2011 Orthodox Institute Presenter Biographies


(In alphabetical order)

Leslee Abud was born in Los Angeles, CA and raised in a loving Orthodox home.  She was active in all phases of church activity growing up – Church School, Church Camp, and Youth Group.  At 24 years of age she was accepted in the Religious Education program at St. Vladimir’s Seminary.  At the same time she was enrolled at Concordia College in Bronxville, NY where she completed her Bachelors Degree in Educational Services.

She is married to Very Rev. Fr. Joseph Abud and they have 3 children – Nicholas (25 and a student in the Pharmacy School at Wayne State University), John (24 and presently looking for work as a High School English Teacher, living in Chicago), and Joanna (19 and in her 2nd year at Univ. of Michigan-Flint).  Their parish is St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Flint, Michigan.

Her background is in Education, specifically Christian Education.  She was the Church School Director of my parish for the past 16 years and is presently the Teen SOYO Advisor.  She also serves as an Associate in the Department of Christian Education of the Antiochian Archdiocese.

She has taught elementary education in Parochial Schools (Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox) and is presently working part time as a substitute teacher in her local school district.

  • Some of the workshops she has led include:
  • Praying With Your Child in Church
  • Religious Education in the Home and Church
  • Living the Church
  • Family Values in the Orthodox Church

And those specific to Church School Teachers and Directors:

  • Starting the Church School Year
  • Setting Up a Church School Classroom
  • Using a Theme Throughout the Year
  • Using the Curriculum
  • Discipline and Motivation

V. Rev. Fr. George Alberts, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, has been involved in Orthodox Christian Education for over 35 years. Ordained to the priesthood in 1973, he also studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Pine Rest Mental Health Hospital, Grand Rapids, MI, and has taught sociology at the community college level. Fr. George has served as a pastor in Michigan and Pennsylvania and is currently the pastor of St. George Church in Danbury, Connecticut. In addition, he holds the positions of Recording Secretary of the Orthodox Christian Education Commission, and Christian Education Coordinator for both the Diocese of New York and Washington, D.C., and the Diocese of Oakland, PA and the East.

Nike Bach is a parishioner of St. Anthony’s Antiochian Orthodox church in Bergenfield, NJ, the first Pan-Orthodox parish in the Antiochian Archdiocese. She serves there as Church School director. Married, she has two young- adult children. She graduated in 1975 from Douglass College, Rutgers University with a major in political science and sociology. She also has a Masters in City and Regional Planning from Rutgers. She holds leadership positions in many local volunteer organizations, including serving for ten years as an elected official of the Leonia Board of Education. She is employed by a firm which specializes in communication training and consulting.

Hollie Benton recently moved to Seattle, WA, where she attends St. Paul's Antiochian Orthodox Church. She and her husband, Dr. Richard Benton, are developing Orthodox Christian Fellowship at the University of Washington. She is involved with the youth in the Northwest where she has served at retreats and camps. While in Madison, WI, for ten years, she and her husband were advisers of a vibrant OCF at UW-Madison. She also taught church school for teens and served on the Ministry Team at St. Ignatius in Madison as the Women's Fellowship Coordinator. She graduated from St. Vladimir's Seminary with a Master of Arts in 1999. Besides her interest in Christian education, Hollie teaches piano and homeschools her daughters, Nellie and Kalista.

Carole Buleza was appointed to the position of Director of the Department of Christian Education for the Antiochian Archdiocese in January 2000. She holds a B.A. in Elementary Education and a Master's Degree in Religion, with a specialty in Religious Education. Carole served as the Curriculum Department Chair for the Orthodox Christian Education Commission for four years and in the capacity directed the production of the Interim Curriculum series, as well as the text, The Way, The Truth, and The Life. In conjunction with the OCEC, Carole introduced the teacher training program "Educating Ourselves and Our Children in Godliness" which has provided hundreds of teachers throughout North America with the resources and training for success in the church school classroom. She gratefully acknowledges that, "It is only by God's grace and with the help of my dedicated staff, the Order of St. Ignatius, members of the OCEC Board of Trustees, and especially His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, that we are able to provide such resources for Christian Education. May God continue to bless our efforts."

Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko was born on March 28, 1939 in Endicott, New York where he was educated in the public schools.  He graduated from Union-Endicott High School in 1956. He was baptized and raised in St. Mary’s Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church in Endicott.

  • B.A. in Russian Studies from Fordham University, 1960.
  • M. Div. from St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1963.
  • M.A. in Philosophy from Duquesne University, 1969.
  • Ph.D. in Theology from Fordham University, 1982.

He holds the rank of Protopresbyter in the Orthodox Church in America and is now in his 48th year of priestly service.  He served as pastor of churches in Warren, Ohio (1963-68)), Wappingers Falls, NY (1968-1978), and Jamaica Estates, NY (1978-1983).  He was rector of Three Hierarchs Chapel at St. Vladimir’s Seminary from 1992 to 2002.

From 1968 to 2002 he was on the faculty of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY where he taught courses in Dogmatic Theology, Practical Theology, Homiletics, Hagiology and Spirituality.

He served as Dean of SVS from September 1992 until retiring from this office in July 2002.  He was given the title of Dean Emeritus by the SVS Board of Trustees.

Fr. Hopko served as a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and as a delegate from the Orthodox Church in America to the World Council of Churches' Assemblies in Uppsala, Sweden and Nairobi, Kenya.   He also served as President of the Orthodox Theological Society in America.

Fr.  Hopko presents regular podcasts Speaking the Truth in Love and The Names and Titles of Jesus and Worship in Spirit and Truth:  Commentary on the Divine Liturgy on Ancient Faith Radio.  You may listen to these talks, and other lectures on various subjects, at www.ancientfaithradio.com.

Married to Anne Schmemann in 1963, the Hopkos have 5 married children (a son and four daughters), 16 grandchildren and 1great granddaughter.  Fr Thomas and his wife Anne now live in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania where Fr. Hopko serves at the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, a monastery for women founded by Mother Abbess Alexandra (Princess Ileana of Romania).

Al Kacere has been a Church School teacher St. George Church in Cedar Rapids for over 35 years. He has taught 4th and 5th grade the majority of the time. Al has extensive experience from teaching High School students to technical training in the Nuclear Industry. He currently trains a staff of over 30 technical trainers in the skills and techniques to provide technical training to a wide range of personnel at a Duane Arnold Energy Center in Cedar Rapids. Al has an undergraduate degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Northern Iowa and Masters of Business Administration from the University of Iowa. 

Dee Kacere has been involved with Church at St. George Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for over 35 years. She has served as Superintendent for the last 20 years. Dee has over 30 years of teaching experience with preschool to High School level children. She has used her experiences, education and organizational skills to coordinate and support Church School education and activities. Dee has an undergraduate degree in Family and Consumer Science Education from the University of Northern Iowa and a Masters Degree in Family and Consumer Science from Iowa State University.

Maria (Kouremenou) Khoury is the author of Orthodox Christian children's books including Christina Goes to the Holy Land walking the footsteps of Christ. She is a graduate of Hellenic College (1982), Harvard University (1985) and Boston University (1992) with a doctor of education degree. Born in Tripoli, Greece, she was raised in  Denver, Colorado. On Dec 31, 2009 she was included on the top 4 Human Rights Champions list by DC Human Rights Examiner including the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Hilary Clinton.

Maria is the author of Witness in the Holy Land (distributed by www.HolyCrossBookstore.com), a publication reflecting personal experiences living under military occupation with her husband the honorable Mayor David Canaan Khoury and three children Elena, Canaan, and Constantine. Her articles have been published world-wide in numerous newspapers and magazines and have been translated to various languages bringing awareness of the Christian presence in the Holy Land.

Dr. Khoury is a volunteer at St. George Greek Orthodox Church of Taybeh, Palestine, (www.saintgeorgetaybeh.org) fundraising for a housing project to help sustain the small Christian community. She has also spent three years training teachers in new classroom strategies in the Latin Patriarchate Schools throughout Palestine. She served as the only female principal at the Friends Boys School of Ramallah (1996) and worked closely with church leaders in Jerusalem as a consultant for the World Council of Churches (2004) and also headed the project to establish the International Academy of Art-Palestine (2007). She served on the Advisory Council of World Vision Jerusalem and the Taybeh Education Fund which she founded as an endowment helping students with university tuition in local colleges in Palestine; She was a speaker at the International Bishops' Conference at Bethlehem University (Jan 2004) and over 100 churches throughout the United States including key note 2008 Orthodox Institute. Maria Khoury has organized six successful village festivals in Palestine, Taybeh Oktoberfest initiated in 2005 boosting the local economy during 50% unemployment reflecting non-violent action and peaceful resistance developing into the most distinctive festival in Palestine celebrating cultural heritage.

The Khourys returned to the Holy Land (1995) following the Oslo Peace Agreement boosting the economy with an investment in a microbrewery producing the one and only Palestinian beer, "Taybeh Beer" (www.taybehbeer.com) and diversified (2001) to help farmers in fair trade bottling Taybeh Olive Oil (www.taybeholiveoil.com). The "Christina Book Series," published in Jerusalem promote ancient Christian values, centuries-old traditions and spiritual growth:

  • Christina Goes to Church (1992)
  • You Are Special: An Alphabet Book for Children (1993)
  • My Orthodox Counting Book (1999)
  • Christina Learns the Sacraments (2001)
  • Christina's Favorite Saints (2002)
  • Christina Goes to the Holy Land (2003)
  • Christina's True Heroes (2005)
  • Coloring with Christina (2007)
  • Meet the Evangelists (2009)

Myra Kovalak serves as director of the Teacher Training Department of the Orthodox Christian Education Commission. She has served on the Department of Christian Education for the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania, as well as the Dept. of Christian Education of the Orthodox Church in America for the past twelve years, writing curriculum, coordinating retreats for teens and women, teacher workshops, children's activities, and summer camps.   She holds a BA in English and Secondary Education, and has done graduate work in elementary and secondary education.  She participates in the Antiochian Archdiocese's annual Orthodox Institute for Christian Education, as well as Teacher Training Workshop presentations at St. Tikhon and St. Vladimir Seminaries.  She is the language arts teacher at St. John Neumann Regional Academy in Williamsport, PA.  She is married to Fr. Daniel Kovalak of Holy Cross Church in Williamsport, PA., who serves on the OCA Department of Evangelization. 

Gail Meena Malaniak is an intervention specialist for students in grades K-12. She has been teaching for over 20 years. She taught church school for 30 years and was church school director for 3 years at a mission church. She has published a book for first confession and enjoys writing Christian Education curriculum.  She is married and has raised 3 children. 

Vasiliki (Billie) Oldziey holds a B.A. in Humanities and Dance from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. and a certificate in the Laban/Bartnieff System of Movement Analysis, NYC. Vasiliki previously taught dance/mime/movement classes for children in the Central Texas region.  Currently she is working as a vision and hearing screener for the Austin, Texas school district. For the past 25 years, Vasiliki has either taught Church School or acted as director at St. Elias Orthodox Church in Austin.  In 1995, along with Fr. James Kenna, she helped to establish and served as editor of the quarterly publication, The Children's Magazine for Orthodox Christian Children.  Vasiliki has also written articles for The Handmaiden. For the past 12 years, she has been studying iconography with master iconographer, Vladislav Andrejev and iconographer, Irene Perez-Omer and has received commissions to write icons for private prayer, for Camp St. Raphael and portable icons for churches. She served as the Southwest Region Writing Festival Coordinator; diocesan coordinator for Creative Festivals and currently is the DOWAMA Coordinator for Christian Education.   Vasiliki also serves as a co-chair of the DOWAMA Sacred Arts Committee, established by His Grace, Bishop BASIL. She has led workshops for church school teachers and adult Christian education. Most importantly, Vasiliki is the (proud) mom of Nicholas, who has just started his college education.

Khouria Betty Randolph is the Christian Education Coordinator for the Diocese of Miami and the Southeast. Betty has over 30 years experience in the field of education including curriculum selection and development, teacher training, and staff development. Betty has a B.S. from S.U.N.Y. at Stony Brook and a M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision from Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida. She is a retired school principal who has served at both the elementary and middle school levels. Betty brings manifold resources to the task of both teaching and administration. Her broad base experience made her the person to compile the Church School Director’s Manual. Betty is also an O.C.E.C. trainer. Her husband, Fr. David, is pastor of Christ the Saviour Church in Anderson, South Carolina.

The V. Rev. Fr. David J. Randolph is the pastor of Christ the Savior Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson South Carolina. He is also the founder and President of Telios, an offender outreach in Florida and South Carolina. He also serves as a Behavior Intervention Counselor for children and their families referred by the Department of Social Service.

Fr. Randolph serves on the two boards of directors: Foothills Alliance, an agency that provides services for the prevention and intervention of children and sexual assault of children and adults/ and Safe Harbor, a domestic violence shelter and counseling center

He serves as a chaplain to Orthodox students as Clemson University and the Anmed Hospital.

Through a program entitled Angel Food Ministries, the parish distributes some 500 packages of food to those in need. To those who desire to participate, they teach a course on life management skills through seminars and small groups discussions.

He is a member of the Rotary Club.

Fr. David has received awards including:

  • “Profiles in Courage” award
  • “Walt Disney Service” award
  • Several awards through the Florida Juvenile Justice Board Department
  • Lake County Florida Humanitarian
  • Commendation from the office of President George H. W. Bush.

SPECIALIZED TRAINING:

  • MORAL RECOGNITION THERAPY: A systematic therapeutic approach dealing substance abuse and other destructive behavior.
  • DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ..... THE DULUTH MODEL
  • PARENT TO PARENT SAFE PASSAGES ... FACILITATOR
  • ST STEPHENS COURSE OF STUDIES: A three year study of Orthodox Church doctrine and practices program.
  • Through the Lilly Foundation, he has studied for two years: THE POSTMODERN PHILOSPHY AND ITS RELATION THE CHRISTAIN CHURCH

Through the same foundation he took a two week Pilgrmage to the Holy Land.

He is presently studying under the Antiochian House of Studies Pastoral Mariage and Family Counseling.

As a result of soul searching he left the business field and began his ministry began in 1980. From 1980 until 1994, he was in full-time prison ministry. At the direction of the Archbishop, he began his parish ministry in Florida and was assigned a parish in South Carolina in 1998.

He is married to Kh. Betty Randolph, a retired school principal. He is a father of five children and grandfather of six.

Dr. Nicolae Roddy is Associate Professor of Theology at Creighton University, a top-ranked Jesuit institution located in Omaha, Nebraska, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Hebrew Bible / Older Testament. For the past fifteen years, he has served as Co-director and Area Supervisor for the Bethsaida Excavations Project, an archaeological site located at the foot of the Golan Heights near the Sea of Galilee, and also co-directs the Virtual World Project, a web-based virtual reality resource dedicated to Syro-Palestinian archaeology, available at www.virtualworldproject.org. In addition, Dr. Roddy is a member of the Board of the Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies and serves as Senior Editor for the Journal of the Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies (JOCABS). He is past President of the Rocky Mountain/Great Plains Region of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). He also serves on the steering committee of the Biblical Studies in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Traditions sections of SBL. Dr. Roddy is the author of The Romanian Version of the Testament of Abraham: Text, Translation, and Cultural Context (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2001), as well as an edited work entitled Words of a Shepherd: The Life and Writings of Protostavrophor Vojislav Dosenovich (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2006). He has authored numerous book chapters and journal articles and is currently writing a book on biblical anthropology. Dr. Roddy earned the Master of Arts in Theology from St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (1989) and his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa (1999), having completed his dissertation research as a Fulbright Scholar to Romania during the 1994-1995 academic year. Of Romanian heritage, Dr. Roddy is an active member of St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church in Omaha. He is married to Alexandra Roddy, formerly of Bucharest, Romania, and has four children: Aurelia (20), Elijah (16), Alexandru (7), and Anika (5). You may contact him by email at nroddy@creighton.edu.

Rev. Fr. Fouad Saba is a graduate of North Park University (’03) with a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies.  Born in 1980 and raised on the north side of Chicago, less than a mile from North Park, Fr. Saba balanced his Chicago background along with his Palestinian Heritage.  He grew up loving literature, poetry, movies, and languages.  Born into a family of Palestinian Refugees, he was closely attached to his heritage and the Arabic language.  He developed a great admiration for the history of the Middle East, its people, and, through this, the Holy Scriptures.

During his teenage and college years, he became very involved in his Church.  He was baptized and raised as an Orthodox Christian belonging to St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cicero, IL.  After graduating from North Park University, he was accepted as an Archdiocesan Seminarian in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.  His Seminary Studies began in the Fall of 2003, eventually graduating in 2007 with a Master’s Degree in Divinity from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York.  It was at St. Vladimir’s where he seriously began learning the Holy Scriptures as an adult.  His inspiration was and still is the V. Rev. Dr. Paul Nadim Tarazi, who truly has started a modern Scriptural revival in the Orthodox Church in this country and abroad (www.ocabs.org).

He was married in August of 2007 to his lovely wife, Diana, whom he met in Palestine in 2005.  His ordination to the Holy Diaconate came soon after marriage, quickly followed by his ordination to the Holy Priesthood in January of 2008.  As the Assistant Priest at St. George Church in Cicero, IL, he has worked closely with the youth and young adults, developing various programs which have served scores of young people to the Church.  One such program is an Adult Lay Educational Ministry called the St. John Chrysostom Academy, which offers adult laypeople the opportunity to learn the Holy Scriptures and the primary function they have as the center of the liturgical celebration.

He has spoken at numerous retreats, high school and university lectures including North Park University, his alma mater, on several occasions.  In November of 2009, Fr. Saba and Diana welcomed their first child, Katherine Amal Saba.  Fr. Saba is currently attached as the Assistant Priest at his home parish in Cicero, IL and continues to reside in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Gigi Baba Shadid is the wife of Fr. James Shadid, and mother of three.  She has been very involved with the Antiochian Archdiocese camping programs since 1992 and has a deep love for teaching children.  She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Education in 1998.  Gigi worked in the public schools in Houston for one year, then served as her parish's full-time Youth Director for three years before moving to Wichita, KS.  There, she taught middle school math at a Catholic school for 7 years.  Gigi has a passion for teaching with music and loves to share her music ministry with others.  Her original music CD's include: "Fruits of the Spirit," "Celebrate the Feasts," "Middle School Math Music," and "ABC's of Orthodoxy."  She is excited to be at this year's Orthodox Institute and looks forward to sharing this year's Church school theme song, "Eternal Joy."

Catherine Sullivan

  • BA English, education, MAR, theology
  • Certified teacher in Elementary and Secondary English
  • 25 years of teaching experience
  • First Christian Education Director for the US Coast Guard
  • Parish Christian Education Director, over 25 years
  • Writer and graphic designer, educational consultant
  • Currently Associate, Antiochian Orthodox Church Christian Education Department
  • Writing teacher, Gaston College
  • Currently located in Charlotte, NC

Kristina Wenger is an Orthodox mother who has her master’s degree in Elementary Education. She loves to learn, and has homeschooled her children at various points in their educational career. This year, while the children are attending the local public schools, Kristina is spending some of her time preparing the “Scripture Through the Lens of the Holy Lands” Vacation Church School curriculum. She also works part time as a storyteller/curriculum creator/teacher for Kids and Cultures, an educational organization that introduces children to world cultures, and is the "voice" of the Let Us Attend podcast on Ancient Faith Radio. She makes and sells Cards Through My Lens, homemade photo cards. Kristina enjoys volunteering in local schools and the local public library, reading, crafts, baking, hiking, and singing.

Timm Wenger and his family attend St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, Pa., where he serves on the parish council and teaches Sunday Church School with second and third graders. He and his wife Kristina are founders of Kids and Cultures, an educational organization that introduces children to world cultures. Timm works part-time as assistant web manager for Conciliar Press and enjoys urban gardening.