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Las Cruces, NM: St. Antony of the Desert Mission Celebrates the 10thAnniversary, While Planning the New Year of Ministry in the Risen Lord

His Eminence Archbishop DANIEL arrived in Las Cruces, NM on Friday April 20th, accompanied by seminarian of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary Subdeacon Yurii Bobko. 

On Saturday morning April 21st, members of St. Anthony of the Desert Mission engaged in an informal conversation with His Eminence over coffee and scones.  Twelve people attended for a wide-ranging conversation about spiritual growth, issues of mobility in our society, the environment, and the difficulties involved in living the Christian life today.

On Saturday afternoon, His Eminence was involved in individual conversations with members of the parish who are interested in pursuing ordination, seminary education, and iconography.  His Eminence also had a personal audience with the newest member of the parish, Karis Nina Funk, who was Chrismated at Pascha.  Fr Gabriel showed Subdeacon Yurii around the area during those private conversations.

St. Anthony of the Desert Mission has had a rich history of service in the first decade of its existence.  Three readers, three subdeacons, and two deacons have served the parish along with Fr. Gabriel.  Two of the readers and two of the subdeacons have moved elsewhere, and our beloved Deacon David Mascarenas reposed in December 2015.  Throughout the years, however, since early after the mission began, we have always had additional liturgical assistance.  One of those subdeacons is now Fr. Theophan Mackey of St Job of Pochaiv, our UOC mission parish in Los Alamos NM.  We anticipate more entrants into the pastoral ministry in the near future.

On Saturday evening, Fr. Gabriel and Deacon Ted Brinegar served Great Vespers, at the conclusion of which His Eminence spoke on the significance of women in the church, in connection with the commemoration of the Holy Myrrhbearers, and on the Chornobyl Icon of Christ, which was brought to the Mission by Archbishop Daniel in anticipation of the 31stanniversary of the nuclear disaster. 

Following Vespers, the forty people in attendance gathered for a typical New Mexican dinner catered by a local restaurant.

On Sunday morning the 22nd, following the 9thhour, His Eminence was greeted formally by Fr Gabriel and Reader Blake Davenport who also serves as chairman of the parish council.  Reader Blake offered words of welcome and presented Archbishop DANIEL with a festive bread baked by Anne Calcote, a new member of the parish.  Fr Gabriel also presented His Eminence with a copy of the late Deacon David’s book, The Diaconate in Christ, which Fr Gabriel led into publication after Deacon David reposed.

His Eminence then tonsured Parish member and seminarian Joseph Clint Kifolo as reader and subdeacon.  Though he lives momentarily in Arizona, he and his wife Marilyn will move back to Las Cruces this summer as he resumes work as executive chef of the dining facilities at New Mexico State University.

Vladyka Daniel then served the Divine Liturgy with assistance from Fr. Gabriel and Deacon Ted Brinegar, the two subdeacons and altar server Charles Davenport. Forty-eight people were in attendance to hear Vladyka’s sermon.  He stressed that sometimes tradition is followed without understanding the background of struggle and martyrdom that underlies much of our tradition.  Courage is needed to live the faithful life in Christ, such as was shown by the Holy Myrrhbearers and by the twenty-one young Libyan martyrs of only a few years ago.  In our day we need to have courage even to claim our heritage at Christmas and Pascha. Vladyka stressed that we must not be closet Christians!  We must come out and stand for Christ in the beauty of holiness, as did the Holy Myrrhbearers.

At the conclusion of the service Vladyka gave credit to the choir, under the leadership of Justin Harper.  The choir has grown over the last few years from two stalwart singers – Pani Susan and Elizabeth Davies – to eight or nine members every Sunday. 

Vladyka Daniel then served the Divine Liturgy with assistance from Fr. Gabriel and Deacon Ted Brinegar, the two subdeacons and altar server Charles Davenport. Forty-eight people were in attendance to hear Vladyka’s sermon.  He stressed that sometimes tradition is followed without understanding the background of struggle and martyrdom that underlies much of our tradition.  Courage is needed to live the faithful life in Christ, such as was shown by the Holy Myrrhbearers and by the twenty-one young Libyan martyrs of only a few years ago.  In our day we need to have courage even to claim our heritage at Christmas and Pascha. Vladyka stressed that we must not be closet Christians!  We must come out and stand for Christ in the beauty of holiness, as did the Holy Myrrhbearers.

At the conclusion of the service Vladyka gave credit to the choir, under the leadership of Justin Harper.  The choir has grown over the last few years from two stalwart singers – Pani Susan and Elizabeth Davies – to eight or nine members every Sunday. 

The festive potluck followed the Divine Liturgy.  Many homemade breads, cakes, cookies and cheesecake accompanied the salads, vegetables, and meat dishes.

At the conclusion of the visit on Sunday evening, Vladyka met with the parish council and spouses over dinner served at the home of Blake and Louiza Davenport and their four children.  During this meeting a number of important council issues were discussed with input and advice from His Eminence.

St Anthony of the Desert mission has grown, despite mobility in and out of the parish, to sixty members, of whom over a quarter are children.  Thirty-six people, mostly adults, have been baptized and/or chrismated over the decade of the parish’s life.  There are ten cradle Orthodox members, but the parish is mostly made up of converts.  The parish is full of joy and energy in the Spirit and reaches out in a number of ways to the community of Las Cruces.  Fr. Gabriel has recently begun ministering at the State Prison in the area, teaching Greek to prisoners who want to learn how to read the New Testament in the original language.

Archbishop Daniel Visits St. Anthony of the Desert Mission - 04/23/18

Text by Fr. Gabriel Rochelle

Photos by Subdeacon Yurii Bobko

(71 images)


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