Here, we hope to share with you some personal “journeys” of some of the faithful of St. John of Damascus Orthodox Church.
Margaret (Macrina) Barno
My journey to Orthodoxy began before I was conceived. My paternal grandparents came from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in the early 1900s, settled in Wolf Run, Ohio, where six of their eight children, including my father were born. I’ve learned that my grandparents loaned funds to buy land and build All Saints Russian Orthodox Church over one hundred years ago. I’m happy to say, the church is now affiliated with the OCA and is still active.
I was baptized in the Methodist Church. Because our family moved frequently to different parts of the US, I was exposed to a variety of Protestant traditions, graduated from a Methodist college, earned two Master’s degrees from a United Methodist seminary, and received a third Master’s degree in Social Work from a Roman Catholic graduate school. I spent most of my adult life attending Episcopal churches.
I knew nothing about my Orthodox roots in fact until 2017, when three events occurred: I reviewed a cousin’s information that his son had asked him to gather on his grandparents’ religious background. Joining Ancestry.com confirmed that 47% of my genes revealed a Central European heritage. The third and most unusual event occurred one afternoon; while reading, I noticed a 3”x5” card floating from my kitchen ceiling to the floor near me, landing face down. When I picked the card up and turned it over I read the following:
Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth,
Who are everywhere present and fill all things.
Treasury of blessings and Giver of Life,
Come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every stain
and save our soul. O Gracious Lord.
~ from the Eastern Christian Tradition
I have no idea from where it came from, though having had unusual events in the past that were equally unexplainable, I knew it came from above. I read it over and over, finally prayerfully saying, “Thank you Grandma B.” Then I began a new search: I called OCA Headquarters in NYC, learned of the church name both in Wolf Run, Ohio, and here in Tyler, TX, e-mailing the priest of each church. I received information about All Saints, while Fr. John Mikita arranged to have is wife pick me up and attend Saturday evening vespers.
After vespers, he sat beside me and asked how I felt. Instead of the words I’d wanted to say, I sobbed and sobbed, managing to say, “I’m HOME! I’ve finally found my spiritual home.” That visit took place in May 2017. Following several conversations with Fr. John and his conferring with his superior and Archbishop Alexander in Dallas, I became a catechumen and was chrismated on August 19, 2017.
I have read several books on the Elders of Optina and others on the history of orthodoxy, listened to Ancient Faith Radio. What I’ve found most helpful is listening to how others were drawn to Orthodoxy and attending every service whenever possible. I pray Morning Prayer and “Prayers Before Sleep” almost daily. I’ve met the Lord and the Theotokos in new ways: in icons, using the prayer rope, and in the people of Saint John of Damascus Orthodox Church.