grace presided over the divine services, including the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning. While there, His Grace noted the numerous upgrades and expansions to parish life that have been made during the administration of the current pastor, the Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, who was assigned to the pastorate of the parish in July 2009.

Since 2009, St. Paul's population has grown by 46%, and annual pledges have grown by 180%. During this time, multiple weekday services (including, in many cases, daily) have been instituted, as well as a vigorous program of adult education.

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Andrew Mission + Lewes, DE

Fr. Boniface Black writes:

His Grace Bishop Thomas was welcomed to the Mission of St. Andrew the Apostle in Lewes, Delaware by an enthusiastic congregation for Vespers and the Sunday Orthros and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy the first weekend in October, 2013. The parishioners were also blessed to celebrate Sayidna's Name Day, commemorating the Apostle Thomas, on Sunday, October 6. MANY YEARS, SAYIDNA!

Our beloved Bishop congratulated the parishioners on progress since his last visit. New pews were in place, along with an imposing Bishop's Chair. Outside, the parking lot has been paved and landscaping was in place. Sayidna again spoke of the need to bring Christ and Orthodoxy to southern Delaware. St. Andrew is the only Orthodox Church in Sussex County and there is a great opportunity for sharing the Good News.

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Mary, Wilkes-Barre

September 27-29, 2013

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.

Annual Brotherhood Synaxis Provides Clergy Fellowship

The priests of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic gathered together for their ninth annual Brotherhood Synaxis, held at the Antiochian Village from October 1-4, 2013.  Bishop Anthony of the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest was the guest speaker. His excellent talks addressed the need for parish priests to be aware of the challenge that the secular worldview presents in ministering to their flocks. In addition to Bishop Anthony’s lectures, the clergy had a supplication service for St. Raphael, whose tireless efforts brought about many of the churches of the diocese, and who is buried on the grounds of the Village Camp. 

Additionally, His Grace Bishop Thomas inspired his priests on several occasions with discussions on activities in the Orthodox world, the archdiocese, and the diocese; he also counseled them to be diligent and prayerful in all of their efforts.

Middle School Winter Retreat at Antiochian Village

Registration is open for the annual St. Herman Middle School Retreat, convening at Antiochian Village on the feast day of St. Herman of Alaska.

  • Who: Students in grades 5-8
  • Where: Antiochian Village Conference Center, December 13-15, 2013
  • What: interactive presentations and discussions, weekend liturgical services (with an outdoor supplication service to St. Herman), games, crafts, meals and snacks, sledding, geocaching, stargazing, guided night hike, a campfire
  • Why: The distraction-free environment of the Village and the spiritual emphasis of the retreat offer a wonderful opportunity for middle schoolers to focus on their faith 
  • How much:  $96/person for lodging and meals  
  • Download the registration form or visit the Antiochian Village's list of upcoming events for more information.

20/25 Anniversary Event for Holy Cross and Bishop Thomas

Clergy at the 20/25 Anniversary celebrationClergy at the 20/25 Anniversary celebrationBy Archpriest Gregory Mathewes-Green

The clergy and faithful of Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland, welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas to our Patronal Feast of the Elevation of the Cross from September 13-15, 2013. Along with His Grace Bishop Melchizedek (Orthodox Church in America), over twenty visiting clergy and many other well-wishers joined us in commemorating both the 20th Anniversary of the founding of Holy Cross as well as Sayedna Thomas' 25th year of ordination. The weekend also saw the ordinations of Lt. Col. Kelvin Gardner (chaplain, USAF). In total, four services and a banquet were held. Also included in the weekend was the annual retreat of the deacons of the Eastern dioceses with renowned scholar Dr. Christopher Veniamin, professor of Patristics at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary.

A Reminder from Bishop Thomas: Clergy Retreat is Almost Here!

Fr. Anthony Yagze at a previous retreatFr. Anthony Yagze at a previous retreatSeptember 26, 2013

An important reminder from Bishop Thomas for all clergy:

Next week is the Annual Clergy Retreat for the Dioceses of Charleston/Oakland and New York/Washington. This retreat is open to all Orthodox clergy, regardless of diocese or jurisdiction. The speaker will be His Grace Bishop Anthony  (Michael) of the Diocese of Toledo. To register, please call (724.238.3677) or email Fr. Anthony Yazge, Antiochian Village Heritage and Learning Center, Ligonier, PA.