Archive for February, 2010

A Weekend in Rochester

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

I graduated from the University of Rochester with a bachelor’s degree in engineering in 1976.  I have only had a chance to visit a few times since then, the last visit being about 4 years ago to help the Catholic Newman Community (Catholic parish on campus for students) with strategic planning and fund raising to support their growing student population.

As a student, I was quite active in the Newman Community (or “club” as it was sometimes known back then) writing and typing and printing the weekly bulletin (I was involved in “publishing” even 35 years ago!), frequent attendance at Mass (in those days, every Sunday liturgy was a “Folk Mass” with guitars, etc.), and lots of other activities.  During my sophomore year, I attended Mass every day, which was an informal gathering of the chaplains (we had a full-time priest and nun assigned by the Diocese of Rochester) and a few students, at noon on M-W-F and 7:30 pm on T-R, much like a class schedule!

Even in my freshman year, I organized “Jack Figel’s Dixieland Band” to play dance music, including polkas, for the annual campus Mardi Gras that we held as a party on the Sunday before Lent.  I was a member of the parish council, a group of volunteers students who did most of the work running the parish, and in my junior year was elected to the five-member Executive Committee to help the chaplains even more extensively.  One year, I also organized a Byzantine Catholic priest from Harrisburg, PA (the closest parish of my Church at the time) to come and celebrate a Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in English and expose all my Roman Catholic student friends to who I was as a Byzantine Catholic.  So, I did an awful lot back then, and wonder how I ever completed my engineering degree!

Early in January of this year, Father Brian Cool, the current chaplain, emailed me an invitation to visit the last weekend of February and participate in a panel discussion about Catholic-Orthodox relations today.  I was quite surprised that such an event was going to happen at my alma mater, and even more pleased to be invited to participate.  It was organized by the Newman Community and a newly formed (since my day there) Orthodox Christian Fellowship of students.  The other panelists were Father Curt Cadorette, a professor of Religious Studies at the university, and Father Patrick Cowles, a local Greek Orthodox parish priest.

So I flew up on Saturday morning and had lunch with the chaplains that I knew back during my years there, Father Jim Lawlor and Sister Joan Sobala.  It was great to see them both after so many years.  Father Jim is retired about two years, but still serving in his last parish, and Sister Joan is parochial administrator of a parish cluster where a priest comes to celebrate the sacraments, but she is the administrator.  Saturday evening, I drove out to Newark, NY about 50 miles east of Rochester and had a lovely dinner with Gail and Bruce Chambes.  Gail was assistant to the dean of engineering when I was a student, and we have kept in touch all these years.

On Sunday morning, Father Brian invited me to serve as Lector for the Mass and in my Byzantine style sticharion, chanted the Epistle in Carpathian style and gave a short reflection on myself as a Byzantine Catholic.  After Mass, the students held a pancake breakfast and I had the opportunity to chat with a number of students.  I did the same at the Sunday evening Mass.

The panel discussion was held at 5 pm Sunday with about 25 students and others attending.  We also shared various Lenten foods that the Orthodox students brought for the event — vegetables, fruit, chips, hummus, dips, etc.  I started the discussion laying out the early history of the Church and how the current dialogue was trying to heal the separation of 1000 years.  The three of us spoke briefly on our own background, and then responded to questions.  After a two-hour session, all seemed quite happy to with the discussion and we then went to the second Catholic Mass for the day.

It was a great weekend and I was very pleased to participate and see the interest among the students, and visit with old friends.

Visit of Metropolitan Kallistos — Week 2

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

With two postponements from the previous week, the second week of the visit of Metropolitan Kallistos to America became quite filled with events.  The snowstorms had left there mark on the area, but we managed to not cancel a single event, and only delayed two — coincidentally the two Catholic venues were those postponed!

The lecture on the theme of “Lent: Our Personal Journey” took place on Sunday evening, February 14, at Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church in Annandale, VA.  Nearly 100 persons attended the reception in the parish center followed by the lecture in the church.  Bishop William Skurla of the Eparchy of Passaic, the diocese of Epiphany Church, also attended the lecture and welcomed Metropolitan Kallistos.

On Monday, we traveled to Toms River, NJ where His Eminence attended Great Compline for the first day of the Great Fast at St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church that evening.  Nearly 400 persons were present for the service and his lecture on the same theme as at Epiphany, “Lent: Our Personal Journey”.  A large receptions was held in the parish social hall, and a long line of people eagerly waited to have copies of his books signed.  The next morning we returned to Washington.

On Tuesday evening, an ecumenical prayer service was conducted by the student board of the Washington Theological Consortium, a group of theological education institutions around Washington, DC.  At the prayer service, the annual Ecumenism Award was bestowed upon Metropolitan Kallistos.  After a short reception, Metropolitan Kallistos delivered the Second Annual Figel Lecture in Ecumenism to a group of over 100 persons gathered in the Happel Room of Caldwell Hall on the campus of The Catholic University of America.  His Eminence gave “An Insider’s View of the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue Today.”  A lively Q&A discussion followed with many interesting points raised.  Father Mark Morozowich, Associate Dean of CUA, Father John Crossin, Executive Director of the WTC, and Father Paul McPartlan, Professor of Ecumenism at CUA and member of the International Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue Commission, all made remarks welcoming Metropolitan Kallistos.  As the financial sponsor of the event, I also made a few remarks, and told of my first encounter with Metropolitan Kallistos some 18 years ago (perhaps subject of a future blog posting?!)

The last scheduled event of His Eminence’s visit was a lecture at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bethesda, MD on Wednesday, February 17.  Over 200 persons attended the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts and the lecture entitled “Trinity:  Heart of Our Life.”  A Lenten dinner buffet was served between the liturgy and lecture.  After the lecture, a line again formed for many to have their books signed.

I obtained copies of the Metropolitan’s most popular works to have available for people to buy at all the events, and we sold over 100 copies of each.  They included:  The Orthodox Church, The Orthodox Way, and The Inner Kingdom.  We are now carrying all three titles in our catalog and on our website:

All of the lectures from this week are also available from OLTV, and a combo pack of all the lectures has been specially priced.  You can order online at or call 703-691-8862.

After a grueling schedule, and speaking to nearly 1000 persons at 8 venues, Metropolitan Kallistos returned to the UK on Thursday morning.  We especially scheduled his return on the “day” flight that leaves the US in the morning and lands in London the same evening, avoiding having to sleep overnight on a “red eye” flight.  At the age of 75, His Eminence deserves all the comforts possible!

But in the end, I believe he returned home with a renewed vigor and enthusiasm for his ministry of teaching and lecturing, given the great response he received everywhere and the thousands of people he has touched with his wisdom and insight.  Many years, O Master!

Visit of Metropolitan Kallistos — Week 1

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Despite two record-setting snowstorms in the Washington area, Metropolitan Kallistos arrived from the UK safe and sound on Monday evening.  Dulles Airport was opened just long enough for his scheduled flight to arrive only 3 hours late.

However, because of the snow on the ground (over 2 feet!), the Washington Theological Consortium postponed their Ecumenical Lecture one week and rescheduled it for Tuesday, February 16.  This was done soon enough to get the word out, and to allow His Eminence and I to drive to Richmond, VA a day early for his lecture there.  Richmond was not expecting the great amount of snow as in Washington, and over 200 people turned out for the Wednesday evening event at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral.  He spoke about “Athens and Jerusalem: Hellenic Paideia and the Greek Fathers” followed by a social reception where His Eminence signed many copies of his books.

With the second storm dumping another 2 feet + on Washington, we likewise postponed the lecture at Epiphany Byzantine Catholic Church from Thursday evening to tonight, February 14.  So we were able to stay over a second night in Richmond and have a more leisurely return in the afternoon.  Having left Washington on Tuesday before the snow, and returning after the storm was over, we missed the storm entirely, except finding over 5 feet of snow on the ground when we returned, the most ever in Washington history.

Despite all this, over 100 persons attended the lecture at St. Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church in Falls Church on Friday evening to hear His Eminence speak about “Salvation in Christ: the Meaning of the Cross.”  A small social reception was also held for attendees to meet Metropolitan Kallistos and get copies of his books autographed.

On Saturday, St. Mark’s Orthodox Church in Bethesda, MD was the host parish for three lectures throughout the afternoon.  Metropolitan Jonah, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, was present and introduced His Eminence to the 150+ persons attending.  Metropolitan Kallistos gave three lectures on various aspects of “Our Transfiguration in Christ:  The Message of the Philokalia”, in particular linking the feast of the Transfiguration with the image of the Holy Cross.  Refreshments were served in the parish social hall throughout the afternoon, and a small dinner was hosted that evening at a nearby restaurant for the two Metropolitans and invited guests.

On Sunday morning, Metropolitan Kallistos was the main celebrant at the Divine Liturgy at St. Mark’s Church, along with several priests, deacons, servers, and the parish choir singing choral arrangements in English.

All the lectures by Metropolitan Kallistos, and the Divine Liturgy, are available as CD or DVD recordings from OLTV through the online catalog at or by calling 703-6912-8862.


Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

The reception and Lecture by Metropolitan Kallistos at Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church that was originally scheduled for Thursday, February 11, has been postponed until Sunday, February 14 because of weather conditions in Washington, DC.  The same times — reception at 6:30, lecture at 7:30 — will be maintained, following Forgiveness Vespers which will begin as normally scheduled at 5:00 pm.

Please pass the word to anyone who was planning to attend.


Monday, February 8th, 2010

The prayer service, reception and Ecumenism Lecture by Metropolitan Kallistos at The Catholic University of America scheduled for Tuesday, February 9, has been postponed one week until Tuesday, February 16 because of weather conditions in Washington, DC.  The same times — prayer at 4:30, reception at 5:30, lecture at 6:30 — will be followed starting in the Chapel at Caldwell Hall.  Please pass the word to anyone who was planning to attend.