csha
St. Mary Magdalene Church’s lay volunteers with (l to r) Deacon Michael, Fr. Paul Jannakos and Fr. Timothy Yates.

“Compassion in Action” is the title of a newly published article by Deacon Michael Schlaack that describes the step-by-step journey of exploration, spiritual discernment and training taken by the faithful of his home parish—Saint Mary Magdalene Church, Fenton, MI—in pursuing a new model of visitation ministry.

“’Compassion in Action: Parish Ministry Training’ was developed by the Orthodox Church in America’s Department of Christian Service and Humanitarian Aid [CSHA] and Archpriest Steven Voytovich of the Office of Institutional Chaplaincies as a means of training and mentoring clergy and lay volunteers in a ministry of personal presence,” said Donna Karabin, CSHA Chair.  “It is intended to provide empathy, compassion and listening by the faithful to those suffering mentally, emotionally, physically and/or spiritually.  Genuine Orthodox Christian care is given to hurting brothers and sisters in the parish or to others in the surrounding local area in homes, hospitals, hospices and social service facilities.”

Saint Mary Magdalene Church served as “Compassion in Action’s” pilot program.

“After three years, Deacon Michael reflects on his experience with the homeless and the need to see them as God’s image-bearers, acknowledging their humanity without judging or trying to ‘fix’ them,” Donna added.  “Providing a Christ-like presence to those so often devoid of love has been the objective of Saint Mary Magdalene’s ‘Compassion in Action’ ministry.”

According to Donna, the program is being further developed with the generous financial support from Archpriest John and Popadija Katherine Vitko of Saint Luke Church, McLean, VA.  Nancy VanDyken, a member of Saint Anthony the Great Church, Bozeman, MT has been named Director.

The program has been blessed by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon “for use in the parish setting to aid the faithful of our parish communities to realize their calling to such a ministry of presence.”  [Metropolitan Tikhon referred to the program in his work, Of What Life Do We Speak?  Four Pillars For The Fulfillment Of The Apostolic Work of the Church, which made its debut at the 19th All-American Council.]

It is hoped that the “Compassion in Action” program will be introduced in parishes across the OCA.

The article is also available on the new CSHA website and the CSHA Facebook page.  Questions and input may be directed to csha@oca.org.