“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
St. Michael’s Romanian Orthodox Church, as so many other Orthodox Churches, was formed from immigrant workers who came to America looking for a place in the world where they could work, live and worship God. They desired to pursue these interests without hindrance from the economic, political and religious upheaval caused by the Bolshevik revolution of Russia and by WWI. The thriving American Optical factory lured them to Southbridge, which became their new welcoming home.
The core founders of St. Michael’s weren’t typical Romanians, however, but were Aromani from Macedonia. That is, they were from an ancient tribe of Romanians who for long lost motives had moved from Romania proper to the country of Macedonia centuries ago, where they preserved their distinct language and customs while living in harmony with the indigenous Macedonian people. They dwelt so long in Macedonia that their language preserved its ancient flavor while the Romanian language continued to develop and change. The Aromanian language eventually became a dialect of modern Romanian. It is distinct from, but closely related to modern Romanian.
In authentic Orthodox style, they purchased land and begun building their first Church before even making their own dwellings. This first Church was completed in 1924, and then a parish house and hall were built in 1949 – 1950. Eventually a new Church was completed and dedicated on the former Church’s foundation on November 12, 1961.
Currently, the parish is a diverse mixture of cradle Orthodox and converts to the Orthodox faith. Services are almost entirely in English.
OUR MISSION STATEMENT
It is difficult to briefly summarize the vision of the Orthodox Church, of which St. Michael’s is just a member. Orthodoxy is essentially indigenous Christianity. Christianity as understood, lived and preserved by the people who believe the Apostles’ message. This message isn’t mere information, but a renewing of the mind; a spiritual rebirth from above. The content of the apostolic message is the activity and power of the Holy Spirit. It is not primarily teachings or traditions handed down from generation to generation, though those are important aspects. But rather it is the activity of the Holy Spirit which comes directly from God into each generation.
We at Saint Michael’s are far from this vision, but despite our distance from this goal we cannot jettison the great call of Christ to “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48).” The call to partake of the Divine Nature (II Peter 1:4), cannot be ignored, but rather should humble us. So, no matter whatever good we might do or have done, we should say, “we are unworthy slaves, we have only done what was our duty to do (Luke 17:10),” since we are all so far from the perfection of the Father.
This vision is quite generally three fold.
To serve the community, especially the poor.
To bear witness to the truth of Christ and His Church in a loving, merciful and unashamed manner.
To become one with God.