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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.”

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