by Lucy Hanna, NAB Dir. of Public Relations
The Antiochian Women of North America : Who are they? And what is their Focus and Purpose?
The answer to the first question is simple: Every Orthodox woman 18 years or older who is a member of a parish of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America-- regardless of ethnicity and whether or not her parish has an organized chapter—she belongs to Antiochian Woman!
The answer to the second question, while also simple, is a bit more lengthy. Women have a natural capacity to love and nurture. This is what His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP recognized when he founded the National Organization of Antiochian Women in 1973. Then, to help us in our ministries he established a focus and purpose for our organization as a roadmap to guide us in a spirit of Christian leadership, awareness and commitment, fostering love through charitable acts and creating a sense of fellowship and understanding of our heritage and traditions.
It has been said that the women are the backbone of all the parishes throughout the Archdiocese. Besides teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, serving on the parish council, running church bookstores, cleaning, cooking and baking the prosphora, they still have time to do charitable and humanitarian work within their parishes, in their communities and even for national and international charities. One of the main purposes of having a national organization is to guide women across the Archdiocese focus on deserving charities. To accomplish this, we have a North American Board who, with the guidance of the Metropolitan, the overseeing Hierarch and the Spiritual Advisor, investigate and find these deserving charities. Then, in order to pass along the information, we have counterparts on the diocesan level, who in turn pass along the information to the parishes. It is therefore very important to have women representatives from every parish who are responsible to receive and distribute this information. These would be the chapter board or officers.
Other materials generated by the NAB to the chapters through the diocesan boards are the Religious programs (the “Read the Bible in a Year” and the “Lives of the Women Saints” programs are two examples), the DIAKONIA newsletter, humanitarian projects, and membership programs, to name a few.
Some parishes feel that they don’t need an elected board to do their charitable work. Of course, they don’t, but to make matters more orderly, it is important for the diocesan board to know who is to receive the information--in most cases, the president. It is important to have someone in charge of the money collected from the fundraising events for the charities. This would be the local chapter treasurer who then sends the money to the diocesan treasurer, who in turn will send it to the NAB treasurer. The NAB treasurer then writes a check for the total amount from all dioceses to the Metropolitan for distribution to the charities. To keep record of all the decisions and plans, it is important to have someone take notes. That would be the secretary. It is not “titles” we are seeking, but rather an orderly process.
Among the many charitable acts of the Antiochian Women, there are those which benefit our own members. Every year, we award annual scholarships to women 25 years or older who are members of the Antiochian Archdiocese and who need to return to school to further their education. Others charities include the groups which benefit from our annual projects, worthy causes for which we have raised over 2 million dollars since 1975. These projects include Pastoral Education, Balamand Seminary and University, Missions, Orthodox Media, Seminarians, Antiochian Village, Patriarchal Charities, St. George Hospital in Beirut, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), Orphanages, Retired Clergy Housing, and others.
This year, our project is “Children with Special Needs”. Some children struggle with physical disabilities such as Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Down Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Asperger’s Syndrome, hearing/speech impairment, learning disabilities, and other multiple handicaps and chronic diseases. Many foundations, domestic and overseas, are responding to this need by providing medical, educational, and rehabilitation services to these children.
One such example is the Al Kafa’at Foundation in Beirut, Lebanon which will be the recipient of this year’s project money. The word “Al Kafa’at” literally means “abilities” in Arabic. This worthy foundation focuses on the “abilities” rather than the “disabilities” of these young people. Founded in 1957, this foundation established a primary school, a catering school for young girls, an academic school for children with disabilities and a leather factory, the proceeds of which were invested in making artificial limbs, braces, and orthopedic seating for the handicapped. The employees at the leather factory are all handicapped taxpayers, providing for the rehabilitation and education of children with special needs.
Meeting these needs is a constant challenge. With your support, children of all ages, mostly from extremely deprived backgrounds, will be able to move around much more independently, some even without any assistance. For these children, who face difficulties from an early age, such facilities offer the dignity and independence that are so important to their development.
The month of March is designated as “Women’s Month” in our Archdiocese. The work of the women in our churches is highlighted throughout this month, which appropriately falls during Lent. In March, women from all the parishes of the Archdiocese are asked to hold a fund raising function for the project. Please plan to attend and support these children of God.
Through the prayers of our Mother the Most Holy Theotokos, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.
NAB Public Relations, Director