“The last one out of Oklahoma, Turn out the lights.” That’s what the T-shirt said. It was 1982. The collapse of the Penn Square Bank in Oklahoma City had set in motion a domino effect. What the whole country would experience with the collapse of the housing loan market in 2009, Oklahoma faced in 1982. Banks failed. Businesses and stores closed. Many lost their jobs.
Times were tough in Oklahoma. Times were tough at St. Elijah Orthodox Church in Oklahoma City. Church attendance had dwindled and along with it—the offering. Discouraged and disheartened—it was easy to complain and be divided.
It was 1982 when Fr. Constantine Nasr arrived with his wife, Sharon, and their young sons, Constantine and Philip. Fresh from their successful years at St. George in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, they found themselves in a raw, young state three months short of its 75th birthday. It was a state hardened by the frontier and toughened by tornadoes, the Dust Bowl years, and the changing price of oil and cattle.
His Grace Bishop Thomas made his annual visit to Holy Ascension Mission in West Chester, Pennsylvania on the weekend of October 7th–9th, 2011. Sayedna Thomas celebrated Great Vespers on Friday evening followed by dinner with the parish council. The dinner featured dialog on the growth of Holy Ascension as well as stories from Bishop Thomas’ experiences as a young priest. On Saturday the day began with a Divine Liturgy commemorating St. Pelagia the Righteous, with the baptism of Paul Meyer, Fr. Daniel’s son, immediately following. His Grace administered the sacrament with the assistance of the Fr. Andrew Damick of St. Paul Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Following the divine services, the Women of St. Thekla Group hosted a light meal in a beautifully decorated hall.
Fr. Noah Bushelli writes:
October 18th, 2011
Feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, the Beloved Physician
Glory to God!
We are so blessed to be living in Christ as members of His Body, the Holy Orthodox Church. Sometimes we feel this great blessing more fully than others. Thanks to a recent visit by Bishop Thomas Oct 1st - 6th, we are refreshed in the joy, peace, and vitality of serving God in this God-protected Antiochian Archdiocese and reaching out to this beautiful country of ours. We are Grateful for our Fathers-in-Christ, Metropolitan Philip and our Bishop, Thomas, for the loving, intensely mission-minded tone they have set and we are working very hard to bear fruit worthy of their examples. His Grace came for his annual archpastoral and gave us the challenging and joyful message of following Christ robustly and bringing people into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Project Mexico & St. Innocent Orphanage is a pan-Orthodox ministry that operates with the blessing of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. Our orphanage for teenage boys is based in Rosarito, Mexico and is currently home to thirty-one boys who have histories of abuse and abandonment. During the summers, our homebuilding ministry builds sturdy, weather-proof homes for impoverished Mexican families in the area surrounding our orphanage.
This past summer over 300 volunteers from all over the U.S. and Canada built 14 homes for needy families in our area. Many came to serve the poor, yet received far more in return than that which they gave, calling their trip "life-changing" and "spiritually rejuvenating". We are currently planning our trips for next summer, and we ask that your parish consider participating in a homebuilding trip with our ministry. We can accomodate groups of any size and welcome high schoolers and college students as well as adults.
Almost a year ago now, an opportunity like no other was presented to a small group of people. An e‐mail message sent by the then Parish Council President of St. James the Apostle (in Westminster, MD) was received by its parishioners stating that a change in leadership at St. James was imminent.
What was not exactly clear at that time was how imminent. Within the next 24 hours, that message had become a reality. St. James was without a priest.
Living in our high-tech world, what followed immediately, and what seemed like for days, was a flurry of email activity amongst the parishioners. Some expressing anger, some expressing sadness, others asking, "What do we do next?"
That following Sunday, the church was full of emotion. Our little sanctuary was full with parishioners seeking answers.
The First Annual Bible Lecture Series, featuring Fr. Paul Tarazi (firstname.lastname@example.org), will be hosted at by Fr. Aaron Warwick (email@example.com) and the congregation of St. Mary Orthodox Church in Wichita, Kansas, Friday and Saturday, October 28th and 29th.
Fr. Paul is a renowned author and speaker, and is Professor of Old Testament at St. Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood, New York.
The topic will be The Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Ephesians. For details view the lecture series flyer or contact the office at St. Mary Church (firstname.lastname@example.org). The flyer explains, "The epistle functions as a farewell speech similar to the one he gave to the elders at the Ephesus Church before heading towards his death. As both a final testament and universal letter to all the Pauline Churches, Ephesians is rich in content and addresses all major issues related to Paul's mission to the Gentiles."
The Department of Statistics and Credentials reminds parishes that a significant portion of the funding that is required by the Archdiocese comes from the assessments and Special Trays which are paid by each parish to the Archdiocese on an annual basis. The final Special Tray Offering should be conducted on one of the Sundays in October, and is slated to collect financial contributions for the three Orthodox Seminaries who help to prepare future Antiochian priests. We ask that you contribute generously to support these seminaries and their most important role in the training of our future priests. Please note that the third Sunday in October is designated as Special Olympics Awareness Day, and our teens make a collection to support Special Olympics. Therefore the special seminary tray collection should not take place on the third Sunday of October.
As the parishioners of St. Mary Church in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania were concluding their observance of the Dormition Fast in preparation for the Great Feast of the Dormition, their parish nameday, Bishop Thomas arrived in Chambersburg to celebrate with them.
Fr. Ted Pulcini, St. Mary’s pastor, drove His Grace into Chambersburg during the afternoon of Friday, August 12. That evening Bishop Thomas presided over the final Paraklesis service of the fast, leading a group of parishioners in their supplications to the Mother of God.
The next morning, Fr. Ted accompanied Sayyidna to the St. Seraphim Center, a FOCUS-affiliated ministry conducted by the parish to feed the needy in the Chambersburg area. The Center serves lunch to some 35 to 45 guests twice a week (on Thursdays and Saturdays), complementing the lunch schedule of the local Salvation Army. The Center will be observing its second anniversary this fall and is now well recognized as a welcoming community center in the Chambersburg area. Since last fall, the Center has also offered recycled articles of clothing, free of charge, to men, women, and children who need them. Bishop Thomas commended the work of the Center and gave his enthusiastic blessing to its continued efforts.
Recently, St. Patrick Orthodox Church was featured in the Warrenton, Virginia, Lifestyle magazine. Part of a series about local houses of worship, the colorful article presented the life of the community of St. Patrick in both text and photographs.
The author writes, "St. Patrick's Orthodox Church is strongly committed to being a vibrant witness of the Orthodox faith for their community. The congregation is made up of seniors, young singles and couples, families and many children, In Orthodoxy, the path of salvation is clear: we confess our sins regularly, we partake in our Lord's Body, we read (and sing) the Scriptures, we feed and clothe the poor, we fast, and we pray that we may be continually more filled with love for God and man."