Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I trust and pray you are well. The recent months behind us, and the time ahead has been, and certainly will be full of challenges and opportunities to seek out, participate in, and extend God’s mercies. I do not know of anyone that has not been touched in some way by either the physical or economic impact of the pandemic. Of course, I believe that we are also spiritually impacted by the recent circumstances our world finds itself in right now. This is obvious and painful.
Thankfully, there are in people dedicated completely to the welfare, betterment, dignity, comfort and protection of God’s precious children. Yes, indeed, the literal children – the vulnerable, little ones. But ALL his children who suffer, are in want, face crisis, have been displaced, lack basic needs, or find themselves lost in any way. For our Archdiocese, this group of protectors, sustainers, comforters and providers is the National Philoptochos Society, and by extension, parish-based women’s philanthropy groups, such as our Women’s Ministry Team.
The Philoptochos (literally translated as “Friends of the Poor”) is actually the second largest women’s auxiliary group in America. Our former Archbishop Michael established the Philoptochos to be the charitable arm of the church. Just like individual Greek Orthodox parishes, the Philoptochos is made up of chartered organizations based in local parishes. Philoptochos operates on the local, Metropolis and Archdiocese levels, just like the Archdiocese itself. They have their own governing body, organization, physical headquarters and system.
They are a unique ministry under the umbrella of our National Church.
As our parish is newly-established, and have only received our charter as a parish in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America this past summer, we have yet to take the formal steps of maturing our Women’s Ministry Team into a Philoptochos Chapter. This will take time. Such transitions, while eventual and necessary, take time, sensitivity, education and conscious effort. No doubt, us being largely apart still, due to coronavirus, has dampened the efforts to work towards such a lofty goal.
I can say without reservation, that the most important, energizing, Christ-centered and pure work of the church in America, coupled with our liturgical life, is the work that these thousands of dedicated women work towards and provide. Without a doubt, and above the call, the ladies of our Women’s Ministry Team are included.
I bring this up on this day, as tomorrow, Sunday November 1, 2020 is the Feast Day of Saints Cosmas and Damian, two twin-brother physicians who dedicated their lives to healing for the sake of glorifying God and comforting His children. I have included within the body of this writing, an Encyclical from His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, as these saints are the patron saints of Philoptochos and by extension, our Women’s Ministry Team. Please prayerfully read his words and contemplate his message…
Feast of the Holy Unmercenaries, Saints Cosmas and Damian November 1, 2020
Πορευόµενοι δὲ κηρύσσετε λέγοντες ὅτι ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. Ἀσθενοῦντας θεραπεύετε, λεπροὺς καθαρίζετε, νεκροὺς ἐγείρετε, δαιµόνια ἐκβάλλετε· δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε.
And as you go, proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand! Cure the infirm, cleanse and restore the lepers, raise up the dead, cast out demons. Generously you have received, generously give.
– (Matthew 10:7-8)
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America, Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today we commemorate the Holy Unmercenaries, Cosmas and Damian – patrons of our National Philoptochos. These physician Saints are called Ἀνάργυροι – “renouncers of silver,” because they applied their healing arts without ever accepting payment of any kind. Theirs was a health care system that treated the whole person: body, mind, heart, and spirit.
Their ministry was based above all in love, and love was always their motivation. How appropriate it is that these brothers are the Heavenly Patrons of our National Philoptochos, for the Philoptochos is above all else a sisterhood of love – love for the poor, whether that poverty is economic, emotional, or spiritual.
Therefore, on this Sunday when we celebrate these wondrous Saints, our National Philoptochos has dedicated their collections that are being taken across the Archdiocese for the needs and the support of the benevolent and philanthropic ministries of our Mother Church of Constantinople.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate provides concrete services to orphans and the poor at the Baloukli Hospital and Senior Center. When you offer generously, I pray that each of you offer as to your own mother, with an intention to be of the most help possible. We depend on our National Ladies Philoptochos Society and local Philoptochos chapters for this special offering, and they deserve all our gratitude.
Especially in the time of the pandemic, the needs are great and conditions are challenging. Your generosity is a proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven has arrived, has come unto the world. For the Lord said that the ministries of healing recognize the gift of God that we have all received, and thus we can give to others.
Thank you for your love for our Holy Mother Church, and on behalf of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, I express the deep gratitude of the Great Church of Christ for the ongoing support of the Ladies Philoptochos Society and the faithful of our Holy Archdiocese for these precious ministries.
With paternal love in our Lord Jesus Christ,
† ELPIDOPHOROS Archbishop of America
As we do not have a tradition of “passing trays” on Sundays, I ask that if you feel compelled to participate in such an opportunity of giving, please send your donations to St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church, earmarked for Philoptochos, and we will supplement, and forward donations taken from our community.
This also gives me the opportunity to thank our St. Anna’s Women’s Ministry Team, especially through our co-presidents Beverly Bartel and Joanne Dokos for the countless hours they all dedicate to the principals and actions of their precious and philanthropic work. The ladies of our WMT are gems in the crown that is our parish.
May the Feast of the Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian be an inspiration to us all.
May the work of our Women’s Ministry Team continue to be blessed, especially in times of great need, and while great limitations are placed on their efforts to gather, raise funds and work.
May our national organizations, especially those solely dedicated to philanthropic (philanthropy – literally translated as “friends of mankind”) work and Philoptochos specifically, find the support necessary to continue their mission.
May we all continue to navigate these days with faith, vision, trust, hope and joy. I love and miss you all tremendously. I remain,
With Love in XC,
Fr. Anthony Savas