Reflecting on the day I was consecrated as Archbishop on March 21, 2010, I thought that my happiness was complete. I thought at the time, that the good Lord had fulfilled all my dreams and aspirations and I could NOT possibly pray or ask for anything else!
I had reached the perfection of the clerical ranks on that day and I was given the blessing to follow in the spiritual and rich tradition of my predecessors in this Holy Church. I had been given the opportunity to achieve the fullness of my ministry, to serve my beloved Suryoyo community.
Abun Kumro Rabo:
I have a confession to make, and I am standing here this evening to admit that I was mistaken on that “sunny” day in Mor Aphrem Monastery in Maarat Saydnaya in 2010.
When you appointed me as the Patriarchal Delegate for the Eastern United States, I knew that our Lord had additional plans for my ministry and service to our beloved Syriac Orthodox Church. I was assigned by you to now serve an entire Archdiocese — the priests, deacons, and laity—well-known for their deep devotion to our Lord, their LOVE to the Church and ALWAYS ever ready to serve and give their all, to the Church and community.
I praise the Lord Jesus Christ Who entrusted me with such a FLOCK of faithful Suryoye.
Your Holiness, TAWDI for imbuing in this blessed flock: true faith and love of church and community. THEY truly have the vision and willingness in spirit and otherwise. Given the challenges we are faced with, whether in the Middle East or in the Diaspora, this faithful flock will no doubt be a force and an inspiration to help save the rich heritage of our Church and community. Through its faith and strong will, this flock will ensure a bright future for her.
To overcome some of the challenges and to successfully address them, we will continue the great work you initiated and we will work together in a focused way to find a solution for the several challenges that I would like to highlight next.
1- First, we are all keenly aware of the difficulties to work in a world that has become so materialistic that in the words of St. Matthew ‘even the elect might be deceived’ (Matthew 24: 24). It is difficult, as it is natural that witnessing Jesus Christ would be against all norms and earthly ‘wisdoms’ in this world, as it always has been. It is a great challenge to overcome, but it is only achievable when the shepherd provides heavenly bread to his flock, bread that the materialistic world cannot compete with, and could never substitute.
2- Second, I realize that I am a successor to a great and spiritual man. A true leader with a great vision and a humble man who maximally uses every talent that God blessed him with, to glorify the Church in every way possible. I fear that with my humble talents and capabilities compared to Your Holiness, there is no way that neither I, nor anyone else, can follow and fulfill what he has accomplished. I know this for fact, as I have had the fortune to serve under his wise leadership for 2 years here in this blessed Archdiocese, specifically St. Ephraim Church in Washington DC, Mor Philoxenus Church in Roanoke, Virginia and St. Helen Church in Indiana. I observed first-hand, how he did not spare any effort to nurture the spiritual growth of the congregation, and imbued in them the love and service to our beloved church and community.
I humbly would like to say TAWDI SAGI (thank you), Your Holiness, for the many years of focused hard work, clearly reflected by your great achievements in this Archdiocese. I thank you for showing us and for being a true example of a good shepherd. Today, I am blessed to humbly assume the torch of leadership that is passed onto me.
Your Holiness, while I realize how difficult it will be to lead this faithful flock after you, I am also comforted that through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, your prayers and support, the prayers of all the faithful, and my TOTAL commitment, that I will successfully carry out this mission that the Lord has set for me.
I commit to be a shepherd building on the path you paved, to serve whole-heartedly with my flock to address all of the projects of the Archdiocese. My initial focus will be on these three critical areas:
1- My brethren, beloved clergy of this Archdiocese. TAWDI for your prayers and your commitment to our Holy Church. I know that you all served this Archdiocese with the utmost devotion, seeking to constantly improve the spiritual life of your parishioners. I thank God that we, the clergy of this Archdiocese, all share this vision. To continue doing this / even more successfully, my emphasis and instruction will be how we can work together with our Parish Councils and the AEC to enable you to focus on your continued education; to address how we can improve our preaching / and ministry / to ensure revival of the Syriac spirit, its zeal and fear of God / among the faithful of our community, especially our youth. While these efforts are not completely new to the Archdiocese, a new approach is being evaluated and we will need to work together to raise the bar of our ministry for the glory of our church and the benefit of our community.
2- Dear spiritual children of the Archdiocese, one of our biggest dreams came true on May 9, 2015– when our “new home” Mor Aphrem Center was completed. Your Holiness, TAWDI. History will forever attest to your and many others’ hard work to make Mor Aphrem Center a reality. Through your diligence and continuous support, the finest details of this project were truly perfected. I feel right now the full meaning of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the gospel of St. John: “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for, others have done the hard work and you have reaped the benefits of their labor” (John 4:38). We are all reaping the yield of what Your Holiness has sowed with others in this Archdiocese. But I promise that I will not only reap, I will continue to labor hard and to plant seeds, just like Your Holiness would have done.
I pray that the Lord will bless us too, so that we can all reap good fruits for the glory of the Church. My commitment is to make Mor Aphrem Center the “beating heart” of the Archdiocese. Mor Aphrem Center will be a spiritual space to learn, to work together and to advance our spirituality in order to progress and grow as a Suryoyo community. Mor Aphrem Center is INDEED our home! The home that will anchor and strengthen us as a community. A home for our youth, our seminarians and monks. To mention just one important activity: A home to host the Suryoyo summer CAMP.
Mor Aphrem Center will be a home for us and our families. It will be the place where our Syriac faithful can share ideas as well as concerns… A sanctuary to discuss the future and to teach our children our rich Suryoyo heritage. Mor Aphrem Center will be Home for ALL.
3- Equally important! My third focus will be on my dearly beloved YOUTH. Kumro Rabo and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, I am standing here Today with the promise to not only refocus and re-energize the Youth organizations but, along with the beloved clergy, the AEC, and the Parish councils, to also work hand in hand with the Youth committees who have worked tire-lessly on addressing issues over the past many years. Together, we will make the Youth activities a top priority in the Archdiocese. Together we will provide an environment to bring the youth to their home, and to their Church. This is not just a Syriac dream, a Christian aspiration or a hopeful wish, rather it is the global mission of the Christian witness to all generations to come.
I am determined that by bringing the youth, the heart of a community, to the place it should occupy in the Church, we are ensuring the work of God is continued. My GOAL is to work with the YOUTH and to give them a voice in order to support their much needed creativity, allowing them to reach their full potential and to flourish in our communities.
“The youth are the church”, Your Holiness, these inspired words have resonated well with me.
However, the Church has the duty to make available for them, details of our Apostolic faith, by inter-acting with them in the context of modern life and proving that the teachings of the forefathers which were inspired by the Holy Spirit are time-less. In the gospel of St. Mark, we are urged by the Lord to “give them something to eat”. This is what we should do with our precious youth. St. John the evangelist, tells us that ‘because they eat the loaves and have their fill’ they will follow the Lord and remain attached to Him and to His church. This is especially true, given the worldly challenges we, and our youth are faced with.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve you. I ask for your prayers so that we can stay focused to achieve these critical items and can realize the vision set forth.
I remain a humble servant and I know that I will not succeed without your support. In my many discussions with His Holiness and with many of you, it has become very clear that ‘I’, cannot execute this plan or make this vision a reality. But I have no doubt that ‘We’ can do it. ‘We’, you, the clergy, the laity and myself will need to cooperate and work together with humility and faith in order to continue building and presenting to the Lord a living Church, a church that is full of life in the 21st century, a church that is a living witness to Jesus Christ, standing on the faith (the rock) that our Lord built His Church on.
Kumro rabo, tawdi, bless me and bless my flock, and pray for us always. ܒܪܟܡܪܝ