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Lest We Forget: Economos Antony Gabriel Introduces The Honor Wall

An Open Letter to the Archdiocese
By Economos Antony Gabriel

To The Archdiocese Board of Trustees, Pastors , Parish Council Members and Faithful of our God Protected Archdiocese:

AL MASSIH. QAM!

May you be blessed during this Season of Pascha and Pentecost.

I am appealing to you through the vehicle of The Word magazine, to raise your awareness of one of an important projects of the Foundation: An Honor Wall is to be placed in the Antiochian Village Heritage Center commemorating the blessed hierarchs, Vice Chairman of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees, and faithful clergy since the inception of the Antiochian Church in North America. Having authored Ancient Church on New Shores: Antioch in North America, it was a blessing to study the lives of the pioneers, commencing with St. Raphael and so many others who literally gave their lives together with their wives to plant the seeds of Antiochian Orthodoxy on this continent.

Why The Honor Wall?

Scrutinizing the records from the early days until now, we read a fascinating story of heroism, human frailty, contentiousness and phenomenal achievements, sometimes all at the same moment in history. I am sure that many of the faithful readers of The Word may have a close relative who served our God Protected Archdiocese lo, these many years. Some respondents to the letter that was sent to you several months ago forwarded me via emails, the names of clergy in their families. I would request as a doublecheck that you resend the information that was previously sent. I have been complying a large list built on the work earlier by Fr. George S. Corey, lists supplied by the Archdiocesan Office, and relatives as well from my own research over a ten year period. It is imperative to match clergy with their last parish and or surviving relatives.

Archdiocesan overseerer Dimitri Zeidan has been a consultant on the construction and placement of the Honor Wall. It is the mandate by our Beloved Metropolitan Joseph; he has charged Dimitri to review, make constructive observations, and to serve the well being of the Antiochian Village, hence the inclusion of Dimitri, who has ideas for the construction and placement of the Honor Wall.

Everyone who has learned of this project have expressed excitement and are yearning for more information in order to make a contribution to see the realization of this project.

It is axiomatic that: that he who has no past, has no present nor a future.

Storytelling and remembering, is the foundation of Orthodox worship, for by commemorating persons and events, we become bathed in the remembrance of things past, that are now made present through the act of giving thanks and recalling the sacred. It is vitally important for the emerging generation of pastors and Church workers to learn of their ancestor's struggles and victorious achievements.

For example, several priests that had a profound impact on my own life were: Fr. George Karim, my pastor in Syracuse, NY, who formerly was a barber and had the voice of an angel and patience to match; Fr. Michael Simon of Paterson, NJ, who was the mentor for all of us Antiochians studying at St. Vladimr's Seminary; and Fr. Nicholas Ofeish, New Kensington, PA., just to name a few. They had great struggles, and suffered at the hands of contentionous "Boards of Trustees" and other vicissitudes during the nascent emerging Archdiocese. Fathers Paul Schneirla and Wakim Dalack welcomed us during the years at West 121th St. into their homes and hearts, for New York for many of us was a behemoth , therefore, a friendly face humanized the new environment that we found ourselves.

Metropolitan Anthony had this advice for us as we were leaving for our first parishes at tender ages: Be wise as a serpent and gentle as a lamb. He also fearlessly challenged us to hone our skills to sell land on Lake Erie, and: where there is a will, there is a Way! There are five of us including Bishop Antoun who still remember his sage advice, that we bore in our hearts as we set out for life's new journey.

The wisdom and often their humility that they imparted to us has had a lasting impact on our lives and ministry. One of greats of the past century was, Rt. Rev. Ellis Khouri, Protosyngellos, who served under Metropolitan's Antony and Philip and was considered a living icon for his depth, and piercing insights. He had no children, now who would remember him or his rich history which included among literary giants as Khalil Gibran? It is incumbent upon us to honor his life and works!

Imagine how St. Raphael traveled across North America blessing, baptizing, marrying, burying, celebrating liturgical services, literally solo with limited resources, and yet he did with fervor and dedication that ultimately cut his life short by his tremendous sacrifices. Today, many of our clergy feel that security lies with a solid financial package, while our forefathers had no such beginnings but the fire within compelled them to soldier on. They had an unquestionable love for Christ and His Church and the fact we are serving and witnessing unprecedented growth is testimony to the fertile seeds which were planted and under whose fruits and shade they were not able to enjoy.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Continue to forward to my office all the pertinent information on our beloved servants, to develop and expand the Honor Wall, which will be placed in the Heritage Center of the Antiochian Village.

Secondly, your financial contribution will certainly speed up our joint efforts to begin construction and dedication of the Honor Wall. One may make a check payable to the Antiochian Heritage Foundation earmarked "Honor Wall," and the name or (names) who are to be enshrined on the wall.

Giving thanks ! Eucharisto! In advance for your continued interest.

In The Risen Lord,

Antony Gabriel
Great Economos
Chairman
Antiochian Heritage Foundation
economosantony@gmail.com