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Diocese of Charleston News

Arise, Take up Thy Bed and Walk

Our Ministry to Those with Special Needs

by Bishop THOMAS (Joseph), Peter Schweitzer and Subdeacon David Hyatt

Disabilities which cause cases of special need do not discriminate between races, socioeconomic status, nationality, gender or age. In the United States, people with disabilities are the largest minority group comprising nearly 20% of the population. According to the World Health Organizationi, there are more than 54 million Americans with a physical, sensory, or mental disability of any kind. Across our world, the estimates are that nearly 15% of the human population is affected in some way by a disability that causes special needs in order to function in society, reflecting an increase from 10% in 1970. If these numbers are correct, it is a statistical certainty that our God-protected Patriarchate has a similar number of faithful who desire to pray, learn and serve within our parishes. The needs are among us and surround us in the societies in which we live, the only question is whether or not we will respond in loving action to provide improved accessibility to our inquirers, catechumens and faithful with special needs.

Any Orthodox Christian discussion of those with disabilities or special needs requires an understanding of suffering. In the growing secular societies that surround us, human suffering, disabilities, illnesses, and special needs are tragedies to be overcome and remedied in this life. Otherwise, human life is rendered meaningless and absurd. This is how the contemporary world views suffering and disability. If suffering can’t be overcome, disabilities banished, psychological problems medicated, the human enterprise is considered pointless. Of course, this is not the Orthodox understanding of human life or its purpose.

Greeting From Bishop THOMAS for The Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost

Ascension and Pentecost, 2019
(PDF of Ascension and Pentecost Greeting)

Beloved in Christ,

The twin feasts of the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost are truly a summation of the entire Christian life. In the Ascension, we are reminded that this life on earth is not our final destiny. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ascended 40 days after His resurrection to prepare a place for us with His Father. That is our ultimate destination and should be the object of our thoughts, words, and deeds on a daily basis.

Pentecost or Trinity Sunday reminds us of what our daily lives should be like. Holy Apostle Peter's words to the multitude on that first Pentecost provide us with the key to the Christian life. Peter boldly proclaims "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38-39)

And the Two Shall Become One Flesh: The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony

By Bishop THOMAS (Joseph), Fr. Joseph Hazar, and Sdn. David Hyatt

"Have you not read," Jesus said, "that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)

Marriage is a mystery, a sacrament, a uniting of one man and one woman into a living icon of the Holy Trinity, a manifestation of the love of Christ for His Church and the Church for her Lord, the foundation for the family and the generative force for bearing children, and it is the context for working out the salvation of both husband and wife through self-sacrificing love.

In the secular society in which we live, however, marriage has become a contract between two consenting adults based on the fulfillment of each other's needs. The desire "to live happily ever after" has become the fanciful basis for marriage, and also the great downfall of so many romantic beginnings. This self-orientation, of meeting my needs, is evident even in how many go about planning their wedding ceremonies. Many little girls dream of having a fairytale wedding – whatever that may look like in their mind. Some dream of getting married in a cathedral, dressed like a princess, others perhaps on a beach surrounded by only a few of their family and friends, and some opt to want no one there, but to simply elope with the man of their dreams. No matter what their version of the fairytale looks like, the wedding is "their special day."

2019 Pascha Message From His Grace Bishop THOMAS

PDF of His Grace's Message


Beloved brother Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, God-fearing Monastics, and all my Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ our True God:

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen! Glory to Jesus Christ, glory forever!

In the resplendent feast of Pascha there is a seeming contradiction. However, it is a contradiction only to the worldly-wise. Throughout the Great Fast, we are exhorted to make the effort to struggle ascetically, to put forth the effort to fast, to pray, and to give alms. The kontakion of the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete exemplifies this exhortation, "My soul, my soul arise! Why art thou sleeping? The end is drawing near and you will be confounded. Awake then and be watchful, that you may be spared by Christ God, Who is everywhere and fills all things."

2019 AWE Lenten Retreat is March 29–31, 2019

Dear Sisters in Christ!

Christ is in our Midst! He is and ever shall be! It is that time again, for our Women's Lenten Retreat. We had such a wonderful turnout last year at the retreat. I am excited for this year's retreat. I hope you are too.

This year, the 2019 AWE Lenten Retreat is entitled, "Pray, Fast, Give" with Keynote Speaker, Fr. Charles Nicholas Baz, in loving memory of all of our Hierarchs who have fallen asleep in the Lord and are laid to rest at the Village from March 29–31, 2019, at Antiochian Village in Bolivar, PA. Join us for a weekend of prayer, fellowship, and learning.

Please see the attached flyer and the attached schedule.

We want you all to attend! The deadline is March 22, 2019. REGISTER HERE!

We had such a wonderful time last year, meeting each other, spending time together in worship and fellowship. I really pray that many of you will plan to attend this year as well!

Your Sister in Christ!

Rula Khoury
AWE President

Bishop THOMAS 2019 Pastoral Greeting for the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos

Download His Grace's letter

Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos
March 25, 2019

Beloved in Christ,

I greet you with special joy on this feast – the advent of our salvation, our freedom from imprisonment (Psalm 141), and the dawning of the Good News. 

Archangel Gabriel greets the Most Holy Theotokos, “Rejoice Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” (Luke 1:28-29) According to Saint Gregory Palamas, the Most Holy Theotokos was already full of grace before the day of the annunciation.  Living in the holy of holies in the Temple, she had reached that same place spiritually.  She had achieved deification through her hidden ascetic life.

A Tranquil Heart Amid Turbulent Seas

By Bishop THOMAS (Joseph), with Fr. Noah Bushelli and Subdeacon David Hyatt

Editor's Note: The St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschool Conferences are an outreach of the Archdiocese's Department of Homeschooling.​ Regional conferences are held annually to promote, support, and unite homeschooling families throughout Orthodox North America. On January 12, 2019, Bishop THOMAS gave the Final Address at the St. Emmelia SOUTH Conference held at The Saint Constantine School in Houston, Texas.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him! Christ is Baptized! Let us shine with Him!

This weekend we have been encouraged and inspired by the presentations from our keynote speaker, Fr. John Whiteford, and our wonderful workshop leaders including Dr. John Mark Reynolds who also served as our host here at The Saint Constantine School.

Among the many practical workshops this weekend, we have been instructed in how to begin charting a course as first-time homeschoolers, to more advanced topics like choosing the best literature for our educational voyage. One of the strengths of these St. Emmelia Conferences is that they bring together seasoned sailors alongside new and inquiring deckhands. Together we have learned how to navigate the liturgical calendar in our homeschools, as well as being guided in working with special needs and uncooperative students. We are grateful for all of our workshop leaders who invested so much into each one of our homeschooling families.

Bishop Thomas Greeting for The Meeting of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ

Download His Grace's letter

February 2, 2019
The Meeting of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ

Beloved in Christ,

Forty days after His birth in the flesh, Christ was presented at the Temple in accordance with the legal prescription of the Mosaic law that required a purification of the child and mother after birth. Yet, this was not a purification in the strict sense since neither Child nor mother were in need of cleansing. And because there in the Temple He was received by persons moved by the Spirit, and especially because Symeon took Him into his arms, this feast is also called a Meeting.

The title "meeting" provides a clue as to the feast's spiritual significance. In one of the canons of the Afterfeast of Theophany it is written, "The forerunner teaches that it is not possible to loose the sandals, the bond between the Word and us, of Him Who delivers mortals from deception."

2019 Special Olympics Volunteer and Coaching Applications Available

Special Olympics campers and staff at the VillageSpecial Olympics campers and staff at the VillageThe 2019 Special Olympics Sports Camp is scheduled to be held at the Antiochian Village August 9–18, 2019. This ministry is sponsored by the North American Council of Teen SOYO, and is the second longest running program of Special Olympics Pennsylvania, serving over 340 Special Olympics athletes, coaches, and staff each season. It is the premier SOYO outreach program, now in its 38th year of service. Each year SOYO teens raise the funds on Special Olympics Awareness Day.

In addition to the funds raised, SOYO teens provide at least half the coaching staff, and many adult volunteers participate as well. The Very Rev. Dr. Joseph Purpura, chair of the Department of Youth Ministry, has announced that the 2019 Special Olympic Coaches Application is now available for those youth who are interested in working at the Sports Camp. Additionally, for adults over twenty years of age, the Special Olympics Volunteer Form  is posted as well.

Download Coaches Application

Download Volunteer Form

Bishop THOMAS 2019 Theophany Greeting

Download the PDF

January 2019

Dearly beloved in Christ,

I greet you in anticipation of the great feasts of the Lord Jesus Christ - the Circumcision of our Lord and the Holy Theophany. While the Circumcision is situated eight days after the Nativity and Holy Theophany concludes the festive 12 days of Nativity, both of these feasts are related to each other, and contain within them certain spiritual elements of the great feast of the Lord's Nativity.

The feasts reveal the mysteries of the divine condescension. The Lord Christ, by taking on human flesh, redeemed our nature by assuming it for Himself. The feasts fulfill the law of God as Saint Epiphanios teaches: that the circumcision of the flesh prepared and served man until Baptism, which is the great circumcision of the heart, because through His Baptism we are released from sins and are sealed with the name of God. The sealing with the name of God is a recognition that we belong to Christ.

Annual DOCMA Clergy Synaxis Features Speaker Fr. Joshua Makoul

From November 6 through 9, 2018, his Grace Bishop THOMAS presided over the annual DOCMA Clergy Synaxis at the Antiochian Village Conference Center. Presbyters from the across the Diocese gathered to share fruitful conversation, pleasant fellowship, and good food.

This year's speaker was the dean of St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA, The Very Rev. Joshua Makoul. His topic addressed how to deal with anger in ourselves and anger in the parish family. A Divine Liturgy was celebrated on the feast of the Archangels, and, as always, ample time was given for quiet meditation. The priests left strengthened in their bonds with one another and renewed in their calling to serve our Lord Jesus Christ and his Church.

Department of Christian Education Provides Training Across the U.S.

The Antiochian Department of Christian Education coordinates with local parishes throughout the United States and Canada who wish to host training events for their teachers. The following is a recap of those held in the Fall of 2018. If you would like to host a training in your parish for teachers or Church School Directors, please contact Leslie at the Department of Christian Education 717-747-5221, or

St. Elijah Orthodox Church, Oklahoma City, OK hosted a training for 17 teachers on Saturday, August 18. Diocese of Wichita and Middle America Coordinator Vasiliki Oldziey presented "Using the Classical Trivium to Engage Students" and "The Theotokos: Your Elevator Apologia for our Veneration of the Theotokos." Holy Ascension, Norman, OK teachers also participated.

Blessed Fast and Blessed Feast! Bishop THOMAS 2018 Nativity Greeting

The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 2018The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 2018














Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Beloved in Christ,

I greet you in this season of the Nativity Fast, in anticipation of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord.

As the Lord Christ assumes our human nature in order to redeem it, we rejoice in His divine condescension and His munificent love. Saint Gregory Palamas notes, "Without being separated from the Father's bosom He who is in the world and by whom the world was made (John 1:10), came out and entered the world. He who fills heaven and earth came down from heaven to earth. Consequently, the coming forth of the only-begotten son of God, and His descent from heaven, represent nothing other than His manifestation in the flesh and His self-emptying, from the unutterable exaltation of divinity down to human nature at the other extreme" (Homily 47 On the Parable of the Sower).

Bishop Thomas 2018 Greeting for the Feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos

November 21, 2018

Feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple

Beloved brother Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, God-fearing Monastics,

         and all my Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ our True God:

The feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple is a spiritual foreshadowing of our entrance into the heavenly kingdom. This foreshadowing provides us with our own preparation for entrance into the heavenly realm.

We must be adorned properly with a spirit cleansed by a life of repentance and asceticism. We must be willing to struggle just as the 3-year-old infant had to make an effort to ascend 15 high steps in order to enter the temple. So should we, in order to enter the Heavenly Realm, make the effort to ascend the ladder of virtues, to labor at fasting and prayer. The Holy Virgin went up the steps by herself, without any help from others, but with the miraculous help of God. So should we, in our attempt to attain the Heavenly Realm, make the effort ourselves, but constantly asking God for help along the way.

Teacher Training Opportunities for the Diocese of Charleston and NY

Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Linthicum, MD

Holy Cross Orthodox Church will host “Educating Ourselves & Our Children in Godliness” on Saturday, November 17, 2018. The event will run from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. In this advanced training, participants will gain confidence and knowledge, with courses for both elementary and middle school/high school teachers. Courses will address learning styles, teaching strategies, adolescent needs, and moral issues.

Register online here! Cost for the day is $10 and includes the training and materials, plus breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Please email Deborah at or call 410-694-0542 with questions.

New and experienced teachers are welcome! There is something for everyone.

Holy Cross training flyer
Course descriptions

Pilgrimage to Crete



















On October 22, 2018, Deacon Evangelos Prieston of St. Mary Orthodox Church, Chambersburg, PA wrote:

Greetings from the Island of Crete. My wife Sh. Mary and I are currently on pilgrimage in Crete with Metropolitan KALLISTOS and the Friends of Mt. Athos. I've included some pictures of my experiences this past Sunday when I was blessed to serve at the Cathedral of St. Titus, the first bishop of Crete. His relic is enshrined in the cathedral.

Register Now! 21st Annual Midwest Diocese Basketball Tournament

The 20th Annual Midwest Diocese Basketball Tournament will be held in Canton, Ohio, on January 18–20, 2019. This year, His Grace Bishop Anthony and the faithful of the Diocese of the Midwest joyfully welcome participation from churches of the Mid-Atlantic Diocese, led by His Grace Bishop Thomas.

The host is St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, and accommodations are available via the Courtyard by Marriott in Canton at a group rate of $89.00 per night. 

DOWNLOAD 2019 Basketball Tournament Forms


Blessed Name Day to Bishop Thomas!

His Grace Bishop Thomas' Name Day is October 6, Thomas the Apostle of the Twelve. Many years, Master!

Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston
Read about St. Thomas the Apostle

Thomas, the faithful servant and disciple of Christ, filled with divine grace, cried out from the depth of his love: "You are my Lord and my God!"
Kontakion + Tone 4

Teacher Training Opportunities – Diocese of Charleston/NY

The Department of Christian Education announces two confirmed trainings this fall for the Diocese of Charleston/NY. Please contact the host parish to take advantage of these opportunities to provide support and training for your teachers! New and experienced teachers are welcome! There is something for everyone.

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Bridgeport, CT

St. Nicholas will host “Educating Ourselves & Our Children in Godliness” on Saturday, September 29, 2018. The event will run from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. with courses for both elementary and middle school/high school teachers. Trainers Fr. George Alberts and Mat. Anna Timko-Hughes will teach courses that address learning styles, teaching strategies, adolescent needs and moral issues. Contact Fr. Romanos Malouf for further information at or call 203-209-6725.

Bridgeport Training Flyer (PDF)
Bridgeport Training Registration (PDF)

St. George Orthodox Church, Little Falls, NJ

St. George is planning a customized training entitled “Enhancing Learning Outcomes” for Saturday, October 6, 2018.

Fr. Noah Bushelli in Tripoli, Lebanon

Fr. Noah Bushelli visits the Archdiocese of Tripoli, LebanonFr. Noah Bushelli visits the Archdiocese of Tripoli, Lebanon