His Grace Bishop Daniel visited our mission parish in the southwestern part of the country in New Mexico, on the weekend of June 19-21. That mission parish, St Anthony of the Desert in Las Cruces, was started by father Gabriel Rochelle and Pani-Matka Susan. A few years ago Father Gabriel and Pani-Matka Susan moved to New Mexico and started to look for ways to bring (the Word of God) Faith of God to people. He started to put information on the radio and internet. Fr. Gabriel and his wife put signs on streets and in stores, and called people’s homes and try to reach them with God’s commandments. When father Gabriel was calling to people’s home’s and tried to talk about the church, some people were uninterested for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately a lot of people do not pay any attention on the church. They don’t care about spiritual life or about God’s teaching. On the other hand, the area is almost completely without knowledge or awareness of the Orthodox Church and its tradition, so one must educate as well as inform people. Even many of those who come from Orthodox backgrounds have been apart from the church for so long that they do not appear to be interested.
The first Divine Liturgy Father Gabriel served was in his own house. There were four parishioners in his first Divine liturgy in new mission parish in New Mexico, held two weeks after they arrived. Later father asked the parishioners to come and join the Saturday and on Sunday services in his house with their friends. In New Mexico there are a lot of different churches, Father Gabriel has parishioners from some of the local churches who came to the mission church and felt at home. The mission is like one family, even if they are from different countries. When the number of parishioners increased, they decided to rent the chapel of St Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Later the congregation decided to name the mission St. Anthony of the Desert Orthodox Mission.
Father Gabriel and all the parishioners were glad to have Bishop Daniel visit the mission parish in New Mexico. All the parishioners had a chance to meet Bishop Daniel and to have conversations with him. On Friday Bishop Daniel met the parish board. On Saturday evening, Bishop Daniel was present at the Vespers and after Vespers all parishioners had a chance to meet Bishop Daniel and give him questions. Bishop Daniel gave answers on every question parishioners gave him. Bishop Daniel talked to parishioners how our church is doing here in the USA and what helps church to run.
On Sunday morning on the beginning of the Divine Liturgy Father Gabriel and Council President Kristi Macrina Quintana greeted Bishop Daniel at the entrance to the Church with gifts of salt and bread. After the greeting Bishop Daniel served the Divine Liturgy with Fr Gabriel and Hieromonk Joshua. His Grace gave the homily after the Gospel reading. He was sharing the word of God and He was telling about life, the impact of the saints and their relationship to our life. When Bishop Daniel finished serving Divine Liturgy he gave small icons to everyone present at the Divine Liturgy, who had came to listen to the word of God and participate in the sacrament.
After the Liturgy Bishop Daniel had coffee with all people who were present, and they had the chance for another question and answer session. It was interesting to visit our mission parish. All the parishioners welcomed us warmly and they were happy to see their new Bishop in their parish. We could see and feel that this mission parish is full of Christian love.
Seminarian Vasyl Dovgan