The OCA’s Clergy Wives Advisory Group (CWAG) met in Arlington, TX for three days during August to review and plan their work. Their time together began at dinner with His Grace Bishop Gerasim, the group’s episcopal liaison. His Grace watched a series of slides detailing various aspects of CWAG’s work. He urged the members (Matushki Wendy Cwiklinski, Miho Ealy, Jennifer Levine, Elizabeth Powell, Alexandra Safchuk and Valerie Zahirsky) to reach out to all clergy wives and clergy widows in the OCA, including those who are divorced or in any kind of crisis.
With that in mind, His Grace agreed to present to the Holy Synod a letter describing the isolation that some clergy widows feel and urging parish clergy to locate and minister to widows in their areas. His Grace felt that it could be appropriate to call on deacons to be in the forefront of this effort.
The evening ended with His Grace’s prayerful blessing, and his urging the group to continue to advise the Holy Synod and the Office of Pastoral Life (under whose auspices CWAG functions) about the needs of clergy wives and widows.
Fortunately, CWAG’s outreach is enhanced by the work of Diocesan Point Persons. These are volunteer matushki in each diocese who share and gather news from clergy wives in their diocese, and who also encourage them to put their names in the CWAG directory so that they can receive quarterly newsletters. They encourage attendance at CWAG’s quarterly Zoom retreats, which have offered a way for wives and widows to reconnect or to make new acquaintances.
During the first full day of meeting, the group worked out a tentative schedule and list of speakers at Zoom retreats for the next year, and discussed ways to encourage participation among clergy wives. There will also be retreats for widows, addressing their particular needs.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has conducted surveys of clergy families, and generously shared the results with CWAG. The group will recommend to the Office of Pastoral Life that these valuable insights be considered by those who are designing programs. For future surveys with our own clergy families, CWAG’s work will be informed by that of Protodeacon Jacob Frimenko, who has developed effective methods of interviewing people and of collecting and organizing data. The survey of clergy wives conducted by the OCA in 2018 will be the basis of this work.
An important aspect of CWAG’s work is outreach to wives and widows in Alaska and in Mexico. One way to be useful to the Alaskan women could be a visit by two CWAG members to the gathering of clergy wives during the Diocese of Sitka and Alaska’s Assembly. For Mexico, we hope to find more volunteers who can translate the quarterly newsletters into Spanish. Volunteers, including Fr. David and Mka. Natalia Wooten, have already translated articles and prayer cards for distribution to the clergy wives in Mexico.
Because prayer is such an important connection between clergy wives, CWAG has established, at the suggestion of
His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, a monthly prayer list of clergy wives to be disseminated online. Names of clergy wives to be prayed for
can be submitted through the clergy wives page on the OCA website.
After two days of deliberations, CWAG met by Zoom with Bishop Gerasim and Father Nicholas Solak. Using slides, graphs and oral presentations, the group presented their three-year history of work, the results of their time in Texas, and outlines of future plans. They were grateful for the encouraging comments of His Grace and Father Nicholas.
Departing for home the next morning, all six CWAG members felt that there is much work ahead. It is useful work because it serves the wives and widows of our clergy, and thereby the whole Orthodox Church. May it always be to the glory of God.