The history of St. Ephraim Center is intertwined with the personal story of our founding director, Masha Gisetti. Her story really began in 1972 when she married a young seminarian at age 22 and, the next year, began her life as a priest’s wife. “I had no mentors, I had no manuals!” says Masha. “I was young, inexperienced, loved to have fun, and found myself in a world totally foreign to me. Having a glass of wine was an acceptable way of socializing. And at first I was happy with just one glass of wine. The rest is history…”
Twenty years later, without warning or previous attempts to help, church administrators came to Masha and told her they knew she was an alcoholic. Either she went into rehab that very day, they warned, or her husband would be removed from his parish. “I had never felt more scared, humiliated, unloved, or abandoned and alone at any time in my life,” Masha recalls. “My life as I had known it had been turned upside down in a matter of seconds.”
Masha took the threat seriously and got help. The two weeks she spent at the Caron Foundation not only changed her life forever, but also inspired her to help others in the same situation by giving them the hope, strength, and tools they needed to change their own lives. At the same time, she vowed never to let another Orthodox clergy family go through the same frightening experience hers had.
Years later, Masha — now a certified addiction counselor — reconnected with Christina Veselak, also a clergy wife and a national expert in addiction treatment. They realized they had a mutual dream: to help Orthodox clergy and families suffering from addictions. The budding start-up team quickly took on three more members and chose St. Ephraim the Syriac as patron saint of the endeavor. In 2013, St. Ephraim Center was awarded a critical start-up grant by the Virginia H. Farah Foundation, acquired its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, and began providing services. Soon, recognizing a deep need in the community, the Center expanded its mission to include services for Orthodox laity as well as clergy.
Today, with the blessing of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America and Bishop Basil of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, St. Ephraim Center offers educational programs and effective, Christ-centered addictions treatment for Orthodox clergy and laity. With growing services and nationally recognized staff, we are here to help.