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Diocese of Toledo News

Antiochian Parish Featured in Toledo Newspaper

The St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church in Sylvania, Ohio, was recently featured in a newspaper article in The Blade, a premier Toledo publication. Archpriest Ayman Kfouf spoke with Religion Editor TK Barger about the commemorations of Holy Week and Pascha, and queried him for his thoughts about the crisis in the Middle East.

St. Elias is not "an ethnic church that is closed upon itself and that tries to alienate itself from the world," Fr. Ayman said. "Rather, our mission is to unify ourselves with the world and serve the world, because that is the mission of the Orthodox church, and the community. That's what we're doing in Toledo."

Read the full interview.

Russian Choral Group to Give Benefit Concert

On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, St. Raphael Orthodox Church (722 E. College St., Iowa City) will host the choral group Lyra, for a 7:30 p.m. concert. Lyra hails from St. Petersburg, Russia, and is composed of professional singers, most of whom have been trained at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire. During their current North American tour, Lyra is performing the sublime and soaring melodies of Russian Orthodox sacred music along with some spirited Russian folk tunes, complete with traditional costumes. St. Raphael Church's beautiful acoustics will support and enhance what is sure to be an excellent performance. A free-will offering will be taken, with a suggested donation of $20-35 per adult and $10-15 per student. A reception with refreshments, will follow. All proceeds will benefit St. Raphael Orthodox Church.

From a Washington Post Review

"...Lyra produced a pure a cappella sound that could both fill the intimate space and drop to an edge-of-your-seat whisper, and the ensemble coordination remained impeccable through even the most complex polyphony.

2015 Paschal Letter from Bishop Anthony

Pastoral Letter for Great and Holy Pascha
Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest

April 12, 2015

Dear Fathers, Deacons, and Faithful of Toledo and the Midwest Diocese,

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
!المسيح قام! حقا قام

When Adam fell, he could, from then on, only see ahead of him. Close to the ground and on his knees, his spiritual vision was narrowed to seeing only horizontally. He couldn't see above him. But from his knees he could pray.

The long Lent is over. As Holy Week begins, and as the fast returns, we begin to get up off the ground. We are ready for a standing posture not a prostration. Easter and Pascha show us we were meant to look above us in a heavenly direction.

"Christ is Risen, and there is no one left in the tombs." The humiliation of the Cross is changed into the glorification of His Resurrection. Everything has changed for me too. The Resurrection of Christ has opened the door to eternity. The limits of time that stop us from discovering the possibilities of who we are have been overcome. I see only opportunities forever in Christ. "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into the likeness from one degree of glory to another." (2 Corinthians 3:18).

St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church Hosts Sunday of Orthodoxy

St. George Church of Cicero, IL was honored to hold the Triumph of Orthodoxy Vespers for all Orthodox churches in the Chicago area, with host Archpriest Nicholas Dahdal, seven bishops, and over sixty priests and deacons in attendance.  Click on the link below for the photo stream.

View the photo album

Midwest Fellowship Spring Gathering + March 27-29, 2015

From Julia Shaheen, president of the Midwest Fellowship:

It is time once again for the Fellowship's Spring Gathering, scheduled for March 27-29 in Cicero. Bishop Anthony is scheduled to attend as well. We would like to see a delegates from every parish for the teens, fellowship/young adults, and ladies. The flyer and schedule are attached to this email. I've posted the registration information for the hotel and the meetings on this website: https://dotamregistration.wordpress.com/

Also, we are going to do a sock drive (something easy and fun!). Everyone who attends is asked to bring one pair of socks (or more) with his/her registration. We are hoping that organizations within each parish might do a sock drive...they are going to the nuns at the Fraternite Notre Dame. So please help get the word out on this.

Thank you!

Bishop Anthony's Lenten Message, 2015

Reverend Clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest,

Christ is in our midst!

Lent is the road; the Resurrection is the destination. Lent is revival; Pascha is our arrival.

Lent is demanding and rewarding. It is hard to change, to leave the comfort zones of daily routines. And yet, there is also a freshness and happiness when we leave old habits and strike out into the mystery of what waits for us, and of whom we might become through our journey to the empty tomb. There may be strength in us that we discover has always been a part of us. For if we can reverse course, and use our spiritual energy to gain virtue instead of satisfying desire, a youthfulness comes to us. Those many desires that we have waste our energy and exhaust God’s grace in us, and as the eighth prayer in our morning prayers addressed to the Mother of God says, “I am aged by senseless sins.”

AFR Interview: "Holy Egyptian Martyrs, Pray For Us"

Fr. Nabil HannaFr. Nabil HannaFebruary 18, 2015

Ancient Faith Radio (AFR) has released an interview with Fr. Nabil Hanna, rector of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Indianapolis, IN and a native of Alexandria, Egypt, regarding the recent beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians on a beach in Libya. AFR President John Maddex discusses the martyrdom of these faithful Christians with Fr. Nabil, noting the impact of the video titled "A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross," released by the media arm of the Islamic State.

Father Nabil, recently returned from Egypt, describes in the podcast how the 21 men clearly had an opportunity to renounce their faith, yet chose death rather than do so. The interview closes with a prayer for the martyrs, their families, the perpetrators of these murders, and all of the faithful who live in the shadow of violence.

Listen to "Holy Egyptian Martyrs, Pray For Us"

Metropolitan Joseph Celebrates Milestones with Chicago Community

Metropolitan Joseph elevates Fr. MousaMetropolitan Joseph elevates Fr. MousaView the photos by Toni Milak and Sami Studio.

Between January 15– 18, 2015, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph made his first visit to Chicago as Metropolitan, to St. Mary Orthodox Church of Palos Heights, IL, to join Fr. Mousa Haddad, Fr. Malek Rihani, and their parishioners. Throughout the weekend, His Eminence and the St. Mary community celebrated the tremendous growth the church has experienced since starting as a mission only eleven years ago, and looked forward in anticipation of the expansion and renovation of their recently purchased building.

On Thursday January 15 His Eminence, accompanied by His Grace Bishop Nicholas, were welcomed at Chicago's O'Hare airport by a large delegation led by Fr. Mousa and Mr. Luai Sweiss, the Chairman of St. Mary's Parish Council. This delegation included the Antiochian clergy of the Chicagoland area, local members of the Archdiocesan Board of Trustees, and parish community leaders. After the arrival of His Eminence, the group was treated to a wonderful lunch hosted by Board of Trustees member Constantin Kari.

Theophany Water Blessings Make Local News

Dn. John Mahfouz, Ss. Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church, Salt Lake City (Chelsey Allder/Deseret News)Dn. John Mahfouz, Ss. Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church, Salt Lake City (Chelsey Allder/Deseret News)On the feast of the Theophany of Our Lord or Epiphany on January 6, 2015, our Antiochian clergy and parishes journeyed to nearby bodies of water for The Great Blessing of the Waters. Several media outlets published articles and photographs from these services; excerpts and links are included below.

Deseretnews.com: "Epiphany: priests bless water, 'essence of life'"

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of Orthodox Christians gathered at Sugarhouse Park Tuesday to be blessed during a service of sanctification and commemoration of Jesus' baptism.

More than 60 members of the Orthodox Christian community lined up as the Rev. Justin Havens of Sts. Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Salt Lake dipped a bundle of branches into holy water and sprinkled it on parishioners' heads.

Blessed Name's Days to Bishops Antoun and Anthony!

January 17th is the celebration of St. Anthony the Great and the name's days of His Grace Bishop Antoun of the Diocese of Miami and of His Grace Bishop Anthony of the Diocese of Toledo. May God grant them many years!

APOLYTIKION OF ST. ANTHONY THE GREAT, TONE 4 

Thou didst become like the zealous Elijah in his condition, and followed John the Baptist in his upright ways, becoming a dweller in the wilderness and an establisher of the universe by thy prayer, O Father Anthony. Wherefore, intercede thou with Christ God to save our souls.

Memory Eternal! + Ann Kafoure Freije

Fr. Nabil Hanna of St. George Church in Fishers, IN writes:

Beloved in Christ,

I regret to inform you that Ann Kafoure Freije left us for the heavenly mansions on Friday, January 9th, 2015. A lifelong member and tireless worker here at St. George's, we will miss Ann as much as we rejoice in her well-deserved rest. As a testament to her faithful service, she was a recipient of the Midwest Antiochian Women's Metropolitan Philip Award as well as of our parish's St. George Award.

New SOYO Spiritual Advisor Appointed for Diocese

Fr. Mousa HaddadFr. Mousa HaddadFr. Patrick KinderFr. Patrick KinderArchpriest Joseph Purpura, Department of Youth Chairman, reports:

For several years Fr. Patrick Kinder has served the youth of the Diocese of Toledo exceptionally well. We are very grateful to Fr. Patrick for his good work. We pray that the next six months, in which Bishop Anthony has granted Fr. Patrick a sabbatical period of rest, are very fruitful ones.

With the blessing of Bishop Anthony, Fr. Mousa Haddad of Palos Heights, IL, has been appointed as the new Spiritual Advisor for SOYO for the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest. I ask that you give him your full cooperation. Please pray for both of them.

Father Mousa Haddad is the pastor of St. Mary Orthodox Church in Palos Heights, IL, Chicago's southwest suburb. Father Mousa was born the eldest of four children. His parents immigrated to the United States from Jordan, making Chicago's southwest side their new home. Growing up, he was very involved in the Church, serving in the holy altar from a very young age.

Climacus Conference To Discuss the Theme of Beauty

The fifth Climacus Conference, featuring the theme "BEAUTY, Truth, and Goodness Will Save Us," is scheduled for February 13-14, 2015, at St. Michael Orthodox Church in Louisville, KY. The conference is a pan-Orthodox intellectual and spiritual event featuring scholars and voices across the fields of Theology, Philosophy, Patristics, Classical Education, Literature, History and Politics. It is unique in that it provides an opportunity for people to be enriched by thinking well across disciplines. It furthers the life of the mind through scholarly engagement with the classic liberal arts, but approaches such an endeavor through the spiritual nous, the mind of the heart, enabling our ascension "of the ladder" (κλίμακος), as inspired by St. John Climacus and his Ladder of Divine Ascent.

OCCHY Offers Videos on Substance Abuse Prevention

The Antiochian Archdiocese's Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth (OCCHY) is a unique national alliance founded and supported by the Department of Youth and Parish Ministries of the Archdiocese. The ministry focuses on establishing, training and leading substance abuse prevention and intervention coalitions across America.

On May 22, 2014,  OCCHY's active Cicero, Illinois Coalition hosted a Town Hall Meeting for parents and teens, titled "Underage Alcohol & Substance Prevention." Sponsored by the federal government's Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration, the meeting featured law enforcement and mental health professionals, who presented talks about how to ensure safety and sobriety for teens. The presentations are available on YouTube and may be viewed on OCCHY's website.

Toledo Blade Features Metropolitan Joseph Enthronement Story

St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church, Sylvania, OHSt. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church, Sylvania, OHIn the December 10, 2014 edition of a Toledo, Ohio newspaper, The Blade, the enthronement of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph was described by Blade Staff Writer Tom Troy. "Local members of the Antiochian Orthodox church rejoiced Saturday in the enthronement of a new leader for the church in America, with hopes for expanded unity and outreach to youth tinged with concern for persecuted Christians in Syria," wrote Troy.

The article quotes the local priest and several parishioners extensively. 

"The Rev. Ayman Kfouf, pastor of St. Elias Antiochian Church in Sylvania, welcomed Metropolitan Joseph as 'a son of Damascus' and one who is very close to the church patriarch, the head of the international church in Syria.

"'He is very educated, he is very experienced,' Father Kfouf said. 'He is very active in the way of protecting the Christians in the Middle East in general and in particular in Syria.'"

Read the full report

Antiochian Priests Offer Teaching, Encouragement to Uganda's Church

Fr. John ChagnonFr. John ChagnonFr. George DahdouhFr. George DahdouhThis reflection was written by Fr. John Chagnon of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in St. Paul, MN, about a missions trip in which he and Fr. George Dahdouh of St. George Orthodox Church in Houston, TX travelled to Africa to minister to the Ugandan Orthodox Church. The article was originally published on November 25, 2014, in the Orthodox Christian Mission Center News.

Uganda is an Oregon-sized country in East Africa, 20 hours away by air and nine time zones ahead of us, and yet, by Faith we are family. Since just after World War II, canonical Orthodoxy has been part of the life of Uganda, spread not by missionaries but rather by Ugandans themselves who sought out and found the apostolic Christian Faith they were seeking, a Faith they chose rather than accept the faiths of the colonial powers that ruled them until the early 1960's.

The Ugandan Orthodox Church is led by His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, himself the son of the leader of those who discovered Orthodoxy and brought it to Uganda. It is a young church, vital, and working in a culture where old and new are intertwined and some traditional brick houses have solar panels to make sure the cell phones are charged every night.

The Beauty of the Church: Its Place and Purpose

By The Right Rev. Anthony Michaels, Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest

When you have your wedding photo framed and hung in your home, you put that picture in the most expensive and elaborate frame you can afford. You do not think of the cost so much as the event it preserves and the feelings experienced. In this way, and with all family pictures, something more than paper and ink and color prints are present for us. It is the sacrament of the moment that counts. Material things become the conveyer or vehicle for an invisible and spiritual reality which is far more precious to us than the expense demanded to express it. Yet, if these special times in our lives are not adorned with the beauty and expense of frames and colors we would cheapen them, turn something that for us was wonderful into a common, forgotten and ordinary thing. The beauty of the material package attracts us to the lasting value of the experience which that package holds. 

The icons we see in Church are material things: wood, paint, lamination, etc. But in them is the presence of the wonder-working saint.

Winter 2014-15 Issue of DIAKONIA Available Online

The Winter 2014-15 issue of DIAKONIA is now available online. This issue highlights The Diocese of Toledo & the Midwest! The issue contains:

  • Trusting in the Lord, by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph
  • The Beauty of the Church: Its Place and Purpose, by His Grace Bishop Anthony
  • Do We Need the Church? by V. Rev. Daniel Daly, Spiritual Advisor
  • Who Will Mind Our Children, by Sheryl Vander Wagen, Diocesan President
  • Introducing The 2013 - 2015 Board of Antiochian Women of the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest
  • The Diocese of Toledo & the Midwest Parish Life Conference in Pictures
  • Happenings Around The Diocese Of Toledo and the Midwest

...and more! Download (PDF) here.

Registration Opens: February 2015 College Lenten Retreat

Come enjoy a weekend of spiritual retreat and fellowship with other Orthodox Christian college students. We will have discussions, daily services, and conclude the weekend by celebrating Sunday of Orthodoxy together! Registration is now open!

  • Please register online at www.avcamp.org
  • Cost is $95, including all meals, lodging, and activities, to be held at the Camp (bring own bed linens/sleeping bag, pillow, towels, and toiletries)
  • If you have questions, please e-mail Chris Shadid at chris@antiochianvillage.org or call the camp office at 724-238-9565, ext. 505 
  • Download the flyer

St. Willibrord Mission Celebrates Patronal Feast

St. Willibrord Mission in Holland, Michigan, celebrated their patronal feast with a beautiful Vigil service on the evening of November 6 and the Divine Liturgy on the morning of November 7, 2014. Fr. Steve Van Bronkhorst, the Mission’s pastor, shared the life story of this great saint, who spread the Orthodox Faith throughout the Netherlands in the 7th-8th centuries. Members of Holland’s predominantly Dutch community enjoyed learning about the man who first introduced Christ to their ancestors, and the Mission’s members thanked their patron saint for his faithful intercessions.

Metropolitan Joseph Consecrates Dome of Basilica of St. Mary

By The Very Rev. George Shalhoub, and Parish Ministries Coordinator and Cantor Christina Stavros

View Photo Gallery

There are special moments in the lives of men and women that leave an everlasting impression. If we are Orthodox Christians, these moments are those that serve to aid and empower us in our journey towards Christ. This past weekend (October 31- November 2nd) was such a moment in the life of The Basilica of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Livonia, Michigan.

In the presence of our beloved and newly-elected Metropolitan Joseph, our local Bishop Anthony, scores of clergy, and Teen SOYO from around the diocese who were present for the 2014 Fall Gathering, we witnessed with our own eyes the consecration of our holy icons in the dome of our church by His Eminence Joseph's holy hand. This moment will remain forever etched in the minds, hearts, and souls, of the faithful of our parish.

Memory Eternal! + Sarah Metry Najjar

Memory Eternal! 

Sarah Metry Najjar, 43, passed away Wednesday morning, August 20, 2014.  A lifelong member of St. Michael's Orthodox Church in Louisville, KY,  Sarah was very involved in the Fellowship of St. John the Divine on the local, diocesan and national levels.

Sarah attended Sacred Heart Model School and Collegiate High School. Her love of the theatre was nursed at Walden Theatre from the age of 6, and blossomed at New York University at the Tisch School of Arts. After graduating from NYU, Sarah returned to Louisville to work for Walden and eventually as a corporate fund raiser for Fund for the Arts. After a presentation for Fund for the Arts, she was offered a position at U.S. Bank. She completed her MBA at Bellarmine University, and worked as a branch manager until marriage. 

Sarah married in 2002, and in the same year, fulfilled an enduring desire to become a teacher.

29th Sacred Music Institute Trains and Inspires

By Christopher Holwey, Chair of the Department of Sacred Music 

VIew SMI YouTube videos and the Flickr photo gallery by Paul Jabara

The Sacred Music Institute (SMI), held this year from July 23-27 at Antiochian Village, has been getting better each year. I'm not being biased simply in my role as the Department Chair. Rather, looking at the SMI's progression from year to year, I see the quality of our instructors, speakers, and program, improving on an academic and spiritual level.

More than ever, this year our speakers were educated and trained musically and theologically, coming from many of our Orthodox jurisdictions. They helped our participants grow in the same way, musically, technically, vocally, and theologically, in their understanding of Orthodoxy and the sacred music of our Church. We learned the hymns of our Church with regard to our theme, "Pascha," and then we presented this music in a concert, utilizing the talents of our Sacred Music Chorale and our newly formed Byzantine Choir.

St. Mary of Palos Heights, IL Wins 2014 Bible Bowl

Representing the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest this year at the annual NAC Bible Bowl was St. Mary Church of Palos Heights, Illinois, located in Chicago's South Side. Team St. Mary, composed of members Salena Ibrahim, Marlena Sweiss, Sandra Khouri, and Elizabeth Khouri, achieved a near perfect score of 104 points (out of 105). Under the leadership of their coach, Kh. Delia Haddad, and their clergy, Fr. Mousa Haddad and Fr. Malek Rihani, team St. Mary won first place. Afterwards, the team was congratulated by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph and Bishop Anthony of the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest.

IOCC Volunteers Aid Midwest's Flood Victims

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — In the second half of the month of June, 2014, rivers across the Midwest surged over their banks, flooding cities and sweeping away summer crops as they failed to contain record summer rains that fell during the early summer. Floodwaters engulfed much of Minnesota, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, in some of the worst flooding in decades. The state's governor declared a state of emergency as homes and businesses as well as vast stretches of farmland across 35 counties were submerged under several feet of water. 

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) mobilized to respond to the emergency needs of flood survivors in the region. IOCC Emergency Response Network volunteers as well as the local Orthodox Christian community sprang into action, with more than a dozen teens and adults from St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis traveling to Rock Rapids to roll up their sleeves and help clear out waterlogged debris from flooded homes.

The IOCC is on the scene, helping the victims of disasters in the United States, like the Midwest floods. The United States Emergency Response Fund provides immediate relief as well as long-term support through the provision of emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need.

Read more at IOCC's website.