Donna Rizk Asdourian

Donna WOW 1a

Our Woman of the Week is Donna Rizk Asdourian, a scholar and leader who has long been nurturing an idea for ministry for Christian Orthodox women. Here she is participating in a panel in New York at the Orthodox Christian Studies Center with Sister Vassa Larin, Dr. Tamara Grdzelidze, Dr. Anne Bezzerides, and Axia's Dr. Patricia Fann Bouteneff. We asked her to tell you about how that ministry evolved:

"After countless moves, 13 cities, 5 states, 4 countries, 2 kids, & my husband’s ordination to the diaconate, it’s been quite a journey.

"I pursued what became my 10-year journey of theological education after I completed my BA from the University of Hawaii in 3 years. I started my first master’s degree at Holy Cross Seminary when I was 21. I then did work in Liturgical Studies in Berkeley, German Studies in Regensburg & Vienna, Masters in Eastern Christianity at Oxford, & PhD at King’s College London with some of the best professors & supervisors one can ask for.

"My pursuit of higher (theological) ed had many influences, faces, & phases. It mainly began in high school. I was mentored by a some of the most incredible leaders-women & men at my parish (many whom later became priests, a bishop, & presbyteras). I began to read theological books during that time & was inspired to start our first English bookstore in our parish. I was 17. Our eldest priest heard of my project & handed me some money to start ordering books. So I did, & the project lasted for years, until I moved to Europe in my mid-20s.

Donna WOW 1b
Donna WOW 1c

"After my PhD, I returned to the US & immediately encountered a very odd situation: the local Coptic Bishop (I never met before) offered me a position in women’s ministry & theological ed after he heard of my studies & work w/
@orthodoxwomensministry, a nonprofit 501(c)3. I eventually took the position as I felt this was a God-given opportunity to make a greater impact at the diocesan level. After a year of too much difficulty w/ disorganization there, I received the 1st grant as a female Armenian-Copt at the OCSC at Fordham University. I focused my research on Oriental Orthodox Women & Their Role in the Liturgical Services.”




Donna Rizk Asdourian is our Woman of the Week, nominated for her dedication as a scholar & leader. You see her here introducing a panel at an event for Orthodox Women's Ministry that included Dr. Carolyn Ramzy, Ani Shaninian, Lijin Thomas, and Judge Sherrie Midday. We asked her to tell you more about how she began her ministry:

"I guess one can say I’m an anomaly. There are nearly no women in the Coptic Church who pursue any form of theological education (or even women in the Oriental O. Churches for that matter), esp. pursuing their doctorates. I only know of 2 others, and one is a historian of Christianity.

"My experiences of living in so many places, meeting so many wonderful people, seeing churches in so many different lights-inspired me to focus my service on the pastoral & theological needs of Orthodox women. Because of my studies in theology, I was encouraged to start a theological blog in 2013 & began to write. A few blogs on women became viral & I was really touched by the community’s massive response.
Donna WOW 2a
Donna WOW 2b

"But I will pinpoint the birth of @orthodoxwomensministry. In 2015, a friend of mine & I happened to attend a local
Orthodox conference. The theme was on Orthodox women & attended by Metr. K. Ware, Prof. Andrew Louth, Dr. Mary Cunningham, among others. 

"During that conference, I was serving College youth at a Coptic parish. My close friend who served with me nudged me to ask Metr. Ware to give a youth lecture at our parish. I was slightly hesitant to ask him for such a favor, but did anyway. He was very excited to do so. He later couldn’t give the lecture, but I convinced him somehow to give the keynote lecture at what would become our 1st Oriental/Eastern Orthodox International Conference in London in 2015 (His Eminence humbly took a train from Oxford for the day to speak to us, an incredible gesture I will never forget). Dr. Kyriaki Fitzgerald was another keynote speaker, alongside other great speakers, incl. Prof. Mariz Tadros, Fr. Seraphim Suriany, & Dr. Emmanuel Gergis.

"And so, OWM was born. The conference gained so much recognition (150+ attendees from 8 countries, women & men, scholars, lay & ordained) we decided to start OWM as an online platform that will provide resources & a safe/edifying space for women globally." 


As always, we asked our Woman of the Week, Donna Rizk Asdourian, about her morning routine:

"My routine—well—is not very consistent! I’ve been a stay-at-home body since 2011 (literally). From working from home on my master’s thesis at Oxford until today, I’ve studied and/or worked from home. Now, I’ve been a full-time mom and working part-time on @orthodoxwomensministry. Thus, I’m not very strict on my schedule.

"Nonetheless, my two kids have helpfully forced me into a routine (more-or-less)—in a good way (no sarcasm here!).

"So, my morning routine usually begins with one child waking either my husband or me up (between 7-8 am – my kids often like to sleep-in—thank God!). Other times, the little one wakes up between 6:30-7 and Levon (my saintly husband) takes the morning shift in caring for the two.

"I try to start with a morning herbal tea and often make my 'elixir' vitamin shake (that tastes like grass sometimes), but I feel it helps me feel healthy and focused.

"After we four have breakfast together, my husband is off to work, or if he has a later schedule, we try to take the kids out to the park or to our favorite small walking town nearby to get out of the house (when the weather is promising).

"Otherwise, playing with my kids and feeding the little one usually takes up my mornings and I’m grateful that I can enjoy being with them most of the day as they grow in this world."

Thank you, Donna!


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