Dear brothers and sisters,

   Taking this opportunity, I would like to wish us a peaceful and spiritually beneficial journey through Great Lent.

   This last month was a very busy one with many events. We were blessed to greet the Myrrh-Streaming Icon of the Mother of God “Softener of Evil Hearts,” we had our annual Parish meeting, we held our first fundraising concert of the year dedicated to Sergei Rachmaninoff, and our Parish Feast Day celebration with Archbishop Benjamin’s visit. All that was successful because of everyone's help and selfless dedication to our God-beloved parish. Thank you.

   As we begin our Great Lenten journey, I want to encourage you to take advantage of our Liturgical services as traditionally in our parish we will serve the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts on Wednesday and Friday of each week, and some other services in addition to our schedule. All these services like Great Lenten Hours, molebens, panikhidas, and akathists are very beneficial for our souls, which are longing for spiritual nourishment.

   Specifically I’d like to draw your attention, and again and again invite you to participate in Saturday night Vigils that introduce us to the profound spiritual meaning of the Sunday to come.

   Dear brothers and sisters, we are called to regain the image of God so generously given to us at the time of creation. On the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Holy Scripture reminded us of the way this can be done, that is, by repentance. The Holy Church teaches us that during the Lenten period we should intensify our spiritual life, don’t waste time, and make that turn towards our heavenly Father through self-examination and the sacrament of Holy Confession.  I’d like to ask you to follow the teaching of the Church and take advantage of this sacramental life by participating in the Sacraments of Holy Confession and the reception of the Holy Eucharist. 

   Regarding daily life, I want all of us to welcome our newly elected Parish Council members: Alla Bobrova, Marie McEntire, John Sessoyeff, Margaret Dascalu, Liana Vertelkina, Josephine Lazarides, Lee Ashby, Cornel Dascalu, Zoe Turton, Subdeacon Andrey Aristov, Ryan Weldzius, Ann Chach, Mark Moya, Jonathan Wang, and Chris Plourde. All Parish Council members will be chairing different committees. These committees spearhead our daily parish life and make sure that our parish develops, grows and moves towards the future. 

   Please join our committees. I know we have many talented people and I understand that all of you have limited time, but I’m also sure of each of us shares little bit of time for the sake of the growth of our parish spiritual home that is Holy Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Cathedral.  Its mission will succeed when we all participate in God’s work on earth.

   During our annual parish meeting we again talked about the financial situation of our parish and some decisions were made. Those decisions aimed to improve our current situation and to become better stewards of our assets and resources. We voted to increase our annual contribution (membership dues) from $300 per year to $500 per year. And even though this number seems high, I ask you to understand that it’s only $1.37 per day or $9.62 per week, which is not so high.

   All your donations though the year - be it $5 in cash (if it’s placed in the envelope and marked with your name), $10 given as a check, or any other amount placed on your credit/debit card - will be counted as your contribution towards parish membership. All your donations (except donations to special projects) will be counted as your sacrificial giving towards the Stewardship of your Church.

   Please read carefully the enclosed pamphlet, fill in the attached card and by doing so help us continue being the Parish where all generations worship together.

   The issue of our existing bulletin was raised at our Parish annual meeting as well. Currently an enormous amount of money is spent on printing and mailing our Parish Leaflet (monthly bulletin).  Throughout one year we are talking about thousands of dollars spent on something that in most cases ends up in the recycling bin. We live in the age of electronic technology, and most of us have mastered the skills to navigate the internet, use our email, and other technological features.  We’d like to limit distribution of our hard copy of the bulletin only to those who absolutely have no other means of receiving our Parish information updates, leaving the general distribution of our mailing on special occasion (such as the Nativity and Pascha issues). For this reason please find attached a coupon that will allow us to update your current status and information and allow us to communicate with you via email or allow you to find all the information provided via our website. In other words, if you absolutely need to receive our monthly bulletin as a hard copy, please kindly fill in the form (coupon) and send it to us. If you are comfortable with receiving it via email, please fill in the coupon with your email. If we don’t receive the coupon from you, a limited edition of hard copies is also available in the church at the candlestand and Parish Hall. We really appreciate your understanding.

   As has already become a tradition, I’d like to inform you that my cell phone and email address remain public. Please do not hesitate to call or share this information, but please try to remember and respect that Monday is my one and only day off. 

   In fact, I would like to ask you to address issues of a more serious nature via telephone or in person. Email or text messages are impersonal and a very utilitarian way of communicating; it is very convenient but (again in my humble opinion) not to be used for spiritual or pastoral issues. The aspect of confidentiality is also is very important and for the most part absent from electronic communication, making it inappropriate for our use.

   This year again I would like to emphasize: The biggest success of last year, in my opinion, is the fact that we moved toward becoming ONE COMMUNITY; we prayed together, even though sometimes it was difficult; we worked together, even though sometimes we did not agree with each other; we thought and worried about OUR PARISH together, even though each of us had his own individual needs and vision for this community. We tried to fulfill the vision of the founders of this parish, the vision of so many truly reverent clergy of this parish, the vision of Orthodoxy, the prayer of Christ: “That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us…” [John 17:21]  

   A great man said: “One who does not respect and cherish history does not have a future.” We live in a country that - at least to my understanding and comparison with other counties I have lived in and visited - very much does remember its past and cultivates respect for its history, and therefore I believe it has a great future.  That is why so many of us chose to live here. The forefathers of this country based their vision on basic Christian values, or at least on their understanding of these values.

   The forefathers and founders of this community left us a great history, they left us not only history, but a roadmap to the future as well. Someone recently asked me if we are an American church. The answer is we are truly an American church. We are the Church with a unique history, traditions and mission; a mission to build Christ's Church in a very unique cultural environment with its own rich heritage, just like America, where many people from different cultures create one great country. We are the parish where people from different generations, cultural backgrounds and races worship together and create one great parish.

   If you read our parish history you will understand this is, and always was, our heritage, our vision, our reality, and by God’s grace it is our future.

   Christian life, brothers and sisters, is a life of self-sacrifice.  Christ is One for all, He is same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

   God grant you all many blessed years in service to His Holy Orthodox Church!

Archpriest Nazari Polataiko