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Leaving Footprints in the Sand of Time: From the Chair of the Order of St. Ignatius

by Dan Abraham, Chair of the Order of St. Ignatius
First Address to The Order at Montreal ‘07

image My road to Montreal tonight was definitely unexpected and certainly marked with unusual curves. Twenty years ago this month Kathy and I arrived in Montreal to spend our honeymoon. I had a twinkle in my eye and a thick wallet. Today I am pleased to say I still have a twinkle in my eye! Kathy and I joined The Order together. She was at the time very active in NAC. I was working. I watched her work, travel, engage the youth, and serve our Archdiocese. I don’t remember when exactly, but I heard Metropolitan PHILIP state that each of us must leave our footprint in the sand of time. It hit home. Working wasn’t good enough. I had done my time on our local Parish Council and served in various other capacities; but, that was yesterday. What am I doing today?

Officers: Daniel Abraham, Chair; Mary Winstanley O'Connor, Vice Chair; Darlene Haddad, Treasurer; Gayle Malone, Secretary

Bob Koory was just elected North American Chair. I decided to call Bob and offer myself in whatever capacity he might need. He thanked me and said he would get back to me. He did one week later. He asked me if I would serve as Co-Chair for Membership. I asked him what was involved. He said we go recruit new members. I agreed. A week later he called back and said the other Co-chair decided to retire. Bob said, “Don’t worry. You can do it and I will help.” He said the Metropolitan gave us a goal to double our membership. I said I hadn’t gotten my first member yet and I am supposed to double it. I said how many. He said 750! Bob said, “Don’t worry. You can do it and I will help.” I learned his idea of help and mine were dramatically different!

Bob was considering a mid-year meeting in late winter and we both thought it would be a good idea to have a
day where we brainstormed how we would achieve this goal. Bob’s idea of helping me was to suggest that I conduct
the seminar. So I did, not really knowing what I was doing or going to do. We were in Florida really getting into our meeting and in walks Metropolitan PHILIP. We extended our greetings and he sat down to listen. After but a few minutes of my apparent rambling, he shouted out, “Enough Hake. Danny, do you know what hake is? Stop talking and do something! I looked at Bob and he shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Not my problem!”

I was blessed at that very moment with the Holy Spirit telling me to ask our leader to give us his vision for The Order.
The Holy Spirit is never wrong. Metropolitan PHILIP spoke for 45 minutes and had us all spellbound. We left believing we could achieve our goal, but more importantly, we had to do it because there was much need both within and outside
our Archdiocese. Many of us decided to visit parishes and ask people to join. We explained what we did and initially to our surprise many said yes.

I soon became a Life Member because I couldn’t ask others to do so if I didn’t lead the way. Kathy and I did it together.
Ray Rishwain took the reins and seeing a sucker who could not say no, asked me to continue to serve. I did, but not at
all reluctantly because I knew our need was great and our purpose was honorable.

Four years passed quickly and Ed asked me to serve as Vice Chair. I asked him, “What do I do?” He said, don’t worry; you can do it and I will help” Here we go again! He pulled out the secret weapon: “Metropolitan PHILIP wants you and you can’t say no”.

We have had four great years together. We talk at least four times per week. Sometimes we cried on each other’s shoulders when we hit dry spells, but we pressed forward. It wasn’t just the two of us. Arlene and Kathy were part of the team. A wonderful friendship developed as we worked for the glory of God. Ed pushed us and pushed us even harder. Ed is an accountant as you know. Everything must be in balance. Ed decided; we got into action. Ed Assile took the reins from his predecessors and like them gave 110%. There was no question where we could find his heart. His service and commitment followed. The Order has been blessed to have such an able Leader. Thank You Ed and to all the Past Chairmen for your leadership and commitment. You have set a bar for me that I pray I can come close to reaching.

An individual’s character is revealed when he or she is faced with a “moment of truth” or “when the rubber meets
the road” as they say. Do we step up or back down? Do we meet the challenges facing us or crawl in a hole to be out of
sight? It is the same with The Order of St. Ignatius. We are a unified body of individuals who were each individually
“faced with a moment of truth”. Why did we join? We were asked, the Holy Spirit moved us (I have truly witnessed
this many, many times), or we connected with what The Order does. Our call is spiritual giving that coincides with spiritual actions and spiritual leadership. Today, because of your generosity and your personal commitment, you touch many people’s lives most whom you do not know. That is faith. Your far reaching impact on our youth is but one example of the many lives you touch.

You support Christian Education and through our able Director Carol Buleza, you are teaching young people how to tithe so they understand the role of giving in their spiritual life. You are well aware of your impact on young Antiochian campers because of your support. Train a child in the way they should go and they shall never depart from it. Your help
extends to the teens through Teen SOYO. We offer our Teens leadership training so they will learn Christian leadership. We all know about the trials and tribulations of a Paris Hilton, but the real celebrities are not seeking personal glory, but as Metropolitan PHILIP charged, “Going into the world and doing something.” Today as I stand here 150 young high school students are building seven new homes through Project Mexico and a group just returned from the Dominican Republic helping the poor in that country. They did more than their charity work. My sister-in-law, a faithful Orthodox who sponsored this group and the Spring Break in spring was spiritually touched when Fr. Kevin held Divine Liturgy. We get in the car and go to church. We don’t grasp what it is like when there is no place to go.

Thanks to all of you for personally touching my life. We continue our support through the annual College Conference and the Student Board. I want to thank Kathy for her support on behalf of The Order as their lay advisor. We don’t have
any birth children, but every year these young people remember Kathy on Mother’s Day. Train a child the way they should go and they will never depart from it. The young people of the Antiochian Archdiocese more than any other anywhere in the world know first hand where the hearts are of the adults who they follow. They know because your money follows where your heart is. Your generosity shows plainly your heart is with God.

I have five simple, but clear goals which I share with you now.

1. ATTRACT ABLE LEADERS & BUILD “BENCH” STRENGTH: Without able people to help carry out our mission we cannot reach our goals. Fortunately, there are many able faithful throughout our Archdiocese of all ages, some who are dormant and need a little shaking up. From my vantage point, when I grab hold of them by their kneecaps they won’t know what hit them!

2. COMMUNICATE: We have a great and worthy message. When people see what we do, hear what we say, or read what we write, they will come willingly.

3. WITNESS: We must show everyone by our actions that our message is the one to follow.

4. LIFE MEMBERSHIP GROWTH: Our success in growing the number of faithful who choose Life Membership in The Order will insure long-term viability. Your contribution is a permanent one. Your name will be remembered forever. Maybe we should have named it “Eternal” Membership or maybe there are new dreams to dream if you know what I mean.

5. DO WHAT THE METROPOLITAN TELLS ME! We can achieve our goals of more members and more dollars to support more need if we are successful with these objectives. I pledge to work diligently to always improve.

I jokingly tell people, “I come to serve not to think”. Seriously, service is our guiding spirit. Sayidna and your brother
Hierarchs, we are with God’s grace ready, willing, and able to serve you. We respect your commitment in serve our Lord and we follow humbly in our Lord’s service as well. To all of you, wear your Cross often. It says to every one who sees
it that you are ready, willing, and able to help. It is our witness to do God’s will.

I am honestly scared of what stands before me. I woke up in the middle of the night a few weeks ago when reality hit me. I realized then that I was now personally responsible for one-third of our Archdiocese budget. I realized that many, many people depend on all of us. I ask for your prayers that God grant me wisdom and understanding. I am ready to serve.

Thank You.


Reprinted from the Fall 2007 Newsletter.