The Diocese of the South
Orthodox Church in America
Seventh Annual Winter Service Retreat

This December, we will host our Seventh Annual Winter Service Retreat for Older Teens and Young Adults. Each year, we schedule this during the week after Nativity, when students are out of school for their winter break in studies. Our parish of St. George Orthodox Church (OCA) is located right on the Texas border with Mexico. In year's past, the week included a visit and work project in an orphanage for girls just across the border in Mexico. However, because of increased border violence in recent years, we no longer cross into Mexico. Thanks be to God, this year, we will have a Brand New Church Hall to help accommodate both our Retreat Participants and our Service Projects!
 
Some retreat highlights include:
 
* A Speaker/Retreat Master Sharing Talks on Topics the Participants Themselves Have Requested
 
* Hands-On Orthodox Service Projects, including Preparing For and Staffing a special Nativity Season Distribution at our St. George Food Pantry - which has fed over 50,000 people in the last few years.
 
* Working as Teams to Actively Help with Retreat Functions
 
* Praying Together: Actively Participating in Reading, Singing, Praying & Participating in Liturgical Services
 
* Time for Fun, Christian Fellowship, including a South Padre Island Beach Trip and Talent Show
 
Who:  Geared for Older Teens, College Students & Young Adults plus Adult Chaperones & Orthodox Clergy. Orthodox Christians, Catechumins, Inquirers and their Friends from All Jurisdictions are WELCOME
 
Retreat Master: Abbot Melitios Webber of St. John of Shanghai Monastery in CA., Metro. Jonah's former monastery.
 
SPIRITUAL TOPIC: Why Become (or Remain) Orthodox? How Do We Stand Up for & Live the Faith?
 
Expanded Version: Why become or remain Orthodox rather than simply following the "easier" more populated versions of Christianity practiced by friends and society in general? Why would/should we choose or continue on the more narrow path, which often includes isolation since most parishes are smaller and within which we have few if any peers? How are we to become knowledgeable "apologists" and stand on a firm foundation in the faith? In everyday life? In times when we face special challenges and/or temptations?  How do we stand with our heads held high knowing that our beliefs are right and true? How do we do this without being prideful or thinking "low" of our brothers and sisters in Christ outside of the Orthodox Church? What are the real dividing lines which separate our Orthodox beliefs from those held by other Christians?
 
Dates:  This year's actual activities will begin on the morning of December 27th.  People will travel, arrive and get settled in on the evening of December 26th.  The event will end after Divine Liturgy and a meal on Sunday, January 1st, but anyone is welcome to stay until the following day before returning home.
 
Cost:  $225.00 Per Participant - Includes all Food, Lodging, Local Transportation and Fees. Note: If Adult Chaperones prefer an on-site Motel-type room, we can reserve one for an additional fee.
We try to keep our registration fees as low as possible so as many students and other young people (who often are financially challenged and/or do not have wealthy parents) can attend. To help with this, we even cook most of the food and the retreat staff do not receive salaries. We do this for the love of Christ and in hopes that this experience will touch the lives of the young people who attend.

Where: St. George Orthodox Church; Pharr, Texas - Rio Grande Valley of South Texas near the Texas-Mexico Border. See Driving Directions: http://www.stgeorgetx.org/directions.html  The church is located at 704 W. Sam Houston in Pharr, Texas and overnight lodgings will be at the Valley Baptist Retreat Center in Mission, Texas. See the retreat center's website at: http://www.valleybaptistretreat.org/
What:  A week of hands-on Service Work, Spiritual Talks & Sessions & Prayers, Christian Fellowship, & Fun. Reunite with your friends and make new friends in a wholesome and spirtually-profitable atmoshere.

To learn more or to see photos from previous year's Winter Service Retreats, see links at:
http://www.stgeorgepantry.org/winteryouthretreat.html
 
Please let me know if you have additional questions at mateliza@aol.com or by phone at 956-781-2388.
 
In Christ, Matushka Elizabeth Perdomo
International Festival - Pharr, TX

November 28, 2011
On Saturday, December, 10th St George the Greatmartyr Church in Pharr, TX will be holding its annual International Festival.  For more information, please visit the parish website.
Ss Mary and Martha Monastery to Begin Construction Soon!

November 28, 2011
[From "One Thing Needful"]  Over this last quarter, we took a serious look at what is happening to the economy, noted the amount we have in our Building Fund, and decided to ask our contractor what portion of the monastery building could be built with what we had. His response was two-thirds of the building, i.e., finished exterior with roughed-in interior. (Remember, this is a sizable building which has to conform to the National Building Regulations for a monastery -- Aiken County’s rules, not ours.) Of course, there is much in the way of infrastructure, like a well, septic system, grease trap, etc. We know it is expensive to build a truly energy efficient building which is as fire proof and earthquake resistant as possible. Investing up front for well thought out good workmanship more than pays for itself in the long run, as well as the short run. It is important to us to build well so that the next generation can add to it rather than have to rebuild. Too often, we have seen the sad results of the attitude, “Oh, just slap something up and leave the problem to the next generation.”

Our contractor stated that is would be April 2012 before he could begin. Having looked at our calendar, April is already filled with Holy Week, Pascha, Bright Week, and our Pilgrimage. May or June will, more than likely, be the time we begin building, if all the paper work is done by then. Once the exterior of this portion of the building is finished, we will finish the interior of the Chapel and one working bathroom. Then, as God wills, we will finish off the other rooms striving not to go into debt.

This said, we tried to contact our original architect to no avail. His office building was empty and up for sale. It has been twelve years since he drew the original plans. Over that time, we have made many changes as the result of our living monastic life here, and the suggestions of other professionals and friends who have shared their own experiences and ideas with us. Nothing has gone to waste. Now we have engaged the services of another architect and are working through the many changes and additions that have been made to the old plans. Of course, every time we hear the word “additions”, we hear the old time cash register go “chi-ching”.

To have a Chapel that is separate from the double wide trailer we now live in would truly be a blessing for us as well as our visitors. Over the years, many of you have contributed to our Building Fund, which is currently at around $400,000. 

For more information on the monastery, and their building plans, please visit their website.
7th Annual Winter Service Retreat for Older Teens and Young Adults

November 21, 2011
This year's Retreat Master is Fr. Melitios Webber, Abbot of St. John of Shanghai Monastery in Manton, California.  This retreat is open to Orthodox teens, college students, young adults, catechumens, inquirers and their friends of any Orthodox jurisdiction. We prepare food for those who are feasting and those who are still within the Nativity Fast.
 
Hands-on Orthodox Service Activities, Spiritual Talks/Sessions, Working Together, Fellowship & More!
 
Please publicize and share with others about this wonderful and life-changing event for Orthodox young people and their friends! See this link for more information, as well as for application forms. Many Thanks!
Special Thanksgiving Distribution at St. George Food Pantry

November 17, 2011
On November 16th we fed over 170 families at our St. George Food Pantry. Families were given food boxes and in addition, shared special vouchers for the purchase of Thanksgiving dinner turkeys. Thanks be to God!
 
About half of our participants are children and others include a number who are elderly and/or handicapped. Since the St. George Food Pantry opened several years back, over 70,000 individuals have been served through this Orthodox outreach effort. Most regular food distributed is purchased at a very reasonable rate from the local Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley. We do another larger distribution during the Nativity Season, during our annual Winter Service Retreat for older teens and young adults. At that time, besides food boxes, we also share blankets, coats, jackets, children's clothing and toys and diapers with the many families who come to us in need. For information or to participate in the Winter Service Retreat, please see: http://www.stgeorgepantry.org/winteryouthretreat.html)
 
St. George Orthodox Church is the only Orthodox Parish in all of the Rio Grande Valley which is located along the border of Texas and Mexico. Situated in one of the poorest counties in the USA, we have no nearby Orthodox "neighbors" to help us serve the poor in this region, either as volunteers or to share resources or to share the financial burden of this program.
 
St. George Food Pantry is not financially supported by the OCA, DOS nor by our Deanery, but rather by financial contributions made by individuals and the occasional Parish from around the country. Especially in these financially-challenged times, we could use one-time or ongoing commitments of financial support from individuals or from Parishes for this important ministry, especially during the holiday season - and most especially to off-set the cost of these turkeys. During this holy season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, please consider supporting this Orthodox effort done here in the Rio Grande Valley on behalf of all.
 
Many thanks for your ongoing prayers and support!
 
Donations Can Be Made Online Through PayPal At:
http://www.stgeorgepantry.org/foodpantry.html
 
Donations Can Be Mailed To:
St. George Food Pantry
St. George Orthodox Church
PO Box 667
Pharr, TX  78577
 
In Christ, Matushka Elizabeth Perdomo
www.stgeorgetx.org
From Holy Ascension in Charleston (Mt Pleasant), SC

November 14, 2011
Fr John Parker is the newly appointed Chair of the OCA Dept of Evangelization and there is a new podcast interviewing him about this position.  Please click here to listen to this podcast.

Also, for more information on the Orthodox understanding of life and death, especially in connection with Halloween, please see this article which was recently published in the Post and Courier.
Towards An American Orthodox Church Symposium

November 14, 2011
"And maybe it is in America that God wants us to heal the multi-secular national isolation of Orthodox Churches, one from another, and this not by abandoning all that made the spiritual beauty and meaning of Greek, Russian, Serbian and all other "Orthodoxies," but by giving each of them finally their catholic and universal significance. It is here that we can all share and consider as truly ours the spiritual legacies of the Greek Fathers, the paschal joy of St. Seraphim of Sarov, the warm piety hidden for centuries in the Carpathian mountains... . Then and only then Orthodoxy will be ready for a real encounter with America, for its mission to America..."
The Canonical Problem...Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

In an effort to make these words of Father Alexander a reality these visionary men and women will be gathering together in The Woodlands, TX for two days during the Nativity Fast.  Anticipate inspiration coupled with the current reality touched by the Holy Spirit to move America forward to Orthodoxy!!

Please see our flyer for more information.