Dear 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.
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.