JoAnne Misail, host of Embracing Access and the official SCOBA document “Disability and Communion”

Chapter 25 in the book Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith Disability and Inclusion, by Mark I. Pinsky is about a Greek Orthodox woman. Her story is the first story of Part 2, which relates the stories of Ministries by People with Disabilities. Here are some excerpts from that story, provided by Google Books

JoAnn Misail: Thrust into Untried Territory

The Annunication of the Virgin Mary

A summary of the story: JoAnne, in her middle years, contracted multiple sclerosis. Her first impulse was to withdraw. She contacted the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and through this contact gained a very close friend named Irene, and they would go out with their husbands to concerts and other public events, and would smile at people who stared at them. At her Church, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Boston, Massachusetts, a new priest asked JoAnn to host an informal coffee for other parishioners in her neighborhood. This opened up for JoAnn her sense that she still could make opportunites to serve. 

She enrolled in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese’ 3 year St. Stephen’s Program. Each year the Program requires a directed study project, and in her final year she organized an event. Here is the bulletin announcement for the event:

Embracing the whole body of Christ Divine Liturgy On Saturday June 10, 2006 the Taxiarchae Parish of Watertown will host a Pan Orthodox Divine Liturgy for both those with special needs and those who want to learn more about special needs. The forum will include personal and professional people who have special needs or have worked in the filed of special needsSt. Demetrios Church, Weston, MA Church Bulletin June 4, 2006 

Source of Icon: OrthodoxWord

In the aftermath of this Divine Liturgy, she formed a group in her home, named Embracing Access, for people with disabilities and their family members.

Another thing I learned from this chapter is that I gave incorrect information a while back as to the author of the SCOBA (Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas) document Disability and Communion. I mistakenly assumed that it was the late Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory who was behind this document, as his favorite charity was an ability ministry in the country of Lebanon, Al Kafaat. JoAnn Misail’s story reveals the true author of the document: JoAnn Misail herself, with the editorial help of Father  Deacon. John Chryssavgis. Sorry about that, JoAnn! Thank you for this marvelous declaration!

Here is this official episcopal statement, from the Orthodox Church in America website: Disability and Communion



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