Diocese of Charleston News
On the weekend prior to the commemoration of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29, 2012), His Grace Bishop Thomas made an episcopal visit to the faithful at St. John the Baptist Church in Lewistown, Maryland. His Grace presided at Vespers on Saturday, August 25th and at Matins and Divine Liturgy on Sunday, August 26th. The visit marked the fourth time that Sayedna Thomas had visited the mission since it was established by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip on March 20, 2009. St. John the Baptist Mission, located about 65 miles from Baltimore and Washington, is the only Western Rite Antiochian Orthodox church in Maryland.
During the weekend celebrations, Bishop Thomas shared with the people how the commemoration had personal significance for him since he had served his first Divine Liturgy as a newly ordained priest on the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. His Grace proclaimed that the patron of the mission was not one who was politically-correct, but was rather one who was bold in the faith—who had “guts” and was willing to stand for the truth — and who, like the Theotokos, was willing to say “yes” to God, no matter the cost. Bishop Thomas encouraged the people of St. John the Baptist to follow the example of their patron, the Forerunner of Christ.
His Grace Bishop Thomas presided over the baptism of Dean Jacobs, son of Dn. David and Tatiana Jacobs, on June 23, 2012 at St. Thekla Outdoor Chapel at the Antiochian Village. Dean Jacobs' baptismal name and patron saint is St. Dionysios of Zakynthos. Sayedna Thomas presided with Fr. Anthony Yazge (from the camp), Fr. Don Shadid (St. Mary Johnstown, PA), Fr. Noah Bushelli (St. Philip Souderton, PA), and Fr. Bogdan Bucur (St. Anthony Butler, PA) also serving. Dean's Godparents are Nathan and Kristen Catanese.
His Grace Bishop Thomas asks that we remember the community of St. Patrick Orthodox Church of Warrenton, VA in our prayers. A fire burned down the new temple that was still in the process of being built by the congregation. Thanks be to God, no one was harmed. Local news has covered the story in the July 25 piece, "Fire destroys future home of church near Bealton."
"The congregation of Saint Patrick Orthodox Church had spent about $80,000 on renovations which started four months ago," Fr. Patrick Cardine explained to the Fauquier Now reporter.
A wonderful event that will be taking place at Antiochian Village this autumn! As you may know, Antiochian Village is the burial place of St. Raphael of Brooklyn. Many people each year come to visit his burial place as they also attend the St. Thekla Pilgrimage. The 2012 pilgrimage will take place during the weekend of September 21-23. This pilgrimage is sponsored by our Convent of St. Thekla, with the assistance of the Convent's abbess Mother Alexandra, and will be overseen by His Grace Bishop Thomas.
In addition to the usual events of the pilgrimage, this year we will also have a deacon's retreat in conjunction with the pilgrimage. For information about this retreat, please contact Dn. Gregory Roeber (email@example.com).
As Orthodox Christians, our lives are a type of pilgrimage, so why set time aside to attend the St Thekla Pilgrimage? The key is in "setting aside." We invite you "to set aside all earthly cares" and to join us in refocusing and refreshing ourselves in our Orthodox life. Like St Thekla, Protomartyr and Equal to the Apostles, together we will pray at the Divine Liturgy and services, obtain guidance and direction from the Gospels for our lives at home, and enjoy fellowship with other pilgrims.
Through the intercession of Saint Thekla, may this Pilgrimage be blessed!
Questions? Please call 724-238-3677 x425 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Anthony Orthodox Church of Bergenfield New Jersey is hosting the faithful and clergy of the Dioceses of Charleston and New York at the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick, over the long weekend beginning on July 4th. His Grace Bishop Thomas will preside over the Parish Life Conference (PLC), which promises "Fun, Fellowship and Worship!" and is featuring such events as a talent show, a teen sporting competition, and a workshop titled "Enliven to Christ." (Download the full schedule.)
On the opposite site of the country, the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West, with the oversight of Archbishop Joseph and sponsorship of the Church of the Redeemer, is hosting their PLC at the Santa Clara Marriott Hotel. Kids up to age 12 will enjoy the PandaMania! Vacation Bible School Program, the Keynote Speaker will be Bishop Anthony, and the SOYO attendees will participate in a youth community service event. More details are available here.
Fourth Annual Deacons' Retreat
September 21-23, 2012 + Antiochian Village
His Grace, The Right Reverend Bishop Thomas Joseph of The Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic announces The Fourth Annual Deacons’ Retreat at the Conference Center, Antiochian Village, Friday to Sunday, September 21-23. (The retreat will be held simultaneously with the St. Thekla Pilgrimage and priests and laity are invited and urged to attend those sessions.)
“For the Son of man also came not to be served, but to serve. . . .” (Mark: 10:45)
The featured speaker and retreat master will be the Reverend Dn. Paul Zaharas, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Metropolis of Denver (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America).
The Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black recently held their Annual Ancient Christianity Conference at Antiochian Village, from May 25-May 27. His Grace Bishop Thomas was a featured guest; audio of the Opening Addresses and Sessions is available on Ancient Faith Radio.
The Brotherhood posted the following letter of thanks from Vice-President Carla Thomas:
Greetings in Christ,
Dear Metropolitan Jonah and Bishop Thomas,
How refreshing it is to have the Lord's shepherds to be so supportive of the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black.
The 2012 BSMB Annual Ancient Christianity Conference was held at the Antiochian Village 5/25-5/27. The conference is supported by a grant from Christ the Saviour Brotherhood. 75 men, women and children attended the conference. The lectures are available on Ancient Faith Radio.
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.
by Fr. Joel Gillam and Peter Schweitzer
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Mt. 28:18-20)
St. Matthew’s Gospel concludes with Our Lord’s 'Great Commission', that we should “Go forth” and teach the entire world what He has revealed. This command is directed to every Orthodox Christian, to each and every one of us, through Holy Baptism. This is the mission that every generation is chosen for; the ministry that each of us as part of the royal priesthood offers (1Pet. 2:9). In order to fulfill this command we must know several things: 1) the message, 2) the people to whom we are delivering the message; and 3) knowing these things we must determine the means to deliver the message.
In the secular world, this is known as a communications plan. In the Church it is evangelism, bringing the people the Good News of Christ. In principle, what we are discussing is no different from any other communications plan devised by businesses, organizations, or political campaigns. Yet at the same time it is so that the world might know “God the Father, and Jesus Christ whom [He] has sent” (Jn. 17:3); the gift of eternal life. This is true mission work and evangelism.
On Monday, April 9, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas visited the parish of St. Elias in New Castle, Pennsylvania. He presided over the second of the three Bridegroom Matins services of Holy Week. After the service, His Grace delivered a sermon in which he reflected on the importance of the services of Holy Week, and also gave his positive impression of the progress that the church is making in becoming a beacon of Orthodoxy in the New Castle area.
Immediately following the service, refreshments were provided and the Bishop greeted many of the community who came to the service. We were grateful for his visit, and look forward to his returning soon!
The Eastern Dioceses 2012 College Scholarship Application is now available for download. This scholarship application is intended only for parishioners from churches that are within the Eastern Dioceses. If you wish to participate in the application process, please complete the application and be sure to include all required materials. All information must be accurately completed and returned by June 1, 2012.
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."
His Grace Bishop Thomas writes:
GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA 2012
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 they who were with Mary came, anticipating the dawn, and found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher, they heard from the Angel: Why seek ye among the dead, as though He was mortal man, Him who abideth in everlasting light? Behold the graveclothes. Go quickly and proclaim to the world that the Lord is risen, and hath put death to death. For He is the Son of God, who saveth the race of man. (Hypaköe of Pascha, Tone 4)
As we now gaze into the tomb with those who first heard the news of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, how should we understand this moment? Surely we know that this is the height and heart of our faith, that the beautiful and radiant message of the Resurrection is the defining word of the Orthodox Christian life. But how does this touch us in our own lives? How does this connect with us?
Just like those myrrh-bearing women of long ago who gazed into the sepulcher and came expecting to see death and disappointment, we, too, are people who find that our own vision is permeated by the expectation and the experience of death. The myrrh-bearers came to that tomb not out of joy but to mourn. They came there to pour their hearts into that place of death. But they were greeted there not with death, not with decay, but with life, and not just mere existence, but the Life of the World, the Life Who puts death to death.
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.
(Unionville, MD) On Tuesday, March 20, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas was received by the Sisterhood of the Holy Monastery of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. Bishop Thomas was accompanied by four of his diocesan priests including Father Gregory Mathewes-Green (Holy Cross Church, Linthicum, MD), Father Patrick Cardine (St. Patrick Mission, Warrenton, VA), Father James Hamrick (St. John the Baptist Mission, Lewistown, MD), and Father Raphael Barberg (St. James the Apostle Mission, Westminster, MD).
Following a short service of reception in the chapel, Bishop Thomas welcomed the sisters to their new property and urged all present to do whatever was necessary to ensure that the property would remain an Orthodox monastery. Bishop Thomas and his priests were then led to the dining room where the sisters provided a hot Lenten meal.
Following lunch, Sister Ignatia accompanied Bishop Thomas and the guests on a brief tour of the property.
His Grace Bishop Thomas visited the community of St. George Cathedral in Oakland, Pennsylvania over the first weekend of Lent, arriving on the evening of Thursday, March 1st and departing on the afternoon of Monday, March 5th.
During the weekend, the clergy and the faithful of St. George were blessed to worship at eight different services with His Grace! On Thursday evening, we prayed Compline with the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. On Friday evening, we prayed the Little Compline with the Akathist Hymns to Our Lady Theotokos. On Theodore Saturday morning, we had Orthros and Divine Liturgy and, in the evening, had Vespers. On Sunday morning, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, we had Orthros and a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Later in the evening, the Orthodox community of the Greater Pittsburgh area gathered for the Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers, which was presided over by His Grace Bishop Thomas and His Grace Bishop Melchisedek of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania (Orthodox Church in America). Over 20 priests and deacons from every jurisdiction of the Greater Pittsburgh Orthodox community participated in the Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers! Of course, every service was followed by the joy of coffee hour and fellowship in the Church Hall.
St. John Chrysostom Church in York, Pennsylvania welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas on the occasion of its annual patronal feast day celebration over the weekend of November 11-13, 2011. Sayidna 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 blessed the icons in the dome which were written this past Spring. He was accompanied by the Reverend Fr. Peter Pier, pastor of St. John Chrysostom, and Dn. Jerome Atherholt. Following the blessing, the children learned about the Prophets in the dome from Kh. Pam. Great Vespers was then concelebrated by Fr. Peter, Fr. Joseph Butts and Fr. Theodoros Daoud of St. Mary’s in Hunt Valley, Maryland, with Bishop Thomas presiding. Following Great Vespers, a gala banquet was held at the Golden Stories Restaurant in Columbia, Pennsylvania.
The mission community of St. Andrew the Apostle in Lewes, Delaware welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas for a most blessed weekend on November 19th and 20th, 2011. Also joining in the very special weekend observances was Fr. Nicholas Alford of the Church of St. Gregory in Washington, D.C., along with the Deacon Raphael Garcia and a number of parishioners from D.C. Also coming for the weekend were Fr. Adrian Budica and Kh. Viktoriia from the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY. And also present were Subdeacons Joseph Kavchok from St. Paul, Emmaus, PA; Jason Flowers from the Holy Ascension Mission, West Chester, PA; and Benjamin Daniel of St. Philip, Souderton, PA. A very delicious supper was furnished by the Antiochian Women of St. Andrew following the Vespers Saturday evening.
St. George Church in Altoona, Pennsylvania was delighted to be able to welcome His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph) for his annual parish visit over the weekend of December 9-11, 2011. Due to Sayedna’s additional duties as locum tenens for the Diocese of Toledo, the original plans for an October visit had to be postponed. In addition to celebrating the usual cycle of services from Great Vespers to the Divine Liturgy, Sayedna joined the Fr. Stephen Lourie, pastor of the parish, and the Dn. Gregory Roeber and many parish families for an Advent meal hosted by the Ladies’ Society. Sayedna singled out the Society and especially its officers Lydia Kachur and Rebecca Edmiston for praise for the dinner, program for the children, and recognition of the other hard-working women of the parish.
Much to the delight of the parishioners of St. George, His Grace Bishop Thomas made his annual hierarchical visit to Bridgeville, Pennsylvania over the weekend of September 10 and 11, 2011. During his stay, His Grace provided many wonderful opportunities for the membership of our community to meet and interact with our beloved hierarch.
On Saturday morning, September 10, our Church School children and teachers gathered with His Grace for breakfast and a lively discussion of the Orthodox Christian faith. His Grace, in his fatherly fashion, accepted questions from our children as well as questioning them regarding their progress in their understanding of the Orthodox Christian faith. His Grace’s presence and words, as always, were supportive and lovingly challenging.
Following breakfast, our pastor Fr. Jason DelVitto escorted His Grace to the Pittsburgh FOCUS Center located in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. Upon arrival at the Center Sub-deacon Paul Abernathy, Director of FOCUS Pittsburgh and a member of the Parish Council of St. George, Bridgeville, welcomed His Grace and thanked him for visiting the Center. Following Paul’s welcome, His Grace led those gathered at the Center in prayer and proceeded to bless the Center, the people who are involved in accomplishing the extraordinary ministry to the poor done through the Center, as well as the vehicles which are used delivering food, furniture, etc., to those in need.
Beloved in Christ,
Greetings in the name of our incarnate God and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ!
When Augustus became supreme ruler of the earth, the multiplicity of rule among men ceased. And when Thou becamest human from the spotless one, the worship of many heathen gods also ceased. Then the cities came under one worldly rule; and the nations believed in one divine supremacy. The nations were enrolled by an order of Caesar; but we believers were enrolled in the name of Thy Divinity, O our incarnate God. Wherefore, great are Thy mercies, glory to Thee. (Vesperal Doxastikon for the Nativity)
We are once again reminded by this beautiful hymn that the Good News of the coming of the God-man Jesus Christ into the world is a message not just for certain people, but for all people. We are also reminded that Christ’s Gospel is what unites us all together, no matter what our color, culture, birthplace or language may be. Likewise, the incarnation calls us forth from all our former delusions and idolatry to worship only the one true God, Who has become incarnate as a human being just like us, yet without sin.
As we celebrate the great feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, let us be again inspired to become evangelists and apostles bearing the Gospel to everyone around us; to pray and work together in true unity with all of our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what they look like or where they are from; and most especially always to turn away from anything that keeps us from dedicating ourselves totally to the worship and service of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Yours in Christ,
Rt. Rev. Bishop THOMAS (Joseph)