For the third year in a row, Fr. John Kowalczyk gave a three-hour workshop at the Drexel Medical College 27th Forensic Conference, held on Wednesday, December 4th, 2019.
Fr. John Kowalczyk stated the following: “Working with mentally ill inmates who are in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) or Solitary Confinement, one will be confronted with inmates who have been isolated from the normal prison setting.” Fr. Kowalczyk stated, “One has to minister with compassion and unconditional positive regard with an open heart and become an instrument in restoring his humanity with kindness and dignity. This restoration will aid and help restore purpose, direction and meaning into his already broken life.” Fr. John has been involved in this “Out-of-Cell” program with inmates for the past five years in SCI Waymart.
During the workshop, Fr. John made the following five educational objectives:
1. Examine the trauma of the mentally ill inmate who finds himself in solitary confinement.
2. Explore the impact of a chaplain with a caring heart as a necessary tool to work through this isolation of the RHU.
3. Analyze the concept of guilt and feeling of helplessness from a spiritual dynamic when the mentally ill inmate finds himself isolated, broken and separated from his familiar mental health unit.
4. Recognize the importance of offering prayer when one appears out-of-control and the life of the inmate appears unmanageable.
5. Integrate positive memories and family religious celebrations as a means of healing during this time of isolation and try to maintain this caring and pastoral relationship.
On Wednesday, November 13, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the feast of Saint John Chrysostom, and commemorated the seventh anniversary of the election of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon.
At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy His Eminence, Archbishop Michael of New York and New Jersey, Secretary of the Holy Synod, read the following proclamation of the Holy Synod announcing the anniversary celebrations for the Canonization of Saint Herman of Alaska, and the reception of the Tomos of Autocephaly.
The feast of St. Nicholas was a double blessing for many of the students and families at St. Tikhons. First, everyone was treated to a wonderful meal prepared by seminary cook Zena "YaYa" Parker. During the dinner, a special guest , St. Nicholas, arrived to tell the children about the Nativity season and the Incarnation of Christ. After a night of games and photos, the families received a myriad of gifts for the Nativity season. We wish to thank FOCA (Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America), the parishes, and all the individuals who made Christmas possible for so many families at St. Tikhons.
Members of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) Board of Directors gathered for their annual Fall Meeting at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, November 18-20.
Through a live video link, OCMC Missionary Floyd Frantz shared with the Board the work he is doing in Alaska, based at St. Herman Seminary in Kodiak. After 18 years of service in Romania where he helped the Church establish a much-needed substance abuse counseling ministry, he is now helping the Church in Alaska do the same through a program called “Freedom Challenge.” The scope includes all forms of addiction, not only alcohol and drugs, but also the Internet and related distractions which affect many people in the state.
The Board also heard reports on OCMC’s work in various other locations throughout the world such as Guatemala, Korea, Albania, Kenya, and a potential new opportunity in Colombia.
This was the first meeting of the Board since it approved the organization’s innovative one-page strategic plan. OCMC Executive Director Fr. Martin Ritsi and OCMC Missionary Director Dn. James Nicholas were pleased to report progress on all aspects of the strategic plan, which is primarily focused on increasing the Mission Center’s capacity to do the important work of sharing the Orthodox Christian Faith around the world.
Board President John Colis led the members through an exercise aimed at better defining and applying OCMC’s core purpose as the agency begins development of the next iteration of the strategic plan early in 2020.
During a review of the organization’s financial performance this fiscal year, Fr. Martin was also able to share that the Mission Center received another clean audit of finances from its external independent auditors.
At Vespers on the evening of November 19 in the church of the adjacent St. Tikhon’s Monastery, Board Members, along with seminarians, their families, and the monks were able to venerate and be anointed with myrrh from a miraculous streaming icon of the Mother of God Kardiotissa (Tender Heart) that was brought from St. George Orthodox Church in nearby Taylor, PA. The Kardiotissa icon has been exuding great amounts of myrrh for seven years and is responsible for many healing miracles. Upon his return to the Mission Center, Fr. Martin blessed the OCMC staff with some of the myrrh as well.
That same evening, OCMC Board Member, and St. Tikhon’s Seminary Dean and Chief Operating Officer, Fr. John Parker hosted a dinner for board members at his home on campus. Joining the group at dinner was the Seminary Rector and long-time faculty member, His Eminence Archbishop Michael of New York and New Jersey of the Orthodox Church in America.
The Board welcomed five new members. His Grace Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, recently appointed liaison for OCMC to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the Uniited States, addressed the meeting via a live video link. Two of the new members were present at the meeting: Dr. Henry C. Van Zanten of Hermitage, PA, from the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA and Dr. Kosta M. Zinis of Westminster, CO, from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Two others were also recently added: Mrs. Stellee S. Papadeas of Greenwood Village, CO, from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Fr. John Anderson of Burke, VA, from the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.
The OCMC Board of Directors would like to thank Fr. John Parker and everyone at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and Monastery for their hospitality and Fr. Mark Leisure from St. George Church for sharing the miraculously streaming icon of the Mother of God Kardiotissa with all in attendance.
By: Dn. Herman Garrison
St. Tikhon’s was recently the site for a thought-provoking conference, organized by STOTS professors Drs. David and Mary Ford that centered around today’s ethical and moral issues facing all the faithful in the Church. The “Speaking the Truth in Love” conference was a continuation of the conversation started at a similar conference held at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY this past March which the Fords also helped organize. The Jordanville conference was described as more “theoretical in nature”; however, the focus for the St. Tikhon’s conference was to be more practical. Dr. David said, “[the purpose] is for inspiring and helping our youth, especially to live in Christ with the joy and peace of purity in mind, heart, and body. We also hope this conference will help to equip our clergy and laity with the pastoral and apologetic tools necessary to deal resourcefully and effectively with the current societal challenges relating to sexuality.”
The conference was opened with a keynote address entitled “Trusting our Tradition in Facing Modern Challenges” from His Eminence, Archbishop Michael, rector of STOTS. The weekend continued with a collection of 15 speakers that encompassed STOTS faculty, STOTS alumni, monastics, medical professionals, bioethics experts, and more. The presentations ranged from the theological, apologetical, ethical, and medical. The diverse audience and presenters were able to interact during Q&A sessions where practical solutions were discussed concerning problems facing many Orthodox clergy, professionals, and young people. Attendees came from as far away as California and Idaho.
Co-organizer Dr. Mary Ford, summarizing the experience of the conference, stated, “There was a great sense of pastoral care and love expressed by all the speakers for those caught up in the moral confusion of our time – including those engaging in sexual behaviors contrary to the teachings of the Church. Many commented on what a great conference it was in terms of the balanced, caring approaches of the speakers, the large amount of helpful information given, and the excellent quality of the talks overall. We hope many people who could not come because of services for St. Michael's Day in their parishes, or distance, or other commitments will listen to the talks on AFR to be better informed, strengthened in their faith, and inspired!"
Audio recordings of the conference are available in the Special Events section on Ancient Faith Radio. It is also planned that books based on the talks given at both conferences will be published in the next year or two. The book from the Jordanville conference is scheduled to appear next spring from Holy Trinity Monastery Press.
By: Subdeacon Jeremiah McKemy
St. Tikhon’s welcomed Taylor Hostetter who informed us of an exciting opportunity for young adults in Serbia during the summer of 2020. For decades, Mr. Hostetter has been a missionary overseas, and over the past several years, he has been overseeing mission teams in Serbia.
Communism spiritually decimated the traditionally Orthodox Serbian land. However, after communism’s fall and the Balkan Civil War (1991-2001), many people began searching for spiritual answers that the atheistic, post-communist society could not fulfill. While the Serbian Church has found success reaching adults over thirty years of age, there are few young adults and youth in the Church.
Mr. Hostetter has found great success with reaching the younger generation in Serbia through his program. His “Summer in Serbia” brings Orthodox young adults (between the ages of 18-25) from all over the world to live in a community home and fellowship with young Serbians, conduct Bible studies, and evangelize their peers.
Many of those who have gone on the trip have found it to be life-changing. Some of the young Orthodox said the trip made the Orthodox faith - in which they grew up - their own for the first time. It was no longer just a cultural or family faith.
If you or a young person you know are interested in learning more, please contact Taylor and Sally Holstetter at 404-510-2905 or go to the The Navigators Missions site.
On Friday, October 12/25, 2019, the ordination to Priest of Deacon George Baramki was held during the Divine Liturgy on Golgotha by the Most Reverend Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina.
Fr. George Baramki has been ministering at St. James the Brother of God Cathedral as a Deacon of the Arab-speaking Orthodox Community of Jerusalem, while he is also working as a teacher at the Russian Orthodox Church School of Mount of Olives and Gethsemane in Bethany.
Before the ordination, the Archbishop admonished the ordained as follows, while the latter also read a speech, expressing his fear before the sacrament, but also his hope, that the Comforter will fortify him in his current high ministry.
By: Dn. Herman Garrison
OCA Chancellor Fr. Alexander Rentel’s discussion on the Tradition of autocephaly was a fitting end to the 2019 Fall Lecture Series. Fr. Alexander’s expertise in canon law and unique perspective were a wonderful capstone on this month’s theme of Autocephaly.
“Thank you on behalf of the OCA,” Fr. Alexander began, “as this prepares all of us for the 50th anniversary. It is not a celebration marked by excess feasting focusing on what we have accomplished. However, this is a chance for renewal, reorientation, and repentance, to bring our mind back into conformity to the mind of Christ”. Fr. Alexander noted that our own journey in the Church begins with baptism and that “we are charged to go and carry the good news to every nook and cranny of the earth and baptize everyone in the name of the Holy Trinity into the Catholic Church”.
He underscores that it is important to understand what Autocephaly really means. “There really is no idea of independence in the Church”, he stated, “for the Church to be truly Catholic, it must speak to everyone in their own language and genius. Autocephaly is nothing more than underlining the Catholicity in a particular corner of the world”. He then drew attention to the fact that the term “autocephaly” doesn’t appear anywhere in the Church canons.
“What it can and should mean has to be understood in the corpus of canons, which is a body of concillary texts that date from the 4th to 9th centuries,'' he described. The particular canons discussed in the lecture were I Nicea 8 (commonly known as “one bishop, one city”), Antioch 9, Apostolic 34, and 1 Nicea 5. Fr. Alexander says that these canons are important in discussing authority “‘One Bishop, in one city’ represents Christ,” he noted, “ and this provides us with our first ‘shade of meaning’”. He continued, “what a bishop does has to be contemplentary with his neighboring districts and all of this work needs to be overseen by the bishop of the metropolis…all these must work together and fully in the name of the Holy Trinity...all in concord…”
Fr. Alexander argued that authority also must have accountability, “when one bishop makes a decision, he is obliged to make a case to his brothers. He is accountable to the Synod and that Synod is accountable to all Orthodoxy in the world. These bishops act in concert with all the bishops in the Orthodox world...the activity of the synod, are not just there to determine XYZ...what they’re arriving at is true and authentic so that an unblemished offering may be given to God. Autocephaly is only authentic and true when it serves the Catholicity of the Church”.
Fr. Alexander posited that an autocephalous Church must meet three criteria: it has its own head or primate not elected or confirmed by another body, it has territorial integrity in a geographical area, and it confects its own chrism. The OCA has shown maturity in dealing with its own issues; however, Fr. Alexander highlighted that the Tomos of autocephaly contains a paradox within its mandates. “The Tomos mandates that we are to remain in communion with our sister Churches in North America; therefore, we do not meet the second criteria,” he noted, “however, I put forward that this is an imperfect concord but guarantees Catholicity. The Tomos admits to being a creative solution to the canonical irregularities of America”.
He concluded the lecture encouraging the faithful that this mandate is a mission toward unity; in fact, we already have a firm foundation upon which we can build. “Our Tomos gives us a mandate to work toward unity in America. It is a prophetic document that gives us a clear mission...that the Catholic Church will flourish here. There is one consistent message. We have been unwavering toward the promise of one, unified Church. Not backhanded or forced, but a true catholicity. We have a unity in Faith. We must hold on to that and build upon that”.
Check out “Autocephaly with a Canonical Perspective” for the audio from this wonderful lecture. If you’d like to see more of these lectures in the future, please consider donating to St. Tikhon’s to continue these thought-provoking and enriching lectures.
Orthodox Inter-Seminary Movement Returns to STOTS
By: Subdeacon Peter Simko
On the first weekend in November, over forty visiting guests from Orthodox seminaries across North America descended on South Canaan, Pennsylvania. Representatives from Saint Herman’s, Saint Vladimir’s, Christ the Saviour, Holy Trinity, and Hellenic College Holy Cross gathered for the biannual Orthodox Inter-Seminary (OISM) Retreat, hosted by Saint Tikhon’s.
According to the group’s constitution, OISM exists “in order to create a closer fellowship among students enrolled in Orthodox Christian schools of theological education of all jurisdictions, to affirm our common traditions and gain an appreciation of other cultures and traditions, to promote understanding and unity among all Orthodox Christians, to build a network for future clerical and lay cooperation.” The organization was first gathered over half a century ago, participating in what were usually called “Encounters” by the seminarians in those days.
OISM’s recent reinstitution was the fruit of the efforts of Archbishop — then Father — Michael (Dahulich). In 2003, he invited students from each of the Orthodox seminary campuses to Saint Tikhon’s, and within a year, officer positions were filled and the students were taking the reins of the organization.
At the Spring 2019 Retreat at Saint Vladimir’s, OISM President Isaac Lampart (STOTS ‘19) passed on the torch to Paul Murray (HCHC ‘20), who worked with a host of school representatives, including OISM Treasurer Peter Simko (STOTS ‘21), to organize the Fall Retreat with the theme, “Christ: Beauty Incarnate.” Over the next several months, the OISM Board--along with the help of several generous donors and dozens of STOTS students, faculty, and staff--labored to prepare a successful event, featuring three wonderful speakers in the Very Reverend Archimandrite Doctor Alexis (Trader), Doctor Timothy Patitsas, and Jonathan Pageau.
The Retreat kicked off on Friday, November 1st, with several OISM members arriving early to participate in a special festal Byzantine Liturgy held in the Monastery’s All Saints of North America Chapel, a fitting location for the start of the weekend. The evening began the official schedule of activities with a pierogi supper, a Molieben service celebrated by STOTS Dean, the Very Reverend Archpriest John Parker, in the STOTS Saint Nikolai Chapel, and a talk by Father Alexis entitled: “A Jealous Love for the Beauty of God’s House.” Father Alexis adamantly encouraged the attendees to desire and create beautiful Orthodox Churches and sacred spaces in the midst of an often ugly world.
On Saturday, a Hierarchical Liturgy was celebrated by STOTS Rector, His Eminence, Archbishop Michael, including the ordination of Subdeacon Doctor Gregory Matlak (STOTS ‘20) to the Holy Diaconate. OISM members from participating schools helped sing with the Mission Choir during each of the Saturday services hosted in the Monastery Church. Students were blessed to be anointed with oil brought by His Eminence from a recent visit to Jerusalem and the site of Saint Stephen the Protomartyr’s stoning. After a General Assembly Meeting for the group (which began with a blessing from His Eminence and a note on the importance of acting out our Orthodox unity), the Very Reverend Archpriest John Kowalczyk introduced the next speaker after sharing a reflection about his time as an officer in OISM in the 1970s. Next up was Jonathan Pageau, who gave a presentation entitled, “Christ and the Deisis as an Ontological Hierarchy,” focusing on the “unfolding” of the famous Deisis configuration and symbolism in Orthodox iconography and design.
After lunch and an opportunity for students to visit the Monastery Bookstore and the Metropolitan Museum of Orthodox History in America, the next speaker, Doctor Timothy Patitsas, was introduced by Father John Parker, who encouraged the OISM membership in their obligation to preach to the non-Orthodox as they take on vocations across the continent. Doctor Timothy then spoke on “the Beautiful Time,” explaining the important difference between chronos and kairos, and how our lives need to be organized according to the good and proper use of time, which seems to spiral in the life of the Church. Each talk was recorded. The evening came to a close with the Resurrection Vigil at the Monastery Church, again sung by the Mission Choir, followed by a large dinner, a basketball game in the seminary’s new Gymnasium/Convocation Hall, and a campfire at the nearby residence of STOTS Faculty Benedict and Maria Sheehan.
The OISM Retreat concluded on Sunday after Divine Liturgy and coffee hour. Students expressed their enjoyment of the food, the fellowship, and the genuine hospitality offered by the entire Saint Tikhon’s community through the course of one of the largest OISM Retreats in memory. The next OISM Retreat is planned to be at Hellenic College Holy Cross in the spring.
By: Dn. Herman Garrison
The 2019 October Lecture Series continued this week by building on previous lectures given about the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America. Archpriest Thomas Soroka of Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, was the night's speaker. His lecture was enlightening yet challenging, especially to the diverse audience of students, clergy, and laity in attendance.
Saint Tikhon's was honored to have guests from its sister seminary, Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, including: Fr. Chad Hatfield (President), Dr. Ionut Alexandru Tudorie (Academic Dean), Mr. Alexandru Popovici (Academic and Recruitment Advisor), and Ms. Sarah Werner (Marketing Director, SVS Press).
During the talk, Fr. Thomas reflected on his own personal experience of what it was like to grow up Orthodox in America at the dawn of Autocephaly. He noted that there had been an outpouring of new educational material, books, and music as new parishes were being established. He remarked that it was "a vibrant Orthodox faith and there was a transition in the Church to help growth".
The prophetic words of Fr. John Meyendorff were brought to the fore, wherein he encouraged the new Church to recognize the goals ahead and be thoughtful in consideration of how to engage those goals. Fr. John reminded us of the words of St. Paul who said this mission work was for the "building of the Body of Christ", and he continued in his essay, stating, "we have to build churches, schools, and missions, but first of all, we must build an authentic and strong Orthodox consciousness in our clergy and laity...so that the true Orthodox witness may be a dynamic witness in American society..."
Fr. Thomas picked up on this theme to remind us that we must have a sense of urgency in fulfilling our mission. We cannot be a bastion for a chosen few, but we must bring the Kingdom of God to everyone in our land. This will mean that we must equip parishes, priests, and lay people to fulfill mission work through better communication and the sharing of resources.
A host of Orthodox missionaries were discussed; in particular, Fr. Thomas highlighted Saint Paul and the early North American missionaries. He underscored three traits of our missionary ancestors: faithful clarity, unquestioning certainty, and sacrificial urgency -- which was the keystone to all their efforts. He noted that they knew what God had called them to do and they spoke and acted with authority. It is important not to be distracted by naysayers or obstructionists.
Additionally, we must act with urgency. Others are doing the work, and we cannot be lethargic or apathetic. We also cannot wait for canonical anomalies to be solved.
Fr. Thomas stressed that the mission of the OCA has already been clearly stated, and it is up to us to act upon it.