AROLA’s Virtual Conference – September 19-20, 2020
In the presence of His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae, His Grace Bishop Ioan Casian, V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Ene, the spiritual advisor of the organization, and other distinguished guests, the 2nd Conference of the Association of the Romanian Orthodox Ladies Auxiliary (AROLA) took place on September 19-20, 2020 in a special setting. Due to the restrictions imposed by the current pandemic period, the presidents of the Ladies Auxiliary Association and the other delegates from each parish had to participate exclusively through audio-visual means.
The virtual conference began on Saturday, September 19, 2020 using the Zoom portal, through the prayer of invocation of the Holy Spirit performed by V. Rev. Fr. Vasile Aileni and the blessing offered by His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae, Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the United States of America and Metropolitan of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolia of the Americas. We had the great joy and blessing to have in our midst V. Rev. Dr. Stelian Tofană, professor at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Cluj-Napoca. After a brief introduction of our guest of honor’s life and prolific academic activity, Prof. Fr. Tofană gave a lecture on “The Christian Woman – a moral landmark in a drifting society“. This presentation turned out to be more than a conference; it was a heart-to-heart discussion, a lecture in which we all felt like students. Based on the biblical text, Father Professor referred to the dignity women received from the act of creation (Genesis 1:26-27), from the act of blessing the first family (Genesis 2:23-24, Genesis 1:28), and from the perspective of Our Risen Lord’s actions (Matt. 28:9, John 20:17), who first appeared to the myrrh-bearing women, sending them to bring the news of the Resurrection to the apostles, and thus making them the first Paschal witnesses and missionaries. Fr. Prof. Tofană emphasized how important is nowadays the personal example of mothers, wives, grandmothers and friends, when it is essential for everyone to show the dignity with which all women have been endowed, not by man but by God Himself. Mothers/grandmothers should teach their children/ grandchildren how to meet God through prayer, this being the only way we can talk to God. We may not receive everything that we ask for through genuine prayer, with a contrite heart that only the Lord our God knows, but God rewards us with gifts that can play a crucial role in the destiny of a man, a family, or a nation. Father Professor urged all participants to remain deeply rooted in the faith learned from their ancestors and to use God’s Word to teach, rebuke, correct, and raise children as men of God, well prepared for all doing good deeds. Following the presentation, Father Professor answered the various questions received from the participants. For those who would like to watch this conference, the recording is available on AROLA’s Facebook page or on Youtube. The first day of the Conference concluded with a prayer to the Mother of God.
The AROLA Conference resumed on Sunday, September 20, 2020 with the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at the “All Saints” Church in Toronto, ON, in the presence of His Grace Bishop Ioan Casian, followed by a memorial service for all AROLA members who fell asleep into the Lord. In his sermon, His Grace explained the importance of the holidays placed at the beginning of the church year, guiding the faithful to always apply the Word of God for navigating through the challenges presented to us, in accordance with the Law of God.
The administrative part of the AROLA Conference was organized on Sunday afternoon, where more than 80 delegates from the parishes of our Metropolia gathered together once again through the online platform. Despite the virtual environment, the participants created a festive atmosphere, many of them being dressed in national costumes and rejoicing from seeing each other after such a long time. The conference began with the prayer “O, Heavenly King” performed by Fr. Vasile Aileni, followed by the Troparion of St. Ana, the patron-saint of the Association, chanted by Stephen Athenagoras and the blessing offered by His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae.
The prayer was followed by the welcome words offered by His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae, encouraging all participants to help those who are still hesitant to find their way back to the church, and those of His Grace Bishop Ioan Casian, who pointed out that the way to perform missionary work has changed, but it’s very important to find solutions to continue, appropriate for the situation we are in. V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Ene, the spiritual advisor of our Association, expressed his joy that, after many years, we have such a large participation, despite the difficulties we are going through.
The next part of the conference was a presentation shared by the AROLA board, showcasing important moments from the history of AROLA, as well as the current activity of the Association. Existing and future projects were mentioned as well, explaining the conditions of participation, the methods used for communication, and the feedback received from the beneficiaries of our projects. This part was followed by the presentation of the 2018-2020 activity reports from each Deanery, the financial reports and the proposed budget (2020-2022) for the USA and Canada. During this presentation, the ladies from the Executive Committee also explained what influence AROLA had on them, emphasizing the family atmosphere in which the meetings take place and expressing their gratitude for having the opportunity to practice love of neighbor through AROLA projects. His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae recommended that AROLA projects should be advertised more efficiently, suggesting the board to select a Sunday for presenting the projects in all parishes. His Grace Bishop Ioan Casian recommended organizing meetings to discuss solutions, ideas, and opportunities to help young people remain in church. Psa. Camelia Downie suggested organizing a prayer group, publishing articles about family and children’s education, ideas for home-schooling, as well as online Romanian language classes.
Ms. Mariana Cuceu, from the St. Paraskeva Orthodox Charity Organization in Chicago, IL, talked about the relief that the organization is bringing to the needy in Romania. The organization manages over 20 projects started in the past 10 years through which more than 1,000 children were helped from funds raised in the US. Emphasizing the special impact that these charity projects have, V. Rev. Fr. Iulian Aniței encouraged AROLA members to get more involved in the activity of St. Paraskeva Organization.
Rev. Fr. Daniel Ene briefly presented the situation of our parishes from Caracas (Venezuela) and Buenos Aires (Argentina), urging the participants to support both through prayer and financially these parishes. Next, Fr. Ene introduced Ms. Tamara Ariton, the representative of an association that tries to help Romanians going through financial difficulties in Mexico, who would also benefit from our support.
Pompiliu Gîrlonța, vice-president of ROYA, made a short presentation of the youth organization and its role in the life of young people from our Metropolia. Pompiliu described the organization’s projects and activities, carried out both in the USA / Canada and in Romania. He pointed out that many young people who have gone through a personality crisis were able to find a purpose in life through ROYA and thanked the ladies from AROLA who, like loving mothers, have always supported the activities of young people.
Given the special situation we are in due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the constraints imposed on the “in-person” participation of delegates, the Executive Committee recommended extending the mandate for the ladies currently serving in the Executive Committee for another two years or until the next in-person Conference. This proposal was accepted by the participants.
The conference ended with the hymn to the Theotokos “It is truly meet” chanted by Fr. Vasile Aileni and with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Ioan Casian.
We would like to thank our Hierarchs, His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae and His Grace Bishop Ioan Casian, for all the support and trust given us during this period, Fr. Daniel Ene, our mentor, for the love and patience with which he guides us, Fr. Prof. Dr. Stelian Tofană for the lesson of faith and the advice he gave us with so much love, to the parish priests for the support they offer us, and last but not least to all the ladies of our Metropolia. Dear sisters in Christ, we cannot do anything without you! As one of the members of the Executive Committee pointed out, AROLA is like a beehive that is strong only when there are many bees.