2020- 2021 Sunday School Celebrates a Successful Year
Twenty-five students received promotions certificates this year (fifteen pictured here with their teachers and Fr. Jim). Thank you, parents and teachers! And well done, students!
We are also so grateful for our eleven excellent altar boys (nine pictured here) and our outstanding seminarian, James Babinski, for their faithful and diligent service throughout the "academic year". Thank you!
What a difference a year makes! Thank God, we were able to attend all the services during Lent and Holy Week this year.
A big thank you to all the teachers, parents, and young adults who helped make our 2021 Holy Friday Retreat enjoyable and successful. In particular, I would like to thank our seminarian James Babinski for his excellent instruction (complete with props) on the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, Ellen Georgian for her adept facilitation of the craft and luminary projects, and Juliette Condulis for her assistance throughout the day. I am so happy that the had a wonderful day learning from James and Ellen and learning how to make prosforo – and the hymn “Christ is Risen” – from Fr. Jim.
Also, a big thank you to Chelsea Stratidis Sands and Melissa Kafka for helping with the Easter Egg Hunt this year! It was such a joy to see so many children happily attending the Agape Service, singing Xristos Anesti and then joyfully finding their candy-filled eggs in the beautiful sunshine.
Last but not least, as we finish Sunday School this coming Sunday, June 6, I want thank our amazing group of teachers and assistants for their great dedication and generous stewardship of their time and talent in teaching the youth of St. Sophia!
You all truly rose to the occasion during a year of persistent challenges and changes due to COVID-19 . You were all very kind, patient, understanding, and flexible with the changing of classrooms (we started with tents outside), masks, hand sanitizing, socially distancing the students from each other, etc. You always had the students safety and best interests at heart. Each class had a lead teacher and one assistant and this worked-out perfectly! Our preschool – 1st grade class was taught by Olga Vokolou and assisted by Sophia Anastasiou. Kristen Matsas, along with Effie Papadopoulos, taught the 2d through 5th grade class. Ellen Georgian taught the 6th through 8th graders with Michele Dadiskos Pasieka by her side and Matt and Alaina King taught the High School class. Sophia Matsas graciously accepted the role of Substitute teacher whenever asked, even when it was very short notice! Thank you, also, to JoAnn Ballassi for being our photographer throughout the year. I hope you noticed the beautiful bulletin board JoAnn quietly, lovingly, and humbly created, documenting the various events of the past year.
I am personally very grateful and moved by the faithful, loving, and gracious service of you all.
I sincerely appreciate you, the parents, grandparents and parishioners for your support of our Sunday School program. We say that the children are the future of the church. But that “future” begins now and begins with each and every one of us – regardless of our age – and our own faithfulness and dedication to our Lord and His Church. Sunday School is certainly one important way we can all make a difference. So, again, thank you, thank you, thank you!
I hope some of the ‘extras’ I have included in the newsletter each month have helped a little bit in our journey. As effective as a good Sunday School program is, please remember that the best “foundation” for your child’s spiritual formation is your faithfulness as parents and your leadership in cultivating the “Church of the home.” You can start with something as simple as setting up a small area with icons – even one or two of them is enough – where you can gather together each day to pray. Find a time that works best for your family. You don’t need a lot of time. If you haven’t done this before, start small. Start by dedicating 5-10 minutes a day. You can start with a brief morning or evening prayer of the Church, and then you can go around and invite each family member to pray in their own words
Praying as a family at home, attending services together, receiving the sacraments, going to a priest for pastoral guidance and/or Confession and reading Holy Scripture on a daily basis, and being good stewards of the blessings God has given us, are the key building-blocks of spiritual growth for all people, regardless of our age. And please don’t forget, just because we stop having Sunday School classes in the Summer, doesn’t mean we should stop attending church. Stability is so important in the life of a child – and adults. If we truly want them to be “the future of the church” we have to lead and to set the example and the time for doing so is now.
May God’s abundant blessings be with you and your families!
In His love and service,
MICHAEL PODESZWA NAMED SAINT SOPHIA MINISTRY AWARD RECIPIENT - May 22, 2021
Michael Podeszwa has been a lifelong member of St. Sophia. He graduated from Sunday School with near perfect attendance each year and served as an altar boy under Fr. Charles Simones. He has been a member of the Parish Council for seven years, while serving as President for the past 3 years.
The positive impact of Michael’s faithful and diligent service to Saint Sophia is immeasurable and we, as the parishioners of Saint Sophia, owe him a debt of gratitude. He has helped strengthen and advance Saint Sophia – in the past three years alone – far more than most of us realize. Although his accomplishments are many, we especially thank and honor Michael for the following “big three.”
First, the transition of priests serving a community is difficult for the community under normal circumstances. Michael, working closely and respectfully with our Metropolitan and Chancellor, and the Parish Council, and the interim priest, Fr. George Economou, facilitated a transition of priests, with exceptional patience and love, during a transition that was very challenging. The transition of priests alone is something that can make or break most parishes. Michael’s exceptional faithfulness and skill in this matter alone, has benefitted Saint Sophia immensely.
Second, as President of the Parish Council, Michael chose to put the principles of the Gospel, the Church, and what was best for Saint Sophia, first. While some church leaders are tempted to “take sides” in favor of their personal agendas or certain factions, Michael consistently resisted that temptation and did the right thing by Christ, His Church, and all of the people of Saint Sophia. Although we still have more work to do in this regard, under Michael’s leadership, we learned to treat Saint Sophia as everyone’s Church, not one group’s “club.” We became more Christ-centered, than clan-centered. We worked together to put principles above personalities, speaking the truth in love.
Third, as if his first two accomplishments weren’t enough, Michael skillfully piloted the ship of Saint Sophia during 2020, through the stormy sea of COVID-19. Although we are not quite safely at the shore yet, Michael, together with key leaders on the Parish Council, Fr. Jim, and small group of exceptional volunteers, prevented the worst from happening. We had no known COVID illness at Saint Sophia.
In addition, Michael was a key person in preventing the “financial shipwreck” of Saint Sophia both prior to, and during, the storm of COVID-19. In 2019 and 2020, Saint Sophia’s stewardship gifts grew significantly. Nevertheless, the Parish Council cut approximately $23,000 from the parish’s annual operating expenses in 2019 and an additional $20,000 in 2020. Furthermore, with Michael’s leadership, the parish received approximately $35,000 grants from the federal government (in the form of PPP grants) and was able to refinance the church’s six figure loan, saving the parish about $28,000 in loan payments over a twelve-month period, and tens of thousands of dollars more, over the life of the loan.
Outside of church, Michael has worked in public education for 25 years and is currently the principal of Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School in New London, CT. Frankly, it’s difficult to imagine how Michael was able to serve with such grace, skill, and distinction in his “real” job, while at the same time devoting countless hours of service to Saint Sophia (also with such grace, skill, and distinction). Michael has been married to his wife Kimberley for 28 years and has two children, Olivia, who recently graduated from college and Ben, who is currently attending college.
Please join us in thanking and honoring Michael Podeszwa for his truly exceptional service to Saint Sophia and for being this Year’s Saint Sophia Ministry Award recipient. Congratulations and thank you, Michael!
SUNDAY WORSHIP AT FULL CAPACITY !
May 20, 2021
Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς Ἀνέστη! Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
Thanks be to God, we are now able to worship at full capacity in the sanctuary for Sunday worship. In addition, we will no longer require worshippers to call ahead to reserve their spot. Furthermore, we will not be checking temperatures at the door (of course, if you have a fever or flu-like symptoms, please stay home and recover instead of coming to church).
For the time being, we will continue to require the wearing of masks this Sunday, and we will not have a coffee hour. We will also take down your name and phone number in the event that, God-forbid, we need to inform you of a COVID case at the parish.
The physical and spiritual health of ALL of our parishioners is our greatest concern and we thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.
God-willing, and with your assistance, we will be able to further relax certain restrictions in the near future and we will notify you of any further decisions regarding this as soon as they are made.
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς Ἀνέστη!