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Fr. Andrew's Mission To Romania
By Father Andrew Harrison

Floyd and Ancuta Frantz are full time missionaries in Romania through the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). He is a certified alcohol and drug counselor and has been living in Romania since 2000, helping the Romanian Orthodox Church establish programs for persons in Romania who are affected by alcoholism or addiction. Also, through the efforts of earlier missionaries, OCMC established a day care program to help babies who were at risk of being abandoned by their mothers. The mothers in this program have many problems, the greatest of which are poverty and abandonment by the fathers of the children. Floyd’s wife Ancuta now operates this center as the “Protection of the Theotokos Family Center.” Floyd has established several programs designed for the treatment of alcoholics. Among them are daily Alcoholic Anonymous meetings at the “St. Dimitrie Day-Center” facility (Casa Alba) with about 40 men and women attending.

From this facility, Floyd and his staff travel daily to mental hospitals in the area and to a tuberculosis clinic to visit the patients and help those with drinking problems. He has had great success within the medical community who see the results of his program. His project is within the Romanian Orthodox Church (under Christiana, the social action arm of the Cluj archdiocese); he is working with both with clergy and laity. Several other archdioceses around Romania are asking him to do training in addictions work so that their priests can better help their parishioners. Because of this expanding work inside the Church, he has been doing many training programs for groups of priests. As the priests are a special group to work with, he asked Orthodox clergy from the United States who have had experience in alcoholism treatment counseling or in 12 Step Recovery, to come to Romania to help him train priests there on helping parishioners with alcoholism and addiction problems.

This is where I come in. Last year Floyd visited St. Luke’s on a fund raising tour. We took an offering and gave him almost $1,000. I had a chance to meet him and when he learned that I was a certified alcohol counselor who had been employed by the Betty Ford Center and Veterans Administration, he described his plan. He asked if I would be able to come to Romania to participate with a team of other professionals to lead these seminars.

After we established the dates, I traveled to Cluj, Romania and spent the month of October working with Floyd and team members traveling across the country speaking about alcoholism as being a treatable disease, and working with fellow priests in developing methods to help their parishioners. Floyd invited, as members of the team, Dr. Spero Kinnas who spoke on fetal alcohol syndrome and Fr. George Aguaro who is a peer counselor from California. Fr. George presented his personal experience with the12 Steps and the spirituality of recovery from the perspective of an Orthodox priest. I spoke mostly about formal treatment options and the effects of alcoholism on the family.

The Romanian Orthodox Church is very much involved in social service. I saw food kitchens for the poor, teen support facilities, free medicine distributions centers - all supported by the church. I met priests who were assigned as full time hospital chaplains and other clergy involved in a variety of ministries for social welfare. Since the Church is so involved it would be natural for them to see the value of helping those who are afflicted with the disease of alcoholism. After meeting and speaking with bishops, priests and laymen I was left with the impression that they are very open to the establishment of treatment programs and forming Alcoholics Anonymous groups in parishes, in cities and in villages.

It was explained to me that cult missionaries from America target villages where there is a priest with an alcohol problem. They use the problems of the priest in order to attract parishioners away from the Orthodox faith. The bishops were interested in programs in America which specialize in treating priests with alcohol abuse problems. I described Guest House in Rochester, Minnesota to them. Guest House was established by concerned Roman Catholics to treat their alcohol dependant priests. A number of Orthodox priests have also benefited from the program. The Romanian Orthodox bishops were interested in forming a similar program. Before traveling to Romania I visited Guest house to learn about their program, and I was able to give them literature that had been given to me by Guest House.

We did training seminars for a total of about 80 priests located in the three archdioceses of Cluj, Craiova, and Timisoara. After we had completed our work, Floyd wanted to show his appreciation for the help he received from the team members by taking them on a tour of the Romanian Orthodox monasteries. There are 400 monasteries and sketes (a skete is a small monastic community) across Romania. Since the fall of Communism there has been a growing interest among young people in monastic life.

He took us to visit the Lainci Monastery where Fr. Aguaro and I were able concelebrate the Sunday Divine Liturgy with the Abbot and monks. After the Liturgy we were treated to an excellent dinner. The sleeping facilities were on par with any modern hotel. In the afternoon we drove up a mountain trail to visit Father Adrian who was a much sought after blind saintly priest who gives spiritual guidance. When we arrived he was counseling a young couple planning marriage. He greeted us and when he found out we were American he mentioned Father Roman Braga who now resides at Dormition Monastery in Michigan. Fr. Braga and Fr. Adrian were in prison together during the communist period.

Each monastery we visited provided wonderful hospitality and excellent modern facilities. We attended the evening services, morning matins and liturgy. At each service the monastery chapel was full. Some of the pilgrims remained on their knees through the entire service. I watched the monks pray on their knees quietly reading memorial names.

Four of the monasteries that we visited were in the “Bucovina” region of Romania, and are very famous. They are listed as international preservation sites. Three of these beautiful monastery churches were painted with frescos both on the inside and outside. The condition of the paintings after 500 years was unbelievable. Another of this type monastery was being renovated. It had been damaged by invading Ottomans who started a fire inside ruining the frescos. I spoke with the master iconographer who has been repainting the church with new frescos for the past six years. He still had another year to go. After he finishes he said he would like to come to America and paint. You can see the church by logging on to stlukeorthodox.com under Pilgrimages.

On my way back to Chicago, I made a pastoral visit to Bucharest to visit Corneliu Popescu. Corneliu had moved back to Romania after being a parishioner of St. Luke for 15 years. Corneliu took me on a tour of Bucharest to see the Patriarchal Cathedral and to venerate the relics of St. Dimitrie of Basarabov, the patron saint of Floyd’s alcoholism recovery program.

Corneliu also took me to a monastery by the Black Sea named after St. Andrew. Tradition says that St. Andrew did his apostolic work in the vicinity of this monastery. There is a cave on the monastery property were St. Andrew stayed and also a special miraculous well attributed to St. Andrew. A Roman built granite block road runs by the monastery which was the location of an ancient Roman village. Pilgrims from all over Romania come to this monastery to drink from the well and visit the cave. It was very meaningful for me to attend the Divine Liturgy and receive Holy Communion at such a holy place. This was a fitting end to my experience in Romania. I hope to return in the near future with an OCMC team.

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