On December 24, 2013, St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was graced by the presence of His Grace Bishop Thomas to celebrate the feast of the Nativity. The cathedral celebrated the Hours of the Nativity, followed by the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil on the morning of Christmas Eve. Later that evening, His Grace celebrated Matins and Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, a blessed service in which Bishop Thomas ordained two men from the parish, Michael Janakis and John Norman, into the sub-diaconate.
During the service, Sayedna Thomas spoke about the significance of the feast, and the importance of being spiritually awake and keeping Christ as the true meaning of Christmas instead of other worldly ideas of the holiday. At the end of the service, Bishop Thomas inducted three very dedicated and inspired people into the Order of St. Ignatius. The congregation broke the fast together downstairs with a meal and much love and joy.
The faithful of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Raleigh, NC, were blessed by the archpastoral visit of His Grace, Bishop Antoun, the weekend of October 25-27, 2013. This was Bishop Antoun's first visit to the parish since consecrating the new nave in 2011.
The parish was especially pleased to present to Sayedna the new thronos, which has been installed for him on the south side of the nave, together with the new chanters' stand and stalls. These items were lovingly designed, carved, and assembled by a dedicated group of men in the parish, led by parishioner John Hawranick. This same group designed and built the parish's beautiful iconostasis, Altar Table, Table of Oblation, and Table of Preparation.
By Fr. Philip Rogers
On November 10, 2013, the Sunday closest to the feast of the Holy Archangels (November 8), His Grace Bishop Antoun blessed our community of Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Christian Church in Lafayette, Louisiana with a special hierarchical visit. It was a special visit because during the weekend, our community celebrated the burning of the mortgage of our first permanent building, a momentous occasion!
The faithful of our community came together on Saturday, November 9, to celebrate with His Grace Bishop Antoun and our previous pastor, the Very Rev. Fr. John Badeen. After a memorable dinner and a few remarks from our current pastor, Fr. Philip Rogers, our parish council chairman, Dr. Fadi Malek, Fr. John Badeen and Bishop Antoun, Fr. Philip and Dr. Malek held the mortgage and ceremoniously lit it on fire. All those present cheered as the fire destroyed the mortgage.
His Grace Bishop John visited Holy Trinity Mission in Lynchburg, Virginia over the weekend of November 23-24, 2013. After an unexpectedly prolonged sojourn at the Charlotte, North Carolina airport, Bishop John arrived in time to preach at Vespers after his solemn reception. On Saturday evening, His Grace was guest of honor at a dinner with the lay leadership of the mission. At Sunday Matins and Liturgy, His Grace eloquently wove all the Scripture readings together into their theme of Eucharist, answered questions at a festive coffee hour afterwards, and later treated Fr. Alban Waggener and Kh. Helen to dinner. It was a joyous weekend. We are greatly blessed with Bishop John's leadership and charisma as the overseer of the Western Orthodox churches of the Archdiocese.
It was a weekend like no other! For months we prepared for this special event, the highlight of this year, and our entire existence as a parish. Between September 27-29th, 2013, we were about to celebrate our 50th Anniversary as St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cicero!
Excitement built up when we knew that our beloved Metropolitan, His Eminence Sayidna Philip, would be presiding over the weekend's activities. We were also blessed with the presence of His Grace Bishop Antoun, Bishop of Miami and the Southwest, as well as His Grace Bishop Anthony of our diocese. We were also honored to have Subdeacon Rassem Massih, who accompanied the Metropolitan on this visit. Everyone from all ages were thrilled to be part of this historic celebration; a celebration of a parish that has faced obstacles in its history, but overcame them with faith and hard work!
On December 8th, the second Sunday of the month, our Antiochian Archdiocese will be celebrating Choir/Chanter Appreciation Sunday. While we appreciate our choir and chanters many other times throughout the year, for all the liturgical services they beautify and make possible with their singing and chanting, this is one Sunday that we especially acknowledge them particularly throughout the Archdiocese, and thank them for their ministry in the parish.
The first weekend in November was more than a normal weekend for the congregation of St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church in Monessen, PA. The parish began the celebration of their 100th anniversary, first celebrating Great Vespers on Saturday evening. Bishop Thomas, Auxiliary Bishop of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic, spoke after the service, encouraging us to honor our forefathers' and mothers' memories by working to keep the parish a healthy Orthodox presence in Monessen. On Sunday, Orthros and a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was concelebrated by Bishop Thomas and Bishop Basil, Auxiliary Bishop of Wichita and Mid-America. Following the Liturgy a 100th anniversary luncheon and program was held at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Hellenic Center.
St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church was founded in 1913 by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants as a place where Orthodox Christians were able to worship and seek salvation. The church was one of many that owes its organization to then Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny (St. Raphael).
During October 12-16, His Grace, Bishop Thomas made his annual pastoral visitation to St. Paul Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, as well as making other stops in the Eastern Pennsylvania area. During his visit to St. Paul's, His Grace presided over the divine services, including the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning. While there, His Grace noted the numerous upgrades and expansions to parish life that have been made during the administration of the current pastor, the Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, who was assigned to the pastorate of the parish in July 2009.
Since 2009, St. Paul's population has grown by 46%, and annual pledges have grown by 180%. During this time, multiple weekday services (including, in many cases, daily) have been instituted, as well as a vigorous program of adult education.
The St. George parish of Danbury, CT has celebrated two major events over the past few months.
A special Luncheon was held in August to honor The V. Rev. Fr. George Alberts on his 40th Anniversary as a priest. Father George and Kh. Carol have been a beloved part of our parish ever since they came to Danbury in 2002. Father is a noted scholar and teacher throughout our Diocese. We feel privileged to have him as our spiritual leader and to have Kh. Carol as our Church School director. God Grant Them Many Years!
On September 22nd, our own Bishop Nicholas graced us with his presence for the culmination of a year long celebration of 25 years at our present location. St. George Church has been an integral part of the community since 1924, with our new Church being consecrated in 1987 by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip.
St. George Church in Troy, Michigan recently celebrated both its 100th anniversary and the burning of its mortgage. The weekend began at the Troy Marriott on Friday, October 18th, 2013 with meetings of the Antiochian Archdiocese Board and the Governing Council of the Order of St. Ignatius, which continued through Saturday morning.
Saturday Evening Great Vespers took place at St. George's at 6:00p.m. followed by a Grand Banquet and the Burning of the Mortgage. The parish was honored to have six hierarchs present: His Eminence Metropolitan Philip; Archbishop Joseph of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West; Bishop Antoun of the Diocese of Miami and the Southwest; Bishop Nicholas, Bishop of Brooklyn and assistant to the Metropolitan; Bishop Anthony Michael, Bishop of Toledo and the Midwest; and Metropolitan Nicholas of the Greek Diocese of North America. All of these hierarchs' presence was welcomed with great joy.