YES — “Youth Equipped to Serve” — offers a wonderful opportunity for faithful ages 13 through college to serve and love the people of Chicago. FOCUS — the “Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve” — is a national movement of Orthodox Christians, united in faith and joined by a desire to provide action-oriented and sustainable solutions to poverty in communities across America. FOCUS has operations and offers youth volunteer experiences in more than 50 cities in the USA. As an expression of Christ’s love, FOCUS North America serves the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned by providing food, occupation, clothing, understanding, and shelter.
Participants may register on-line. Early registration is encouraged as the program will be limited to 35 participants, who will be lodged at All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church, Chicago. The service learning weekend will come to a close following the Divine Liturgy there on Sunday, April 30.
A registration gift of $150.00 per participant will cover all program expenses, make it possible for YES to prepare and execute the program, and enable FOCUS’ service team to meet the needs of those who be served through the program.
Questions may be addressed to Katrina Bitar, YES Program Director, at email@example.com or Larissa Hatch, Trip Leader, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Spring Session of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America will be held at the Chancery here from Tuesday, March 28 through Friday, March 31, 2017.
According to Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary, the meeting will open with the address of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon. Reports from the OCA’s Officers — Archpriest John Jillions, Chancellor; Melanie Ringa, Treasurer; and Father Eric — will be presented, as will updates by Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky, Director of External Affairs; the OCA General Counsel; and representatives of the Church’s boards, departments, commissions and other offices. Especially highlighted will be the work of the OCA Department of Christian Education and the Department of Christian Service and Humanitarian Aid, while an update on the OCA’s communications efforts and web site also will be presented. In addition, the Board of Theological Education will present the list of ordination candidates through the Diaconal Vocations Program.
Initial plans for the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the glorification of Saint Herman of Alaska and the autocephaly of the OCA, both of which will be observed in 2020, and this year’s 100th Anniversary of the election of Saint Tikhon as Patriarch of Moscow, also will be reviewed.
On Wednesday evening, March 29, members of the Holy Synod will meet with graduating OCA students from Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, South Canaan, PA and Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Yonkers, NY, who will sing the responses at the celebration of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
The Holy Synod of Bishops is the supreme canonical authority in the Orthodox Church in America. Chaired by the Metropolitan, the Synod includes as voting members all diocesan bishops.
After six years of conflict, International Orthodox Christian Charities [IOCC] is urging continued support for programs to meet the needs of Syrian children and adolescents who face food insecurity, lack access to education, and bear deep psychological scars. Children displaced by the conflict in Syria, as well as those who are now refugees outside of the country, require support to address all aspects of their health and wellbeing.
The situation of more than 5.6 million children inside Syria, where IOCC has maintained an active presence since 2012 in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch’s Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development (GOPA-DERD), remains the most desperate.
“The real danger for Syrian children and their families,” explained Mark Ohanian, IOCC Senior Director of Middle East Programs, “is not just the immediate need for humanitarian aid to sustain them physically, but the long-term effects on their wellbeing caused by the trauma they have experienced and disruptions to their lives.”
Majida, a 26-year-old refugee from Homs living in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, was unable to breastfeed her infant son Nader because of renal disease. He is just one of more than 1,000 Syrian refugee children in the Bekaa Valley who have been screened by IOCC staff. Ten percent of the children screened were found to be at-risk of malnutrition, either because of underlying medical conditions or lack of support for nursing mothers. In addition to providing breastfeeding assistance, children found to be at-risk are provided with protein-rich, high-calorie supplements to promote their healthy development.
Through screening and simple interventions, the prognosis for Nader has improved and his wellbeing has also benefitted his family. “A mother’s milk is the best nutrition for the baby as it provides immunity, while the bottle might catch germs and cause the baby to get ill. Nader is in better health with breastfeeding, and we are able to cut down our expenses and spend on other priorities in the difficult conditions we are living in,” Majida said.
Even for otherwise healthy Syrian children, the war is taking its toll. Three million Syrian children born since the beginning of the conflict have experienced prolonged fear from bombings and violence, the loss of family members and friends, and anxiety caused by repeated dislocation and uncertainty.
In an effort to address the trauma on Syrian children, IOCC and its partners began establishing Dream Centers to provide child-friendly environments for Syrian children who are homeless, orphaned, displaced and those with disabilities. Four centers, including one serving Aleppo, in Syria have been established to date to provide psychosocial support, offer instruction in personal care and hygiene, problem-solving and non-violent communication, as well as how to express their feelings and respond and adapt to challenging social situations. Participating children and their parents learn through theater, sports, games, art and other interactive sessions that take place over the course of three months. The program is supervised by a psychiatrist who follows up with the children requiring additional support.
School-aged children also face increasing obstacles to receiving an education. The UN estimates that one in four Syrian schools have been damaged, destroyed, or occupied and more than half of Syrian children are out of school. In Lebanon, which hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country, eight out of every ten Syrian refugee children are not enrolled in school.
In Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Greece, IOCC is providing remedial classes in English, math, and other subjects to keep children engaged and minimize gaps in learning so that they are able to return to formal education. School uniforms, required in many countries, are also being provided to children. Inside Syria, IOCC has employed Syrian women displaced by the conflict to make school uniforms. The cash-for-work program provides children with the uniforms required for school and much-needed income for the women and their families who are often dependent on aid to survive. In rural Damascus and elsewhere in Syria, children and their teachers show remarkable resilience. During cold winter months, many children went to school wrapped in coats and scarves without electricity or heat so that they would not fall behind.
Young men raised and educated under the care of Mother Inés sporting their SVOTS #GivingTuesday t-shirts.
On November 29, 2016, Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary [SVOTS] received $126,580.00 in donations for its annual #GivingTuesday campaign, and on March 13, 2107, the seminary gave one-tenth of it away. In keeping with its annual custom regarding #GivingTuesday, SVOTS presented a tithe of its received donations to a select partner with a special need, in thanksgiving to God for the bounty it had received.
This time around that partner is the Instituto Estudios Interdisciplinarios Rafael Ayau [IEIRA], an online university in Guatemala that is educating 300 students from Central and South America, including Orthodox Christian young men and women who once resided at Hogar Rafael Ayau and San Miguel del Lago orphanages. During a spring visit to IEIRA headquarters, Archpriest Chad Hatfield, President of Saint Vladimir’s, personally presented a check for $12,658.00 to Dr. Igumeni Inés Ayau García (aka Mother Inés), who is both Abbess of the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity and overseer of the Rafael and San Miguel orphanages, as well as Vice-Chancellor of the Senate governing IEIRA.
“This check for $12,658.00 comes with the love and respect of your sister Orthodox institution in New York,” Father Chad said during the presentation ceremony. “I followed what you were doing with IEIRA and I thought, ‘What’s the best way that we can assist you?’... and so we decided, on #GivingTuesday, to use our own large internet communications capabilities from Saint Vladimir’s, which literally go around the world — currently, we have students on campus from 12 countries!” [View a video of the presentation.]
Mothers Inés and Ivonne among the crowd commemorating the loss of 40 teenage girls at a state-run facility and petitioning the government for an overhaul of laws governing orphanages and adoption.
The presentation took place just two days after a horrific tragedy at the Virgin of the Assumption Home, a state-run facility in Guatemala City, where a fire killed (by latest count) 40 teenage girls and a subsequent investigation uncovered issues of abuse and neglect in the institution’s management.
During Father Chad’s visit, Mother Inés not only expressed her gratitude for the funds for the university, but also asked that Orthodox Christians globally begin praying for a change in the laws that govern orphanages in Guatemala, in light of the recent tragedy. Additionally, Father Chad, Mother Inés, and another monastic from her monastery, Mother Ivonne, attended a public commemoration ceremony on March 14 for the 40 young women who perished in the blaze. At that ceremony, the two monastics presented a formal petition to the government, which included a call to their Congress to enact changes in their country’s present laws in order to help protect the abandoned children of Guatemala.
“This loss of young life,” Mother Inés stated in an open letter accompanying her petition, “has shone a bright light on the darkness that exists regarding the situation faced by orphans and underprivileged youth in Guatemala, where the laws are completely against them and anyone who desires to help them…. Pray for our country. Pray for us.”
“The Telos Project is a tremendous opportunity to engage and embrace Orthodox Christian youth, and inspire them to a life integrated in Jesus Christ,” said the Rev. Christopher T. Metropulos, President of HCHC. “It is further an
exercise toward greater cooperation and understanding throughout all levels and jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church in America.”
Hosted by the Office of Vocation and Ministry, the Telos Project was inspired by the popular CrossRoad Summer Theology Institute, whose alumni identified the need for more faith-based support systems in young adulthood. It seeks to help parishes guide young adults through the questions of identity, vocation, and relationships they face in their twenties and beyond. Telos Project findings will also shape curriculum for Orthodox clergy and lay leader formation.
“HCHC is honored to hold a leading role in examining and educating Orthodox Christian young adults,” continued Father Christopher. “It is my hope that all parishes meeting the pilot criteria will consider an application to join with us to inspire a new generation of clergy, lay leaders, philanthropists and volunteers who will serve the Orthodox Church well into the 21st century.”
Any canonical Orthodox parish located in the US is invited to apply to be a pilot parish. Accepted parishes will be required to assemble a team of three to seven parish leaders, young adults, and other community members to serve as a young adult leadership team for the project. Leadership teams will participate in collaborative webinars, annual learning conferences, and other learning resources as they design new ministries for and with the young adults in their communities. Pilot parish findings will then be shared on the web, social media, and other multimedia outlets.
During the Lenten Sunday Divine Liturgies we hear as part of the prayer following the Anaphora, that God “knows the name and age of each, even from his (or her) mother’s womb.” We as Orthodox Christians are inherently pro-life, but we often do not know what to do or what kind of response to make or provide. During the reception following the Southern New Jersey Deanery Vespers on Sunday, 19 March 2017, at the Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross in Medford NJ, representatives of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants offered suggestions on how to support and build “a Culture of Life and Family.”
On the “Sunday of Orthodoxy,” 5 March 2017, a Ukrainian Easter Egg class was offered to the parish (Orthodox Church of the Mother of God) and greater community of Mays Landing NJ led by Mrs. Hala “Holly” Dawson. Twenty adults and children attended. Holly has made over 300 Pysanky eggs in the traditional Ukrainian wax-resistant method using melted beeswax and a wooden stylus. Mrs. Lore Stefy, another Pysanky writer in the parish, assisted Mrs. Dawson. Young and old alike attended the class.
On Sunday 5 March 2017, Saint George Orthodox Church in Buffalo NY celebrated a blessing of icons followed by the traditional procession of icons to celebrate “Sunday of Orthodoxy” (the first Sunday of Great Lent). The process of making the icons began three days earlier as Church School children, together with their teachers and families, gathered to make icons while learning about the importance of icons and how we are called to be “living icons” of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
For the past six years, a committed team of Distinguished Diocesan Benefactors has provided essential financial support to fund vital ministries throughout the Diocese of New York and New Jersey. You are invited and encouraged to join the team! If the Lord has blessed you with the ability to offer support, you will participate in doing great things toward preparing our future priests & deacons, establishing new mission parishes, and giving a boost to struggling parishes. An easy and convenient way to join through secure on-line contributions is available! There is a growing list of DDBs this year; see the “honor roll” here >
The newly released issue of “First Fruits” asks the question, Rich toward God? How does one become rich toward God? … It seems that what we do with our own things in this life has a huge impact on the next. Read the current issue here and see previous issues here >
SS Peter & Paul Church invites you to our Annual Easter Bazaar & Tricky Tray. Saturday April 1, 2017 from 10:00am to 3:00pm at our Church Hall 9 Jeffrie Ave South River. The Bazaar will feature ethnic Lenten foods, Pierogies, Stuffed Cabbage, Potato Pancakes, Babkas, Baked Goods and more! For more information contact Debbie or Pete at 732-735-6540. Come by and join in our Lenten Celebration.