June 8th Designated as Suryoyo Women’s Day
A call from the Archdiocese for Suryoyo Women to come forth and be heard was answered by approximately 200 ladies of all ages from different backgrounds, yet with one commonality, all having the same Suryoyo identity. The Archdiocesan Clergy Council with its spokesman, Very Rev. Fr. Shamoun Asmar, worked diligently for the establishment of Suryoyo Women’s Day. Under the auspices of His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, a committee was formed to work with Very Rev. Shamoun Asmar and Rev. Fr. Joseph Chamoun to make Suryoyo Women’s Day a reality.
The orchestrated evening of June 8th, at St. Mark’s Syrian Orthodox Cathedral, moved quickly starting with an up-front cocktail hour which offered the ladies in attendance the opportunity to socialize and speculate. The buzz around the hall was apparent to all and aroused a curiosity regarding the expectations of the evening. The appetite of the ladies to get involved on a higher level was clearly displayed.
Upon the arrival of His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, the entire group was directed to the Cathedral proper to take part in the traditional evening prayers. Assisting His Eminence were Very Rev. John Khoury, Very Rev. Shamoun Asmar, Rev. Fr. Joseph Chamoun and Rev. Fr. Aziz Hadodo and Rev. Fr. Eli Shabo. Readings were assigned to Selwa Malki, Tagreed Hanna, Chrisitine Ipeci and Jacqueline Aydin with all the women meticulously singing in Syriac, reciting and collectively taking part in the evening prayer vespers. The well synchronized voices of 200 women, for the first time, resonated in the Cathedral. That in it-self, made a significant statement. At the conclusion of the prayer service, His Eminence gave a blessing to all those in attendance after which Fr. Chamoun invited everyone to the lower hall to continue with the program.
Dr. Christine Kiraz, program chairperson, opened with the following statement: “Some of you are probably wondering what is “Suryoyutho”? To me personally, Suryoyutho means to have a sense of pride and belonging to the Syriac Orthodox Church. It can also mean being proud of our centuries long linguistic connection to the actual language of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly we do not always know or appreciate the enormity of the treasure that we are born into. So I hope that tonight will serve to give a small glimpse of our rich Syriac heritage through our faith and we also hope that you realize that you belong to an amazing heritage. Through events like this we hope to foster the Suryoyutho in all of us, especially our younger generation”. Dr. Kiraz continued, “Tonight we hope to enlighten you about women in our history through the keynote lecture and in the open forum we hope to address the current challenges and issues we all face.”
The chairperson introduced the two speakers with the following brief bios on each:
His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim was born in Kamishly, Syria. He studied theology in St. Ephrem’s Theological Seminary in Lebanon and in the Coptic Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt. In 1985, he was ordained a monk and then a priest. In 1989, he started his graduate studies in divinity at St. Patrick’s College in Ireland from where, in 1994, he received his doctorate. In 1996, His Eminence was consecrated as the Metropolitan and Patriarchal Vicar of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese for the Eastern United States by His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas. Since then he has sponsored many successful projects throughout the Archdiocese with this event being one of them. His Eminence also authored two books.
Dr. Carmen Maier received her Ph.D. in 2012 from the Princeton Theological Seminary where she studied Church history and wrote her dissertation on Ephrem the Syrian’s method of biblical interpretation. She also has an M.A. in Early Christian Studies from Notre Dame University, and an M.A. in Theology from St. John’s School of Theology-Seminary in Collegeville, MN. Her interests include inquiry into the relevance of early Christian theology and practice for today.
The chairperson invited His Eminence to the podium. The Archbishop spoke about the role of women in the church today. He said that he was absolutely delighted at the turnout for Suryoyo Women’s Day and told the audience “The opportunity to serve the church exists. I am inviting all of you to seize the opportunity and offer your God given talents to foster and strengthen our church.” The Archbishop continued; “Your position is so important to the future our church. You are the mothers and the Sunday school teachers laying the foundation for our future generations. You are the choir members who add tremendously to our church services and you are the Ladies Auxiliary’s who over the years have proven themselves to be the backbone of church life. Yes, much more than this awaits you during these days of change and growth.” His Eminence concluded saying; “This event is the beginning, the first attempt to bolster the role of Suryoyo Women in our community. In history and in recent times, Suryoyo Women were always there ready to serve. The future requires your further commitment to serve our church and community on a higher level. I am confident you will be ready to take on the challenge.” The audience was clearly energized by the Archbishop’s supportive and encouraging message. An informative Q&A took place after His Eminence’s presentation.
Dr. Carmen Maier, keynote speaker, shared with the audience the role of the Bnoth Qyomo, the Daughters of the Covenant, played in the early Syriac Church. This group of women was assigned the task of singing the madroshe, or liturgical poetry attributed to St. Ephrem. Dr. Maier explained how, these women, through this ministry, became teachers in the early Syriac church.
The open forum, which followed included: Fay Shabo, Hanna Barhe, Helda Minas, Pascal Shammas Asmar and Alexa Darakjy. Questions from the audience were taken and answered accordingly by the individual addressed.
The program planning committee who worked with Fr. Asmar and Fr. Chamoun included: Aygul Akbulut, Pascale Shammas Asmar, Jemma Ayaz, Hanna Barhe, Yelda Coban, Meric Darakjy, Annmaire Hadodo, Dr. Christine Kiraz, Helda Minas, Natalie Yilmaz and Mona Yunan.