The Legacy of Orthodox Action Continues

In 2007, a group of Orthodox Christians serving regularly at a soup kitchen in Buffalo, New York, were encouraged by the proistamenos of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Fr. Christos Christakis, to explore using the church facilities to serve those in need in the church’s neighborhood on Buffalo’s west side. After some meetings and information gathering, the group held its first event on Thanksgiving Day, feeding and offering hospitality to nearly 200 guests.

The group at Annunciation chose the name Orthodox Action in honor of Mother Maria Skobtsova and her work with those who were poor, sick, and homeless in Paris in the 1930s and 40s. Mother Maria firmly believed that the Church must take on the responsibility of social service and vowed to personally “share the life of paupers and tramps.” The organization co-founded by Mother Maria was called Orthodox Action and at first cared mainly for the many Russian immigrants in Paris fleeing the Bolshevik revolution. When Germany occupied France during World War II, Orthodox Action began to serve Jews as well, offering food, shelter, and even false baptismal certificates to save them from deportation to concentration camps. For this work Mother Maria was arrested and sent to Ravensbruck, where she died a martyr’s death in 1945. In 2004, Mother Maria was canonized by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and glorified as a saint of the Orthodox Church.

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Annunciation’s Orthodox Action recently hosted its eighth annual Thanksgiving Day meal, serving more than 300 guests. This experience became a catalyst for a more regular soup kitchen at the church, which was started in 2010 and now serves about 180 individuals on each of two Saturdays per month. Orthodox Action has also grown to include “adopting” the residents of a home for disabled veterans. The group hosts special events for the residents throughout the year, including a Christmas party, baseball games in the summer, and inviting them to be the guests of Annunciation at the church’s annual Greek festival.

“The real purpose of our mission work is not reflected only in numbers and statistics,” says Orthodox Action Coordinator, Mary Danakas. “It is reflected even more in the effect our work has on the people we serve. It is reflected in the joy and dignity our guests have received just by being warmly welcomed by our Orthodox Action Ministry Team and all our volunteers. So often we think that what we need to do is to “help” people – give things to people who are in need. This is important, however, we cannot minimize how much the people we serve give to us, to our Church community. It is because of these people that our community members are better people. Our mission is not only to fill the bellies of our guests in need, but to lift their spirits and fill their hearts with Christ’s love and joy. This, in fact, has become one of the real successes of the mission of Orthodox Action.”

For more information about Annunciation’s Orthodox Action, visit their web page on greekorthodoxchurchbuffalo.org. Orthodox Action started with a small seed grant of $2,000 from their home parish of Annunciation. Since that time, they have never actively raised funds. Instead, the ministry is supported primarily by individuals from the parish who have seen the good work of Orthodox Action and volunteer their time, goods and services, and funds. Information and quotes about the life of Mother Maria Skobtsova used in this blog post were taken from Mother Maria of Paris: Saint of the Open Door on incommunion.org.

Read other blog posts about parish outreach on EveryGoodandPerfectgift.org: Mission Impossible, A Little Leaven

2 Thoughts on “The Legacy of Orthodox Action Continues

  1. Pingback: Mother Maria Skobtsova, July 20 | Every Good and Perfect Gift

  2. Pingback: St. Maria’s Table | Every Good and Perfect Gift

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