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2017 Pascha Letter From Bishop Basil

Bas-relief above the Tomb of ChristBas-relief above the Tomb of ChristPascha 2017

Beloved and Christ-loving Clergy, Monastics and Laity of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America:

I embrace and greet you with a holy kiss in the Name of the Resurrected Theanthropos Jesus Christ, and, together with you and Orthodox Christians throughout the world, I joyfully proclaim that Christ is risen! Christos anesti! Al-Maseeh qaam! Christos Voskresse! Hristos a înviat!

As we prepare to celebrate the most glorious Feast of feasts in our beautifully adorned church temples across the Heartland of America, let us recall and be inspired by another glorious Pascha  − this one celebrated in stark Block 26 at Dachau Concentration Camp in 1945:

Memory Eternal! + Janna Esber Georges

Memory eternal! 

Janna Esber Georges, mother of Khouria Lynn Gabriel, reposed in the Lord on Tuesday, April 25th, 2017. She passed into eternity at home, surrounded by her family: Fr. Antony Gabriel, Kh. Lynn, David, Mark and Tamara, Ryan, Jeanne Habib, and Pam Rosenberg. Touching many lives, she will be deeply missed. Janna was born in Damascus, Syria on January 2, 1920, as Janna Esber. Her church was Ss. Peter and Paul in Maryland, with Fr. George Rados.

At her request arrangements will be private. A woman of great faith, she left in the loving embrace of Christ!  

Metropolitan Joseph Presides at Parish Anniversary of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Canton, Ohio

The community of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church of Canton, Ohio welcomed His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph to preside over the 95th Anniversary of the parish from April 21–23, 2017. On Friday, April 21, a benefactors' reception was held in honor of Sayedna Joseph at the residence of Dr. Kaleel and Rhonia Shaheen, who also faithfully and elegantly served as the 95th Anniversary Chairs. The reception recognized the fundraising efforts of the benefactors who sponsored the weekend festivities. After Sayedna gathered and thanked them all for their ministry to the church, everyone listened to beautiful paschal hymns chanted by the Metropolitan's newly ordained deacon, Dn. John Al-Massih. On Saturday morning, Sayedna was greeted by over fifty beautiful children and teenagers of the church to the sounds of church bells and the chanting of the Paschal Troparion. After delivering his message to the youth and answering their questions, all were invited to a special breakfast chaired by Nina Shaheen, Malakh Bechara, Laura Kibler, and Nahi Kaed. (View the photo gallery)

It's time to register for this summer's Parish Life Conference!

His Grace Bishop Anthony is pleased to announce this summer's Parish Life Conference for the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest, scheduled for June 21–25, 2017. The host church is St. George of Cicero, Illinois, and the place is the Oak Brook Marriott Hotel in Oak Brook, IL, just west of Chicago.

Everything you need to know for this once-a-year gathering of our Diocesan Family is available here. Please note that the deadline for placing an ad in the souvenir journal is Monday, May 1, and the hotel reservation deadline is May 31.

A full schedule of events is also available here.

Bishop Anthony is requesting that all of our parishes and missions place an ad in the souvenir journal, and that all clergy attend the conference from Wednesday evening through Saturday.

We look forward to seeing all of you in Chicago!

Countdown to Miami: 2017 Antiochian Archdiocese Convention FAQ

This hardworking team is planning the 2017 Miami Convention.This hardworking team is planning the 2017 Miami Convention. 

 

 

 

 


Summer draws near, and so does the 53rd biennial convention of the Antiochian Archdiocese, July 23-30, 2017 in Miami. The Very Rev. Fouad Saba and the host parish of St. George Cathedral of Coral Gables, Florida took time from their busy schedules to talk about the features of what looks to be a historic gathering of the Archdiocesan clergy and faithful.

Who are the featured and keynote speakers this year?

The Grand Banquet will honor His Grace Bishop Antoun on Saturday night, July 29, where we anticipate our beloved diocesan hierarch will reflect upon his lifetime ministry and experiences in his service to Christ’s Holy Church. Fr. Antoine Melki, professor of computer science and technology at Balamand University in Lebanon, will be the keynote speaker during the General Assembly on Thursday and Friday, July 28 and 29, and in other scheduled workshops and events. The host committee is excited to welcome Fr. Melki, who will present interesting insights on the effects of technology in the modern world on the Orthodox Christian family.

Assembly Releases National Study on Evangelization and Outreach in U.S. Orthodox Parishes

Map of participating parishes in 2017 Assembly of Bishops study on evangelization (click on image for larger view)Map of participating parishes in 2017 Assembly of Bishops study on evangelization (click on image for larger view)The first national study on evangelization and outreach in Orthodox parishes in the United States has been released by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA. The report can be downloaded in various formats, as an executive summary, or as a full report.

The report, "Go and Make Disciples: Evangelization and Outreach in U.S. Orthodox Parishes," explores the practices and strategies developed by some Orthodox parishes that can be viewed as "exemplary" in their missionary and outreach efforts. Examples of what the readers will find in the report include:

Metropolitan Joseph Leads Prayer Service for Kidnapped Metropolitans

On Bright Thursday, April 20, 2017, the Antochian Archdiocese was joined by co-hosts—the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese and the St. John of Damascus Fellowship of New Jersey—in sponsoring a timely prayer service at St. George Antochian Orthodox Church in Little Falls, for the abducted Archbishops of Aleppo, Metropolitan Paul and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim. Metropolitan Paul and Metropolitan Yohanna vanished without a trace on April 22, 2013, after they drove together in hopes of negotiating the release of hostages in captivity. Metropolitan Yohanna’s deacon escaped, but his driver was killed. 

(Read the Paschal Message of His Beatitude John X, in which he issues a call for the liberation of Metropolitans Paul and Yohanna, and sign the petition that will be presented to the White House and the United Nations, "Help release the kidnapped archbishops of Syria.") 

Desired Attributes of Sunday Church School Directors

By Chris Andreas

Though it would certainly be difficult to find individuals possessing all the attributes mentioned below, all are desirable for those wishing to hold the position of director of a Sunday Church School (SCS). Directors are those who must make everything “go,” and the programs will be at their best only when the leadership is equal to the tasks.

Faithful Members of the Church Sunday Church School
Directors are role models for the teachers, the students and their parents. A Director who says one should attend and participate in the Divine Liturgy and the sacramental life of the Church should also be a Director who attends and participates in them. A Director should think of her/himself as a continual learner of the Faith, reading, studying and reflecting on the Orthodox Tradition and passing along new books and ideas to the teachers. A Director should be spiritually motivated, filled with fervor and excitement.

On Pursuing the Virtues: An Introduction

Author’s note: During Great Lent Orthodox Christians focus more intently on becoming more Godly and less self-centered. Thus it seemed that Great Lent was the best possible time to feature a series of articles on pursuing virtue. The author spent a series of weeks sharing about virtues and looking at ways to teach our Sunday Church School students about them, so that they can join us in our pursuit of them. All the virtues have been covered on the blog at this point; below please find our introduction. May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us grace as we learn to better walk in His ways!

Read our blog, "Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School Teachers"

In this series of blogs, we will focus the virtues. There are many, but for this series we will focus on the seven capital virtues mentioned in the Pocket Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians: humility, liberality, chastity, mildness, temperance, happiness, and diligence. As the book mentions, each virtue is the positive counterpart of a grievous sin. In order for us to become more like God, to grow in theosis, we must not only resist and repent from those sins in our life, but we must also labor to attain the virtues.

Gleanings from a Book: "The Suitcase" by Jane G. Meyer

Orthodox Christian author Jane G. Meyer has written a new picture book called The Suitcase: a Story about Giving. The book was illustrated by Chiara Pasqualotto. It is the story of Thomas, a boy who may be autistic but does not let his challenges keep him from being an active participant - even a leader - in entering the Kingdom of God while bringing others with him. Any reader, regardless of age, will be challenged to find ways to make God’s Kingdom happen in the world around them after meeting Thomas through this book. 

Here is a brief summary and review of the book:

Thomas is like clockwork. He is so precise with his preferred activities that you can almost predict what he will do each day. So, when he randomly shows up at the family supper table one night with a suitcase, declaring that he intends to leave for the Kingdom of Heaven, it catches everyone’s attention, for this is far from his routine!

Memory Eternal! + Nabiha (Iqal) Rayan

Father Nicholas Dahdal writes:

Memory Eternal! Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church of Cicero, IL, offers her sincerest condolences to the Rayan Family on the loss of the handmaid of God Nabiha (Iqal) Rayan, who passed into eternal life on Bright Monday April 17, 2017. Condolences are extended to her children Yacoub (Baha), Rayan (Fayrouz), Saliba (Janan), Archdiocese Board Member Mansour (Wafa), Jad (Pam), Ida (†Jiries) Mufarreh, Ghada Rayan, and their families.

Likewise, we extend condolences to her siblings Issa, Boutros, Nasr, Kamel, Widad, Huda, Julia, Offa, and Suad.

Nabiha now joins in eternal life her beloved husband †Oudeh Rayan, and her siblings †Daoud and †Saeed. The Paschal Funeral Service and Burial was held on Bright Thursday, April 20.

The Dept. of Homeschooling Announces 2017 St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschooling Conference

With us everything should be secondary compared to our concern with children, 
and their upbringing in the instruction and teaching of the Lord.  
- St. John Chrysostom

Did you know that homeschooling is becoming more and more popular? It might be the best educational option for your family, or a family you know.

If so, we encourage you to look into the annual St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschooling Conference, scheduled for April 27-30, 2017 at the Antiochian Village Conference and Retreat Center outside Ligonier, PA. The conference offers workshops for both experienced and beginning homeschoolers alike, with simultaneous activity sessions for children ages three and up.

Metropolitan Joseph's Paschal Greeting, 2017

PASCHA 2017
All creatures have been filled with light, the heaven and the earth, and all that is below the earth. Let all creation, therefore, celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, in which it is strengthened.
Paschal Canon, Ode 3

Beloved in Christ,

CHRIST IS RISEN!
INDEED HE IS RISEN!

Having struggled together through the Fast, we have arrived at the Tomb of Christ and joyfully find it transformed from a place of gloom into a source of brilliance that permeates all the regions "in heaven and on earth and under the earth". (Phil. 2:10).

Bishop Thomas to Offer Commencement Address, Receive Honorary Doctorate at St. Tikhon's Seminary

His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the Board of Trustees of St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary, and St. Tikhon's Rector His Eminence Archbishop Michael, have invited His Grace Bishop Thomas to deliver the Commencement Address at the Seminary's graduation on May 27, 2017. In his letter of invitation, Archbishop Michael cited His Grace's "faithful, tireless and yeoman service to the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States, and Holy Orthodoxy throughout the world, as well as to theological education in particular." Bishop Thomas will also be awarded an honorary doctorate by the Seminary.

Saint Tikhon's has graciously invited all the faithful to attend the graduation exercises, as well as the entire weekend of festivities that mark the Annual Pilgrimage to St. Tikhon's Monastery. Pilgrimage services begin Friday afternoon, May 26, continue Saturday, and Sunday, and culminate with the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Monday morning, May 29.

An Orthodox Spiritual Response to Clergy Burnout

By Bishop Thomas and Peter Schweitzer

In my last article, I wrote about the faithful participation in the life of Christ and what that entails on a practical level. In this present paper, I hope with God’s help to address the issue in terms of our beloved clergy. In the last paper, I made a distinction between being at church and being in church. On the surface, this distinction does not hold for our clergy by the fact of their ordination. We must necessarily be in church leading the services. However, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ come to mind, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)  There is a temptation for clergy and faithful alike to be physically present for services while their hearts remain cold and hardened. 

Send Us Your Photos From This Holy Season!

V. Rev. Fr. Gregory Lazarus Murphy, St. Michael Church, Geneva, NY (photo: Matthew Owen)V. Rev. Fr. Gregory Lazarus Murphy, St. Michael Church, Geneva, NY (photo: Matthew Owen)Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Christ is risen! The team at Antiochian.org is issuing a call for photos from your parish's Holy Week and Pascha celebrations. Send all photos to editor@antiochian.org as JPEG attachments. Please send a maximum of three photos, include a caption for each photo you send, and tell us the name of the parish and priest represented by the photo. Read our submission checklist here.

Memory Eternal! + Chafica Chamoun-Cohlmia

Mrs. Cohlmia with her sons Dr. Samir and George.Mrs. Cohlmia with her sons Dr. Samir and George.Memory Eternal! + Chafica Chamoun-Cohlmia, 82, mother of Dr. Samir Nouhad Cohlmia, Diocesan Protopsaltis for the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, reposed on the evening of Great and Holy Friday, April 14, 2017. She was preparing to attend the divine service. The Paschal Funeral will be served at St. George Cathedral in Wichita, KS on Bright Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., with interment followed by a meal of mercy on Bright Wednesday beginning at 11:00 a.m.

Condolences may be sent to Dr. Samir and his brother George at SamCohlmia@yahoo.com.

Great and Holy Friday

On Great and Holy Friday, the Orthodox Church commemorates the sufferings of Christ: the mockery, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, the thirst, the vinegar and gall, the cry of desolation, and all the Savior endured on the Cross. "Today He Who hung the earth on the waters is hung on the tree," sing the solemn worshippers. Beginning with the Orthros of Holy Friday on Thursday evening, and ending with Vespers on Friday afternoon, the day is one of solemn observation and strict fasting. The richness of the liturgical actions and hymnography on this day, are unsurpassed.

We worship Your passion and Your burial,
for by them, You have saved us from death!

For more reflections and resources, please visit our Holy Week section. And for more material dedicated to the pinnacle of the liturgical year, visit Antiochian.org/Pascha.

Read more about Great and Holy Friday
St. Theodore the Studite on Holy Friday
Fr. John Finley shares portions of St. Nicholai Velemirovic's homily on Great Friday

Spring 2017 Issue of DIAKONIA Available Online

The Spring 2017 issue of DIAKONIA is now available online. This issue highlights the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America. The issue contains:

  • A greeting from His Grace Bishop Basil
  • A message from Spiritual Advisor Fr. Christopher Morris
  • A message from the Diocesan President Deana Bottei
  • Profiles of diocesan officers
  • Chapter reports, photos and happenings

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

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + April 12, 2017

Exodus 2:11-22
Job 2:1-10
Matthew 26:6-16

Exodus 2:11-22 (NKJV)
Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?” Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” So Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known!” When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “How is it that you have come so soon today?” And they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and he also drew enough water for us and watered the flock.” So he said to his daughters, “And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”

His Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph Convenes Second Gathering of Archdiocesan Department Leaders

His Eminence leads the meeting of department and organization heads.His Eminence leads the meeting of department and organization heads.

Following on the success of last year's first-ever exclusive gathering, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph again convened the leaders of the Archdiocesan departments and organizations at the Antiochian Village Heritage and Learning Center in Bolivar, PA, April 5–6, 2017. Together, they examined their ministries and set immediate and long-term goals aimed at building up their ministries, in order to bring the clergy and faithful closer to our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, and His Orthodox Church.

Joining His Eminence were His Grace Bishop Thomas of Oakland, Charleston and the Mid-Atlantic; His Grace Bishop John of Worcester and New England; His Grace Bishop Anthony of Toledo and the Midwest; members of the Archdiocesan Board of Trustees; and more than twenty-five department chairpersons and leaders. Each leader reported on his or her current mission and vision for the next several years, accomplishments of the previous year, and any issues that were particular to the specific department in question. Each department head also fielded questions, addressed the audience's concerns, and welcomed new ideas to enhance the work.

Separate one-on-one meetings in which financial projections for the next three years were reviewed were also held between each department head and the Archdiocese finance team, headed by Mr. Salim Abboud, CFO.

The hierarchs, clergy, and lay leaders started each day in Ss. Peter and Paul Chapel with Lenten Daily Orthros, and they partook of Holy Communion on Wednesday night at the Presanctified Divine Liturgy. His Eminence expressed his gratitude to all of the attendees for sacrificing their time to attend this gathering, and he thanked them for all of the good work they do throughout the year.

Receiving the Holy Fire in Taybeh

Christians in Taybeh, Palestine celebrate the religious Tradition of the Holy Fire. (Photo c/o Maria C. Khoury)Christians in Taybeh, Palestine celebrate the religious Tradition of the Holy Fire. (Photo c/o Maria C. Khoury)"O Gladsome Light, of the Holy glory of the Immortal Father, heavenly Holy, blessed Jesus Christ!" (Holy Saturday Morning Prayers)

Everyone should have a favorite day in the Church calendar and as an Orthodox Christian living in the land of Christ's Holy Resurrection (in the only all-Christian village still left in Palestine), mine happens to be Holy Saturday. 

We usually celebrate receiving the Miracle of the Holy Fire at the outskirts of our village approximately after 5 pm in the late afternoon on Great and Holy Saturday while waiting usually from 1pm local time when this great miracle occurs annually in Jerusalem. Palestinian Christians and Muslims cannot freely enter the Holy City of Jerusalem unless they have special permission granted by Israel. Thus, on this very sacred day, for those who do not have the freedom to get into Jerusalem we celebrate in the location which God has granted us good health to witness.

The local priests, Fr. Daoud (Orthodox), Fr. Jack (Melkite) and Fr. Johnny (Roman Catholic), of all three churches with the choir chanting, and the Taybeh Scouts beating the drums march in a solemn procession to meet our cousin Ibrahim with his sixteen-year-old son Philip, who go to the city of Ramallah, where the faithful bring the flame from Jerusalem for the Palestinian Christian communities that cannot reach the Holy City.  

Lent, 2017: Bishop Anthony's Talks at St. George Orthodox Christian Church

Recently, His Grace Bishop Anthony gave two talks at St. George Orthodox Christian Church in Fishers, Indiana, pastored by Fr. Nabil Hanna. The two talks are titled, "The Second Coming of Christ," and "We are made in the image of Christ."

Fidelity in the Life of Christ: A Lenten Reflection by Bishop Thomas

by Bishop Thomas (Joseph) and Peter Schweitzer
April 5, 2017

In my last article, I wrote about the notion of the Orthodox Church as the Ark of Salvation whose mission concerns the salvation of its members. In so doing, I dismissed the notion that the Church functions as a corporation concerned with the smooth administration of an institution. The corporate mentality has no place in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ. This affirmation leads to the next issue--what does it mean to be a member of the Church?

At first glance, one could reasonably assume that membership requires a fidelity to the Church’s teachings and, on the local level, participation in the life of the parish. Of course, this is true and a necessary first step but it doesn’t capture entirely what membership in the Orthodox Church implies. Just as a child who is initiated into the Church through the mysteries of baptism, chrismation, and Holy Eucharist must continue to be nourished throughout life by the regular and consistent participation in the Mysteries and the services of the Church, adult members can’t claim fidelity to Christ and His Church without the same.

Metropolitan Joseph Presides at Fifth Annual Syrian Relief Dinner and Prayer Service

Read the article in the Post-Gazette.

On Sunday, April 2, 2017, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph presided at the fifth annual Syrian Relief Dinner and Prayer Service, held this year at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA. His Grace Bishop Thomas was in attendance, along with other Antiochian clergy and hierarchs and clergy from other jurisdictions. The International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) Pittsburgh Metropolitan Committee organized the service and dinner. 

The money will be distributed to programs that aid displaced Syrians internally, as well as to relief efforts that assist refugees in Lebanon, Greece and Jordan, said IOCC spokeswoman Kristen Fianni.

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