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Mission To India
The OCMC mission team leaving Chicago for India. Fr. Andrew & Pat Harrison of St. Luke Orthodox Church in Palos Hills, Illinois and Fr. Stephen Callos, Dean of Sts Constantine & Helen Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio who was making his third visit.
Fr. Andrew and Pat at Heathrow Airport in London waiting for the change over flight to Calcutta.
Transportation from the airport to Calcutta crossing the Hugli River, a tributary of the Ganges.
Downtown Calcutta traffic.
The Church of the Transfiguration was built by the Greek merchants in Calcutta in 1924, and is located in an area called Kalighat, named after the goddess Kali whose greatest temple is less than 500 yards from the Church. The Church building is certainly impressive in its grandeur and in its Doric style.
The interior is decorated with silver liturgical objects, marble floors and altar table. The throne and ambon are carved from wood, with the back of the ambon bearing the inscription : "We preach Christ crucified".
The Church is located at the end of the trolley line so it has become a meeting place for a variety of transportation vehicles.
The public English school uses the Church facilities to hold class. Here is a class of children with their teacher learning English.
Each Monday 1000 poor people receive rice, and other staples given out by Indian clergy. Pat Harrison is helping with the distribution. This program is funded by 50% from your charitable donations and 50% by the Indian government.
Examples of those helped by this food distribution program.
Examples of those helped by this food distribution program.
Examples of those helped by this food distribution program.
Each day up to 300 street children line up to receive milk and enriched biscuits.
This program is funded through the IOCC - International Orthodox Christian Charities.
Fr. Andrew and Fr. Stephen traveled on a 4 hour road trip to the small farming village of Akhina. Here they are crossing the Hugli River.
Passing road traffic. Notice that the car is on are the right side of the road.
Passing more road traffic.
A large rural town were they stopped for a coke.
Downtown Akhina - Akhina is not shown on any map. This is a small farming village.
The phone booth in Akina where Fr. Andrew called Fr. Sloan to tell him that he and Pat were fine and all was going well on the Mission program. The photo also shows their expert driver who, according to Fr. Andrew, is the best driver he has ever ridden with.
A modest home in Akhina. Notice the hammer and sickle. The government in West Bengal is Communist.
A luxury home in Akhina.
The dedication stone at St. Nektarious Church which is built a mile from Akhina.
The church and guest house are enclosed in a walled compound. This was the location of the three 6 day seminars to which Fr. Stephen and Fr. Andrew were the invited instructors. Other instructors were local clergy. 455 newly baptized Orthodox Christians attended and were taught the creed and the life of Christ. A class on AIDS prevention was also taught by a village doctor. The compound is also used as a clinic for village people of all faiths.
Notice the tents in the rear of the compound. This were the sleeping quarters for the men. The women stayed in the guest house.
Soccer game which is called football in India. Time was set aside for recreation during the week long seminar. Several other games were played by both children and young men.
Inside the men's tent.
All the food for the week was cooked by a staff of hired cooks.
Fr. Andrew trying local cuisine. According to practice this is eaten by hand. No utensils. The meals for Fr. Andrew and Fr. Stephen were cooked by women who had a knowledge of American tastes and standards. Both Fr. Stephen and Fr. Andrew felt they were putting on weight because of the excellent food but in reality their weight remained the same because of the vegetarian diet and small amount of meat and fish.
Fr. Andrew and Fr. Stephen seated for lunch. Excellent meals were prepared for American tastes by women cooks who were careful not to make it too spicy Fr. Andrew was complaining it was two bland. He learned a sentence in Bangli "I love hot peppers" The women accommodated him with a dish which made his eyes tear.
Rupa with her two children. Rupa was one of the cooks and housekeepers. Notice the beautiful blue sari she is wearing. Fr. Andrew commented on the rich colors and beautiful S aris the women wear. This is in stark contrast to the poor living conditions which is seen both in the city of Calcutta and in the farm country.
Included in the training seminars was a program for Catecists. A Catectist is a trained laymen who teaches the faith to those who show interest. Fr. Stephen and Fr. Andrew answered their questions so that they could be more direct in presenting the faith.
Metropolitan Nikitas of Hong Kong paid a visit to Akhina. This has been his practice over the past 12 years of the seminars. He described his diocese as having the largest human population and the smallest number of Orthodox Christians. He would like to start churches in Singapore and Thailand and he has a group of Pakistani Christians who would like to be received into the Orthodox Church. The Indian Orthodox Church now has 10 priests, 2 deacons with about 5000 members.www.OMHKSEA.org - Website for Metropolitan Nikitas
Fr. Andrew is teaching a lesson on the Creed using a sound system. The second Indian, Fr. Andrew, is translating the lesson into Bengali language. All the services are held in Bengali with a distinctive native chant which they have developed.
This picture was taken in the evening at the question and answer period. Dinner followed at about 9 PM. It is their custom to eat an early breakfast, lunch at 1:30 PM and dinner after 9 PM.
Fr. Stephen and Fr. Andrew among the largest group who attended the six day seminar.
Fr. Andrew with children holding icons which were given to them as gifts.
The electricity would fail many times a day. To compensate for this a small portable generator was used so the seminars could continue. Without fans it would be impossible to continue during the day with 90 degree temperature and 100 percent humidity. At night a fan is also a necessity.
This is the place for cremation. Notice the stack of wood prepared for a cremation which is a Hindu practice. This is an issue for Christians who bury their dead. There is a concern that non-Christian family members would cremate their Christian family members.
Women collecting cow manure to be dried and used for cooking fuel.
The Orthodox Church in India runs an extensive philanthropic program. This includes a girls orphanage, houses for the poor and medical / dental clinic. A vocational school and school for the blind are under construction.
The Orphanage building. Matushka Pat Harrison who was renamed Sister Pat by the orphanage children did her philanthropic activity with 183 girls of mostly the Hindu faith. Some are orphaned but most have relatives who are not able to care for them. Young girls are not held in high esteem in Indian society. A small number have decided to become Orthodox Christians but this is not encouraged due to government regulations.
The girls awake at 5:30 AM and have morning prayers before breakfast. They are bussed to local schools. Here they are being loaded on a bus dressed in uniforms according to the school they attend.
Sister Pat is helping with the morning activities. The girls will return from school at 4 PM, receive a snack and have recreation until 5 PM. Homework time is from 5 to 8. At 8 PM they have their evening meal and evening prayers. There is a small staff of 15 people which include teachers, house mothers, cooks, house keepers, and gardeners.
View of the orphanage Church with guest house behind.
Fr. Andrew was able to return to Calcutta from Akhina on one weekend to serve the liturgy at the orphanage. He served in English and the girls responded both in English and Bengali. Pat gave choir lessons and taught the girls how to sing the Troparion for the Nativity of the Virgin and Exaltation of the Cross in English using Slavic tones. There is a need to learn Orthodox music traditions.
Fr. Andrew giving communion to the Orthodox Girls who sing in the choir. Notice everyone is bare footed including Fr. Andrew. This is an Indian traditional way of worship.
The kitchen at the orphanage, Pictured is the cook (Makulica) who prepared the meals for Sister Pat. The cooks commented that she ate like a bird -- small portions.
The new Vocational School under construction. The girls need vocational skills to survive in Indian society. Instructions in computer and tailoring are among the skills which will be taught.
School for the Blind under construction. This building will house a cooperative program with an international Christian blind organization. The Philanthropic Society provides the building and they will operate the school.
A highlight for the of mission team was the entertainment program presented by the girls. This included dancing, poetry reading, singing and acting in English, Bengali and Hindi languages. Hindi is one of the spoken languages in India. Both the TV and movies are presented in Hindi. The girls are very talented and have no problem performing before an audience.
This dinner was given as a special gift from Metropolitan Nikitas to local clergy and the mission team. Seated at the head of the table is Fr. Emmanuel Lillios, an American, who is the newly assigned director of the Philanthropic program. Fr. Ignatios Sennis (To view his article on "Orthodoxy in India Today" Click Here) who has been the director and force behind the tremendous expansion in the past 13 years was not able to renew his visa and return to India. There is a hope that with the new government this problem will be taken care of. Two women will be coming on a long term missions to help at the orphanage.
The Mission team took the Indian clergy and staff out to dinner as their gift for the excellent hospitality they provided. For some this was the first time they had dinner in a restaurant. The average Indian salary does not allow for this luxury.
On the day before leaving there was some time to see the sights in Calcutta and do some shopping. In the background is the memorial to Queen Victoria. The building houses historical treasures from the colonial British period and of the uprising for independence. Raphael, our escort, is a member of the administrative staff who all received Christian names after Angels.
Fr. Stephen, Pat and Raphael touring the Queen Victoria memorial
Fr. Andrew had an opportunity to see a real Bollywood movie with Raphael and Cherubim. Bollywood movies are produced in India and have a special cultural character which cannot be explained. You have to see one to understand. The movie was in the Hindi language. Fr. Andrew could make out most of the plot but was given help by Raphael and Cherubim.
Boarding the plane to return to America. The flight takes 18 hours with a brief lay over in London. Each year the OCMC has to find priests who are willing to go to India for a month. Fr. Stephen has gone three times. This should be a popular program with Priests lining up to go. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn about grass roots missionary work. Fr. Andrew could see examples of the New Testament church and the activity of the Holy Spirit. He said it was like entering the pages of the book of Acts and the epistles of St. Paul. The new Indian Orthodox church needs our prayers and support but we need their prayers more.
Metropolitan Theodosius Attends Vesper Service At St. Luke
As part of our 20th Anniversary Celebration His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius graciously agreed to attend our evening Vesper Service. Here we see Father Andrew And Pat greet him as he enters the church.
His Beatitude makes a candle offering.
Scene from the service.
Scene from the service.
Choir sings the hymns for the service.
Some of our readers chant during the service.
His Beatitude leads a procession to bless our newly finished memorial brick garden.
His Beatitude bless the bricks with a prayer.
Holy water is sprinkled on the bricks.
Altar Servers assist at the blessing..
Following the service, parishioners greet His Beatitude and venerate the Cross.
His Beatitude enjoys refreshments and fellowship with some of the parishioners following the service.
Dinner With Metropolitan Theodosius
Upon his arrival, several members of the St. Luke Parish Council took His Beatitude to dinner at The Stonecutters Restaurant in Lemont to welcome him and thank him for sharing our 20th Anniversary with us.
His Beatitude and members of the council gather for dinner.
Scene from the dinner with His Beatitude.
Brick Memorial Completed
The first stage of the memorial brick garden from the "buy a brick" program is now completed. Here we see the shape of the brickwork.
This close up shows some of the inscribed bricks that were purchased by individuals. Hopefully we will continue to add new bricks as donations come in and eventually provide a brick walkway encircling the building.
Clergy Area Remodel Completed
At long last the remodeling of the clergy area is all but complete. Here we see the sacristy area next to the altar. It was been repainted, refloored, and has a new light fixture.
This photo shows the hallway and stairs leading to the old basement. The walls have been opened up and it now functions to provide some needed storage area for things like the baptismal font.
The old kitchen area has been completely redone, adding cabinets, table and chairs, new ceiling and light fixtures including a fan. The walls are now insulated and the area has it's own heating system. One of the bathrooms has been completely redone while the other has been turned into a walkin closet for vestments. Our thanks go out to all those who worked so hard and donated their time and money to this project.
Work Begins On Memorial Brick Garden
Work began today on the memorial brick garden. Work will be completed by the weekend. Inscribed bricks will be placed with messages from those who purchased bricks thru the Buy a Brick Program. This garden and walkway will continue to grow as more bricks are donated.
Children's Sermon On India And Jesus Christ As The One God
This month Father Andrew spoke to the children about his recent mission to India. He explained that although there is only One God, Jesus Christ many in India believe in multiple gods. There is even a god for mechanical things. He told then that this was one of the reasons he went to India so that he could teach about Jesus. He told them that Jesus Christ wants missionaries to tell those who believe in many false gods about the one true God.
He showed the children a simple plate and cup and explained that these were for fancy occasions and that they didn't use eating utensils but ate with their hands.
Next he told them that paper products were very expensive in India, so instead of using paper plates they used plates that were made from leaves. Here we see him showing the children one of the plates. He went on to tell them that in India the people pray in the schools and on the street and in the taxi cabs. They are very poor in material things but have a rich spiritual nature. Father Andrew told the children that the Indian Orthodox Christians are praying for us so that we will be strong in the faith and not be distracted from God by all of the material things we have and ask us to pray for them so they will not be persecuted and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will spread in India.