The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), St. Augustine, FL - Archbishop Iakovos, former Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America from 1959 to 1996, fell asleep in the Lord on April 10, 2005 at the age of 93 years old. His Eminence will be remembered for many achievements during his fruitful ministry, including his encouragement, support, and establishment of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC).
His involvement began in 1966 when Archbishop Iakovos supported a landmark proposal submitted to the 17th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress. The proposal requested the establishment of the first "Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Standing Committee of Missions," which the Congress passed unanimously. From 1967, this Missions Committee began to function for the next 17 years with 20 volunteer clergy and lay Board members. The Archbishop appointed Bishop Silas as the Episcopal Head of the Committee and me as the Co-ordinator.
The Missions Committee had two main objectives. The first was to raise awareness about Orthodox foreign missions through writings, lectures and sermons. The second was to raise funds for scholarship assistance to young men and women from Uganda, Kenya, Korea and Mexico to study at St. Basil's Academy and at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Upon completion of their studies, these students returned to their respective countries to serve as priests and teachers of Orthodoxy.
In 1984, at the 27th Clergy-Laity Congress of New York, Archbishop Iakovos again played a role in opening wide the door for the growth of mission activity in the Church. The program had grown too large for volunteers to handle the ministry and the Missions Committee requested a salaried Executive Director and a permanent office. Archbishop Iakovos again supported the decision wholeheartedly and appointed Fr. Dimitrios Couchell (now Bishop of Xanthos) as the first Executive Director. The Missions Committee became the Archdiocesan Mission Center with an office at the St. Photios Shrine in St. Augustine, Florida.
Ten years later, in 1994 Archbishop Iakovos' pastoral guidance and vision supported another crucial step in the establishment of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center as it is today. His Eminence received very favorably the proposal to broaden the Mission Center's ministry by becoming pan-Orthodox under the aegis of SCOBA (Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America). The proposal received the unanimous approval of the 32nd Greek Orthodox Clergy-Laity Congress and of SCOBA. Archbishop Iakovos served as the long-time chairman of SCOBA and the new name given to the ministry was the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC).
Since its humble beginnings OCMC, which Archbishop Iakovos helped to bring into existence, has grown into a missionary outreach impacting thousands of lives in the name of Christ. Since 1985, the Mission Center has sent 70 long-term missionaries to Africa, Eastern Europe, South East Asia, and Latin America and 762 short-term Mission Team volunteers on 95 teams to 22 countries. The OCMC has conducted 41 building and restoration projects of churches, schools and medical clinics, and financially supported 272 indigenous Orthodox clergy in 16 countries on an annual basis.
The Mission Center is grateful for all of Archbishop Iakovos' support over the years. May his memory be eternal!
Fr. Alexander Veronis is the Orthodox Christian Mission Center Board President Emeritus.
Read this article on the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) website (new window will open).