JENKINTOWN, Pa. – Students and faculty from Martin Saints Classical High School in Oreland, Pa., visited the Basilian Spirituality Center here on November 19 to learn about Ukrainian Catholicism and volunteer with St. Basil Support Ministry. The results were incredible: they met Sisters of St. Basil the Great, attended Divine Liturgy, and made more than 1,000 blessing bags for those in need.
About 45 students and a half dozen faculty made the short trip, arriving mid-morning. First on the agenda was to learn about Ukrainian Catholicism. Discussion ranged from art history to liturgy. The latter was essential because the next part of the schedule was Divine Liturgy in Holy Trinity Chapel celebrated by Father John Ciurpita, chaplain to the Sisters.
The group from Martin Saints explored the chapel’s icons and reflected on the beauty of the Liturgy. Father Ciurpita’s homily focused on the connection between the Resurrection and the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He used the example of the zeon to illustrate this. The zeon is a feature of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom according to which the deacon or priest pours warm water into the chalice to signify the living Christ in the Eucharist. Following their time in Holy Trinity Chapel, everyone broke for lunch.
After lunch the service component began. Sister Teodora Kopyn, director of St. Basil Support Ministry, set up two stations in the Spirituality Center to assemble blessing bags.
The Support Ministry provides food, clothing, and other necessities to those in need. These blessing bags combine all three – sometimes even in the same package – and are distributed in Kensington, Pa., and elsewhere in Philadelphia. Martin Saints students and faculty were so industrious that they quickly exceeded the target number she had in mind. In fact, they more than quadrupled it.
“It was amazing,” said Sister Teodora. “Everyone took initiative and worked so hard. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
The penultimate event on the schedule included trivia and declamations. Faculty quizzed students on what they learned about Macrina and Basil, Eastern Christianity, and other aspects of the day. Next several students competed by reciting an excerpt from Basil’s famous Sermon to the Rich. The group then explored the beautiful grounds of the Motherhouse, especially the grotto, for the remainder of their time.
Meanwhile, Sister Tedora received the greatest surprise of the day. The school had collected an immense amount of food and drinks for St. Basil Support Ministry. It took several people to unload everything. Sister Tedora and Sean McLaughlin, director of the Basilian Spirituality Center, were shocked and elated at the donations. They along with the rest of the Sisters of St. Basil the Great and their lay employees were extremely thankful to the Martin Saints community for their generosity and joyful service.
Martin Saints Classical High School opened in September 2017 with a small 9th grade class. It has grown each year thereafter and graduated its first seniors in the spring. Martin Saints belongs to the Chesterton Schools Network, whose member institutions share the mission “to help inspire and encourage parent-led schools across the nation offering affordable, rigorous, classical curriculum taught through the lens of the Catholic faith.” The school occupies the upper floors of the Holy Martyrs building in Oreland, Pa., formerly home to the parish school.
Martin Saints is named for the incredible family of Saints Louis and Zélie Martin who had nine children, including St. Thérèse of Lisieux-the Little Flower. There are many parallels with Macrina and Basil’s own family, which also consisted of nine children born to saintly parents (Saints Basil the Elder and Emmelia).