Christ is risen!
We pray that this finds you all well in blessed this Paschal season. A lot has happened since our last newsletter and we hope to catch you all up.
Mission Trip to Albania with OCMC
In March, we served a 10-Day OCMC Missions Trip to Albania, and we’d like to thank you for your prayers and support which helped us to get there! This was our first ever formal mission trip with OCMC. We learned so much about Albania, the culture, and we left with new friends and a promise to return soon.
Our missions team was lead by full-time missionary, Dn. Stephanos Ritsi, and was comprised of us as well as our very own Matushka Wendy Cwiklinski! This speaks volumes for the continued involvement of the Orthodox community in San Diego with the Albanian Mission field, and we pray that this relationship continues.
We spent Friday through Monday in Tirana, preparing and briefing for the week, meeting with the Youth/Young Adult leaders. After the Liturgy on Sunday, we met with the young adults and Matushka Wendy gave a presentation on personal prayer.
On Tuesday, we visited the MacDonald OCMC Missionary family. Then, after Pre-Sanctified Liturgy at Shen Vlash (St. Vlassios) Monastery, Josef gave a talk to the seminarians about Fasting and Asceticism in daily life.
Throughout the week we visited different ministries of the church in and around Tirana including Tabor: the Byzantine Music School and the Home of Hope orphanage. We also went on day-trips with the Young Adults to the National Gallery, hiked to a castle and a church - built in the the medieval period - and attended church services.
On Friday, we had the great blessing to sit and speak with His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios after the Salutations at the Resurrection Cathedral. He remembered us from our last visit and we spoke both in Greek and in English. He asked about our studies and gave us books to help with our research.
Saturday was the first big Youth Conference in Berat, about 2 hours South of Tirana. After morning prayers at St. Dimitrios Cathedral, Matushka Wendy gave a sermon on The Cross, followed by discussion groups. With the youth, we hiked to different pilgrimage sites in the city, had lunch and Albanian dancing, then ended the evening at the mountain-top castle where Matushka Wendy gave a closing address about the Cross in each of our lives.
We wrapped up our week with the second Youth Conference at the Monastery of St. John Vladimir where we had a full-day of activities and prayer. We gave our conversion stories, Josef talked about the religious culture in America, and Matushka Wendy told the story of how the Troparion of the Cross helped start a friendship between her grandfather and an Ottoman guard in Lebanon.
It was such a blessed learning experience! We are considering returning in June to help out with a summer camp.
Holy Week & Pascha
Euphrosini spent Lazarus Saturday through Holy Tuesday at the monastery at Ormylia where she continued to bond with the nuns and helped them dye over 6000 Pascha eggs! Josef stayed in Thessaloniki and helped chant at nearly every service. It’s astonishing how packed the churches get for every single service here in Greece during Holy Week.