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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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