Diocese of Charleston News


Bishop Thomas Visits St. Nicholas Church in Beckley, WV

His Grace, Bishop Thomas meeting with members of the Women of the Holy Myrrhbearers of St. Nicholas Church, Beckley, WVHis Grace, Bishop Thomas meeting with members of the Women of the Holy Myrrhbearers of St. Nicholas Church, Beckley, WVServe the LORD with gladness; Know that the LORD, He is God! (Psalm 100: 2-3.) The Faithful of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Beckley, West Virginia welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas during the weekend of May 17 – 19, 2013 for his annual pastoral visit. The weekend was marked by glorious worship to our Lord with His Grace presiding, and many opportunities for meaningful fellowship.

After dinner on Friday evening, Sayidna Thomas met with the members of the Parish Council in the parish conference room. During the meeting, there was an important and informative discussion in which Sayidna provided an update on his activities in the diocese and a very informed perspective of the situation in Syria and our suffering Antiochian Patriarchate. The Parish Council members updated His Grace on the various activities of the parish, parish council and especially the charitable outreach activities of the Women of the Holy Myrrhbearers. Other topics of interest to the local parish were also discussed, as Sayidna answered questions from each of the Parish Council members.

Memory Eternal! + Doreen Essey

Doreen Essey + June 8, 2013
Doreen E. Essey, of Monessen PA, died June 8, 2013, at the age of 77. She was the daughter of the late George and Eva Nyrhinen Stofka. Doreen is survived by her husband of 58 years, George Essey, the choir director and cantor at St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church: a son, George (Marian) : daughters Lori and Susan: eight grandchildren: eleven great-grandchildren: sister Donna Dudas (Richard): brother-in law Samuel Essey (Elmunda). Besides her parents, she was preceded in death by her in-laws, Esper and Rashida Essey: brothers-in-law Norman and Gerald Essey: niece, Linda Essey.

After graduation from Monessen High School with the Class of 1953, Doreen worked in the Darling Shoppe and then became a full time homemaker. She loved and adored her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and excelled in the art of Syrian cooking until her stroke in 2005. Mrs. Essey was very active in her church, St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church of Monessen, PA, serving as secretary and treasurer of the Ladies Society, and a member of the Parish Council during the purchase of the present church on Patton Ave. Friends were received at the Robert Billick Funeral Home, Monessen, on Tuesday,  June 11. Trisagion services were held at 7:30, with The Rev. Fred Pfeil officiating. Funeral services were held at St Michael AOC. 1201 Patton Ave., Monessen, Wednesday, June 12, at 10:30 AM.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggest that memorial donations be made to St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church, c/o 189 Pacific Blvd, Monessen, PA 15062.

Memory Eternal! + Eddie Joseph

One of the early pioneers of Antiochian Village, Eddie Joseph, or "Cuz" as he was affectionately known, fell asleep in the Lord on June 12, 2013. Eddie was the athletic director (now known as the Afternoon Program Coordinator) for many years in the early years of the camp. A lifelong member of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Johnstown, PA, Eddie sang in the choir and was a member of Order of St. Ignatius

Service information is as follows: Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, June 14, at the Frank Duca Funeral Home, Westmont Chapel, 1622 Menoher Blvd., Johnstown, where Trisagion prayers will be sung at 7 p.m. Trisagion prayers will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home with the funeral service following at St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church with The Very Rev. Father Donald E. Shadid officiating. The Joseph family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Antiochian Village Camp as part of the Edward Joseph Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Read the full obituary here.

Parish Life Conference Season Begins June 5

There is still time for you to register for your diocese's "family reunion" this summer, your regional Parish Life Conference (PLC)! The theme for this year, "The End of History...The Last Judgment," 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. Visit the Conventions and Conference Planning page for full information.

First up is the Diocese of Wichita PLC, kicking off on June 5 in Kansas City. St. Basil Orthodox Church hosts the PLC at the Westin Kansas City Hotel in downtown Kansas City, "one of America's Best downtowns" according to Forbes magazine.

Work Begins on New Building for St. Patrick Church + Warrenton, VA

Fr. Patrick Cardine of St. Patrick Church in Warrenton, Virginia writes:

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Work on the new building has commenced, the foundation trench has been dug and we are proceeding onto the next phase. Also the Fauquier Times Democrat ran a nice article in the paper today. Part of the article may be viewed at www.fauquier.com/news/article/fauquier_parish_breaks_ground_for_new_church.

Below are some pictures of the site blessing. It was a wonderful day and we missed all who could not be with us.

God Bless you,
Fr. Patrick

St. Patrick Church's original building was burnt to the ground in July 2012 in a fire set by an arsonist. For more information on the parish's building project or to make a donation, please visit the St. Patrick Orthodox Church Building Project web page.

Construction Progress at St. Mary Church + Hunt Valley, MD

Construction is underway on a new Byzantine-style temple for St. Mary Church in Hunt Valley (Baltimore), Maryland. From the St. Mary Church Website:

There is soon to be a new light of Orthodox Christianity in Hunt Valley, Maryland. The parish family of St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church are struggling to build a church that will be connected to the existing hall in which they currently celebrate all Liturgical services and social events. The new St. Mary’s Church will be fashioned in ancient Byzantine style and will be endowed with emblematical notions all carefully crafted to glorify our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. All aspects of the architectural design are deeply and religiously symbolic, inspired by a desire to create a spiritually tangible testament to the beauty of our Lord and His creation.

2013 Paschal Greetings from Bishop Thomas

His Grace Bishop Thomas writes:

GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA 2013

Beloved brother Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, God-fearing Monastics, and all my Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ our True God:

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

When Christ had risen from the dead on the third day and had shown Himself alive to His disciples, He ascended into heaven. He remained immortal and bestowed on us, with complete assurance, resurrection, immortality and truly blessed, eternal, incorruptible life in heaven. By means of the one death and resurrection of His flesh, He healed our twofold death and freed us from the double captivity of soul and body. 

~St. Gregory Palamas, “On Holy and Great Saturday”

The feast of Christ’s glorious resurrection is now finally here, and we experience the greatest of joy possible for human persons not only because the Founder of our faith has risen from the dead, but because of what the resurrection means in terms of His incarnation. Because He is man, He was able to die. And because He is God, He rises from the dead.

Save the Date: Anniversary Celebrations at Holy Cross Church in Linthicum, MD

Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland will celebrate its 20th Anniversary on its Patronal Feast Day, September 14, 2013, and you are cordially invited to join us. AND, in addition, we are honored and privileged to be hosting the Celebration of His Grace, Bishop Thomas' 25th Ordination Anniversary at the same time!

We are very excited about this and know you will be also. Both events will be rolled into one celebration, including Saturday morning Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, followed by a Celebratory Banquet at a local hotel. Rooms will be available at both the Ramada, near BWI airport, and the Pier Five (Inner Harbor) Hotel, in Baltimore. Details regarding the full schedule, banquet tickets and hotel reservations will soon follow, but we know you will want to make note of the date of this important observance now!

We hope you will be able to join us in these wonderful celebrations!

In Christ,
Fr. Gregory Mathewes-Green, the Parishioners of Holy Cross Church, and the 20/25 Committee

View the schedule and other information here

Assembly of Bishops Committee For Youth Report

Bishop Thomas, ChairBishop Thomas, ChairAssembly of Bishops.org reports:

New relationships and unity among Orthodox Christian youth workers are the result of diligent efforts by the Committee for Youth, one of the very active committees of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America.

The committee’s members are Bishop Thomas (Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese), Metropolitan Alexios (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese) and Bishop Irineu (Orthodox Church in America). As with all of the Assembly’s committees, clergy and lay consultants support the work of the committee. The Committee for Youth has more than sixty consultants with extensive experience and knowledge of Orthodox youth and youth programs.

One of the fruits of the committee’s efforts has been new relationships and increased collaboration among jurisdictional youth directors. “Prior to the committee’s formation, a handful of jurisdictional youth directors would meet occasionally,” says His Grace Bishop Thomas, the chairman of the committee. “Now there are 17 who meet in person and by phone, representing every jurisdiction in the Assembly.

St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary Opens Search for New Dean

March 22, 2013

South Canaan, PA: The Board of Trustees of Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, South Canaan, PA announces a vacancy in the office of Dean, to be filled effective July 1, 2013. Applications, nominations, and expressions of interest for the position of Dean are now being accepted.

Saint Tikhon’s Seminary is an institution of professional Orthodox Christian theological education, affiliated with the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), chartered by the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and nationally accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. St. Tikhon’s Seminary offers the Master of Divinity degree, as well as the Bachelor of Arts in Theology degree, and a certificate in diaconal formation studies.

The primary purpose of the Seminary is to provide the necessary theological, spiritual, and moral foundation for Orthodox men to become good shepherds of Christ’s Holy Orthodox Church and for others to pursue advanced theological study and personal enrichment.

St. Seraphim Center Serves the Needy of Chambersburg, PA

Sprucing up the St. Seraphim Center in Chambersburg, PASprucing up the St. Seraphim Center in Chambersburg, PA(Adapted from The Word, March 2013)

Last fall, the Antiochian parish of St. Mary in Chambersburg, PA, began its fourth year of service to the surrounding community through the St. Seraphim Orthodox Center (SS OC). Affiliated with the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS), the ministry serves lunch to some 35 to 45 guests on Thursdays and Saturdays, complimenting the lunch schedule of the local Salvation Army. 

During his August 2012 visit to St. Mary Orthodox Church, His Grace Bishop Thomas repeatedly stressed the importance of the parish’s work at the Center in the downtown area, and urged parishioners to continue and extend this ministry to the wider community.

St. George in New Kensington PA Hosts 100th Anniversary Weekend

By Helen Murray

“Our Roots Run Deep” was the theme for St. George Orthodox Church’s 100th Anniversary Celebration which was celebrated with much joy and enthusiasm on the weekend of November 3, 2012.

The 100th anniversary celebration actually had kicked off a year prior, on November 5, 2011, with our Fourth Annual Sacred Arts Festival (see article on p. 28 in May 2012 issue of The Word magazine). It was a successful event and a great opportunity to share our Orthodox faith and Syrian heritage with the local community. The event included speakers, iconographers, vendors, our own bookstore, and a Byzantine choir concert.

Next, we remembered our heritage at our annual St. George Day Brunch held on May 12, 2012. At this annual feast day celebration, we recognize church school students, altar servers and high school seniors. Additionally, we recognized a couple of parishioners who were nominated for having admirably served the church.

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Raphael of Brooklyn Church + Chantilly, VA

“Wherever the bishop is, let the people be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Church.” -St. Ignatius of Antioch

His Grace Bishop Thomas came to visit St. Raphael of Brooklyn Church in Chantilly, Virginia on the weekend of December 15-16, 2012, and presided at Vespers on Saturday evening, as well as Orthros and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday.

This was the culmination of another successful year for the mission, which was established in 2006 and located 20 miles west of our nation’s capital. The mission has grown from 20 members to its present 140 under the leadership of Fr. Thomas Palke. The congregation has made the transition from setting up for Sunday liturgies in an established location that offers a sizable sanctuary, nave, and narthex, plus classrooms and a social area. During the past two years the parish has built an iconostasis that can be expanded as the congregation grows. A lovely platytera icon adorns the wall behind the altar, and the nave is surrounded with a complete set of festal icons.

Dn. A. Gregory Roeber Ordained to Priesthood

The former Deacon A. Gregory Roeber of St. George Orthodox Church in Altoona was elevated to the priesthood as Father Anthony in services on Saturday, February 9, 2013.

The Right Reverend Thomas Joseph, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese was the ordaining hierarch. The ordination occurred during the bishop’s annual visit to the Altoona parish. He was assisted by priests and deacons from his diocese, the Diocese of New York and Washington, D.C., the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania, Orthodox Church in America, and the Carpatho-Russian Diocese of North America. The Very Rev. Anthony G. Yazge, Interim pastor of St. George, and the Very Rev. Donald E. Shadid, pastor of St. Mary Church, Johnstown were the sponsors for the new priest. Priests and deacons who concelebrated included The Very Rev. Nicholas Alford, Washington, D.C., The. Rev Joseph Gereige, visiting from Lebanon, The Very Rev. Nicholas Ferencz of Scranton, Pa.,The Rev.Deacon Glenn McIntyre, Brownsville, The Rev. Deacon David Jacobs, Antiochian Village, and The Rev. Deacon Alexander Cadman, State College. These clergy were assisted by Subdeacon Todd Mokhiber, Antiochian Village, Bolivar; and St. George members Subdeacon Joshua Kollat, Reader James Johns, and Acolyte Ethan Kollat.

In the True Spirit of Giving

In the true spirit of Christmas giving, the community of St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and clergy from neighboring parishes gathered together on Saturday, December 22, 2012 with His Grace Bishop Thomas for Vespers followed by a Nativity dinner benefitting the Al-Kafaat Foundation in Lebanon. The cathedral’s parishioners and organizations collaborated and worked together to present a beautiful evening of good food and good fellowship. Full of good cheer, the church hall twinkled with Christmas lights and decorations. The Byzantine choir of the cathedral chanted liturgical hymns of the Nativity and the church school children’s choir sang Christmas carols. His Grace Bishop Thomas spoke of the importance of Al-Kafaat, service, and the blessing it is for each person to have the opportunity to support the Al-Kafaat project. Fr. Demetrios Makoul spoke briefly on the importance of supporting such causes and how they allow us to be a presence of light in the world. The proceeds of the evening were multiplied as parishioner-owned restaurants, as well as philanthropically-minded individuals, completely underwrote the cost of all the expenses for the event.

Bishop Thomas Featured in OCN Interview about School Choices

Bishop Thomas chats with kids during a parish visitBishop Thomas chats with kids during a parish visitHis Grace Bishop Thomas, Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic, recently spoke with Fr. Chris Metropulos, executive director of Orthodox Christian Network (OCN). The interview is featured on OCN's flagship show, "Come Receive the Light," within the episode titled "Making Choices Concerning Your Children."

In the interview, Bishop Thomas described his experiences as a teacher in public, private, and homeschool settings, and offered his advice to parents on making educational choices for children. He noted that "we shop for everything—things that are of little consequence. This (choosing a school) is extremely important, so I would suggest that in any particiular educational situation parents do some investigation; talk to people who have participated, both parents and teachers to see what the philosophy and theology of the school is." His Grace also discussed the pros and cons of homeschooling, and encouraged parents to avoid "the temptation of isolation." 

Listen to the full interview.

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Andrew Mission + Lewes, DE

His Grace Bishop Thomas visited St. Andrew Mission in Lewes, Delaware over the weekend of November 17th - 18th, 2012, and was welcomed by an appreciative congregation for Saturday Vespers and for the Sunday Orthros and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.

Bishop Thomas remarked: "What a difference a year makes!" The previous November we were still meeting at the Grange Hall. This time for Sayidna's visit, we had just been in the new building for six Sundays. It is good to be "home" and we enjoyed celebrating with our beloved bishop. We were encouraged to reach out to southern Delaware with the good news of Jesus Christ and the Holy Orthodox Faith. It was noted that St. Andrew's is the only Orthodox church in Sussex County and that we have a lot of people to reach. We ask your prayers.

Bishop Thomas Encourages Work of St. Seraphim Center on Visit to Chambersburg

During his August 2012 visit to St. Mary Church in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Bishop Thomas repeatedly stressed the importance of the parish’s work at the St. Seraphim Orthodox Center (SSOC) in downtown Chambersburg and urged parishioners to continue and extend this ministry to the wider community.

His Grace was presented with a report on the Center written by one of the parish’s high school students, Ariel Wetzel, who gave an overview of the history of the SSOC, as well as excerpts from interviews she conducted among those engaged in the ministry.

St. John Chrysostom Church Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Bishop Thomas

St. John Chrysostom Church in York, Pennsylvania recently welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas on the occasion of its annual patronal feast and 20th anniversary celebration.

Sayedna Thomas began the weekend festivities by attending a dinner with the parish council members and their spouses on Friday evening. On Saturday morning, His Grace had breakfast with the Antiochian Women, the first time that Sayidna had met with the local branch exclusively. Following Great Vespers on Saturday Evening, a gala banquet was held at the Golden Stories Restaurant in Columbia, PA. In addition to His Grace, the Rev. Fr. Peter Pier and the Rev. Fr. Gregory Matthews-Green were in attendance. The Banquet featured a congratulations from His Grace, comments from some of the founders of the church and a slide show looking back over the past 20 years.

Bishop Thomas Visits St. George Church + Upper Darby, PA

Fr. Joel Gillam writes:

Over the weekend of December 7-9, 2012, the community of St. George Church in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania was blessed to host His Grace Bishop Thomas. Friday evening saw a gathering of college students from the local Drexel, Temple, and UPenn chapters of Orthodox Christian Fellowship. During the Lenten meal the students talked with Sayedna Thomas about modern issues facing the faithful, including matters of science, bioethics, and medicine. His Grace encouraged them to always seek Christ and to pray that He sanctify whatever career they pursue so that their talents might glorify God.

Bishop Thomas' Letter of Sympathy on the Repose of Patriarch Ignatius IV

His Grace Bishop Thomas writes:

December 6, 2012
Feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker

Beloved Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic:

Christ is Risen!

By now, I'm sure you have all heard of the falling asleep in the Lord of our beloved Patriarch Ignatius IV. We are all saddened by the great loss suffered by all Orthodox Christians throughout the world.

I had the opportunity to meet with His Beatitude a number of times during the last twenty years. I first met him when I served as a deacon at the Church of St. George in Houston, Texas, when he underwent open heart surgery. His Beatitude passed on eight years to the day that I was consecrated a bishop. On December 5th, 2004, faithful from all over the world, including representatives from this Archdiocese, gathered at his home in Damascus. His Beatitude personally greeted each member of our delegation at his residence. He presided over the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and laid his hand on my head. I also personally met with His Beatitude at the Patriarchal headquarters in 2008. The genuine love he possessed for me and the faithful of his flock was evident during this visit as well.

Many of you have had the opportunity to meet with His Beatitude and receive his blessing. Those of you who have enjoyed such an opportunity should consider yourselves greatly blessed.

Though His Beatitude has passed on to the Church Triumphant, we remember how he led us, the Church Militant here on earth, time and time again toward the kingdom of God. The Church now calls upon us to remember His Beatitude in our prayers. God willing, as we pray for him, he will continue to pray for us, as he has done for these many years.

Registration Still Open for Middle School Retreat at the Village on Dec. 14-16

St. Herman Middle School Retreat at Antiochian Village

  • For students in grades 5 – 8
  • "Reading the Holy Scriptures: Weaving Ourselves into the History of God's Love," with Fr. Noah Bushelli
  • Retreat package: $90.00 per student, including lodging and meals at the Conference Center

Register Now!

Nativity Greetings from Bishop Thomas

NATIVITY 2012


Beloved in Christ,

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

However great the heaven of heavens may be, or the upper waters which form a roof over the celestial regions, or any heavenly place, state or order, they are no more marvellous or honourable than the cave, the manger, the water sprinkled on the infant and His swaddling clothes. For nothing done by God from the beginning of time was more beneficial to all or more divine than Christ’s nativity, which we celebrate today. (St. Gregory Palamas, “On Christmas,” The Saving Work of Christ: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas, p. 1)

What a truly awe-inspiring gift we receive in the Nativity of the Son of God, our great God and Savior Jesus Christ! At the beginning of the homily quoted above from St. Gregory Palamas, he says that his festal address “must be exalted therefore in accordance with the greatness of the feast” so that we can “enter into the mystery... that something of its inner power might be revealed to us.”

Bishop Thomas Attends ROCOR Western Rite Ordination

Bishop Thomas with Bishop Jerome, Fr. James, Fr. Mark, and Fr. NathanBishop Thomas with Bishop Jerome, Fr. James, Fr. Mark, and Fr. Nathan(Wappingers Falls, NY) On Thursday, October 25, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas was invited to attend a ROCOR Western Rite ordination at the Mount Alvernia Franciscan Retreat Center in Wappingers Falls, New York. His Grace Bishop Jerome, the ROCOR bishop of Manhattan and Vicar of the Diocese of Eastern America, presided over the ordination of Dn. Mark Rowe to the Holy Priesthood, and served as the principal celebrant at the Divine Liturgy. Bishop Jerome, who is bi-ritual and fluent in Latin, adorned western vestments and conducted the ordination service in the Western Rite, and said the Divine Liturgy (Mass) almost exclusively in Latin.

Father James Hamrick, an Antiochian Western Rite priest serving as pastor of St. John the Baptist Mission in Lewistown, Maryland, accompanied Bishop Thomas to the ordination. Bishop Jerome invited Fr. James to participate in the laying-on of hands during the ordination, and to concelebrate at the Mass which followed Fr. Mark’s ordination to the priesthood. Other ROCOR clergy who assisted in the service included Subdn. Anthony Bondi and Fr. Nathan Monk.

Father Mark Rowe was originally ordained an Anglican clergyman in 1997, and in 1998 was assigned as the rector of St. Mary the Virgin in Tampa, FL. Father Mark originally met Bishop Thomas in about 1998, prior to Bishop Thomas’ elevation to the episcopate, while (then Fr. Thomas) was still serving as a priest at St. Nicholas in Pinellas Park, Florida. It was in the years following that Fr. Thomas was instrumental in introducing Fr. Mark and his parishioners to Holy Orthodoxy.

Bishop Thomas Visits Holy Ascension Church + West Chester, PA

Fr. Daniel Meyer writes:

Over the weekend of October 19-21, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas, visited Holy Ascension Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania. His stay began with prayers at Daily Vespers on Friday evening, followed by a fine Mediterranean dinner at a local restaurant with our parish council. There, the parish council invited His Grace to come back next Spring for a proposed “ground-breaking” prayer service and ceremony to kick off our expansion project. That project includes growing our existing place of worship, in addition to adding more classes for Sunday School, a new kitchen, and a modest size parish hall. His Grace blessed the idea and has scheduled to visit our parish March 23-25, 2013. He also challenged the parish to plan for a Pan-Orthodox Vespers service to be held at one of our local Orthodox parishes for that Sunday evening, which happens to be the Sunday we commemorate the Triumph of Orthodoxy, and is the Vespers service for the Great Feast of Annunciation. Excitement is growing over this idea as our parish desires to come more fully to know our Orthodox clergy, brothers and sisters of our surrounding parishes.