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

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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.

Lenten Sundays Series: Forgiveness Sunday

This is the second in a series of posts that focuses on the Sundays of Great Lent (and Holy Week and Pascha). Each week we will share ideas of ways to help your Sunday Church School students learn more about that particular Sunday’s focus. We will share each blog early, so that you have time to read it before the forthcoming Sunday, in case you find any of those ideas helpful for your particular class.

Here’s a meditation on Forgiveness Sunday for you to ponder before you create a lesson for your students:

The Sunday immediately before Great Lent begins is usually referred to in the Orthodox Church as “Forgiveness Sunday.” Forgiveness Sunday has two major themes: the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden, and Forgiveness. We will take a short look at each of these themes, here.

March 2019 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Great Lent—Grace and Truth came through Jesus, the promised Christ

Entering Great Lent – lead by His Spirit of Grace and Truth – one attains a better insight into this season of fasting. How it is far more about our sustaining a constantremembrance of ourloving Father and His eternal love for us. How Jesus – the Word Who became Incarnate – sustains ourlife in this mortal world, through His Creation. How learning to better love our neighbor, as He first loves us, is paramount to holding true to His Words. Such is especially significant when considering the all-trusting child being held in its own Mother's womb. Herein, let His compassion and loving kindness enlighten our hearts.

(Read more in our March newsletter.)

March 2019 Newsletter (PDF)

March 2019 Coupon (PDF)

Preparing the Family for Great Lent (with printables!)

by Elissa Bjeletich (used with permission)

This post was published on her blog, Raising Saints on 2.19.19 (photo c/o

Great Lent is the path back home to Paradise. Because of their sins, Adam and Eve were cast out of Paradise, but through repentance and fasting, we find our way home: we take the journey to Pascha, when Christ will trample down death by death and break down the gates that closed us out of Paradise. How glorious! We are invited to prepare for that journey right now, and to take it in just a few weeks — the journey home to God. We should be trembling with anticipation and joy at the prospect!

I was baptized into the faith when I was near bursting with my first child; over the coming eleven years, I would bear six children, so Great Lents came and went, but I was not really able to properly fast. When finally the pregnancies and the nursing were finished, I was able to fast, but now I had a house full of children and a husband, and I had to learn how to fast myself while figuring out how to cook healthy meals that they would eat.

Bishop Basil Announces New Scholarship

His Grace Bishop Basil reports that a second scholarship for a graduating high school senior from a parish or mission of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America has been established! The Nasr Orthodox Foundation will provide an annual Father Zachariah and Khouriya Nasra Nasr Memorial Scholarship. This year, the application for the Harry & Florence Kouri Memorial Scholarship will suffice for consideration for both of these scholarships. The recipient of this $1,000.00 scholarship will be announced at our DOWAMA Parish Life Conference this June in Fort Worth, TX.

The Best Way to Learn is to Teach

An interview with Nancy McNeil

St. Andrew Antiochian Orthodox Church, Woodway, TX

Nancy has been a Church School Director at various churches for over 20 years and now serves at St. Andrew, a smaller, mission parish.

Please share with us a little about yourself and the St. Andrew Sunday School Program:

I have had the privilege to serve as Sunday Church School director in several different Orthodox parishes for over 20 years. In the 40+ years I have been Orthodox, I have continually worked with GOYA programs and Sunday Church Schools. My job as a public school teacher apparently just carried over into working with children at church.

How many students attend St. Andrew Sunday school? How is the program organized for Sunday classes and how many teachers are assigned per class?

St. Andrew is a smaller, 6-year-old mission parish and has a possible 24 students. Our average SCS attendance on Sundays is 17. We have divided the students into four classes this year with a 2-4 year-old class; a 5-8 year-old class; a 9-13 year-old class; and a high school class. Our youngest class has been blessed with a talented pre-school teacher who works with an aide. Our elementary class has two extremely dedicated teachers who have been working together since before their arrival at St. Andrew. I teach the intermediate/middle school class.

Lenten Sundays Series: The Sunday of the Last Judgement/Meatfare

This is the first in a series that focuses on the Sundays of Great Lent (and Holy Week and Pascha). Each week we will share ideas of ways to help your Sunday Church School students learn more about that particular Sunday’s focus. We will share each blog early, so that you have time to read it before the forthcoming Sunday, in case you find any of those ideas helpful for your particular class. Although the Sunday of the Last Judgement is not part of Great Lent, it is significant because it is part of the process of preparing ourselves for Great Lent, so we are including it in the series.

Here’s a meditation on Judgement Sunday for you to ponder before you create a lesson for your students:

It is not yet Great Lent, but very soon it will be! We have already started the Triodion. The Triodion is the service book with the special texts for the services for the part of the Church year that begins in the pre-Lenten period and goes all the way through Holy Week. The canons for Matins during all of these weeks have three odes: hence the name Tri-odion.

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 Letter About 2019 Lenten Pilgrimage and Retreat

You know very well what the ancient holy fathers predicted concerning our times. It was said: They will be saved by faith, the endurance of sorrows and illnesses, and repentance. We have no [good] deeds. In everything and always we transgress Christ's commandments. Therefore, all that is left for us is to repent, endure and believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to seek out and save those who are perishing, will also save us who entreat Him...
+Abbot Nikon Vorobiev, Abbot Nikon Letters to Spiritual Children p.164

May God bless you all,

I would like you to consider helping us bring together Orthodox Christians to a Lenten Pilgrimage to the gravesite of St Raphael of Brooklyn. This retreat is open to everyone. In addition to the Liturgy and supplication services, there will be a number of speakers that will lead us in retreat.

For our young people, we will be blessed to have Fr Joshua Makoul, who is a spiritual counselor for our youth in the northeast; Fr Noah Bushelli, who oversees the Homeschooling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese; and Fr Joseph Hazar, dean of the Cathedral in Charleston, WV, who has extensive experience in working with young people.

Our Young Adults will be privileged to have Fr Nicholas Belcher lead them in retreat. Fr Nicholas assists His Eminence, Metr. Joseph, of the Antiochian Archdiocese, oversees young adult activities for our Antiochian Diocese of New York and Washington, and is the former Dean of Students at Holy Cross Seminary.

We will also be privileged to have Fr John Dixon, pastor of Holy Spirit Church in Huntington, WV, who will be leading our retreat for Parish Council members. He has extensive experience as a lay person in offering leadership to his own parish council, as well as now leading them spiritually. Fr John converted to Orthodoxy, served as parish council chair, and presently serves as pastor the same parish of Holy Spirit Church in Huntington.

2019 Eastern Dioceses Scholarships

February 1, 2019

Dear Reverend Fathers and Teen SOYO Advisors and High School Seniors:

We are pleased to announce that applications are being accepted for the 2019 Eastern Dioceses Scholarships.

This year, up to 4 awards are available in amounts ranging from $1000 to $2,500.

Applicants should be high school seniors and active members of a parish of either The Diocese of New York and Washington D.C. or The Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America (Eastern Dioceses). 

Interested applicants should contact the scholarship coordinator via email at to obtain an electronic copy of the 2019 Scholarship Application. All applications and requested materials must be submitted by May 1, 2019.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at the above email address with any and all questions!

Yours in Christ,

Mary Elizabeth Asencio, Scholarship Coordinator 

A Fond Farewell and a Warm Welcome at St. George Cathedral in Coral Gables, FL

The Saba familyThe Saba familyThe Abouid familyThe Abouid family







On Monday, January 7, 2019 St. George Cathedral, Coral Gables, Florida, was blessed with a visit from our chief shepherd, His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH, as well as Mr. Fawaz El Khoury and Mr. Salim Abboud, Vice Chairman and CFO of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, respectively. Through the guidance and leadership of His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH,  the Cathedral Counsel was informed of his decision to transfer The Very Rev. Fouad Saba to St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cicero, Illinois, effective February 1, 2019.

The Cathedral is grateful to have been blessed with Fr. Saba’s fruitful ministry these past seven years. The love, support, and dedication of Fr. Saba, our sister Kh. Diana, and children Katherine and Mousa, are embedded in the hearts of all the Miami community. They will always hold a special place in the lives of those who were fortunate to know them. A Tribute Banquet honouring Fr. Saba, Kh. Diana, Katherine, and Mousa was held on January 26, 2019. An outpouring of love was expressed by the entire Tribute Committee, and by all who spoke on the positive impact this amazing family has had on our community.

Bishop NICHOLAS Visits St. Nicholas in St. Petersburg

View the photo gallery

On December 6, 2018, His Grace Bishop NICHOLAS, visited St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church in St. Petersburg, FL to celebrate our patronal feast, St. Nicholas Feast Day. As part of his desire to get to know the parishes in his Diocese of Miami and the Southeast, he met individually with the Parish Council, the Men’s Group, the Ladies Society, the Teens, the Young Adults, and the Sunday School teachers and children.

For each group and organization, he challenged us to acquire the attributes of God: patience, humility, love, kindness, and compassion for others, through daily prayer and attending worship services. He reminded us of Christ’s commandment to love God with our whole being and our neighbor as ourselves. He was particularly focused on each one of us taking seriously being a part of the body of Christ by getting to know each other better as we travel the path of holiness.

2019 Diocese Lenten Retreat & Youth Day

DOWNLOAD the flyer
Register ONLINE

All are invited to attend the annual Diocese Lenten Retreat & Youth Day on Saturday, March 30, 2019, sponsored by the Antiochian Women of the Diocese of Worcester & New England. We are very excited to welcome back His Grace Bishop Anthony from the Diocese of Toledo & the Midwest as the Keynote Speaker for 2019 who will be speaking on the topic "Seeing the Target, but Missing the Mark: Sin, Sanity, & Sanctity."

The schedule is as follows:

9:00 am - Divine Liturgy
10:15 am - Registration & Continental Breakfast
10:45 am - Session 1 with Bishop Anthony
12:15 pm - Lunch
1:15 pm - Session 2 and Q&A with Bishop Anthony
Concludes with Great Vespers
Adults are $20, teens and children are free.

Activities will be offered for children ages 2.9-12 during the times that Bishop Anthony is speaking to the adults and teens.

Please register in advance either using the attached form no later than March 15, 2019, or register online no later than March 23, 2019.

NAB Presents Book Selection for 2019

DOWNLOAD the study questions by clicking on the book cover (left) or by clicking here.

With the blessing of His Grace Bishop JOHN, the Spiritual Advisor for the North American Board of the Antiochian Women, we are blessed to present our current Book Selection, The Sweetness of Grace, by Constantina R. Palmer. Each Antiochian Women’s chapter should have received these materials from Kh. Dannie Moore, NAB Religious Coordinator, or their diocesan representative.

The Sweetness of Grace is a collection of stories derived from conversations with Orthodox nuns, monks, and laypeople, along with experiences of Orthodox life in South Korea, Greece, and North America. Those who enjoyed the book Everyday Saints will enjoy these similar stories from other parts of the Orthodox world. The book includes conversations with monastics, priests and laypeople and stories of the sweet and difficult aspects of Christian life. The stories span three continents, including experiences in South Korea, Greece, and North America (via

Order a paperback copy of the book or an ebook, and read a sample chapter.

February 2019 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Who is this One Person—the One Who is I Am?

Who is this One Who Is Supreme in His Being? Is He the One God of Noah? Is this divine Person the One God Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were seeking in Exodus 3? The answer is yes, but Who is He? Is He the same God in Heaven the Jews, returning from Persia, worshipped as their Lord God and Father of Creation – YHWH? Is He the same divine Son of Mary, baptized by John in the River Jordan, near Jericho? Again, yes. But Who is He, what’s His Name, and how are we to know this One Who Is?

(Read more in our February newsletter.)

February 2019 Newsletter (PDF)

February 2019 Coupon (PDF)

St. George Cathedral SOYO Pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. January 19-21, 2019

A group of 37 Teen SOYO members and advisors from St. George Cathedral in Coral Gables, Florida boarded a flight early on Saturday, January 19, 2019 to began their pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. While in the nation's capital, participants visited the Antiochian churches in the D.C. and Maryland area, as well as the National, Greek, and OCA cathedrals.

The Teen SOYO group was also blessed to see so many of our nation’s beautiful and historic sites, many of which have religious significance. In addition, many bonds were formed, creating memories which will last forever.  

Read reflections of the trip

Diocese of Worcester Offers "Orthodox Christian Witness Program: Spiritual Pilgrimage"

Fall 2018-Spring 2020

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Diocese of Worcester & New England

The Orthodox Christian Witness Program: Spiritual Program, is a new program sponsored by the Diocese of Worcester & New England offered to clergy, laity, chaplains, counselors, therapists, physicians, parents, and Christian educators. The program will have 8 units over 4 semesters led by His Grace Bishop JOHN, D. Min.; Archpriest Antony Hughes, M.Div.; Ioana Papa, MD; Richard Robbat, PhD; Sebastien Falardeau, Ph.D candidate.

The purpose of the program and journey is an opportunity for anyone interested to learn, to reflect, and to be transformed through the Orthodox Christian Faith in preparation for various ministries.

Book Review: Lights on the Mountain

Author’s note: Long ago I committed to reading fiction that strengthens my faith instead of dismissing it. I am fine with reading stories of people who struggle with life or with what they believe, as long as they are struggling towards God, not ignoring or shying away from Him. Because of these self-imposed limitations when it comes to reading adult-targeted fiction, I have limited my reading mostly to Christian fiction and classics. Suffice it to say that I have read a fair amount of both over the course of my five decades.

In all of my reading, I have yet to read a book like this one. Lights on the Mountain by Cheryl Anne Tuggle is Christian fiction at its best. The characters are so believable that you expect them to step right out of the book so you can marvel at the sunrise together, or share a cup of tea. Their struggles are real, as is their growth: painfully real, as is our human experience. Their story is carefully and beautifully told. This book is written as though it were already a classic.

Tuggle offers her readers a glimpse into mid-20th-century rural Pennsylvanian life, with its clash of cultures and challenges. Characters include a host of rural-minded Americans, a handful of hippies, a pair of Hungarians, a few Romanian “gypsies”, some Orthodox Christians, and more. (One character has Amish roots, but this is anything but another “Amish Christian Fiction” book: his cultural heritage is far from the focus of the book.) The characters interact with believable honesty, by turns disagreeing and misunderstanding; then accepting and helping each other as would be expected in a rural community such as theirs. (I live in Pennsylvania and married into a rural Pennsylvanian family, so I am familiar with such a community.)

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 Midwest Diocesan Spring Gathering is March 1-3












WHAT: 2019 Midwest Diocesan Spring Gathering

WHEN: March 1-3

WHO: All Diocesan Delegates

WHERE: Best Western Plus Airport Inn and Suites

HOSTED BY: St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church
                          Flint, MI


Winter 2018-2019 Issue of DIAKONIA Available Online

The Winter 2018-2019 issue of DIAKONIA, the newsletter of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women of North America, is now available online. This issue features the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest, and includes a message from His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph. His Eminence writes: As we begin 2019, let us reflect on the critical role played by the Theotokos in our both of our "new year" celebrations, we see the honor the Church pays to the Theotokos, and, I believe, to all women through her.

In this issue, Bishop Anthony also reflects:

In our lives as Orthodox Christians following the example of the Apostles, the saints, and all those who passed down the faith to us, we are called always to give thanks.

The issue also contains introductions to the diocesan officers and coordinators, a message from Diocesan President Kh. Jeanette Gallaway and Spiritual Advisor Fr. Joseph Abud, and numerous reports and photographs from the Diocese's parish chapters of Antiochian Women.

Download the PDF​

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