Nearly everyone had arrived at Antiochian Village by Friday Feb. 5 for Antiochian Women’s mid-winter meetings before the fourth largest snowstorm ever in western Pennsylvania began.
The North American Board (NAB), made up of five elected officers, immediate past president and six coordinators, met Friday afternoon. They began meetings with officers and delegates of the seven diocesan Antiochian Women’s organizations on Friday evening, which continued on Saturday after Soul Saturday Divine Liturgy.
Prior to the first meeting Mother Alexandra, abbess of the Convent of St. Thekla  that established at the Village in July, led a mini-retreat for the women. Most everyone, including monastics, deal with temptations and distractions in their spiritual lives, Mother Alexandra said. She talked with the women about the things that distract us, including church-related ones. “We need to stay focused."
His Grace Bishop THOMAS spoke to the women about preparations for Great Lent and for the Kingdom of God. “You have the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the presence of God." He later added that “you bring great joy to this place."
Father John Abdalah, NAB spiritual advisor, talked about working together in unity and love. “It is through the Eucharist that we are united” and it was that way from the very beginning. “We commune with God outside of time…with your grandparents and grandchildren (who are yet to be born). Our God comes to us in the future," he said.
The NAB Project for 2010 is the Convent of St. Thekla, and Mother Alexandra updated the women on the building plans. Describing the monastery as a spiritual oasis, she said it will take up to 40 acres of the 400 plus acres of Village property.
The main building will include cells/living quarters for the nuns, a commercial kitchen to use for both nuns and visitors, guest quarters and workrooms. The church will be constructed of Pennsylvania stone, and above the church doors will be a stone carving of St. Thekla going into the mountain.
Both the Site Survey and the Environmental Impact Study for the monastery have been completed and approved. With the completion of the Feasibility Report, the search for an architect to build the convent is underway, Mother Alexandra said. The PA Conservancy is assisting with plans.
Among the business/announcements that the women discussed were:
• Revision of the brochure for Antiochian Women’s Month of March
• The Antiochian Women’s handbook which will be revised
• Better distribution of the NAB newsletter, the DIAKONIA
• Sale prices for the Holy Bread video and Holy Women CD/ROM
• A 5-8 minute video for promotion of Antiochian Women; a videographer taped meetings and interviews for the project; the video will be promoted at this summer’s meetings and available for distribution at the 2011 Chicago convention
• Summer meetings that are scheduled for July 23-25 at Antiochian Village
Also, during the weekend the women assembled 50 emergency health and baby kits to send to Haiti through the International Orthodox Christian Charities.
Following are highlights from the seven Diocesan reports:
Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic and the Diocese of New York and Washington D.C.—Mother Alexandra will lead their annual Lenten Retreat at Antiochian Village, open to all Antiochian Women, on March 19-21.
Diocese of Los Angeles and the West—Fr. David Hovik, Diocesan Spiritual Advisor, will speak at their Spring Retreat the weekend of April 23-25. “Rediscovering the Joyful Path: Building an Orthodox Personal Life, Home and Parish” is the theme. The group offers six scholarships for women who otherwise would not be able to attend.
Diocese of Miami and the Southeast—Among those that the organization contributes to is Mother Nektaria, who lives at St. Paul Skete near Memphis, TN. She is faithful to the Antiochian Women and visits many of their parishes often.
Diocese of Ottawa, Eastern Canada and Upstate NY—Fr. Thomas Hopko was the scheduled speaker for the 19th annual Pan-Orthodox Conference on Feb. 13 in Montreal. Topic was “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest—Midwest is selling Ukrainian Easter Egg Decorating Kits ($10.00) to benefit the NAB Project; to place an order contact Elaine Shaheen at 810-733-8114. The 5th annual retreat, open to all women, is planned for May 14-16 at Dormition of the Mother of God Orthodox Monastery in Rives Junction, MI.
Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America—Fr. Michael Nasser spoke at their October retreat on “Maintaining Faith in Chaos—Drawing Closer to God in Times of Trial”; he advised them to “maintain a consistent prayer life” and to “change the things in your life you can control in order to maintain calm."
Diocese of Worcester and New England—The women sponsored a retreat with Mother Alexandra in early February. She spoke on “Back to the Future with St. Ignatius: Then IS Now." Clergy, men and teens also attended.