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.”

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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

Video

View Our Christmas Concert 2015: Joy to Our Neighborhood!

27 Dec

Xmas Concert_HGROC_2015With the help of two anonymous benefactors, our parish brought joy to our neighborhood by hosting a free Christmas Concert on Sunday, December 13, 2015.  “The American Modernist Singers,” led by conductor Kevin Sherwin, sang a program of classic Christmas carols and gospel spirituals, in English and Spanish.

Additionally, the choral group included the Orthodox Christian liturgical hymn of the feast—”Thy Nativity, O Christ, Our God”—in their repertoire. One of our own parishioners, Marcia Maslo, sang in the ensemble, as did Anne  Wilkinson, parishioner at Christ the Savior Church in Southbury, and Father Walter Smith, acting rector of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church in Waterbury.

 

Enjoy the full concert by clicking this link!

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Your Pastor, Father Steven

Bring Christmas caroling to our parishioners who are homebound or in healthcare facilities

16 Dec

join_usfor_carolingBring some joy to our parishioners who are homebound or in healthcare facilities Sunday, December 20, 2015 by joining us for Christmas caroling.

Here’s the schedule:

12:45 pm       Leave Holy Ghost Church

1:00 pm         Arrive Hewitt Convalescent Home: Sing for Sophie P. (1st floor)

1:45 pm          Arrive Lord Chamberlain: Sing for Lydia G. (2nd floor)

2:25pm           Arrive Atria: Sing for Ann S. (1st floor)

3:00pm          Arrive at home of Helen K. in Stratford: Sing for her

4:00pm          Arrive at home of Irene C. in Trumbull: Sing for her

Directions

Hewitt Convalescent Home, 45 Maltby Street, Shelton, CT: Take Route 8 to Exit 14 (Howe); at end of the Exit take a right, and then another immediate right; cross over bridge, and then take an immediate left into parking lot.

Lord Chamberlain, 7003 Main Street, Stratford, CT: From Hewitt parking lot, take a right; at the stop sign, take another right; at the end of the street, take a left to the dead-end; then take a right toward Stratford; Lord Chamberlain is across from Sikorsky Company.

Atria Stratford, 6911 Main Street, Stratford, CT: Simply exit Lord Chamberlain parking lot and enter Atria parking lot, which is directly next door.

Questions: Call Fr .Steven’s cell phone: 914.274.1151

 

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Come to our free Christmas Concert!

1 Nov

On Sunday, December 13, 2015, at 2 p.m., Holy Ghost Russian Orthodox Church, 1510 East Main St., Bridgeport, Christmas Concert 8.5 x 11 4c 1CT, will bring holiday joy to its neighborhood by hosting a free and public concert, featuring classic Christmas Carols in English and Spanish, and seasonal Gospel music.

The American Modernist Singers (AMS), an ensemble currently based at Yale University, will present the festive concert, titled, “Christmas,” with Kevin Sherwin, founder of the ensemble, conducting.

“AMS strives to make new connections for audiences and performers alike,” said Mr. Sherwin. “The ensemble explores a wide range of musical traditions and performance practices, with a particular emphasis on the late 19th and early 20th century.

“AMS shares its work through performance, education, and outreach,” he continued, “in a way reaches into the composer’s mind and touches the audience’s heart.”

Mr. Sherwin, who is also Assistant Conductor of the renowned Yale Russian Chorus, has conducted throughout the United States, including Boston, New York, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and New Haven, to name a few. In addition, he has guest conducted The American Baroque Orchestra, The Nashua Chamber Orchestra, The Roslyn Chamber Orchestra, The Jonathan Edwards Chamber Players, and the new music ensemble, Black is the Color.

Christmas Concert 8.5 x 11 4c 2Holy Ghost Church is  pleased to sponsor AMS at Holy Ghost Church. And, we are especially looking forward to sharing the joy of the Birth of Christ with all of our neighbors and friends.

Doors open for the concert at 1:00 p.m., with non-ticketed seating. Light refreshments, also free-of-charge, will be offered in the church hall after the concert. Free parking in the church’s two lots, located on Spring and Brooks Streets, is available.  Find our Church on Google Maps.

The snow date for the concert is December 20, also at 2 p.m.

Our Talents, God’s Glory: What happened when our Parish gave out money!

20 Sep

Our parish just finished a first-hand experiment using Jesus’ “Parable of the Talents,” found in Matthew 25:14–30.

You’re probably familiar with the story: The lord of a great estate goes away on a far journey, but before he leaves, he entrusts his servants with ‘talents’ (bags of gold) to invest. When the lord returns, he calls his servants to himself, to assess how they invested his money. The majority of servants increased the talents given to them; only one fearful and lazy servant did not. The lord of the estate richly rewarded his ‘worthy’ servants, but cast out the ‘unworthy’ servant from his estate.

In June 2015, using this parable as our guide, we launched our parish “Talent Project.” Fifty-four parishioners accepted the challenge to take a $10 loan from the Parish treasurer and to think of ways to bring forth interest over the summer months. (Lottery tickets were excluded!)

Dot's dishtowels

Dot’s dish towels

And, lo, just like the talents of the servants in the biblical parable, our parishioners’  ‘bags of gold’ multiplied.  At the beginning of summer we had distributed $540, and (at last count), that sum had multiplied to $3,800.

Besides the financial boon to the parish, the project gave us the chance  to witness each other’s ingenuity and abilities, like…

Rich's memorial card holder

Rich’s memorial card holder

Dot’s amazing output of dozens of crocheted-topped dish towels.

Rich’s ingenious design of wooden holders for those memorial cards we all collect from the funerals of family and friends.

Jerry’s construction of birdhouses, made even more cheery by his wife’s winsome hand-painted motifs.

Jerry's birdhouses

Jerry’s birdhouses

And, Myra’s knack for pulling together—with the help of her daughter and friends—the huge and famous rare and vintage book sale, which was broadcast in a multitude of media outlets and which drew collectors and book-lovers countywide.

And, there were so many others!

This experiment helped us all to wrap our minds around Jesus’ Parable, as we experienced being co-workers with God in multiplying the talents He has given to us, by using our skills: teaching, organizing, building, cooking, performing public relations, understanding finances, and so forth. Clearly, when we applied these gifts to glorify God, He made them effective and brought about a blessed result.

Myra's amazing booksale

Myra’s amazing book sale!When we apply these gifts to glorify God, He makes them effective and brings about a blessed result.

But, there is a deeper meanings to Jesus’ story, on which we also can reflect. I just spoke about this in today’s sermon: how increasing our talents for the Glory of God entails using our God-given virtues. (Read or listen to the sermon.)

Our virtue might be hospitality, being able to draw people to us with a warm and a generous spirit. Or our talent might be patience, with the ability to truly listen to others and to empathize.

Or it might be having a soft heart and helping those who are troubled, conflicted, or addicted, without being judgmental or treating them with contempt.

Or we might have the gift of being a peacemaker, with the ability to bring resolution to problems among people. Or we might have the talent to share God’s Word with others, so that they may receive counsel, direction, and solace. Or we may have the gift of being  joyful in the midst of tribulations or being faithful in the middle of the worldly temptations, so that others might witness the virtues of fortitude and integrity.

For sure, our ‘Talent Project’ provided us with fun and healthy competition. But more importantly, it helped us dig deeper into God’s Word.

May He multiply every effort we make for His glory.

Your pastor, Father Steven

What 4 important women taught us!

31 Aug

During our August Vacation Church School, we learned about 4 really important women:

St. Olympias the Deaconess

St. Olympias the Deaconess of Constantinople

St. Olympias of Constantinople (4th century), was a deaconess who carried Holy Communion to sick women when they could not come to church services. She was a good friend of the holy bishop, St. John Chrysostom.

St.-Juliana-of-Lazarevo

St. Juliana of Lazarevo, Russia

St. Juliana of Lazarevo, Russia (17th century), fed poor and starving people during a severe famine, by baking bread made from pig-weed and elm bark!

St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris (20th century), lived in France during World War II, and rescued Jewish children by hiding them in trash cans and having the garbage collectors carry them to safety.

Mother Maria Skobtsova

Mother Maria Skobtsova of Paris

St. Elizabeth, Grand Duchess of Russia (20th Century),

St. Elizabeth, New Martyr of Moscow

St. Elizabeth, New Martyr of Moscow

was a member of the royal family, but she gave away her jewelry and money, and became a nun and helped all the poor people of Moscow, Russia.

Besides learning about the extraordinary lives of these 4 brave, strong, and faithful women, we also had fun!

Making crafts, playing outdoor games, and visiting a dairy farm (with ice cream!) and a miniature golf course made the week extra special. Here are some photos of us, up at Holy Ghost Park, where Vacation Church School was held.

We want to thank Fr. Steven, Miss Carol, Miss Vera, Miss Audrey, and our moms for helping put the program together. Sincerely, The Kids from Holy Ghost Churchimage image(1)HGBPT_Summer_School_2015_birdhouseHGBPT_Summer_School_2015_garbagecanHGBPT_Summer_School_2015_games2HGBPT_Summer_School_2015_games1HGBPT_Summer_School_2015_deaconess2HGBPT_Summer_School_2015_deaconessHGBPT_Summer_School_2015_garbagecan2HGBPT_Summer_School_2015_lectureHGBPT_Summer_School_2015_crafts

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