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The Vital Ministry of the Archdiocesan Presbyters Council
The Archdiocesan Presbyters Council (APC) was established with the blessing and support of His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory as the “National Council of Presbyters” by an act of the 20th Clergy-Laity Congress in 1970. It was later renamed the “Archdiocesan Presbyters Council” in 1988 and has served a vital role in the ministries of the Archdiocese for the past 48 years. It is inspired by the words of its patron, Saint John Chrysostom: “The soul of a priest ought to blaze like a light illuminating the world.”
The Bond of Peace
Priests are called by the Lord and ordained by our hierarchs to minister to needs of the Church and her people, and to do so “like a light,” but maintaining that light and keeping it burning brightly in the midst of the many personal and pastoral challenges is not an easy task, and we cannot do it alone. That means we need to be in active relationships as clergy serving the same Lord at the same Holy Altar. Saint Paul instructs us to build those relationships with one another as we strive to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4.3), and the Greek work for “bond” he refers to in that advice is “σύνδεσμος” (syndesmos). It precisely that word that is used to identify the brotherhood of clergy in each Metropolis of the Holy Archdiocese: the local “Clergy Syndesmos.” Saint John the Evangelist further reminds us that essential element of that bond as brothers in Christ is love: “He who loves his brother abides in the light” (1 John 2.10).
The Vision, Mission and Structure of the APC
Putting that all together, the vision of the Archdiocesan Presbyters Council is simply, “Brothers Who Love and Serve One Another.” Embracing that vision expresses our desire as priests to lift one another up in prayer, grow in our spiritual lives, encourage one another in our daily work, support one another through our struggles, learn together as laborers in the Lord’s vineyard and, ultimately, to serve God’s Holy Church and His people to the best of our God-given talents. And if it is our desire to serve a Church where the people of God are called to love and serve one another, we must reflect that model in our own relationships with each other as priests.
This God-inspired vision of the APC is realized through it mission statement, which is “to serve the clergy by edifying and supporting our priests in the ministry through spiritual growth, educational development and personal wellness.” This mission is accomplished through retreats, liturgical life, continuing education, brother-to-brother outreach, ministry development and benevolence.
The APC comprises 19 representatives: the president of each local Metropolis Clergy Syndemos, an elected APC representative from each Metropolis and the APC immediate past-president. Its members meet twice per year during their two-year term to fulfill their mission of serving the needs of our beloved clergy, who in turn serve the needs of our Archdiocese, Metropolises, hierarchs, parishes and the faithful flock in Christ. The executive officers of the APC are elected by the APC representatives at each Archdiocesan Clergy-Laity Congress with the blessing of His Eminence, the Archbishop.
A Synergy of Ministries
In addition to its direct ministry to clergy, the APC works in cooperation with various other ministries of the Archdiocese in a synergy of ministries as "fellow workers in the truth" (3 John 1.18). At each APC meeting, representatives from the Retired Clergy Association (RCA), the Hellenic College Holy Cross Alumni Association, the National Sisterhood of Presvyteres (NSP) and the Archdiocesan Benefits Committee (ABC) offer reports and engage in dialogue with the APC representatives. In addition, understanding the central role of the clergy in the work of every ministry and department of the Archdiocese, the APC consults with the Office of the Archbishop and the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, and partners with Hellenic College Holy Cross, the Center for Family Care, the Benefits Office and others. Special guests also attend APC meetings from time to time and have offered presentations on leadership development, pastoral care, missions, philanthropy and other topics helpful to developing better ministries.
The APC National Clergy Retreat
One of the two keystone events hosted by the Archdiocesan Presbyters Council is the biennial APC National Clergy Retreat. First held in 1995 in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, it has grown from an attendance of 85 to nearly 200 at the most recent retreat in 2017. The retreat has featured many notable speakers, including His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, His Grace Bishop Gregory of Nyssa, Father Vasileios Thermos and, in 2017, Father Zacharias of the Monastery of Saint John in Essex, England. High priority is placed on time for brothers to discuss the presentations, share ideas and simply enjoy time with one another in unique clergy fellowship. In addition to uplifting and inspiring spiritual talks, the retreat focuses on the wellness and wholeness of our clergy by offering professional health and fitness services, local adventures and, of course, time for personal reflection and renewal. Themes for recent retreats have included :“Look In. Lift Up. Reach Out.” (2013); “Be Well. Be Real. Be Love.” (2015); and “Fathers. Brothers. Men of God.” (2017). The APC is grateful for the inspired support and love for the clergy of Leadership 100, without which such retreats would not be possible.
The National Clergy Breakfast
The other major event coordinated by the APC, in cooperation with the Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress committee, is the National Clergy Breakfast. With over 300 in attendance in Nashville in 2016, it is the largest clergy gathering in the life of the Archdiocese and provides a singular opportunity for the clergy to gather in the company of the Archbishop and the entire Holy Eparchial Synod. It is also an important venue to distributing information about the ministries and events of the APC.
The APC/NSP Benevolent Fund
Another important continuing ministry of the APC is the APC/NSP Benevolent Fund, a philanthropic outreach that provides confidential short-term financial assistance for clergy families in crisis. The fund is supported by the contributions of the APC and NSP members, others who wish to support clergy families, and a generous annual donation from the Ladies Philoptochos Society, for which the clergy families of the Archdiocese offer their sincere thanks.
The Desire to Help
Summarizing the vision, goals and work of the APC is best accomplished by returning to Saint John Chrysostom’s commentary on the Gospel of Saint Matthew. This inspiring and challenging quote applies to every Christian in some way, but it carries a special motivation to the clergy, who are called to be models of love, compassion and mercy. “We cannot be saved by seeking just our individual salvation; we need to look first to the good of others. In warfare, the soldier who takes to flight to save his own skin brings disaster on himself as well as on the others, whereas the good solider who takes up arms on behalf of his comrades saves his own life along with theirs… Many of our brothers and sisters have fallen in this battle, wounded and covered with blood with no one to care for them. There is no one to look after them, no layman, no priest, no comrade, no friend, no brother, because we are all of us seeking our own individual salvation, and thereby spoiling our chances of attaining it… All our friendships ought to be cemented with this one bond, the desire to help one another.”