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By Subdeacon Peter Samore

The Diocese of Los Angeles and the West just wrapped up what may have been its busiest Fall Gathering in recent memory. As His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH has said repeatedly, the Fall Gathering is not just about meetings, but converting our plans into service and action for our Lord Jesus Christ. The Diocese then joined the host parish of St. Matthew in Torrance, California in the celebration of the community’s 25th anniversary of Orthodox Christian service and witness in the South Bay area.

His Grace kicked off events on Saturday, October 11 with his address to the Diocese, which focused on the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. “The opening of our prayers this morning did not start with ‘O Heavenly King’ by accident,” Sayidna said. “What we are doing is nonsense if we do not have the Holy Spirit.” Sayidna reminded the gathering that the Holy Spirit came down from on high and clothed not just on the Apostles, but all of His children past, present and future, with grace, truth and love. Thus, when Orthodox Christians bear the witness of the Savior in the world, their preaching and ministry cannot be unpersuasive, but filled with the Spirit. “Not all people will find Jesus in the Gospel, but in all of us,” Sayidna said. “They see us and watch us, which is why we all must become better examples of Christ’s love. His power was fully given to us so we won’t be shaped by the powers of this world.”

After breakfast, two of our organizations began service projects. The Teen SOYO interweaved, literally, their outreach into their meeting. The Teens made “no sew” blankets for St. Innocent Orphanage at Project Mexico just outside of Tijuana. “No sew” means the Teens took two fleece blankets, put them together, make 3-4 inch cuts in them and then tie the ends together. The Fellowship of St. John the Divine drove to a nearby soup kitchen to serve hot meals and sack lunches to the local homeless population. They served about 100 people. And Sayidna JOSEPH reminded the Antiochian Women in their meeting to keep up their Godly ministry, reminding them to serve even if the Orthodox Church is assailed, keeping the words of St. John Chrysostom close to their hearts: “The Church conquers as she is attacked… she becomes more lustrous as she is insulted.”

On Saturday night, St. Matthew hosted a special dinner in honor of its founding a quarter-century ago. From its humble beginnings in a library in the 1980s, the parish has moved into its current home on Sonoma Street and constantly beatified it not just with icons of the Lord, His Mother and the Saints, but also with the souls who worship and minister there. One of St. Matthew’s achievements is the pastor, Rev. George Aquaro, who began at the parish as a layman. “We may be businessmen, employers or students to the world, but we are more than that to God,” Fr. George said. “It is a great honor to serve all of you. I’m so grateful to be able to give back to the parish that gave so much to me.” The dinner also included a commemorative DVD that Fr. George himself produced.

In his after-dinner address, Sayidna returned focus to the Holy Spirit in remarking on the parish’s accomplishments. “The Holy Spirit breathed life in here 25 years ago,” His Grace said. “This parish has always done well, fully functioning to bring in new people and teaching the children to uphold the Faith without fear.” Sayidna also remarked that the people of St. Matthew have nothing but love in the Holy Spirit, and they have never posed any problems, simply working as a holy family seeking perfection of faith.

His Grace also paid tribute to the clergy of St. Matthew, starting with Right Rev. Paul Doyle, the Pastor Emeritus and Protosyngellos of the Antiochian Archdiocese. “Your years of hard work have earned you the love and respect of everyone,” Sayidna said. “Fr. Paul has that innocence to make him a real father, pastor and icon of Jesus Christ. With such a legacy of love, knowledge, education and compassion, what else does a pastor need?” Sayidna thanked Fr. Paul’s successor, Rev. Simeon Corona, for his years of good work, and then thanked Fr. George. “Every time I talk to Fr. George, he always helps—no excuses. He loves everyone too, not wanting to hurt anyone,” Sayidna said. Of course, Sayidna did not forget Deacon Barsoum Barsoum, Subdeacon Philip Tahmoush and Subdeacon Timothy Holmes for all of their tireless efforts, especially in the altar and in the choir. His Grace then said that the people of St. Matthew are in the heart and center of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West, and encouraged them to continue to give their young people the real spirituality that they hunger for.

On Sunday, after the festive Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, Sayidna JOSEPH installed Maram Quomsieh of St. George Church in Phoenix, Arizona as the new President of the Diocesan Fellowship of St. John the Divine, taking charge of the outreach of the young adults of the Diocese. Sayidna also inducted two new members to the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch: Bill and Marlene Woodling, from St. Matthew. Then the parish hosted lunch for the remaining visitors, a fitting farewell for a most hospitable weekend that glorified God in so many ways.

Luncheon - 10/11/2009

Torrance, California

(10 images)

Orthros and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy - 10/11/2009

Torrance, California

(63 images)

St. Matthew Church 25th Anniversary Banquet - 10/10/2009

Torrance, California

(23 images)

Saturday Night Great Vespers - 10/10/2009

Torrance, California

(12 images)

Fellowship of St. John the Divine Service Project - 10/10/2009

Torrance, California

(26 images)

Organizational Meetings - 10/10/2009

Torrance, California

(28 images)

Morning Prayers and Address by His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH - 10/10/2009

Torrance, California

(11 images)

Friday Night Great Vespers - 10/09/2009

Torrance, California

(15 images)

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