FAITH AND FAMILY
Local Romanian congregation to host archbishop
FREDERICKSBURG, VA. | There were smiles all around as members of the Romanian congregation worked to get things ready for their important visitor.
Maria Sauciuc knows how vital it is to make a good impression. That’s why she and others are showing their best “traditional Romanian hospitality,” Daniela Langa said, so they’ll be able to have a church and a priest of their own that much sooner.
“We are all excited and honored beyond words,” Ms. Langa said. “For some, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
“I couldn’t even dream of this,” Ms. Sauciuc said.
The hopes of the church members — and there are an estimated 200 Romanian families in the Fredericksburg area — are coming to fruition. Local residents are hosting His Eminence Nicolae Condrea, archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the United States.
In church circles, that’s as significant as a visit from the president, Ms. Sauciuc said.
Local Romanians petitioned his eminence in Chicago, asking that a church be established in the Fredericksburg area. The diocese seeks to have strong, viable churches — not necessarily one in every county or city — and Father Daniel Ene, a church administrator from Rochester, New York, was sent to Fredericksburg to check out the request in December 2015.
He realized there’s a Romanian Orthodox Church in Northern Virginia, which is 45 minutes away, according to GPS systems.
“Why are you not going there?” he asked the Fredericksburg residents. “Then, I came here and took that drive.”
He answered his own question when he encountered Interstate 95 traffic.
The diocese agreed to start a Romanian Orthodox mission in the area. It named the group St. Callinicus of Cernica, which has a website at sfantulcalinic.org.
Because the group doesn’t have a building of its own, members have gathered at the Nativity of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church on Spotswood Furnance Road in Spotsylvania County, near Riverbend High School.
Father Ene, who makes the 10-hour drive from upstate New York, and Father Timothy Avram from Philadelphia, hold services in the Greek church for the Romanian congregants three Saturdays of the month.
But with the visit from the archbishop, who also oversees churches in Canada and South America, the local group will be that much closer to having their own facility. Archbishop Condrea will talk with the church leadership, as well as church members, and decide what priest should be sent to Fredericksburg, Father Ene said.
He’s hoping to have a priest in place by the end of this year.
Archbishop Condrea is scheduled to hold a divine liturgy on May 11, from 10 a.m. to noon. Then, participants will gather in the social hall for food and dancing.
“This is a huge step for us,” said Victor Fadur, who came to America in 1999 after being a professional dancer in Romania. He leads a group of about a dozen dancers who perform traditional steps from their native land.
His father, uncle and grandfathers are priests, and “I know exactly how big this is for us,” he said about Archbishop Condrea’s visit.
The Romanians are more than grateful for the hospitality of their Greek sister church, which observes the same rituals with the same icons, Father Ene said. Only the language is different.
But to those born in Romania, in southeastern Europe, hearing religious services in their mother tongue is key. That’s why the group wanted a church of their own, with a Romanian priest.
Also, congregants want their children, who were born in the United States, to embrace their American and Romanian roots, Ms. Sauciuc said. Her 10-year-old son is bilingual and spends his summers in Romania.
There are so many children among the Fredericksburg Romanian congregation that “we are called ‘the kids church’ by visiting priests,” Ms. Langa said.
That’s why whoever is called to Fredericksburg must be able to relate to young ones, Father Ene said. Even when babies are crying or toddlers are moving about the pews, the service still seems blessed, Father Ene said about the children.
“They bring the angels together,” he said.
Maria Sauciuc, Victor Fadur, Claudiu Bardazau and Tudor Ionita (left to right) all immigrated from Romania and now are working toward forming a church for the Romania community in the Fredericksburg region. There are an estimated 200 families there.