On the weekend of October 14, 2012, Sayidna Thomas visited St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Sayidna arrived on Friday afternoon and that evening had dinner with the Parish Council and their families. Suanne Moses, the President of the Council, welcomed Sayidna and hoped that he would have a good visit at St. Mary’s. During the meal they spoke about the life in the parish and about the economic growth in the area which is connected mostly to the service industry. Sayidna noted that there were several new hotels in the area and stated that they would provide an opportunity for interested Antiochian Orthodox to find work in this area. He particularly noted how in Pennsylvania the price for housing is relatively inexpensive compared to other metropolitan areas. He hoped that this would be attractive to people looking for a less expensive life in a beautiful geographic area who could become viable members of our Orthodox parish.
On Saturday Sayidna visited some of his family, the owners of a local restaurant, Abe’s, which is famous for its Hot Dogs in Wilkes-Barre, where Sayidna has eaten from the time that he was a child. Then that evening he presided over Great Vespers which was served by the pastor of St. Mary’s, the Very Rev. David Hester and the Deacon John Karam. Assisting at the Great Vespers were Subdeacon Norman Namey, Subdeacon John Moses, and several of the seminary students from St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary. Andrew Carpenter, a seminarian assigned to the parish, along with his fiancé, served as chanters along with the parish chanter Dallal Neddoff. Following the service there was a special meal served in the Parish Hall for some 60 people. It was a Syrian meal featuring Muddi which was prepared by a parishioner, Riad Attar, and several other members of the parish.
On Sunday, Sayidna served the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, assisted by Father David and Deacon John. The choir was directed by Sayidna’s cousin Amber Hyder and other members of his family also sang in the choir. Reading the Epistle for the Teen Soyo month was one of the parish teens, Alia Mazzatosta. Another teen, Hannah Kasko, also took up the collection. Sayidna preached about the special feast of the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council and spoke about the importance of keeping and living out our Orthodox faith.
After the Divine Liturgy Sayidna went to the Parish Hall where he was able to greet many of the parishioners and then visit with his cousins who are part of the Parish and those who came to visit for the weekend.