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Albanian Archdiocese News
Highlights of the Annual Assembly of the Albanian Archdiocese in America
Annual Assembly of the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America
October 20-22, 2005
hosted by Saint George Cathedral
The Assembly in Brief:
Theme: "The Vocational 'Calling:' For Clergy & Lay People"
Complete Reports are provided to parish clergy and lay delegates, and to parish members. Available on request.
Invocation: His Grace, Bishop Nikon opened the plenary session with prayer. The assembly sang our traditional Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos and the encomium of the hierarch.
Welcome: William G. Poist, Lay Vice-Chair of the Archdiocesan Council and Very Rev Arthur Liolin, representing the assembly's host parish, welcomed the delegates and reviewed the Schedule and Agenda for the proceedings
Venue: Delegates were sited at the new Club Hotel-Bayside in South Boston providing an intimate ambience for the guests, for consultations and hospitality gatherings. Delegates were shuttled to the Doubletree-Downtown Boston, site for Friday's meetings, presentations and luncheon.
Proceedings: Rev Mark Doku, General Secretary called the roll of authorized delegates, alternates and observers Matthew Sotir was elected Chairman of the Day to conduct the plenary sessions; while the secretariat included Diana Marie Prift and Denise Lymperis.
Bishop's Report: His Grace, Bishop Nikon delivered a thoroughgoing outline and analysis of the year's work gleaned from his archpastoral visitations and his representation at numerous church organizations, ethnic and civic events. He informed the assembly of parish clergy ordinations and assignments, domestic and international visitations, and covered his work with seminarians and vocations, charities, OCA Pension Board, as well as problematic pastoral areas requiring attention. He expressed esteem for the work of Fr Joseph Gallick who is Chaplain with the U.S. Military, and with Fr Michael and Vi Soter in their work for Red Cross efforts with victims of the Katrina Hurricane. His Grace expressed gratitude to the diocesan and chancery officers, with special note of Cindy Vasil Brown, archdiocesan treasurer. (*)
James Argir, parliamentarian, registered compliments to His Grace on behalf of the assembly, on what he termed the most comprehensive and inspiring archdiocesan review of accomplishments and goals in many years.
Synodal Election: The assembly received with joy the announcement that the Holy Synod of Bishops, at its recent Fall Session, had given Bishop Nikon added duties by electing him the Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of New England. Thus, his new imprimatur becomes: "Bishop of Boston, New England and the Albanian Archdiocese."
Financials: A complete report for all diocesan funds was delivered by Cindy Vasil Brown, Archdiocesan Treasurer for the fiscal year 2004-05. It was noted that she and her advisors had once again accomplished a balanced budget for several consecutive years, resulting in substantive growth. Due to the positive outcome an increase in parish dues is not required at this time. The budget for 2005-06 was adopted. (*)
Investments: A report was presented and distributed by Lauren Toli-Gregory, trustee and chair of our investment committee and discussed by the delegates. A moderate risk portfolio and constructive growth pattern of 8% was duly noted with satisfaction by the assembly. Further, it was reported that the Archdiocesan loan to the Cathedral - for part of its restoration - is being repaid on a regular basis, a further investment which has been opportune for both the Cathedral and for the Archdiocese. (*)
Lay Ministry: "The Call to the Laity." Following luncheon, Ms Sarah Francis delivered a moving account of her conversion to Orthodoxy and opportunities for expanding lay ministries among Orthodox Christian individuals as well as their parishes. She is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, having also studied at St. Vladimir's Seminary and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School and is chaplain of Hospice in Lynn, MA, an agency which tends to the needs of the terminally ill and their families. Her presentation was widely considered one of the highlights of this year's gathering. (*)
Visual Presentation: "The Archdiocese Today:" a ten minute power-point presentation - shown previously at the 14th All American Council in Toronto - was prepared and introduced by Fr Sergei Bouteneff. It portrays a brief history of the diocese and the work of Bishop Nikon since his consecration. The CD will be made available to diocesan parishes for their use in their communities. (*)
Theological Students: A review was presented by James Liolin of the Student Fund committee's work this year. Successful studies by our seminarians was delineated - future priests in training at U.S. seminaries: St Tikhon's, Holy Cross and Resurrection in Durres, Albania. The assembly was informed of the various field work and Summer intern assignments undertaken as part of seminarian formation. Significantly, the Peter Kole Scholarship of $10,000 - a grant that honors the memory of his parents - was formally announced with gratitude to the donor. Plans for an informative Archdiocesan-wide mailing to encourage vocations has been prepared and is camera-ready for publication, whenever the diocese deems it opportune. (*)
Funds Raised: In what has become a spontaneous, yet also traditional annual effort from the floor of the assembly, $ 9,800 was raised on pledges which followed the Student Fund Report. The sum surpassed last year's total with gifts from those assembled ranging from $20 to $1000.
Clergy Insurance: The current Archdiocesan Life Insurance Group plan was reviewed by Matthew Sotir. It is being revaluated to account for several variances and options: a.) coverage for part-time pastors who have secular employment; b.) consideration of the needs of younger or retired or semi-retired clergymen; c.) Elder Health Care proviso.
Metropolitan Council: Fr Sergei Bouteneff distributed a summary of the work of the OCA's Metropolitan Council, a consultative body which is comparable on the national level to our Archdiocesan Council. An appeal was made that all parishes comply with the Orthodox Church in America's policies on sexual misconduct/improprieties. All parishes need to comply immediately by having their parish councils formally adopt as normative the approved OCA Guidelines on the subject. As well, each parish is mandated to consult with its legal counsel and with its local insurance carrier for appropriate coverage. [*]
All American Council: An oral review and impressions of the 14th All American Council held in last July Toronto was delivered by Deacon Dennis Nagi. Also available is a written synopsis by Fr Sergei, entitled "Our Church and Our Future." (*)
Elections: A new procedure for nominating diocesan officers was instituted for the first time this year, allowing for candidates to be proposed by parishes in advance of the assembly. The following officers were elected both by secret ballot and/or by unanimous voice vote.
Lay Vice Chairman: William G. Poist.
General Secretary: Rev. Mark Doku.
Treasurer: Cindy Vasil Brown.
Controller: to be appointed by the bishop, in consultation with the executive officers.
Trustees: Ann Costa, Edward Powers, Lauren Gregory, Douglas Baker.
Metropolitan Council: Very Rev Sergei Bouteneff and Michael Gregory, Esq.
Student Fund: Rev Deacon Prof Dennis Nagi, James Liolin, Rev. Mark Doku
Fair Share: Following considerable and lively discussion, by overwhelming vote it was determined to continue the current parish assessments on a three-year freeze basis, in order to evaluate the procedure with equanimity.
Next Assembly: The next annual gathering for 2006 shall be hosted by invitation of St. Thomas Church in Farmington Hills, MI from October 19-21. The assembly for 2007 shall be hosted through the courtesy of St Mary's Assumption Church in Worcester, MA. The Winter and Spring sessions of the Archdiocesan Council will be hosted by the Annunciation Church in Natick, MA.
Banquet: Delegates celebrated His Grace, Bishop Nikon's 60th birthday at the Phillip's Old Colony House in Dorchester with a sumptuous repast that included a serenade of accordion music and a splendid birthday cake.
Vocations: As guest speaker for the evening, the Reverend Professor, Deacon Dennis Nagi outlined his personal history which included a moving call from the academic world into further work in the church through the Late Vocations program. As well, he spoke of his work in preparing catechetical materials for newcomers to the U.S. and with parish youth projects.
Autumnal Brunch: Delegates enjoyed a Farewell Breakfast buffet at The Club Hotel on Saturday morning prior to their return home.
Memorial: A Trisagion-Panikida for St. Demetrius Saturday was commemorated in the morning at The Cathedral's Theophany Chapel, during which departed hierarchy, clergy and laity of the Archdiocese were remembered. The Bishop presided at the service conducted by Fr Mark Doku and the deacons.
Clergy Meeting: His Grace presided at a meeting of the presbyterium. Very Rev John Scollard, pastoral affairs consultant, moderated a lively and frank session on issues and challenges faced by priests in varying pastoral settings. Plans were outlined for a clergy retreat/conference to take place on Sunday eve and Monday of President's Weekend in February, 2006. Further, the concept of an archdiocesan "holy year of spiritual renewal" will be discussed and presented to the bishop at the forthcoming gathering.
Luncheon: Winding up at Anthony's Pier 4 on Boston Harbor, several pastors continued their discussions, recounting their vocation and interests outside of parish life prior to their ordination as well as further studies.
Very Rev Arthur E. Liolin
(*) - items for which complete reports are available.
New Orthodox bishop sets his goals
By Rich Barlow | December 31, 2005
Bishop Nikon Liolin wears several miters. He had been archbishop for the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese. Then earlier this month, the Southbridge resident was enthroned as bishop of New England for the Orthodox Church in America, which counts several ethnic Orthodox parishes as members and has its regional headquarters in Boston. Both elevations were milestones: The diocese of New England had been without a bishop for 13 years, the Albanian archdiocese for 23 years, he says. Liolin attributes the lengthy vacancies to a shortage of candidates because bishops are banned from marriage. (Liolin is a widower.)
It has been almost a millennium since Eastern Christian churches split from Western ones (today, the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches) over doctrine. ''All of the faiths are under attack by some of society's changing morals and mores," the new bishop says. ''And the churches and the faiths have to be bastions of morality. . . . There is a moral stance that God has revealed to us." Excerpts from a recent interview follow.
Q: What would you like your episcopate to be remembered for?
A: I have several mission parishes, mostly in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. I would like to integrate the Diocese of New England and have more activity between the two dioceses, so that we can have a greater impact on the community at large. To be a little bit more visible.
Q: Your goal is to increase converts?
A: To increase the number of converts to the church by having more visibility. Without a resident bishop, that made it difficult, because pastors had to work on their own without the on-site direction of a resident hierarch.
Q: Do you support any changes in [celibacy] rules to make the pool of [bishop] candidates larger?
A: No, I don't. Really, one has to be fully married to the diocese. I was married for 33 years, and if I were married, I don't think I could spend the time that I have to spend to administer a diocese.
Q: Why should [people] consider being an Orthodox Christian?
A: We want to begin with a relationship with God, a relationship with Christ. When I'm talking about outreach, I'm not talking about trying to reach people that are churched. Many people in the United States attend churches; however, there are more unchurched in the United States than there are churched. So we're trying to reach people that really have no relationship with God, do not have any faith. The Orthodox do not proselytize for those who already have a Christian base.
Yes, there was a separation between the east and the west churches. However, there are continually dialogues to see how we can come closer. A few years ago, it was an Orthodox priest who was president of the World Council of Churches.
Q: Do you have a sense of what keeps unchurched people away from religion?
A: There are so many diversions available to people. . . . Sports teams pull people away. When you have soccer and football on Sunday morning, you almost can't blame the children and parents for wanting to spend their time with their friends.
Q: As 2006 dawns, are Christians closer to unity or further away from it?
A: The churches are separated doctrinally. The major difference was the Nicene Creed, [which] as established stated that we believe in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father. A change came in, from our point of view from the influence of Charlemagne, when the creed stated that the Holy Spirit proceeded ''from the Father and the Son," [because for Orthodox Christians] the Spirit proceeding from the Son technically would take away Christ's humanity.
Q: What about Christians and other religions? If you read the newspapers, it seems we live in a world riven by religious differences.
A: I despair over this conflict, but for years, people have begun religious wars -- or, in the name of God, have begun wars -- and this is totally contrary to God's teaching in any faith. God is a God of love in all faiths. And certainly God has been misused by all faiths through the centuries. We have the devil still operating to separate people from each other and from God.
Q: What is your view of the role of religion in political life?
A: From the Orthodox viewpoint, we don't tell people how to vote or who to vote for. Our hope is that we have instilled in them a moral value. On some political changes, such as gay marriage, this is not something that the church can bless at this time. But we don't say, ''Vote for this person" because they are for or against abortion or gay marriage.
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Parish Council Members
Clergy of St. Nicholas
In chronological order, from top to bottom, left to right.
|1.Rev. Pandeli Checho||
|2.Rev. Paul Rado||11.Rev. Michael Simerick
|3.Rev. Costa Belba||12.Very Rev. Victor George
|4.Rev. Ernest Tsonis||13.Very Rev. Thomas Hopko
|5.Rev Gregory Reynolds||14.Rev. Denis Rhodes
|6.Rt. Rev. Konstandin ||15.Noni Rev. Peter Batkis
|7.Rev. Batholomew Fox ||16.Rev. Philip Reese
|8.Very Rev. Christo Costa||17.Rev. John Garvey
|9.Rev. Joel McEachen||18.Rev. Elijah Mueller
|10.Very Rev. Constantine Ragopulc
||19.Fr.David Rodney Fox
The Building Up of The Lord's House
Gjithshka filloji ne 21 Dhjetor te 1941, kur nje grup shqiptaro-amerikane u takuan ne Hotel Diplomat dhe krijuan nje komitet te perkoheshem te perbere nga: Elia Prifti, Kryetar, Irakli Letchko, Sekretar, James Nuni, si llogaritar, si the nga antare te tjere si James Viso, Stavre Gjoka, Raphy Naum, Sotir Pochi, Charles Kochi, Thoma Shagla, Thoma Pillari dhe Sotir Dhimitri. Te gjithe dhane nga nje dollar, keshtu qe me 11 dollare dhe me besimin tek Zoti filloji ndertimi i kesaj kishe. Dhe keshtu fillon jeten e saj Kisha e Shen Nikollit, duke patur aktivitete nga me te ndryshme. Disa nga me te rendesishmet po i rendisim si me poshte.
--PER LAVDINE E ZOTIT--
|Prill 19, 1942||Mbahet liturgjia e pare ne Hotel Diplomat nga Bishop Fan S. Noli, Rev. Terova, and Rev. Checho.|
|Maj 3, 1942||Krijohet komiteti i pare i regullte i cili vijon si me poshte; Evans Liolin si Kryetar, Elia Prifti n/kryetar, Charles Kochi si llogaritar, Joseph Vasiliu zv/llogaritar, Vasil Kasuli si sekretar I dokumentacionit, Thoma Pillari si mirembajtes i thesarit si the nga antaret: Raphy Naum, Irakli Letchko, Arthur Kallfa, Stavre Gjoka, dhe Peter Apostoli.|
|Mars 15, 1943||Rev. Pandeli Checho caktohet si Pastor i pare i kishes Shqiptare Orthodoxe ne N.Y|
|Qershor 11, 1943||U vendos te blihet Kisha Presbyteriane qe ndodhej ne 359 West 48th Street, New York City per nje shume $30.000.|
|Shtator 12, 1943||Antaret e Komitetit per formimin e Kishes, caktuan dhe emrin e kishes, te quhej Shen Nikolla, dhe si Kumbare per pagezimin e kishes u caktua Peter Stassa.|
|Shtator 12, 1943||Organizohet edhe Kori i Kishes nen drejtimin e Evans J. Liolin.|
|Maj 19, 1944||Organizohet dhe shoqata e gruas shqiptaro-amerikane me kryetare Mrs. Angelina Bourzouku.|
|Mars 4, 1945||Organizohet shkolla e se Dieles, me rreth 30 studente.|
|Ne vitet 1950, komuniteti orthodox shqiptar merzitet sepse Kisha demtohet nga nje zjarr i befasishem, por ai (komuniteti) e rinderton edhe nje here dhe aktiviteti vazhdon perseri. Po ne kete vit ne Cypress Hills blihet nje zone e madhe toke, ne nje kodrine, per llogari te varrezave te ardhshme, nevoje kjo e komuniteti shqiptar dhe kjo kodrine u quajt Mali i Tomorrit, ne kujtim te Malit te Tomorrit ne Shqiperi.|
|Vera e 1968||Liturgjia e fundit ne godinen e vjeter u mbajt nga Fr. Nicholas Liolin.|
|Gusht 16, 1970||Liturgjia e pare ne godinen e re u mbajt nga Fr. Christo Costa.|
|May 22, 1976||Shenjtimi i Kishes se re.
|Prill 24, 1982||Celebrohet 40 vjetori i Kishes Orthodoxe Shqiptare ne N.Y|
|Maj 1, 1992||Banketi me rast te 50 vjetorit te kishes|
|Tetor 20, 2002||Organizohet nje mbremje festore me rastin e 60 vjetorit te kishes.|
Keshtu vazhdon aktivitetin e saj Kisha Shqiptare Orthodoxe e Shen Nikolles ne N.Y. Ajo gezon nje komunitet akoma me te madh mbas ndryshimeve demokratike ne Shqiperi. Me ardhjen e shume imigranteve nga Shqiperia, aktiviteti i Kishes eshte rritur shume. Ajo ka nje Keshill me shqiptaro-amerikane te vjeter si dhe te rinj. Cdo te dieje tashme kemi mesatarisht mbi 200 besimtare. Po keshtu tashme aktivitet e saj jane shume me te larmishme dhe me ndihmen e besimtarve ky aktivitet do te jete edh eme i madh ne te ardhmen.
It all began on December 21, 1941, when a group of Albanian Americans met at the Diplomat Hotel and appointed a temporary church commitee composed of the following dedicated individuals: Elia Prifti, Chairman, Irakli Letcho, Secretary, James Nuni, Treasurer, James Viso, Stravre Gioka, Raphy Naum, Sotir Pochi, Charles Kochi, Thomas Shagla, Thomas Pillary, and Sotir Dhimitri. Each contributed one dollar. With a treasuryof $11 and faith in God they succeeded in building a church.
-FOR THE GLORY OF GOD-
|April 19, 1942||The First litergy held at the Diplomat Hotel with Bishop Fan S. Noli, Rev. Terova, and Rev. Checho.|
|May 3, 1942||First regular church commitee elected. Evans Liolin, Chairman, Elia Prifti, Vice Chairman, Charles Kochi, Financial Secretary, Joseph Vasiliou, Assistant Financial Secretary, Vasil Kasuli, Recording Secretary, Thomas Pillary, Treasurer, Raphy Naum, Irakli Letcho, Arthur Kalfa, Stavre Gioka, and Peter Apostol.|
|March 15, 1943||Rev. Pandeli Checho was appointed first pastor of our church.|
|June 11, 1943||Decision was made to purchase the Presbyterian Church at 359 West 48th Street, New York City for $30.000.|
|Sept. 12, 1943||Members chose the name of St. Nicholas for the church and Peter Stassa was the Kumbare|
|Sept. 12, 1943||The first choir was organized under the direction of Mrs. Evans J. Liolin.|
|May 19, 1944||The Daughters of St. Nicholas were organized with their first president, Mrs. Angelina Borzuku. They accepted the responsibility of the Sunday School.|
|March 4, 1945||The first Sunday School started with thirty students.|
|In the 1950's the church community was devestated by the church building being destryed by fire. But once again, they (the community) pulled together and rebuilt. The church purchased cemetery plots in Cypress Hills, wich is named Mount Tomori, after one of the highest mountains in Albania.|
|Summer of 1968||The last litergy served at 359 West 48th Street with the newly ordained Fr. Nicholas Liolin.|
|August 16, 1970||First liturgy at St. Nicholas' new location by Fr. Christo Costa.|
|May 22, 1976||Consecration of the new St. Nicholas Church.
|April 24, 1982||Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Church|
|May 1, 1992||50th Anniversary Celebration Banquet|
|October 20, 2002||60th Anniversary Celebration Dinner Dance|