With Church Schools beginning during the month of September, the study guide makes an ideal “beginning of the school year” resource that not only addresses stewardship of creation, but highlights the annual September 1 “Day of Prayer for Creation” observed among Orthodox Christians world-wide since the late 1980s. A poster highlighting the day is also available for downloading.
“On September 1, 1989, the late Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios I issued the first message from the Ecumenical Throne on the environment,” writes His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon in a letter being sent to all OCA parishes at the end of August 2015, in which he urges use of the study guide. “With his proclamation and the establishment of September 1, the first day of the Ecclesiastical New Year, as the Day of Prayer for the Creation, the Church again seeks to remind us, as Mary reminded Martha, of the one needful thing—life and unity with Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. In that statement, Patriarch Demetrios I reminds us that the holy fathers of the Church teach that ‘man is the prince of creation, endowed with the privilege of freedom. Being partaker simultaneously of the material and the spiritual world, he was created in order to refer creation back to the Creator, in order that the world may be saved from decay and death.’”
Metropolitan Tikhon continues by stating that “in Saint Ephrem the Syrian’s work, ‘Hymns on Paradise,’ we are given yet another guide to how we might come into that unity and life in Christ. Saint Ephrem tells us that God’s two witnesses, or pointers, are, ‘nature, through man’s use of it, [and] Scripture, through his reading it.’
“As the summer draws to a close and children go back to or away to school for the first time and begin again a new academic year and ecclesiastical year, let us, being reminded by the pointers to Christ as mentioned by Saint Ephrem, take a moment to turn to the one needful thing in praise, worship and thanksgiving for the creation and all the blessings bestowed upon us by our merciful Creator,” Metropolitan Tikhon concludes. “It is my prayer that the parishes, Sunday Schools, Youth Groups and other organizations of the Orthodox Church in America will take up this time around September 1 to celebrate the Day of Prayer for the Creation.”
During the week of August 8-15, 2015, the Mexico Mission Team cosponsored by the Orthodox Church in America and the Orthodox Christian Mission Center once again visited the Orthodox Christian Aztec community here.
With the blessing of His Eminence, Archbishop Alejo of the Orthodox Church in America’s Diocese of Mexico, Archpriests Ted Pisarchuk, Jacksonville, FL, and Antonio Perdomo, Pharr TX, ministered alongside the region’s clergy, Hieromonk Serafin and Hierodeacon Silouan. Joining them were Rosa Perdomo and Helena Denise Cuellar, also from Pharr, TX, and Martin Esquivel, Fairfield, CA.
Recently installed iconostasis in Pisaflores.
“As in the past, our team was received with great enthusiasm,” said Father Ted. “Every year the children look forward to participating in our summer camp, while the adults enjoy short talks on the Orthodox Christian faith offered after services. And, as always, the villagers offered warm hospitality and delicious local foods.”
San Esteban is a remote subsistence village where “the residents grow their own corn, black beans and fruit,” Father Ted explained. “Most everyone raises chickens, and the food is truly organic and fresh! Homes are mostly built of concrete block with corrugated metal rooms. Many homes do not have indoor bathroom facilities, and where there is running water, it consists of one-quarter inch polybutylene pipes, akin to garden hoses, that run down the side of the road or are suspended from poles. Transportation is mostly by foot or horseback, while burros function as pickup trucks.”
In addition to their work in San Esteban—one of over 80 villages in Hidalgo on Mexico’s Gulf Coast—the team undertook a survey of the outlying Orthodox villages to see what assistance might be offered to enable indigenous clergy to more effectively serve their flocks.
Fr. Ted Pisarchuk blesses Pisaflores faithful.
“Local lore relates that this region of Mexico initially was evangelized by a Father Armin in the early 1920s,” said Father Ted. “Before his death in 1960, he had planted about 12 parishes, including those in San Esteban, Pisaflores, Benito Juarez, and elsewhere. Father Armin is buried in Pisaflores, where community members care for his grave and hold his memory in great esteem.”
After Father Armin’s death, Father Jesus Gutierrez arrived and served the people until his death in 1986.
“These men faithfully served their flocks and intervened with government officials to bring electricity and bridges to their towns,” Father Ted related. “After Father Jesus’ death, there was a lack of clergy to serve the local faithful until 2000, when Father Antonio—now Archbishop Alejo—moved to Pisaflores for one year, traveling by foot and horseback to serve area parishes. After he had been called back to Mexico City’s Ascension Cathedral in 2001, he continued to serve area parishes weekly for the next three years, traveling over nine hours each way by bus, boat, foot and horseback.”
Today, Hieromonk Serafin has taken up residence in the humble rectory in Pisaflores.
Fr. Antonio Perdomo prays with campers in San Estaban.
“A second, equally humble rectory, funded in large part by an OCA Church Planting Grant, is now is being built in San Esteban,” Father Ted said. “Father Serafin plans to use these two villages as a home base to serve the outlying villages.
“Because our churches have been underserved, evangelical Protestants have effectively proselytized many of the region’s Orthodox Christians,” Father Ted continued. “With a resident priest in the area, the last barrier to effective ministry—the ability to travel to these remote rural villages on a regular basis—can be overcome. Many villages are unmapped and are located along slow going stone roads.”
To visit these villages, Father Serafin depends on others, and he often must hire a driver.
“Instead of visiting parishes once every two months, as he does at present, Father Serafin could serve two or three parishes a week if he had a vehicle,” explained Father Ted. “To this end, the 2015 OCA-OCMC mission team members, with the blessing of Archbishop Alejo, are raising funds to purchase a used four-wheel drive vehicle for the sole purpose of serving these 12 parishes.” [Those interested in learning how they can help this effort may contact Father Ted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Fr. Serafin and Archbishop Alejo, seated, with 2015 mission team.
The team also is collecting mounted icons that can be sent to the villages. Established parishes or individuals with “extras” are invited to send them to Father Antonio Perdomo, 520 West Rosemary Ave, Pharr, TX 78577-0667, who will see to it that they are delivered.
“We hope that when the 2016 OCA-OCMC mission team returns to San Esteban, we will be able to deliver a reliable used vehicle and adorn the village churches with icons,” Father Ted concluded.
Those who would like to participate in next summer’s mission team may contact Father Ted at the e-mail address noted above or OCMC at 904-829-5132.
In the Warsaw Seminary chapel are [from left] Victor Lutes, Janine Alpaugh, John Shimchick, and Joseph Green.
Five young adults representing the Orthodox Church in America are among the forty-plus participants from around the world attending the international Orthodox youth festival, “Attaining Conciliarity,” at the Monastery of the Annunciation’s Academy here during the last week of August 2015.
In early 2015, each OCA diocese had been asked to select a young adult to participate in the festival. Representing the Archdiocese of Washington is Victor Lutes, while Janine Alpaugh, William Kopcha and Joseph Green are representing the Dioceses of New York and New Jersey, New England and the South respectively. Also representing the Diocese of New York and New Jersey is John Shimchick, who had visited the Church in Poland several years ago.
Archpriest Dr. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Yonkers, NY, is the keynote festival speaker. His topic is “The Conciliar Model of the OCA: The Dream of Saint Tikhon.” Also slated to address the gathering is Archpriest Vladimir Misijuk of Bialystok, Poland, who will speak on “Attaining Conciliarity: The Task of our Daily Life.” Father Vladimir is an alumnus of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary and former Syndesmos General Secretary.
“Since its establishment in Paris, France in 1953 as a way to connect Orthodox youth and young adults the world over, Syndesmos has worked closely with youth in North America, Western Europe and the traditional ‘Orthodox homelands,’” said Andrew Boyd, OCA Youth Director. “This was especially crucial in the late 20th century as the only means to connect Orthodox youth in eastern and central Europe with their counterparts elsewhere. While still a university student, the late Father John Meyendorff was among Syndesmos’ founders, while other Influential members of Syndesmos as young adults and beyond include the late Father Alexander Schmemann, the late Patriarch Ignatius of Antioch, Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, and countless others. The OCA has a strong tradition of supporting Syndesmos through its general secretariat, elected vice-presidency and board membership and by providing interns and staff members. In 2009, I had the honor of serving as a Syndesmos intern.”
Upon their arrival in Poland, the OCA representatives were hosted at the Warsaw Theological Seminary before leaving for Bialystok and Suprasl. As part of the festival program they will visit the Orthodox women’s monastery in Grabarka, one of the Orthodox Church of Poland’s holiest sites, and participate in celebrations marking the 35th anniversary of the Orthodox Youth Fellowship of Poland.