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,

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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.

IMG_6701

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

PIvot_OpenHouse_Parishioners_2016

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

 

Almsgiving in Action

9 Apr

During the season of Great Lent, we need to include almsgiving—that is, the distribution of our wealth and the sharing of our blessings with those in need—as one of the “pillars” of our spiritual journey. Giving alms is right up there with prayer, fasting, and confession!

According to St. John Chrysostom, a 4th century bishop in the great city of Constantinople (now Istanbul):

“To do alms is a work greater than miracles. . . . To feed the hungry in the name of Christ is a work greater than raising the dead in Christ’s name. …When you work miracles, you are God’s debtor; when you give alms, God is your debtor.”

BethEl_2016_2

Dave and crew at Beth-El Center

It brings me great comfort as a pastor to note that our parishioners at Holy Ghost Church have for decades made almsgiving a priority:

  • Twice monthly without fail, our parishioner Frank Kaputa and his crew feed the homeless who gather under John Street Bridge in Bridgeport;
  • Our Outreach Committee headed up by parishioner Dave Lepesko recently made a return trip to Beth-el Center, Inc. in Milford to prepare a meal for the hungry (they were joined by friends who lent extra helping hands); and
  • Every month, I gather up the dollars our parishioners have placed in a special “charity” basket as they exit the church after services, and anonymously distribute the collected money to folks in need (ranging from parishioners experiencing hard times, to Orthodox Christian non-profits,  to a private nursery school caring for low-income children on the East Side of Bridgeport).

As I witness such almsgiving, Jesus’ words come back to me: “The poor you will always have with you and you can help them anytime you want.” (Mark 14:7).

So…if you want to help Frank with feeding our John Street Bridge friends, or feel like pitching in on a project that Dave cooks up, please see them at coffee hour and express your interest. Or, if you simply want to drop a dollar or two into the charity basket, please know that your charity will bring relief to sad eyes and encouragement to a weary heart.

I have another favorite quote about almsgiving I wish to share, this time by Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow:

“Through the cheap price of doing good to men, we can acquire the priceless Kingdom of God.”

God bless you as you strive to complete your lenten journey.

Your Pastor, Father Steven

 

 

 

Fishing for Men (and Women and Children!)

3 Apr

Dear Friends of Holy Ghost Church,

FullSizeRender copyJust as I finished posting my “Pastor’s Corner” about our annual Lenten Retreat, which focused on mission and evangelism, I was delighted to receive the following photos of our church school children. IMG_1355 copy

Their lesson today was from Luke 6:12–15 and Matthew 4:19. In those Bible stories, Jesus prays all night, and in the morning He chooses His 12 disciples. Some of Jesus’ new disciples had formerly been fishermen, but Jesus now promises to make them “Fishers of Men.”

During their lesson, each one of our church school children assumed the identity of one of Jesus’ disciples, and then they all had a wonderful time going “fishing.”

It’s encouraging that our children are learning early on how to be Jesus’ disciples themselves and how to “fish” for men—and women and children!—in hopes of bringing everyone they meet the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

IMG_1361 copyI want to thank our faithful church school teachers Deborah Rapoport and Carol Kaputa for always guiding our parish’s children and teaching them such valuable lessons. And, for making it lots of fun!

Your (grateful) Pastor, Father Steven Belonick

P.S. Please do read the post about our Lenten Retreat with Archpriest Michael Oleksa of Anchorage, Alaska, and learn how we all can become “Fishers of Men!”IMG_1354 copy

How Alaskan Saints Can Inspire Urban Ministry

3 Apr
Archpriest Michael Oleksa displaying an icon of Mother Olga

Archpriest Michael Oleksa displaying an image of Mother Olga Michael

On Saturday, April 2, 2016, Archpriest Michael Oleksa of Anchorage, Alaska, led our Annual Lenten Retreat here at Holy Ghost Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Using the theme “That All May Be Saved,” Father Michael spellbound retreat goers with stories of Orthodox Christian missionaries to Alaska during the 18th–19th centuries—including Ss. Herman, Innocent, Jacob Netsvetov, and Juvenaly—and demonstrated how their missionary efforts might serve as examples for urban ministry in the 21st century. He also spoke about the life of Matushka (Mother) Olga Michael, a 20th century Y’upik native, and her popular veneration among the faithful of Alaska.

Icon of North American saints

An icon of North American saints

By using detailed, mesmerizing descriptions of the saints’ lives, Father Michael illustrated key principles for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, among them:

  • Evangelize with prayer and in faith;
  • Truly love and advocate for the people with whom you are sharing the gospel;
  • Before drawing up a “evangelization plan,” determine the needs of the people with whom you are sharing the gospel, via face-to-face conversations;
  • Build bridges between cultures: listen to each others’ stories and  identify commonalities between your culture and the people with whom you are sharing the gospel;
  • Continually educate laity within the Church, so they are able to share the gospel;
  • Continually educate hearers of the gospel, so they remain anchored in the Church;
  • Invite seekers to “come and see” church worship, instead of arguing with them about doctrinal, historical, and moral issues; and
  • Be a walking witness to the joy of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Listen to one of the talks in Father Michael’s retreat, regarding how Alaskan  saints can inspire urban ministry.

 

Listen to Father Michael’s Sunday homily titled: “Lessons from the Sundays of Great Lent.”

IMG_3727

Father Michael Oleksa with Father Steven Belonick, pastor of Holy Ghost Church

Our community thanks Father Michael for sharing his superior insights into the lives of the Alaska saints and for inspiring us to imitate their missionary efforts. And, we also thank his wife, Matushka Xenia, for being with us. May our Lord Jesus Christ bless them!

Your pastor, Father Steven Belonick

Come to Our Lenten Retreat, “That All May Be Saved,” Saturday, April 2, 2016

27 Mar
Oleksas

Matushka Xenia and Father Michael Oleksa

How can we Orthodox Christians bring the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ to all people?  Our parish’s Annual Lenten Retreat, scheduled for Saturday, April 2, 2016, is designed to show us how. The retreat will focus on missionary outreach to our neighbors, and the format will lend itself to robust discussion.

Our speaker, Archpriest Michael Oleksa, a pastor and scholar, and long-time missionary in Alaska, will speak on the topic: “That All May Be Saved: What can we learn about urban outreach from the Alaskan Mission?” Father Michael and his wife, Matushka Xenia (a native Y’upik Eskimo) have experienced first-hand how to reach out to many other cultures with the Good News.

The retreat will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will be followed by Great Vespers. The Lenten Flyer 2016cost is $15.00 and includes lunch. We ask that you pre-register by April 1, so that we can prepare to welcome you. To pre-register, just contact me, Father Steven Belonick: phone (203-290-4023) or email: belonick@svots.edu.

Father Michael is a personal friend, and I’ve always admired his dedication to our Lord and enjoyed his down-to-earth style of speaking and sense of humor. I’m looking forward to welcoming you to Holy Ghost Church to meet him.

See you there! Father Steven, Pastor

P.S. Download the flier and send to your friends and family! Tell them they can find our church on Google Maps.

 

 

Great Lent: Guidelines for Sacrament of Confession

20 Mar

Sacrament of ConfessionGreat Lent is a time to come back to Paradise, to the place where our Lord Jesus Christ dwells. We do this not by dying physically but by dying to sin.

I’ve compiled this booklet is to help you to prepare for the Sacrament of Confession, a rite that helps us to die to sin.

Just click the link to read it:

“The Sacrament of Confession”

May your lenten journey be joyful!

Your Pastor, Father Steven

Come Back to Paradise: Service Schedule for First Week of Great Lent 2016

12 Mar

“This 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 of the First Week of Lent

Jesus bringing Adam and Eve back to Paradise

Jesus leads Adam & Eve back into Paradise

During Great Lent our Lord Jesus Christ invites us to re-enter Paradise. Join us for services during the first week of Great Lent to begin your spiritual journey into God’s Kingdom.

 

Sunday, March 13
Forgiveness Vespers, following 9 am Divine Liturgy, with the Rite of Forgiveness

Monday, March 14
Canon of St. Andrew of Crete 6:00 pm

Tuesday, March 15
Canon of St. Andrew of Crete 6:00 pm

Wednesday, March 16
Confessions 4:30–5:30 pm followed by the Liturgy of Pre-sanctified Gifts 6:00pm

Thursday, March 17
Canon of St. Andrew of Crete 6:00 pm

Friday, March 18
Confessions 8:30 am, followed by the Liturgy of Pre-sanctified Gifts 9:00 am

Saturday, March 19
Confessions 4:00 pm and also following Great Vespers 5:00 pm

Sunday, March 20
Divine Liturgy 9:00 am Sunday of Orthodoxy

Sunday, March 20
Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers 4:00 pm at St. John the Baptist Carpatho-Russian Church, 364 Mill Hill Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06610

Epiphany: Schedule for House Blessings

3 Jan

theophanyThis week we Orthodox Christians celebrate the Feast of Epiphany (January 5th–6th). On this feast, we remember when St. John the Baptist baptized our Lord Jesus Christ in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:1–17).

Through His baptism, Jesus accomplished three important things:

  1. He identified himself with our sinful human condition, which needed to be cleansed.
  2. He made holy (or, sanctified) the waters of the River Jordan, and thereby, all of creation, when His own holy body entered the earth’s waters.
  3. He revealed the Holy Trinity: the Father, who spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with Him I am well pleased.”; the Holy Spirit, who descended upon Him in the form of a dove; and He himself, the Son of the Father.

In the season of this joyous feast, it is the practice of Orthodox Christians to invite their parish priest into their homes, and have him bless their habitation with holy water that had been sanctified during the church services on the feast day. In this way, members of the church participate in the renewal of creation effected by our Lord.

So, during January I’ll be making my “house calls” to parishioners and bringing you all the blessing of the Holy Trinity, demonstrating that you too are part of a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I look forward to seeing you! To help you prepare your household for my visit, I’ve jotted down a few notes, below, and I’ve included a tentative schedule as well.

In our Lord, your pastor, Father Steven

PREPARATIONS FOR THE EPIPHANY VISITS
1. Prepare a table with a clean tablecloth, a candle, and an icon.
2. Provide a bowl with Holy Water that you brought home from church.
3. Provide a list of the LIVING — names of members of your household, along with others you wish remembered during the short service.
4. Please provide a list of the DEPARTED — names of your departed loved ones you wish remembered during the short service.
5. When the priest arrives, please gather your family in front of the table with the icon.
6. Please turn off all radios, TVs, stereos, cell phones, etc.
7. Please close off any rooms you do NOT wish Fr Steven to bless.
8. You may use the Epiphany Hymn offered below to join in with the singing.

TROPARION OF EPIPHANY:
When Thou, O Lord wast baptized in the Jordan,
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest!
For the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee,
And called Thee His Beloved Son!
And the Spirit in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ our God, who hast revealed Thyself,
And hast enlightened the world, glory to Thee!

NOTE: I will provide an icon and/or Holy Water if you cannot provide them.

TENTATIVE BLESSING ROUTE
JANUARY 7, 9 Bridgeport
JANUARY 10, 11, 12, 13 Stratford
JANUARY 14 and 16 Trumbull
JANUARY 17 and 18 Milford , Orange
JANUARY 17 and 18 Fairfield, New Canaan, Southbury
JANUARY 19, 20, and 21 Shelton, Derby, and Monroe
JANUARY 23 and 24 Seymour, Beacon Falls, and Sandy Hook
JANUARY 25 and 26 West Haven, Woodbridge, Naugatuck
JANUARY 27 and 28 Miscellaneous

Thank you to St George!

6 Jan

This Sunday the parishes of Holy Ghost and St George came together for divine liturgy.  The Feast of Theophany was held at St George in Trumbull with Fr John Jillions presiding.  Parishoners of Holy Ghost were kindly welcomed by the members of St George.  A notable sermon was given by Fr John that recalled of the history of the two churches coming together in the past.  Thank you St George for a memorable liturgy!

25th Annual Benefit Banquet

29 Aug

The 25th Annual FORCC Benefit Banquet will be held on Sunday, October 7th at Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church, Park Ave., Bridgeport beginning at 1:00 P.M.  This year’s speaker is Father (Dr.) George Parsenios.  Father George is a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary. The title of his presentation will be “Holy Tradition & the Greatest Commandment:  Everyday Life & Our Orthodox Faith”.  For tickets, see Rich or Mary Ann Kendall, our FORCC representatives. (Tickets are not available at the door.)

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