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Antiochian Women Raise Funds for Retired Clergy Fund

By Lucy Hanna, Antiochian Women President of Diocese of Los Angeles and the West

The primary areas of focus of the Antiochian Women on all levels are religious programs, humanitarian work and the annual project. The NAB project committee has the responsibility of coordinating the raising of funds from women throughout the Archdiocese to benefit one specific project adopted each year by the Antiochian Women.

Over the last 35 years, the Antiochian Women have raised over two million dollars towards the funding and support of many worthwhile endeavors, some of which are the Antiochian Village, the Seminarians, Continuing Pastoral Education, Missions, Orphanages and for the last three years, the Retired Clergy Fund.

Our clergy play a pivotal role in our lives. They are there for us from birth to death. They baptize us, marry us and bury us. They pray for us and anoint us when we are sick. Christ said to the leper, "Go show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing." It is not uncommon for a priest to miss a birthday celebration of his young child to be with a parishioner in the hospital or a parishioner in a crisis.

Our clergy teach us, guide us, hear our confessions and give us absolution so we may be cured not only of the diseases of the flesh, but also of those of the soul. Most of all they feed us the life giving Body and Blood of Christ to our salvation.

When the Bishop presents the newly ordained priest with the consecrated Lamb, he says, "Receive thou this pledge, and preserve it whole and unharmed until thy last breath, because thou shalt be held to an accounting therefor in the second and fearful coming of our great Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Our priests also have to give an accounting for every soul that is in their charge. This is an awesome responsibility. This is why we must obey them for our own salvation, and theirs.

For all that, it is incumbent on us to make sure they are provided for, along with their families during their years of service and in retirement. The Retired Clergy Fund does just that. Metropolitan Philip has challenged the Antiochian Women to raise $500,000 over five years to help subsidize the retirement fund which he established in 1968 for the clergy of the Archdiocese. Without substantial support, the fund would go broke in a few years. There are now 45 retired clergy and 14 widowed clergy wives who are supported by the Fund.

Newly ordained priests Polycarp Whitcomb (left photo) and George Ajalat (right photo) receiving the consecrated Lamb from His Grace Bishop JOSEPH

Many of our clergy leave behind a lucrative profession in order to serve the Lord and His Church. In my diocese alone, the diocese of Los Angeles and the West, several such men who had served as deacons for several years were elevated to the holy priesthood in the last few months by the laying on of the hands of His Grace Bishop JOSEPH. Fr. Steven Howell and Fr. Polycarp Whitcomb were ordained during the Fall Gathering in October 2007 at St. Athanasius Church in Sacramento. Fr. George Ajalat was ordained on the Feast of St. Nicholas at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Los Angeles.

Three subdeacons were also elevated to the holy diaconate by His Grace in the last few months. Deacon John (Ronald) Tershay, Deacon Nikolai (Kevin) Meyers, and Deacon Elias Shomali.

diakonia4 diakonia5
diakonia3 "He is worthy!," shouts His Grace Bishop JOSEPH as he vests the newly ordained deacons: John Tershay (left), Nikolai Meyers (middle) and Elias Shomali (right). Archdeacon George Shishim is shown assisting His Grace in the right photo.

With a more secure future in their golden years, many more qualified, and pious men would be encouraged to dedicate their lives to this holy calling.

For more information or to contribute to the Retired Clergy Fund, contact your local chapter of Antiochian Women.

Reprinted from Diakonia newsletter, Spring 2008.