Supporting missionaries to Albania

18 Feb

Dear Friends,

Recently our parish had the joy of co-hosting a presentation by Steve and Theophani Sarigianis, a young couple who plan to serve as missionaries to the Orthodox Church of Albania. Currently they are visiting many local parishes to ask for support in their endeavor, which is under the auspices of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). Our parish co-hosted the event with St. George Albanian Orthodox Church, Trumbull, CT.

 

Theophani and Steve Sarigianis at Holy Ghost Church (photo by Laura Chadwick)

Steve and Theophani first met in 2012 at Hellenic College Holy Cross. Since they shared a calling to serve Christ as missionaries, they developed a close friendship. After completing their studies, the two served on an OCMC team to Kenya in 2016 led by the late Bishop Athanasios Akunda, who would later preside at their marriage ceremony in Hellenic College Holy Cross Chapel.

As I listened to their presentation, I was struck by their humble willingness to serve the people and church of Albania in whatever way might be needed.  But I further imagined the challenging work ahead of them as residents in a foreign country far from their home. So I was heartened when members of our parish, along with visiting members of St. George Church, were together on the day of their presentation and offered contributions to help support them in their work. Some gave right on the day and others were planning to go online to the Sarigianis’s OCMC page. 

I also couldn’t help thinking how fitting it was for our two parishes to host this mission-minded couple on the Sunday when the Gospel parable of the Prodigal Son was read during the service. I’m sure that Steve and Theophani will help those they encounter in Albania, many of whom may feel spiritually lost, to sense something of our merciful Father’s love, and to find a home in Christ and His Church. May God bless their future labor in His Name.

In Him, Father John Jillions, Pastor

Read more about Steve and Theophani, and learn how to provide ongoing support for their missionary work in Albania.

Listen to the presentation given by the Sarigianis’s at Holy Ghost Church, Sunday, February 16, 2020.

 

Mini-retreat February 15: “Paul, Prayer & Pierogies”

31 Jan

Dear Friends,

On Saturday, February 15, our parish will be hosting a mini-retreat from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., with an intriguing theme: “Paul, Prayer & Pierogies.”

At this event I’ll exploring scriptural passages written by St. Paul that deal with the topic of divine guidance. And, our Parish Council Vice-President, Bob Denhup, will direct a class on how to make those mouth-watering Slavic dumplings known as ‘pierogies.’ The retreat will conclude with Vespers and General Confession at 4 p.m.

What’s the connection between three “P’s” in the retreat title? I guess it’s a simple matter of supply-and-demand; at this mini-retreat Bob and I are going to use our respective talents to feed a need:  a lot of people are equally concerned about their spiritual and bodily well-being, and we hope to nourish both!

During my talk, I’ll be using material from my newly published book: Divine Guidance: Lessons for Today from the World of Early Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2020). In particular I’ll be focusing on scriptural passages written by St. Paul to talk about : 1) In which ways was divine guidance perceived in ancient times?; and 2) What criteria can we use today to distinguish true from false guidance?

As a vivid example, both Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Osama Bin Laden claimed that their actions had been directed by God, so how does one assess the criteria they used to determine who truly did God’s will? More importantly, how do we discern God’s will in our own lives?

Bob and I hope you’ll come to our unique mini-retreat. Learn with us, do a fun culinary project with us, and pray with us. And please tell your friends and family about “Paul, Prayer & Pierogies.” We’d welcome them. Just let Bob know that you’ll be attending by February 9, so that we can plan accordingly: bunkerbob@gmail.com.

In Him, Fr. John Jillions, pastor

P.S. If you are interested in reading more about the subject of divine guidance, Oxford University Press has arranged for you to receive 30% off the purchase price of my new book. You can access the coupon here.

 

 

 

 

Many Years to missionaries Jesse and Juanita!

29 Jan

Dear Friends,

Since 2016 our parish has been supporting the education of Juanita Pascual, a native of Guatemala and an Orthodox Christian who is studying in the city of Huehuetenango to become a medical doctor. Juanita has received more than $6,000 from our parish over the years, and she has worked diligently, in the hope that upon graduation, she will work as a missionary doctor in a local medical clinic. 

In 2019 our parish also gave $1,000 in support of Jesse Brandow, a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and a long-term missionary in Guatemala, serving under the auspices of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). 

So, I thought you would want to hear the good news: Jesse and Juanita were married on December 29, 2019!

Jesse & Juanita on their wedding day (photo courtesy of OCMC)

The wedding took place at the Holy Annunciation Cathedral in Aguacate. They had the blessing of having their wedding service during the Divine Liturgy. Afterwards, they hosted a celebratory lunch for visitors from afar, as well as for the whole Orthodox community of Aguacate.

Juanita is from Aguacate, Guatemala, where Jesse met her as he was beginning his work as a missionary. Over the past couple of years, they have worked together, both in the choir and in the health clinic there. Eventually, after becoming good friends, they spoke about marriage, received Juanita’s parents’ blessing, and were soon engaged.

As a married couple, they will continue to be involved in mission work; Juanita will be completing her studies in Huehuetenango, where Jesse will join her and continue his work from there. Once Juanita graduates from medical school, the two plan to return to Aguacate, as a physician and a missionary.

Congratulations, Jesse and Juanita, and many years!

In Him, Fr. John Jillions, pastor

P.S. Please keep Jesse and Juanita in your prayers, and follow Jesse’s blog at:

http://www.mayanorthodoxy.com/jesse

New parish president for New Year

19 Jan

Dear Friends,

At the onset of this New Year, at a special parish meeting on Sunday, January 19, our community elected a new Parish Council president: David Lepesko. He joins other Parish Council officers, who were elected at our Annual Meeting, November 4, 2019: Robert Denhup, vice president; Cathleen McCormick, treasurer; Susan Maugeri, financial secretary; Barbara Dulin, secretary; Audrey Stabler, assistant financial secretary; and Ruth Sencio, assistant treasurer.

Parish Council Officers January 2020

Parish Council Officers: (from left): Cathleen McCormick, treasurer; Susan Maugeri, financial secretary; David Lepesko, president; Fr. John Jillions, pastor; Barbara Dulin, secretary; Audrey Stabler, assistant financial secretary; Ruth Sencio, assistant treasurer; and Robert Denhup, vice-president

I’d like to thank our immediate past parish president, Subdeacon Mark Curran, for all his faithful service to our community during his tenure. He served during the difficult period of Fr. Steven’s illness, retirement, and repose, and he was instrumental in helping me, my wife, Denise, and Holy Ghost Church make the transition to a new stage in our lives. I look forward to working with the new officers and other members of our Parish Council as we endeavor—as our parish By-Laws state—to foster our “God-given life in a special, orderly and fruitful way.”

In Christ our Lord, Fr. John Jillions, pastor

Listen to Fr. John’s homily titled, “Your Life in Christ Has a Purpose,” which focuses on the topic of Christian leadership and service (January 19, 2020).

 

Being God’s eyes and ears, His hands and feet!

13 Jan

As our parish children grow, our church school program has expanded into 2 groups: younger children are enjoying classes with Mrs. Carol Kaputa in the refurbished area of the church undercroft, and older youth are beginning instruction with Matushka DeniseTheophany image Jillions in the refurbished rectory. During the Epiphany season Matushka Denise and her group discussed the sacrament of baptism.

“We talked about their own baptism and how the priest had anointed each of them with the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit—on their hands and eyes and ears and feet and foreheads—to symbolize that they each now have the power of the Holy Spirit to see God everywhere,” noted Matushka Denise, “to hear His voice, to do good works, and to use their minds and hearts to love others, and to use their special gifts and talents for the upbuilding of the church—just as we had heard in the epistle reading for the day.

Church school youth with Fr. John at the blessing of the parish rectory

“We also brainstormed the ‘fruits of the spirit’ as listed in the Bible: love, joy, patience, et cetera—as well as contrasting them with their opposites—and we talked about these gifts as a way to work with God, who is helping us to grow up and take care of each other and the earth,” she continued.

“That discussion,” she said, “led us to talk about the importance of water for the existence of life, for cleansing by washing, and for baptism, and further, to why the priest blesses homes—even blessing a basement or attic that might be messy, because God wants to be ‘all and in all,’ in every corner of our homes and hearts and lives.”

After the lesson Father John arrived and commissioned the youth to use their gifts to help him serve the traditional house blessing at the rectory. Max being the oldest carried the candle and led the way, Chase being the youngest carried the bowl of holy water, and Madeline and Ella were the choir as they went through the house, from the basement to the very “cool” attic. They sang as Fr. John sprinkled water everywhere in the house, and then returned back to the kitchen for the final prayers.

What an exciting new beginning! What a powerful lesson!

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is joy!

6 Jan

Dear Friends,

If I had to choose one word to characterize the winter feasts we celebrate as Orthodox Christians, it would be: Joy!

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Church School children & Fr. John spreading joy through the presentation of the traditional Christmas play, or “Yolka.”

On Christmas Day, we sing:
“Your Nativity, O Christ our God, has proclaimed joy to the whole Universe.”

On the days following Christmas, as we remember Christ’s mother, Mary, and his ancestral lineage, we sing:
“Come, let us greatly rejoice in the Lord, as we sing of this present mystery: the wall that divided God from man has been destroyed.”

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Icon of the Feast of Theophany

And on the Eve of Theophany, as we recall Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, we sing:
“River Jordan, cease flowing and receive with joy the Master coming to be baptized.
Adam, rejoice with our First Mother and do not hide yourself as you did of old in Paradise;
for having seen you naked, He has appeared to clothe you with the first garment. Christ has appeared to renew all creation.”

Our joy lies in the fact that the Son of God came to earth in the form of a human baby, and He took on fully our human condition—in all of its messiness and degradation.

View a video of Fr. John reading the prayer of the blessing of the water on the Feast of Theophany

Our joy lies in the fact that Jesus Christ came not to condemn us, but to renew us, and all of creation, with His Holy Spirit.

Our joy lies in the fact that Jesus Christ came not just to teach us to be holy by example; but rather, through His birth, baptism, death, resurrection, and the gift of His Holy Spirit, He gave us the means to be holy.

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Chris Savisky (St. Nicholas) spreading joy at Coffee Hour, with Jerry Kopko!

Sadly, we Christians have often earned a reputation for legalism, moralism, and quite frankly, pessimism. Those outside of the Church cannot recognize the fruit of the Spirit within us: “love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians, 5:22–23).

During this wonderful season, let us put away all of our negative “isms,” and ask Christ to fill us with His joy!

With love in Christ, Fr. John

NOTE: If you would like to be a joyful witness to your family and friends of the good news of Christ’s renewal of all creation, ask Fr. John to schedule a time to bless your home with the holy water sanctified at the Theophany service. Contact him via phone: (203) 572–0026 (rectory) or email: jjillions@gmail.com.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

25 Dec

Icon of the Nativity of Jesus Christ

Dear Friends,

As we celebrate this season of what the Orthodox Church calls the “Nativity in the Flesh of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ,” let me extend to you the traditional greeting: “Christ is born! Glorify Him!” Let me also offer to you some words for reflection, which came to my mind as we commemorated this glorious feast.

Gifts of the Wise Men: gold, frankincense, and myrrh

On Christmas Day the prescribed scriptural reading (Matthew 2:1–12) is the story of the three Wise Men who visit the Christ Child and offer Him gifts suitable for royalty. To illustrate this Gospel passage during my sermon to the children of our parish on that special day, I displayed three beautiful boxes filled with the treasures brought by the Wise Men—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—and I spoke about how each of these gifts had been fitting for the newborn King, Jesus.

I also delivered a Nativity message from His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, who currently serves as the archpastor of our New England Diocese. In his message His Beatitude focuses on the unique ways in which both the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist witnessed to the Coming of Christ—Mary by silent meditation within her heart, and John by public proclamation—and asks us to imitate their efforts (read His Beatitude’s message or listen to it here).

Fr John Jillions illustrates the Gospel message to the children of the parish

During this Nativity season, let us honor the King of Kings, as did the Wise Men; let us meditate upon the astounding news that “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23), as did the Virgin Mary; and let us proclaim this wonder, as did St. John the Baptist.

With warm wishes to you and your loved ones, Fr. John Jillions, Pastor

P.S. View a photo gallery of our Christmas week at Holy Ghost Church;

view a photo gallery of our Divine Liturgy and Coffee Hour with St. George Albanian Orthodox Church, on the Feast of the Holy Forefathers, just prior to Christmas;

and…listen to the combined choirs of both churches.

Christmas Bells: Peace on Earth & Good-will!

20 Dec

One of the bells in the carillon at Holy Ghost Church

Dear Friends,

As we prepare to celebrate the Holy Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was born into a world filled with turmoil, dissension, and darkness, I want to share a poem by American educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, written during the chaos of the Civil War in the United States.

It’s a message of faith and hope to us Christians (who also now live amidst national tumult) that our Messiah comes to bring peace, to make His peace possible—first in each of our hearts, next between the brothers and sisters of our country, and then among the peoples of the world.

Please celebrate the Coming King of Peace with us by attending services: Christmas Eve Vigil, December 24, at 4 p.m. and Festal Divine Liturgy, December 25, at 9 a.m.

We will be ringing out our own wonderful bells on Christmas Day to proclaim: “Peace on earth and good-will!”—just as Longfellow states in his poem, printed below.

With love in Him, Fr. John Jillions, Pastor 

Christmas Bells

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow , 1807–1882

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

 

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

 

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

 

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

 

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

 

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

 

Fr Steven Belonick, blessed repose

7 Aug
Click to listen:
Archpriest Steven John Belonick reposed in the Lord Jesus Christ on August 7, 2019, after an extended illness, acute myeloid leukemia. He was 67 years old.Born October 7, 1951, and raised in New Britain, CT, he was the only son of Steven and Ann (née Kochanowsky) Belonick. He was a graduate of Laurel Crest Preparatory School (1969), and he earned degrees at the University of Connecticut (B.A. in Biology, 1974) and at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Yonkers, NY (M.Div., 1977). He also completed a two-year program in pastoral counseling at Onondaga Pastoral Counseling Center, Syracuse, NY (Certificate, 1992).

On September 3, 1978, he married Deborah Malacky, also a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, who became his lifelong partner and support in ministry. Father Steven was ordained to the diaconate, March 25, 1979, by His Grace Boris (Geeza), bishop of Chicago and the Midwest, Orthodox Church in America (OCA); he was ordained to the priesthood, May 19, 1979, by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor), administrator of the OCA. Both ordinations took place in Three Hierarchs Chapel at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.

Prior to his ordination Father Steven had been inspired to become a pastor by meditating upon his favorite Bible passage, John 21:15–17, in which the Lord instructs his disciple Peter, who professes his steadfast love for Him, to “feed My sheep.” Taking guidance from that passage and seeking to fulfill the Lord’s directive to the best of his ability, Father Steven served three parishes of the OCA as their pastor and shepherd, with zealous love for each flock: The Orthodox Christian Church of the Holy Transfiguration, Pearl River, NY (1979–1983); Dormition of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, Binghamton, NY (1983–2000); and Holy Ghost Russian Orthodox Church, Bridgeport, CT (2013–2017).

Additionally Father Steven became a beloved pastor and trusted confessor for many students attending St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, where he worked in various capacities from 2000–2013: Director of Recruitment and Alumni and Public Relations; Dean of Students; and Chaplain. As a final testimony to his dedication in shepherding souls, he availed himself even to the aides, nurses, and hospital workers who sought his pastoral wisdom occasionally, taking an interest in their joys and sorrows and lending a listening ear.

Besides his pastoral work, Father Steven served as co-founder and co-editor, along with his wife, Deborah, of Jacob’s Well, the official publication of the Diocese of NY and NJ, OCA. He also served in a volunteer capacity on various committees and in various departments under the central administration of the OCA: the Department of Lay Ministry, the Department of Pastoral Life and Ministry, the Liturgical Commission, and the Ethics Commission. As well, also within the central church, he chaired a task force to develop a professional assistance program for clergy and their families and for full-time church workers. Additionally he was involved in an initial study of the OCA to address issues of clergy sexual misconduct. He also acted as co-editor for a very popular book filled with Lenten meditations, A Journey through Great Lent.

As Father Steven passes from death to eternal life, he leaves behind on earth his beloved family: his wife, Deborah; his two sons, Paul (Alexandra) and Daniel (Jennifer Mary), and his grandson, Steven Leland; his sister, Cynthia (Salvatore); and his father, Steven, along with in-laws, cousins, nieces and nephews, and an uncle that was part of his household growing up, John Kochanowski.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Adzima Funeral Home, Stratford, CT. Calling hours and services will take place at St. Dimitrie Orthodox Church, 504 Sport Hill Road, Easton, CT. Burial will take place at St. Tikhon‘s Monastery Cemetery, St. Tikhon‘ s Road, South Canaan, PA, beginning with a short Panikhida. A light repast will follow. Dates and times will be posted as they are received.

Father Steven expresses his great thanks to all his caretakers: Dr. David Witt, his oncologist and Susanna Cronmiller, APRN, along with all the nurses and aides on the 7th floor oncology unit at Bridgeport Hospital; his family members who undertook the loving task of caring for him during time spent at home in hospice: his sister, Cynthia; his two cousins, Barbara Selarz and Kathleen Santa Maria; and his wife and sons. Additionally he is grateful for pastoral care provided by fellow clergy, especially His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of the OCA, Fr. John Jillions, Fr. Steven Voytovich, his current father confessor, Fr. Adrian Budica and the Spiritual Care Unit at Bridgeport Hospital, and Fr. Michael Westerberg. In particular he is indebted to Fr. Paul Lazor who served as his father confessor and mentor for decades, and with whom he developed a lasting bond of friendship. He also thanks his in-laws Barry and Libby Taylor, and all other friends and family members for their love, support, and encouragement during his long illness.

Because he had suffered and understood the devastating effects of cancer, and because of his gentle care for the children under his pastoral guidance over the years, it was Father Steven’s wish that donations in his memory be made to St. Jude’s Research Hospital for Children, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105, 800-822-6344.

May Father Steven’s memory be eternal!

(courtesy of the OCA website)

 

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Fr Steven at his retirement dinner in 2017.

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Father Stephen with nurses from Griffin Hospital

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Fr Steven teaching the church school students at summer camp. 2016

Annual Picnic

7 Jul

Fr John served his first Divine Liturgy at Holy Ghost’s park grounds in Shelton on Sunday, June 30th.  It was a beautiful day filled with delicious food and great fellowship.  Thank you to everyone who helped make this picnic another success!

 

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Christ is Risen!

28 Apr

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior‟s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

PASCHAL SERMON OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

 

Surprise Visit from Metropolitan Tikhon

25 Mar

Holy Ghost Church had a surprise visit from His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon yesterday. Met Tikhon was on his way back from Boston where he was visiting His Eminence, Archbishop Nikon, who is in the hospital recovering from surgery. With Abp Nikon’s blessing, His Beatitude stopped in Bridgeport to attend the Divine Liturgy for the Second Sunday of Great Lent. At the end of the Liturgy he spoke briefly about his family history in New England (his ancestors go back to the 1620’s in Massachusetts) and encouraged everyone to find ways to integrate their Orthodox faith and their family backgrounds, wherever they come from. Orthodox Christianity is not just for people of “Eastern” origins! He held the Cross for parishioners to venerate and then after the Liturgy he had a tour of the church and saw its famous coronation bells and iconostasis, donated by Tsar Nicholas II in 1898. Rich Jankura led us up the into the bellower and explained the history. His Beatitude also saw the street ministry group in action preparing meatball sandwiches for the homeless. Later  Metropolitan Tikhon and Fr John visited Fr Steven Belonick (and Mat Deb) in Bridgeport Hospital. What an unexpected blessing it was to have His Beatitude visit us. May God grant him many years. Eis polla eti Despota!

 

Great Lent Schedule

10 Mar

Schedule of Services for Great Lent, Holy Week and Pascha 2019
Fr John will generally be available to hear Confessions 1 hour before mid-week services
and on Saturdays after Vespers (but check the schedule).

Holy Week and Pascha

 

Great and Holy Monday, April 22, 2019 – 7:00 pm
Bridegroom Matins, St George, Trumbull
Great and Holy Tuesday, April 23, 2019  – 5:00 pm Confessions
6:00 pm Bridegroom Matins

Great and Holy Wednesday, April 24, 2019  –  5:00 pm Confessions

6:00 pm Bridegroom Matins and Anointing

Great and Holy Thursday, April 25, 2019 –  9:00 am Vesperal Liturgy

6:00 pm Matins and 12 Passion Gospels

Great and Holy Friday April 26, 2019 –  2:00 pm Vespers with Burial of the Lord
6:00 pm Matins of Lamentations

Great and Holy Saturday April 27, 2019  –  9:00 am Vesperal Liturgy with Readings
Paschal Midnight Service 11:00 pm Nocturnes, Procession, Matins and Divine Liturgy of Pascha

Holy Pascha, April 28, 2019 –  12:00 pm Vespers of Pascha

Blessing of Easter Baskets will take place on Holy Saturday morning after the Divine
Liturgy; after the midnight Liturgy on Pascha night; and after Paschal Vespers.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

25 Dec

St Nicholas Sacks

4 Dec

This past Sunday the Holy Ghost community came together to fill 50 “St Nicholas Sacks” provided by FOCUS, for those in need in the surrounding towns.  Items such as toothpaste, tissues, and washcloths were stuffed in reusable canvas totes.  Church school children provided cards and parishoners donated items for the sacks.  The totes will be distributed in the coming weeks before Christmas.  Thank you to young and old who helped!

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St Nicholas Sacks

28 Oct

This Christmas season, Holy Ghost Church will partner with FOCUS North America, an Orthodox organization, aimed at providing action-oriented and sustainable solutions to poverty in communities, and deliver “St Nicholas Sacks.”     Sacks will be filled with various hygiene essentials such as toothpaste, tissues, and deodorant, as well as toys and games.  Fifty sacks will be assembled and delivered to those in need in the surrounding communities.  All are welcomed to contribute and participate in this first partnership with FOCUS.  We look forward to spreading some cheer to those in need!

Holy Ghost Welcomes Father John Jillions

5 Aug

Today marked another chapter for Holy Ghost.  Father John Jillions served his first Divine Liturgy as the parish’s new priest.  It was with great joy that Holy Ghost welcomed Father John Jillions and his wife Matuska Denise to the community.  Holy Ghost has been without a permanent priest since Fr Steven Belonick retired in October.  Fr David Mezynki has graciously served as our interim priest for the past 9 months.  A delicious brunch was prepared by a few members of the parish followed by a cake to celebrate the special occasion. Holy Ghost is very excited and blessed to have Fr John as its new priest!

A few words on Fr John, taken from the SVS Press website.

He joins the church after serving as Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America since 2011 and has been a member of the clergy for 34 years.  Before his role as Chancellor he was Associate Professor at the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, where he was a member of the Faculty of Theology since 2003. He taught courses in Orthodox Theology, 20th Century Orthodox Thought, New Testament, East-West Ecumenism, and Pastoral Theology. He also directed the DMin program there for several years.

Throughout his priestly and academic career he has taken an active interest in promoting inter- Christian and interfaith understanding, most notably as a vice-president of the Canadian Council of Churches and in the UK as a member of the Cambridge Theological Federation.

Father John was born in Montreal in 1955 and is a life-long member of the Orthodox Church. He has a B.A. in Economics from McGill University, and theological degrees from St. Vladimir’s Seminary (M.Div. ’80, D.Min. ’05), and the University of Thessaloniki (Ph.D., New Testament, ’02). Ordained a deacon in 1981 and priest in 1984, he served parishes in New York City, New Jersey, Australia (Brisbane), Greece (Thessaloniki), the UK (Cambridge), and Canada (Ottawa and Brockville, ON). He is currently rector of St. Sergius Chapel at the OCA Chancery in Oyster Bay Cove, New York.

Father John was founding director of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge and served as its first Principal (1997–2002). Early in his career, he served as administrator of Ss. Cosmas and Damian Adult Home and as a bank officer. In 1990–92 he served a brief stint as a chaplain (Captain) in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. He is married to Denise (Melligon) and has three adult sons, Andrew (Alice and granddaughter Eloise), Alexander and Anthony.

Welcome Father John!  God grant you many years!

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Thank you Fr David!

2 Aug

This past Sunday, Father David Mezynski, who has been serving as Holy Ghost’s interim priest, served his last divine liturgy at the Shelton church grounds.  Father Michael has been with Holy Ghost since November, after the retirement of Father Steven Belonick.  Fr. David Mezynski is the Associate Dean for Student Affairs at St Vladimir’s Seminary as well as the advisor for the Student Council, and a liaison between the Student Council and the Faculty Council.

Holy Ghost thanks him very much for his time and service to our community.  He will be missed!

Holy Ghost Church Annual Picnic

13 Jul

Holy Ghost Church

Sunday, July 22, 2018; 11:00 – 2:00 p.m.

Holy Ghost Park

70 Nells Rock Road • Shelton, CT

Divine Liturgy starts 9:00 a.m. at Holy Ghost Park, Picnic immediately following Liturgy

Liver, Bacon & Onion, Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Homemade Pierogi Assorted Desserts, Ice Cream, Soda, Water, Beer, Wine

Bring Family and Friends for a Great Day

 

Looking for CPA

4 Jul

Holy Ghost is looking for a CPA to offer services in regards to taxes, preferably pro bono.  Please contact President, Mark Curran at (203) 526-8863.

Thank you!!

New Summer Schedule

28 Jun

Please make note of our new time for Divine Liturgy on Sundays.  Liturgy will start at 8:00 am during the months of July and August.  See you then!

Christ is Risen!

8 Apr

Blessed Feast Day, from Holy Ghost!

Holy Week Services

3 Apr

HOLY THURSDAY, APRIL 5  – 12 Matins w/ 12 Passion Gospels 6:00 p.m.

HOLY FRIDAY VESPER, APRIL 6  – Placing the Lord in the Tomb 2:00 p.m.

HOLY SATURDAY, APRIL 7  – Vesperal Divine Liturgy 10:00 a.m. (Blessing of Baskets after Liturgy)

PASCHA – Nocturn, Procession, Matins, Divine Liturgy, APRIL 7  – 11:00 p.m. (Blessing of Baskets after Liturgy)

PASCHAL VESPERS, APRIL 8 –  12:00 Noon (Fr Steven presiding) (Egg Hunt following Service)

**Pre-sanctified Canceled for 3/21/18**

20 Mar

Due to the upcoming storm, Pre-sanctified Liturgy on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, has been canceled.  Stay safe!!

Sunday of the Cross Sermon

12 Mar

Please click the link below to hear Fr. Steven’s sermon on the Sunday of the Cross

The Purpose of Great Lent

21 Feb

Father Steven Belonick delivered a very moving message following the Canon of St Andrew. For those who were unable to attend the service last night, please see the link below to listen.  It truly gets to the purpose of Great Lent; breaking our hard heartedness in order for us to submit to God’s will and find the riches of God’s Kingdom.

Click here to listen:

Sounds of the Season at Holy Ghost

12 Dec

On Sunday, December 3rd, Holy Ghost hosted its 3rd annual free Christmas concert.  This year we welcomed the talents of Chamber singers from the Connecticut Choral Society.  The ten member enemble sung holiday favorites such as I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, Carol of the Bells and various versions of Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.  Director, Ron Dukenski offered a brief history or story before each song was performed, a rather unexpected and appreciated treat.  Especially moving was one version of Hallelujah, Amen.  Many thans and cheers!  We look forward to next year’s concert!  IMG_9234.jpg

 

2017 Holy Ghost Orthodox Church Concert – Christmas Bells are Ringing

Father Steven’s Retirement Luncheon

26 Oct

thumb_IMG_8898_1024This past Sunday afternoon, the Holy Ghost community and friends gathered for an afternoon to celebrate Father Steven Belonick’s 39 years in the priesthood at Oronoque Country Club in Stratford.  It was an afternoon of laughter and tears as those close to Fr. Steven shared heartfelt words and memories. Members of his family attended, including his father, sister, an uncle, 2 sons and their wives, and his grandson, as well as several members of the surrounding clergy.  He will be retiring on November 1, after having spent the last 5 years at Holy Ghost, dedicating so much of his life to shaping and growing the parish.  Holy Ghost thanks him and Mat. Deborah for all their efforts!  They will be extremely missed.

 

Baptisms abound at Holy Ghost!

24 Oct

October proved to be a busy month with Holy Ghost welcoming 2 new members to the church.  Thomas James Quill was baptized on October 1st and Joseph Dias was baptized on October 8th.

2nd Annual Health Fair

24 Oct

On Saturday, October 21st, Holy Ghost held its 2nd annual health fair with much success! Griffin Hospital returned this year with its mobile health resource van, along with several nurses, and screened local residents for diabetes, administered blood pressure screenings and performed stroke assessments.  It was a free service in which participants learned about the risk factors of stroke, warning signs, prevention, and steps for taking action.  PIVOT Ministries once again partnered with Holy Ghost and prepared a free lunch for those in attendance, as well as shared their vocal talents.  New to the fair was United Illuminating and their Energy Efficiencies Solutions team, offering energy audits to local residents.  The City of Bridgeport Department of Aging also attended for the first time and provided information on the free services they offer the city’s seniors.  Children that attended with parents enjoyed decorating pumpkins.  It was a beautiful day and a great way to meet local residents and enjoy fellowship.

 

Neighborhood Health Fair

17 Sep

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We have a significant fall event approaching:

HGROC_Health Fair

  • “Neighborhood Health Fair”: Saturday, October 21, 2017, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The Griffin Hospital Mobile Health Resource Van, a custom built Winnebago that travels to various locations throughout our Valley, will be on hand in the parking lot of Holy Ghost Church, 1510 East Main St., Bridgeport, CT, to offer FREE preventive health services. Get tested for diabetes, see how high your blood pressure is, and more. Free pumpkin painting for the kids will be offered while you take care of your health. Pivot Ministries will be on hand to feed the crowd.

Come on by! Please greet and have a free lunch with our neighbors during the Health Fair, and maybe get a needed checkup yourself?

Just contact me at belonick@svots.edu, and I’ll be glad to share with you how you can lend a helping hand.

In Him, your pastor, Fr. Steven

 

 

 

Holy Ghost Church represented at “Fourth Small Parish Forum”

23 Jul

Dear Friends,

Our own parishioner, Marcia Maslo Pierce, was among the 70 participants who attended the “Fourth Small Parish Forum,” sponsored by the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), July 13–15, 2017, and held at St. John the Baptist Church, New Kensington, PA. The forum was designed to help Orthodox Christian communities explore possibilities for both internal spiritual growth and external evangelism—including outreach to non-churched neighbors and engagement with local non-profits.

Marcia returned from the forum filled with enthusiasm and loaded with notes. She’s already “downloaded” the ideas she gleaned at the forum to our Church Council President, Mark Curran, our Outreach Committee Chair, Dave Lepesko, and me. And, she’ll be sharing those ideas with our Parish Council at their next meeting in September.

I can’t wait for her to tell everyone about  her newfound knowledge on “Potential Parish Improvement Initiatives,” with topics ranging from “Parish Vision/Identity” to “Worship” to “Formation/Prayer” to “Active Service.” I was inspired by her initial report to me, and I know she’s going to inspire others as well.

Let me give you just 2 of the best quotes that she brought home with her from the forum:

  1. “Leadership is not a position, it’s an action.”
  2. “Bigger is not better, better is better!”

Amen to that!

You may read the entire article about the forum, published on the OCA’s website: “Fourth Small Parish Forum attracts record number of participants.”

In Him, your Pastor, Father Steven

P.S. That’s Marcia in the photo, first row, far right!

 

Church School Champions!

12 Jun

 

Church School Group_2017

As summer approaches, we’re all inundated with invitations to graduations and end-of-year award ceremonies for children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends.

One special end-of-year ceremony we have here at Holy Ghost features our Church School teachers and students. This past Sunday I had the pleasure of congratulating them on completing another year of study (and fun!), and passing out certificates to all the students in recognition of their growth in faith and knowledge.Church School_certiicates_ 2017

I have mementos of some of the projects they did throughout the year—including a cut-out heart on my fridge with the slogan: “God will be your Guide” and a Lily-of-the Valley plant in my yard. And I have memories that will always be with me—like when I had the pleasure of being the the target of their “Ask Father” class, at which time they peppered me with questions worthy of budding theologians ( from “How come women can’t go into the sanctuary?” to  “How come we say ‘A-men’ but not ‘A-women’?”).

Church School Cake 2017No wonder God loves children and youth! They possess earnest intent, serious thought, and delightful curiosity. When I think of them, I think of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

It’s been an important year for our Church School students, their teachers (Thanks, Debbie and Carole, for another stellar year), and for our parish community, since these kids hold the future of our parish in their hearts and minds.

So, of all the ceremonies we might attend this summer, this one, as humble as it is, at least for me, “takes the cake.”

Your Pastor, Fr. Steven

 

Archbishop Nikon elevates Mark Curran as Subdeacon

13 May

Arch Nikon Greeting2_May 2017On May 7, 2017, the “Sunday of the Paralytic,” our parish was blessed with the visitation of His Eminence Nikon, archbishop of Boston and the Diocese of New England.

We gathered to greet and welcome him in the traditional manner—children offered him bouquets of flowers; our parish President, Mark Curran, offered him bread and salt; and I, as your pastor, greeted him with the hand Cross and expressed the parish’s appreciation for coming to lead our worship at the Divine Liturgy.

Before the Liturgy began, His Eminence tonsured Mark Curran as a Reader of Holy Ghost Church and then elevated him to the rank of Subdeacon. Mark had been my altar server for more than three years and had proven to be a trustworthy and very competent help. It had become evident to me that his faithful service needed to be recognized and developed. So, Mark is now Subdeacon Mark!Mark Curran_Subdeacon_2017

But, perhaps you’re asking: What does a Subdeacon do? Well, let me inform you!

In a parish setting, a Subdeacon’s responsibilities include: serving in the altar (generally as the head server), coordinating and leading the serving team, and training new altar servers. (It was great to see so many of Mark’s childhood buddies serving in the altar with him on Sunday’s special occasion, by the way, to especially encourage and honor him.)

Additionally, a Subdeacon cares for the altar area: cleaning the altar space, looking after the vestments of clergy, and looking after the cloths of the Holy Table—cleaning, mending, and changing them according to feasts, fasts, and seasons. And, he performs any other altar duties that the priest may assign him.

And, when the bishop (or archbishop or metropolitan) comes, the Subdeacon assists the him when he is presiding by: vesting him, holding his service book, carrying his shepherd’s staff, presenting him with the dikiri and trikiri, placing the eagle rugs on the floor, and performing whatever other duties the bishop may assign, for example, the duties of a Reader, if required.

We are grateful to His Eminence for his visitation. And we keep newly ordained Subdeacon Mark in our prayers for a fruitful ministry!

Your pastor, Father Steven

 

 

Christ is risen! Risen indeed!

19 Apr

Dear Friends,

HGROC_Holy Friday_photo_3_2017

Holy Ghost Church decorated for the Paschal Season [photo: Stephanie Tabak Smith]

Christ is risen!

From Holy Week to Bright Monday, our parish community celebrated the liturgical services with joy. And I want to thank everyone who did his or her part to make the church building and the services beautiful—from altar servers, to choir members, to those who cleaned and polished all the appointments inside the church.

Most of all I want to thank all of you who offered up your prayers during this holiest of seasons. It was wonderful to be together, learning Scripture and meditating on our Lord’s Passion.

Indeed He is risen!

Your Pastor,  Fr. Steven

P.S. Listen again to our Choir sing the beautiful hymn from Paschal Matins, entitled, “In the Flesh, Thou Didst Fall Asleep”: 

Holy Week Service Schedule 2017

1 Apr

       Holy Weeek

 Monday, April 10 HOLY MONDAY

Pre-sanctified Liturgy of HOLY MONDAY                                                                          7:00 am

Bridegroom Matins of HOLY TUESDAY                                                                              6:00 pm

Tuesday, April 11 HOLY TUESDAY

Bridegroom Matins of HOLY WEDNESDAY                                                                       6:00 pm

Wednesday, April 12 HOLY WEDNESDAY

Pre-sanctified Liturgy of HOLY WEDNESDAY                                                                  9:00 am

Bridegroom Matins of HOLY THURSDAY (Washing of Feet)                                         6:00 pm

Thursday, April 13 HOLY THURSDAY

Vesperal Liturgy of HOLY FRIDAY  (Commemoration of the Last Supper)                9:00 am

Matins of HOLY FRIDAY (Reading of the 12 Gospels)                                                     7:00 pm

Friday, April 14 HOLY FRIDAY

Vespers of the Burial of Christ HOLY FRIDAY                                                                 2:00 pm

Matins of HOLY SATURDAY  (Procession)                                                                         7:00 pm

Saturday, April 15  GREAT AND HOLY SATURDAY

Vesperal Liturgy  GREAT AND HOLY SATURDAY  (Blessing of Baskets)                   10:00 am

Nocturnes, Resurrection Matins, Paschal Liturgy (Blessing of Baskets)                  11:30 pm

Sunday, April 16 HOLY PASCHA

Paschal Vespers                                                                                                                               noon

Lessons on the Sundays of Great Lent

13 Mar

The following is from Volume II of The Orthodox Faith Series, by Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko (+), entitled Worship: The Church Year. The entire series is available online on the website of the Orthodox Church in America, the jurisdiction under which our parish falls.  

As we journey through Great Lent and make our way to Pascha, may we soak in the wisdom from each of these Sundays and apply these lessons to our own lives.

And after Pascha, be sure to access and take advantage of the other volumes in Fr. Thomas’s series!—Your Pastor, Fr. Steven

The Church Year

Sundays of Lent

orthodoxy

Each of the Sundays of Great Lent has its own special theme. The first Sunday is called the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. It is a historical feast commemorating the return of the icons to the churches in the year 843 after the heresy of iconoclasm was overcome. The spiritual theme of the day is first of all the victory of the True Faith. “This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith” (1 Jn 5.4). Secondly, the icons of the saints bear witness that man, “created in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1.26), becomes holy and godlike through the purification of himself as God’s living image.

palamas

The Second Sunday of Lent is the commemoration of Saint Gregory Palamas. It was Saint Gregory (d.1359) who bore living witness that men can become divine through the grace of God in the Holy Spirit; and that even in this life, by prayer and fasting, human beings can become participants of the uncreated light of God’s divine glory.

cross

The Third Sunday of Lent is that of the Veneration of the Cross. The cross stands in the midst of the church in the middle of the lenten season not merely to remind men of Christ’s redemption and to keep before them the goal of their efforts, but also to be venerated as that reality by which man must live to be saved. “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10.38). For in the Cross of Christ Crucified lies both “the power of God and the wisdom of God” for those being saved (1 Cor 1.24).

climacus

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus), the author of the work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The abbot of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai (6th century) stands as a witness to the violent effort needed for entrance into God’s Kingdom (Mt 10: 12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is a real one, “not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the rulers of the present darkness . . . the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places . . .” (Eph 6.12). St John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 24.13).

mary

The Fifth Sunday recalls the memory of Saint Mary of Egypt, the repentant harlot. Mary tells us, first of all, that no amount of sin and wickedness can keep a person from God if he truly repents. Christ himself has come “to call sinners to repentance” and to save them from their sins (Lk 5.32). In addition, Saint Mary tells us that it is never too late in life—or in Lent—to repent. Christ will gladly receive all who come to him even at the eleventh hour of their lives. But their coming must be in serious and sincere repentance.

 

The week following the Sunday of Saint Mary of Egypt is called Palm or Branch Week. At the Tuesday services of this week the Church recalls that Jesus’ friend Lazarus has died and that the Lord is going to raise him from the dead (Jn 11). As the days continue toward Saturday, the Church, in its hymns and verses, continues to follow Christ towards Bethany to the tomb of Lazarus. On Friday evening, the eve of the celebration of the Resurrection of Lazarus, the “great and saving forty days” of Great Lent are formally brought to an end:

Having accomplished the forty days for the benefit of our souls, we pray to Thee, O Lover of Man, that we may see the holy week of Thy passion, that in it we may glorify Thy greatness and Thine unspeakable plan of salvation for our sake . . . (Vespers Hymn).

Lazarus

Lazarus Saturday is a paschal celebration. It is the only time in the entire Church Year that the resurrectional service of Sunday is celebrated on another day. At the liturgy of Lazarus Saturday, the Church glorifies Christ as “the Resurrection and the Life” who, by raising Lazarus, has confirmed the universal resurrection of mankind even before His own suffering and death.

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion, Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with the branches of victory, we cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! (Troparion).

Christ —the Joy, the Truth and the Light of All, the Life of the world and its Resurrection—has appeared in his goodness to those on earth. He has become the Image of our Resurrection, granting divine forgiveness to all (Kontakion).

At the Divine Liturgy of Lazarus Saturday the baptismal verse from Galatians: As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal 3.27) replaces the Thrice-holy Hymn thus indicating the resurrectional character of the celebration, and the fact that Lazarus Saturday was once among the few great baptismal days in the Orthodox Church Year.

Because of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, Christ was hailed by the masses as the long-expected Messiah-King of Israel. Thus, in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, He entered Jerusalem, the City of the King, riding on the colt of an ass (Zech 9.9; Jn 12.12). The crowds greeted Him with branches in their hands and called out to Him with shouts of praise: Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The Son of David! The King of Israel! Because of this glorification by the people, the priests and scribes were finally driven “to destroy Him, to put Him to death” (Lk 19.47; Jn 11.53, 12.10).

Palm Sunday

The feast of Christ’s triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, is one of the twelve major feasts of the Church. The services of this Sunday follow directly from those of Lazarus Saturday. The church building continues to be vested in resurrectional splendor, filled with hymns which continually repeat the Hosanna offered to Christ as the Messiah-King who comes in the name of God the Father for the salvation of the world.

The main troparion of Palm Sunday is the same one sung on Lazarus Saturday. It is sung at all of the services, and is used at the Divine Liturgy as the third antiphon which follows the other special psalm verses which are sung as the liturgical antiphons in the place of those normally used. The second troparion of the feast, as well as the kontakion and the other verses and hymns, all continue to glorify Christ’s triumphal manifestation “six days before the Passover” when he will give himself at the Supper and on the Cross for the life of the world.

Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together. Let us all take up Thy cross and say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest! (First Verse of Vespers).

When we were buried with Thee in baptism, O Christ God, we were made worthy of eternal life by Thy resurrection. Now we praise Thee and sing: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! (Second Troparion).

Sitting on Thy throne in heaven, and carried on a foal on earth, O Christ God, accept the praise of angels and the songs of children who sing: BIessed is he who comes to recall Adam! (Kontakion).

At the vigil of the feast of Palm Sunday the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah-King are read together with the Gospel accounts of the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. At Matins branches are blessed which the people carry throughout the celebration as the sign of their own glorification of Jesus as Saviour and King. These branches are usually palms, or, in the Slavic churches, pussy willows which came to be customary because of their availability and their early blossoming in the springtime.

As the people carry their branches and sing their songs to the Lord on Palm Sunday, they are judged together with the Jerusalem crowd. For it was the very same voices which cried Hosanna to Christ, which, a few days later, cried Crucify Him! Thus in the liturgy of the Church the lives of men continue to be judged as they hail Christ with the “branches of victory” and enter together with Him into the days of His “voluntary passion.”

Schedule of Services: 1st Week of Great Lent

25 Feb

candle_lentThis is the acceptable time. This is the time for repentance. Let us offer our virtues to God as gifts, and set aside the works of darkness, by putting on the armor of light as the apostle Paul proclaims. As the Lord killed the enemy by fasting, so let us also come to destroy his arrows and spears, saying: get behind me, Satan! when he comes to tempt us.

Matins of Tuesday, 1st Week of Great Lent

 

 

 

Sunday, February 26   10:45 am

Forgiveness Vespers following  Divine Liturgy, with the Rite of Forgiveness

 

Monday, February 27   6:00 pm             

Canon of St Andrew of Crete

 

Tuesday, February 28   6:00 pm              

Canon of St Andrew of Crete

 

Wednesday, March 1             

Confessions   4:30 – 5:30 pm  *  9th Hour   5:40 pm  *  Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts    6:00 pm

 

Thursday, March 2   6:00pm                     

Canon of St Andrew of Crete           

 

Friday, March 3                    

Confessions   8:15 am – 8:40 am  *  9th Hour   8:40 am  *  Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified  Gifts   9:00 am

 

Saturday, March 4                    

Confessions   3:00 pm * Great Vespers   4:00 pm  *  Confessions following Vespers   4:45 pm

 

Sunday, March 5                    

Divine Liturgy   9:00 am * Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers, at our parish   4:00 pm, with Archpriest Chad Hatfield, president of St. Vladimir’s Seminary as Guest Homilist

                                  

 

Great Lent is about coming home…

15 Feb

prodigal-son_iconOftentimes we think  that the season of Great Lent is about “giving up” something we love (or, rather, are addicted to!): food, drink, entertainment—you name it.

But as we now approach Great Lent, we begin hearing in the church services hymns that invite us to “come home” to our heavenly Father.

Great Lent is not about “giving up” things!

It’s about giving ourselves over into the hands of our heavenly Father and spending more time with Him: in conversation (prayer), in getting to know Him (reading Scripture and listening to the words of the church services), and in close communion (receiving the Eucharist more often).

So, during this coming Great Lent, don’t give up things. Rather, give yourself—your time, your will, your body, your mind, and heart —over to your Father.

Come, let our heavenly Father embrace you! Here are two things to help you give yourself over to Him:

Soak in this wonderful hymn, titled, “The Father’s Embrace”:

Listen to or read my sermon about the Prodigal Son being welcomed back by his father:

 

“The Father’s Embrace”_Sunday of the Prodigal Son_February 12, 2017

Wishing you a  joyous “homecoming,” your pastor, Fr. Steven

Welcome! Community Dinner, Sunday, February 19, 2017

5 Feb

As we anticipate our Community Dinner on Sunday, February 19, 2017, following Divine Liturgy, the words of our Lord Jesus keep coming to my mind:

 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:15–17).

An essential part of being in community is being friends to one another—loving one another. And part of loving one another is gathering together just to enjoy each other’s company. That’s why I warmly welcome everyone to our Community Dinner!

Be sure to reserve your tickets by Sunday, February 12th, so our cooking crew knows how many to prepare for! Just contact Bobby Denhup or Mark Curran to purchase tickets (Click here to view our current Bulletin under the “Media” tab on our website.)

sunday-meal

Sanctity of Life Sunday, January 22, 2107

22 Jan

sanctityoflife-visitationDear Friends in Christ,

On January 13, 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation designating January 22 as the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day. (January 22, 1973, was the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand in all 50 states.)

Churches around the United States still use the day to celebrate God’s gift of life, commemorate the many lives lost to abortion, and commit themselves to protecting human life at every stage. Churches continue to recognize the third Sunday in January as “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.”

My sermon for “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday 2017” focuses on how to approach the painful reality of women making the decision to obtain an abortion; we who call ourselves Christians need to approach such women—and all people, for that matter—with an attitude of pastoral concern and in the spirit of Christ’s love. We need to understand the complexity of their decision, and especially the fears that reportedly drive it. (Read or listen to my sermon here: “Pastoral Care & Sanctity of Life”_January 22, 2017).

I also want to draw your attention to the Archpastoral Message for “Sanctity of Life Sunday 2017” by His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of the Orthodox Church in America. (Read his message here: “Sanctity of Life 2017″_Metropolitan Tikhon.)

May this day be one of healing and hope. And, may we pray continually for our eyes and hearts to be open to the wonder of Life, granted to us by the Almighty God.

Your Pastor, Fr. Steven J. Belonick

 

Theophany: Light Shines Forth!

8 Jan

imgresI dislike winter: the chilling cold, the depressing darkness.

One thing that does cheer me are the twinkling lights that decorate rooftops and doorways during the holiday season. In my mind, they witness to the True Light that  enlivens our souls and brightens creation itself.

During this holy season of wonderful winter feasts—the Nativity of Our Lord and Holy Theophany—the church services continually offer us the theme of light penetrating the darkness and illuminating the shadows of despair that plague our earthly existence.

The hymns and scripture readings from both feasts remind us that Jesus Christ has come into the world as a great Light from God (John 8.12), a light bringing wisdom, understanding, and the fire of love into our very souls.

I want to share with you these resources from Ancient Faith Ministries that help us recognize this Light. (They are appropriate for various age groups.) Just click the links to enjoy:

May the Light of Jesus Christ illumine us all!

 

Your Pastor, Fr. Steven J. Belonick

Fairfield Glee Club Sparkles at Church Concert

13 Dec

fullsizerender2Sunday afternoon, December 11, 2016, the Fairfield University Glee Club presented a sparkling Christmas Concert here at Holy Ghost Orthodox Church—an event that was 2 years in the making.

What a gift! The Glee Club’s 130 young people took time out from their busy university schedules to bring great joy to our neighbors and friends here on East Main Street in Bridgeport.

I especially want to thank Father Charles Allen, Chaplain of Fairfield University, for originally arranging this concert with me. I also want to thank Carole Ann Maxwell, the Glee Club’s Director, for her generous spirit and gracious support all along the way.

Mostly, I thank God for putting all these stellar folks in our lives, and for arranging their paths to cross ours. They truly brought to us “glad tidings of great joy!” (Luke 2.10).

Listen again here, to their angelic voices: “Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”

With much gratitude, Father Steven

[photo and video credit: Richard Kendall]

 

 

Free Christmas Concert by Fairfield Glee Club, Sunday, December 11, 2016

30 Oct

news_chorusgroup_12x4_2919

Mark your calendars now for Sunday, December 11, 2016, at 3 p.m.

The  130-member Fairfield University Glee Club will be spreading the joy of the Nativity Season by presenting a free and public concert in the upstairs nave of our church. We welcome neighbors and friends to an afternoon of inspiring Christmas music, and to a reception of light refreshments afterwards in our church undercroft.

Please spread the word!

Share in the light. Share in the love. Share in the Joy of the Christ Child.

Your Pastor, Father Steven Belonick

“God’s Good Creation”: Update!

17 Jul

Be sure to view our parish’s Facebook Page for a day-by-day report on Vacation Church School 2016! Look here!

Holy Ghost Church at the Maritime Aquarium, Norwalk

Holy Ghost Church at the Maritime Aquarium, Norwalk

One of my favorite times of the year is Vacation Church School during the month of August. That’s because I get to spend time with some marvelous human beings: the children of our parish.

My conversation and interaction with them during that week always brings to my mind the words of our Lord Jesus: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

I know why Jesus said that. It’s because children are without guile, innocent, curious, and always expecting something positive—always anticipating the best in a situation. They are also always willing to give the benefit of the doubt to someone, to forgive someone, and to express love to other people.

The theme of this year’s Vacation Church School—”God’s Good Creation”— and the activities our teaching team have planned are especially suited for curious, positive kids! From Monday, August 15 through Thursday, August 18, in the beautiful setting of Holy Ghost Park in Shelton, CT, we will explore highly interesting and significant animals and plants that are mentioned in the Holy Bible.

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Studying the “hyssop” plant mentioned in Psalm 50/51: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean”!

Supporting our studies will be two intriguing activities. We’ll visit The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT. And, we’ll have a special guest, “Gardener Dennis” from Pivot Ministries in Bridgeport, CT, teach us basic gardening techniques and the value of urban gardening. (“Gardener Dennis” is known throughout the Bridgeport school system for bringing student groups to the Pivot Greenhouse and involving them in learning to grow plants—from seedling, to flower, to fruit. What an experience for urban kids!)

I’m so looking forward to that week. If you know of anyone who would like to be part of our Vacation Church School, please contact me for a registration form: belonick@svots.edu or 914-274-1151.

Your Pastor, Father Steven

P.S. Oh, that we could ALL become like little children, as our Lord admonishes: “Unless you turn from your sins and become like a little child, you can by no means enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 18:3).

 

Good Neighbor BBQ Sunday, July 10, 2016

27 Jun

Our Holy Ghost Church has been blessed this past year with a special partnership with Pivot Ministries, a local faith-based non-profit that since 1970 has assisted men challenged by drug and alcohol abuse. (Click here to watch a new short film about Pivot Ministries.)

How do we partner with them?

Well, we allow four of Pivot’s graduates, some of

Great partnership!

whom now serve on Pivot’s staff, to live in one of the homes on our church campus. In return, these men take care of the seasonal landscaping and snowplowing on our church grounds.

So far, it’s been a “win-win”:  the church grounds look GREAT and Pivot staff members really enjoy having their own space and some breathing room away from their day-to-day duties at Pivot’s headquarters on Jane Street.

And, on Sunday, July 10th, our parish will be in for even a bigger perk in this partnership. Do you like a good cook-out? I hope so, because the Pivot staff is going to prepare and serve our parish community lunch on that Sunday after Divine Liturgy. It’s their way of saying “Thank You” for our hospitality to them.

And—even better—the Pivot choir will entertain us after Divine Liturgy (either in the church hall or outside, depending on the weather).

PIvot_Pembroke_OpenHouse_Choir_June2016

Pivot Ministries Choir (photo: Rich Kendall)

And—best of all—the whole Pivot Ministries group, both staff and clients, will be praying with us at Divine Liturgy that day, again, in appreciation for our willingness to support their ministry and mission. This is the first time many of them will have ever witnessed an Orthodox Christian liturgical service.

On that day, let’s offer our hospitality, as we receive theirs.

Your Pastor, Father Steven Belonick

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Our visit to Pivot Ministries Open House in June (photo: Rich Kendall)

P.S. Let me tell you about one more example of our partnership. Pivot Ministries recently was featured in the CT Post because of their new venture in hydroponics farming (read about it here). They held an Open House in early June to show off their hydroponics set-up in their greenhouse and to cut the ribbon on a new half-way house they had renovated and opened near their headquarters on Jane Street. Seven of us from Holy Ghost Church took time off mid-afternoon to attend the Open House (and yes, we ate the chili, hot dogs, hamburgers at their cook-out!). Just this week, I received from Pivot Ministries a donation to Holy Ghost for $1,000. What an awesome partnership, as we support each other’s mission and goals. May our Lord continue to bless it!

 

Save the Date! Parish Picnic Sunday, June 26, 2016

26 May

Save the date! Annual Parish Picnic, Sunday, June 26, 2016, noon–4 p.m.

Remember: Divine Liturgy will be celebrated at Holy Ghost Park, 10 a.m.

Family, friends, and foodies are welcome!

Get directions to the park!
Picnic_2016

Christ is risen!

2 May

Christ is risen! Our journey through Great Lent and Holy Week has again brought us to Pascha, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Pascha” translated means “Passover,” and indeed we Christians believe we pass from death to life by putting our faith  in Jesus Christ and becoming His disciples.

Throughout the Holy Week especially, we prayed with intensity during the liturgical services, listening to powerful, penetrating words that explained not only the drama of Christ’s Passion but also our own human drama—the story of our estrangement from God and the path to life He opened for us by His death on the Cross. (Listen to the Choir sing the beautiful Ode 9 from the Canon for Matins of Holy Saturday, sung on Holy Friday night:)

One of my favorite texts from all the services comes from the so-called  “Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom,” a fourth-century bishop and preacher, which is read Pascha night, during Matins:

“Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen”

In gratitude for Christ’s great gift, let us invite Him to live in us, to give us His new nature, His new life. Let us die to our own egotistical and selfish tendencies, and follow Him in obedience and humility.

Then, indeed He will be risen in us!

Your Pastor, Father Steven

Journey to Pascha! Schedule of Holy Week Services

24 Apr

Dear Friends,

CrucifixionDuring the coming Holy Week services, we will recall our Lord Jesus Christ’s Passion: His suffering, death, and resurrection. As we recall it, we will (hopefully) undergo our own Passion: dying to ego and sin, and rising to new life in Christ.

The Lord is calling us to walk with Him on this journey, to experience kinship with Him.

Come! Let the words and melodies of the Holy Week  services wash over us, softening our hearts and cleansing our minds. Come! Experience the new life, the new nature that Jesus Christ freely offers us.

Listed below are all the opportunities to journey with Jesus this week.

Or, you may click twice on this link to download a PDF of the Holy Week services, and post it on your home bulletin board as a daily reminder.

Your Pastor, Father Steven

SCHEDULE OF SERVICES: HOLY WEEK 2016

Monday, April 25, 7:00 am    

Pre-sanctified Liturgy of HOLY MONDAY

Monday, April 25, 6:00 pm  

Bridegroom Matins of HOLY TUESDAY

Tuesday, April 26, 6:00 pm    

Bridegroom Matins of HOLY WEDNESDAY

Wednesday, April 27, 9:00 am  

Pre-sanctified Liturgy of HOLY WEDNESDAY

Wednesday, April 27, 6:00 pm  

Bridegroom Matins of HOLY THURSDAY with The Rite of the Washing of Feet

Thursday, April 28, 9:00 am

Vesperal Liturgy of HOLY FRIDAY with the Commemoration of the Last Supper

Thursday, April 28, 6:00 pm

Matins of HOLY FRIDAY with the Reading of the 12 Gospels (please note the time change from previous years)

Friday, April 29, 2:00 pm

HOLY FRIDAY Vespers of the Burial of Christ

Friday, April 29, 7:00 pm

Matins of HOLY SATURDAY Procession

Saturday, April 30, 10:00 am 

GREAT AND HOLY SATURDAY Vesperal Liturgy with the Blessing of Baskets after Liturgy

Saturday, April 30, 11:30 pm 

GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA Nocturnes, Resurrection Matins, Paschal Liturgy, and the Blessing of Baskets after Liturgy

SUNDAY, MAY 1, noon

GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA Paschal Vespers

 

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