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His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH makes his first Episcopal Visit to the Mission in Fort Saskatchewan - 06/16/2006

Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada

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On Friday evening, June 16th, the Eve of the Leave-Taking of Pentecost, His Grace Bishop JOSEPH visited the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Mission in Fort Saskatchewan Alberta. The Mission congregation meets in the facilities of the local Funeral Home, but once it is set up it is unmistakably an Orthodox Church. Great Vespers for the Leave-taking of Pentecost was served by the Pastor, Father Raphael Johnston, and following the Dismissal, His Grace spoke to the Faithful, including guests from our sister Parish from Edmonton, St. Philip's.

Sayidna gave great encouragement to the parishioners, reminding us of his great love for us as his children in Christ and committing himself to us to serve us as a good and faithful Father in Christ. He also reminded us of the great treasure of the Faith and challenged us to be fearless in sharing that Faith with others.

Following worship, we gathered in the Riverview Services reception room for a fellowship meal, served by the ladies of the Mission. In response to questions following dinner, Sayidna spoke of the ministry of the episcopacy and of priesthood, especially the spiritual therapy of Confession, and the need to place our salvation and that of our families and friends and neighbors above all.

The Fort Saskatchewan Mission was started through the Department of Missions and Evangelism after a small number of Anglicans, led by their minister David Johnston, fled to the Holy Orthodox Faith for refuge in September 2004. They were catechized by the Very Reverend Father John Finley over the next year and their former minister has now been ordained to the holy priesthood and given the name Raphael by His Grace.

Father Raphael reports that there is nothing automatic about growth in a small mission. In fact, he says, "for the first year it felt as though in the minds of community residents we had disappeared! Growth is slow and requires great effort - especially prayer. Nothing happens without prayer." The founders of the small congregation have been joined by new parishioners from other Orthodox Churches, as well as a young Greek family, whose daughter was the Mission's first baptism last week on the Feast of Pentecost.

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