The Ritsi Family at St. Herman’s

19952487123_ec953d3836Dear friends and family of St. Herman’s, we have the unique blessing this week of hosting Fr. Dcn. Stephanos and Alexandria Ritsi on Wednesday night. Dcn. Stephanos and his family are currently serving as full-time missionaries to Albania through the Assembly of Bishop’s mission organization, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). The explosive Church growth which is taking place in Albania remains a remarkable example of the power of the Gospel to transform a whole people in the modern world. Much like the renewal taking place in Russia, the Orthodox Church in Albania opens up new churches almost weekly. At this Wednesday night’s class we will have the opportunity to hear about this incredible work first-hand from the Ritsi family. Please join us in welcoming them to our community this Wednesday night, starting with Vespers at 6:00 p.m. Attached is a short bio of Dcn. Stephanos and Diakonissa Alexandria from the OCMC’s website.

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Dn. Stephanos Ritsi, son of Father Martin & Presvytera Renee, grew up in the mission fields of Kenya and Albania for ten years. Upon arriving back in the United States the Ritsi family moved to Saint Augustine, Florida. Dn. Stephanos attended his last years of middle school, and high school in Saint Augustine. He then got his Bachelors degree in Political Science from the University of Florida (Go Gators). In 2006, Dn. Stephanos went on a Short Term Missions team to Kenya. On this trip he realized that he was called to become a long term missionary. He applied to Holy Cross School of Theology to prepare himself for missionary service and recently graduated with a Masters of Divinity and a certificate from the Boston Theological Institute in Missions and Ecumenism.

Dkn. Alexandria Ritsi, daughter of Louis and Valerie Polychronopoulos, grew up in a south suburb of Chicago and attended Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Palos Hills. She has lived in Chicago all of her life and was very active in her Church community and youth groups. Growing up, Dkn. Alexandria knew she wanted to serve the Church and be a teacher. Dkn. Alexandria went to Hellenic College and while a student there, learned about the missionary ethos of the Orthodox Church. Through experience in Mission Classes offered at Hellenic College, Dkn. Alexandria realized her vocation in becoming a missionary.

Dn. Stephanos and Dkn. Alexandria met at Holy Cross/Hellenic College in 2008. They were very active in teaching Sunday School and leading retreats serving at Fr. Luke Veronis’ Parish of Sts. Constantine and Helen in Webster, Massachusetts.

Together, Dn. Stephanos and Dkn. Alexandria, have traveled to Kenya on OCMC missions teams in 2010 and 2011 to help prepare themselves to become missionaries.
Dn. Stephanos and Dkn. Alexandria were engaged in Yosemite, California in 2009 and married in Saint Augustine, Florida in 2010.

Dn. Stephanos & Dkn. Alexandria arrived in Albania as long term missionaries in April of 2013. Since arriving in Albania, Dn. Stephanos and Dkn. Alexandria have been learning about the Albanian culture and have been studying the Albanian language. Dn. Stephanos works at the Young Adult Office in the Orthodox Church. He leads Bible Studies, Young Adult Meetings, and teaches at the Resurrection of Christ Theological Academy. Dkn. Alexandria works at the Protagonist School. She teaches 6th grade English, Catechism and Character Education. On January 22, 2014 Stephanos was ordained to the Diaconate by His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios.

Dn. Stephanos and Dkn. Alexandria look forward to many years serving in Albania.

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On the Daily Life of an Orthodox Christian

Trip 1 536 copyThe following is a helpful picture of what the daily life of an Orthodox Christian has looked like over the last 20 centuries. It’s a short, simple meditation on the topic by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick whose podcast we have been listening to. Although the Orthodox life cannot be reduced to a list of minimum requirements, in the busyness of our modern lives a few simple guidelines like these can be really helpful. Enjoy!

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The normal Orthodox Christian—who is living according to the norms of the Orthodox faith—will be doing the following (this is not an exhaustive list, nor is this in order of priority):

1. Participating in church services as often as possible.

Attendance at every Sunday morning liturgy is a minimal baseline for worship life—in most cases, it is not enough. And participation doesn’t just mean attendance, but engagement, whether silently and attentively, singing along, making the Sign of the Cross, etc.

2. Prayer at home every day.

Ideally, at least morning and evening prayer, as well as prayer over meals. It is especially important for husbands and wives to pray together regularly and for parents to pray with their children. This will include reading Scripture, too, especially Scripture that is prayer, such as the Psalms.

3. Receiving the sacraments.

This isn’t just communion and confession, but also holy unction (when sick), marriage (in the Church, not outside!), baptism and chrismation (for you and your children), and even considering whether you or one of the men of your family should think about ordination.

4. Avoiding immorality.

What we do with our bodies, minds and words has an effect on our salvation. Use them for good, not for evil. Seek to serve rather than to be served.

5. Fasting according to Church tradition.

Your father-confessor will help to apply the fasting traditions of the Church for you and your family. We fast on most Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as during the four major fasting seasons (Great Lent, the Apostles Fast, the Dormition Fast and the Nativity Fast).

6. Confession.

The sacrament of confession is critical to our repentance. We should go at least once during each of the four fasting seasons but also whenever there is a need, especially a sin that disrupts your peace.

7. Getting spiritual advice.

This often happens in confession, but your father-confessor is there for you at other times, too. He’s a resource you should utilize frequently.

8. Tithing.

Giving 10% of your income back to God (it is His gift to you!) is a Biblical standard that Orthodox Christians should embrace. If you’re not ready for 10% yet, choose another percentage and be disciplined about it, working toward 10%. If you’re able to give more than 10%, do so. Don’t “give until it hurts”—give until it feels good! Giving our money to God in worship (not because we need to meet a budget) is one part of what it means to give Him everything about ourselves so that it can be healed. (Is tithing Orthodox? Yes! It’s mentioned in the Fathers many times, but here’s the kicker–the Fathers usually say that Christians should exceed the tithe expected by the Old Covenant.)

9. Almsgiving.

This is directly aiding someone in need. It might be monetary, but it also might be with your labor, your encouragement or even just your attitude.

10. Education.

We seek a deeper understanding of our faith not only so that we can know what our piety means but so that we give even our minds to God for His healing and transformation. Our whole intellect should be engaged in Christ—whether through spiritual reading, classes or some other form of education. Knowing and understanding the Scripture should be at the top of our educational efforts.

11. Sharing the faith.

If you’re grateful for the salvation God has given you, you will want to share it with others.

12. Going on pilgrimage.

It’s a journey with a holy purpose. Common destinations include monasteries and important shrines.