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Jennifer Buchko and Samia Zolnerowich: Partnering as Friends and Co-Directors

Jennifer and Samia have been co-directors of the Sunday Church School at Ss. Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Potomac, MD, for 10 years. They have actually been friends for over 25 years! They even co-taught the 2nd-3rd grade Church School class for 3 years, including their first year as co-directors.

Please share with us a little about yourselves and the Church School Program. How long have each of you served as Church School Director? Please describe how the Church School program responsibilities are divided and shared between co-directors. This is our first interview with co-directors, and I am very interested in learning.

When we began as directors, we split our duties where Samia would be the contact person for the priests and teachers and Jennifer would take care of the paperwork, registration, emails and newsletters. Now we both jump in and do whatever needs to be done.  This helps when one of us is really busy with our families; there is someone that can take over for the other one. We love working together. We can plan together, brainstorm together and support the teachers. It also allows one of us to help out in a class when needed and leaves the other one in the office to be ready to answer questions for parents or church members.

Lenten Sundays Series: The Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas

This is the fourth 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 the Sunday of St. Gregory of Palamas for you to ponder before you create a lesson for your students:

On this second Sunday of Great Lent, we commemorate St. Gregory of Palamas’ successful defense of the Orthodox belief that humans can both know and experience God. He asserted that we can know with our minds that God exists, and we can also experience Him through His uncreated energies. This flew in the face of the teachings of Barlaam, a critic of St. Gregory’s and of Hesychasm in general.

St. Gregory was born in 1296 to a prominent family in Constantinople. His father died when Gregory was still young. The youth was so bright and hardworking that the emperor himself took interest in Gregory, helping to raise and educate him in the hopes that he would one day hold a high government position.

Church School Teacher Development Workshop

St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, West St. Paul, MN, will welcome AODCE Director Carole Buleza to conduct a teacher development workshop this spring. Please join us on Saturday, May 4, 2019, to learn more about serving your parish community as a church school teacher or substitute.

Courses for the day include "Overview of Orthodoxy," during which we’ll review the foundational doctrines of our Faith and interactive ways of teaching our children as they grow. "New Methods in Teaching" will have us discussing lesson planning, productive classroom environments and brain-based learning. Our final course, "Moral Issues," will allow us to explore topics our older youth face and the Orthodox perspective on each.

To register for this event, please see the attached documents or contact Christina Worrall at or 571-334-2306.

If you are interested in hosting a teacher training for your parish, please contact Leslie Atherholt at or 717-747-5221.

Registration form
Download the flier
Course descriptions
Workshop schedule

Spring 2019 Issue of DIAKONIA Available Online

The Spring 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 Wichita and Mid-America, and includes a message from His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph. Sayidna writes, "Every year, the Metropolitan gives the Antiochian Women a project for a charitable and worthy cause. Over the decades, we have helped those within and those without the Archdiocese, both here and overseas. This year we have a special project that will touch the lives of both adults and children in our Archdiocese. That project is the building of a new Cathedral at the Antiochian Village.

In this issue, Bishop Basil also reflects: "The ministry of women within and to the Body of Christ, whether to Our Savior personally or to the least of His brethren, has been shown forth in so many lives of the saints—most especially of the Most Holy Mother of God, the Myrrh-bearing Women, and other female saints of the Church."

Also included are messages from Spiritual Advisor Fr. Christopher Morris, President Jaclyn Al-Hanna-Ferris, introductions to the diocesan board, and reports and photos from diocesan chapters. Read the issue here!

Lenten Sundays Series: The Sunday of Orthodoxy

This is the third 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 the Sunday of Orthodoxy for you to ponder before you create a lesson for your students:

On this first Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the return of icons into the life of the Church. In 726, the Iconoclastic Controversy began. The iconoclasts were people who were convinced that icons did not belong in the church. They considered the icons to be heresy, because they believed that the Orthodox were worshipping the icons, and God commanded us not to worship graven images.

But Orthodoxy has always clearly taught that we worship God, and no one - and nothing - else. We venerate icons, because we respect and honor these people who have loved God so completely, and we also honor Christ as we see Him reflected in their life. And that is not the only reason that it is proper to have and venerate icons. More importantly, since Christ took on human flesh, He has become visible and tangible. As a result, we can make an icon of Him, because we know how He looks. (In fact, He Himself made the first icon, the “Icon-not-made-with-hands”!) Icons help to solidify for us the incarnation of Christ.

St. George Class Enjoys Creative Workshop

March, 2019

Anna-Sarah Farha, Christian Education Coordinator for the Diocese of Miami and the Southeast, attends St. George in Jacksonville, FL. Recently she shared these photos (click "Read More") of the Kindergarten and First Grade class at St. George, busily writing and decorating in a creative workshop featuring this year's Creative Festivals theme. Students were introduced to the theme—"Antiochian Village: Past, Present, & Future; 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' (Philippians 4:13)," and then were able to decorate sugar cookie arches resembling the arch at Antiochian Village. "Of course, the boys ate their arches at the end of class," Anna-Sarah said with humor. Students also worked on their written entries.

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

Diocese of Wichita 2019 Lenten Retreat

What:    "Torah to the Gentiles: St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians"

When:   April 5–6, 2019

Where:  St. Mary Orthodox Christian Church, Wichita

Who:     Fr. Marc Boulos

A Lenten retreat led by Fr. Marc Boulos of St Elizabeth Orthodox Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, will be hosted at St. Mary of Wichita, Kansas. See the attached flyer for details.


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.

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.

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