The National Youth Directors of several different Orthodox Jurisdictions, together with the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), have collaborated to offer several resources for clergy and lay people to help minister to our youth and young adults in light of the recent public violence in and around Boston.
The resource packet contains a cover letter from several youth directors, three reflections on the attacks by adults, ten tips for speaking to your youth groups and church school classes about public violence, and ten suggested steps for equipping your youth group or OCF chapter to respond to these tragedies. Additionally, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has made available its online study guide “A Christian Response to Terrorism.” This study guide, originally compiled after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, provides prayers, scriptural references, and discussion questions to use with youth and young adults.
In addition to the OCA, these materials have been provided by collaboration between the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, the Ukrainian Church of the USA, and the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia.
Tanya Schillawski, the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) Student Advisory Board Praxis Coordinator, has announced that the OCF Day of Prayer will begin on Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. and end at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, April 8. For twenty-four hours, college students at OCF chapters around the country will be praying continuously. The OCF website will post the prayer service, with versions that can be used with and without the presence of a priest. Insructions on setting up a live feed will also be posted, so that students from around the country can pray with the designated chapter.
For those OCF chapters unable to participate in the program, leaders are requested that their lists of names of the living and departed be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The cut off day to submit names is Friday, March 29th, with no exceptions allowed. These lists will then be posted on the OCF's website.
The parish of St. Antonios Antiochian Orthodox Church in Halifax, Nova Scotia was blessed to have Fr. Joseph Purpura, chairman of the Antiochian Department of Youth Ministry, join us for a weekend full of inspiration, motivation and faith.
On Friday March 8, Fr. Joseph met with the parents of the youth in the community and informed them about issues that have become a serious problem within society. This includes sex, drugs and alcohol. Sadly, these common activities observed within society also affect teens in the Orthodox Church.
Increasing parent and teen awareness to these issues was an extremely important aspect of the weekend, as many parents were not updated with the latest science about the harm that results from the use of alcohol and drug substances.
As part of a growing partnership between Ancient Faith Radio (AFR) and Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), audio field reports are being posted from select Real Break Trips on Ancient Faith Radio, including ministry to: Guatemala, Honduras, Constantinople, Mexico, Toronto, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. Tune in to AFR to listen on demand as they become available.
Other joint projects include the OCF Podcast, Special College Student Editions of Orthodoxy Live ( a live call in program) and coverage of other special OCF events.
Ancient Faith Radio seeks to deepen and enrich the faith of Orthodox Christians around the world with streaming audio programming and on-demand podcasts. It features liturgical music from a variety of Orthodox traditions, as well as prayers, readings, lectures, and interviews.
The Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America's Youth Director Erin Ghata, member of St. Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, Oklahoma City, OK, recently reported to the St. Raphael Clergy Brotherhood, that the Diocese of Wichita's annual SOYO Winter Camp from February 15-17 exceeded all expectations. "Your blessing!" wrote Ms. Ghata. "Thank God, by your prayers, we had a wonderful time this past weekend at Winter Camp! More than 120 DOWAMA teens and chaperones gathered at Camp Saint Raphael (YABOY!) for a weekend of prayer, fellowship and learning. It was the biggest Winter Camp we have ever had!
"Father James Shadid did an amazing job as our speaker," she continued.
In time for the 2013-2014 academic year, the Scholarships page on Antiochian.org has been updated to include all archdiocesan forms and deadlines, as well as information from other institutions offering scholarships to Antiochian students at both the college or graduate school level.
Students can browse through various options, including a scholarship for a student in the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, a scholarship from Antiochian Women, several scholarships from the Fellowship of St. John the Divine, scholarships available from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and scholarships for former Scouts. By way of reminder, camp scholarships are also available through the Order of St. Ignatius.
As part of a "Come Receive the Light" series on the family and the Church, The Very Rev. Dr. Joseph Purpura, chair of the Department of Youth and Parish Ministry, recently joined Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) Executive Director Fr. Chris Metropulos for two discussions about helping Orthodox teens navigate today's complicated journey to adulthood. (Listen to Part I, "Moving Towards Salvation," and Part II, "Closer to Christ.)
Father Joseph outlined the top challenges, which he noted are as great as they've been at any time in history: busyness which can be senseless, stress, overscheduling, distractions, a sense of being overstimulated by technology, overexposure to sexual images, and the prevalence of substance abuse. He also explained that historically, parents had never been expected to raise their kids without outside support; the community as a whole felt a responsibility to help children grow up safely.
During the month of January, the youth of the Antiochian Archdiocese traditionally focus on two worthy SOYO programs: Sacred Gift of Life, and Purity, Virginity, Chastity. Local Teen SOYO chapters and high school Christian Education classes are encouraged to view and use the resources found on SOYO's website. Some of the materials include a case study on abortion and the sacred gift of life developed by Dr. H. Tristram Engelhardt, leading Orthodox bioethicist; lesson plans with discussion questions about chastity; and essays about the Sacrament of Matrimony and the mystery of marriage.
The SOYO site explains that "while people may have failed to make good choices in the past on this most important issue of life, SOYO chooses to help educate a generation of teens to make good choices with how they use their body and how they treat life - given as a gift from God." With these resources, teens, under the leadership of their pastors and advisors, will have the material necessary to hold productive discussions which will hopefully further their belief and commitment to the sacred gift of life and to the virtues of purity and chastity.
The 2013 Special Olympics Sports Camp is scheduled to be held at the Antiochian Village August 9-17, 2013. This ministry is sponsored by the North American Council of Teen SOYO, and is the second longest running program of Special Olympics Pennsylvania, serving approximately 175 campers each season. It is the premier SOYO outreach program, now in its 32st year of service. Each year SOYO teens raise the funds on Special Olympics Awareness Day (in 2012 over $50,000 was raised), along with an $8,000 annual contribution from the Order of St. Ignatius.
In addition to the funds raised, SOYO teens provide at least half the coaching staff, and many former teens who are now adults come on staff as adult leaders. With this in mind, The Very Rev. Dr. Joseph Purpura, chair of the Department of Youth Ministry, has announced that the 2013 SOYO Special Olympic Coaches Application is now available for those youth who are interested in working at the Sports Camp. More information about this opportunity is available on the SOYO website.
The following is the New Year’s letter offered to the teens of the Antiochian Archdiocese by Fr. Joseph F. Purpura, the chairman of the Department of Youth and Parish Ministry. In it, he describes his hopes and prayers for the youth of the Archdiocese in this new season.
As we enter the year of our Lord 2013, a flood of thoughts flow through my mind concerning you the young people of this great archdiocese. For many years I have been blessed to lead the youth efforts across this North American Archdiocese. First as a Regional Spiritual Advisor from 1981-1985, then as the North American Council of SOYO Spiritual Advisor from 1985-1991 and then as Chairman of the Department of Youth and Parish Ministry from 1990 to present. In each of these thirty-five years of priesthood and youth work, I have been keenly aware of three things:
First, that our task is to pass the faith down to each of you.
Second, to instill in you a love for Christ and His Holy Orthodox Church and to enable you to live a righteous life in Jesus Christ.
Third, to raise generations of disciples and leaders for Christ’s Holy Orthodox Church and these North American nations in which we reside.
With each passing year and with each successive generation of young persons placed before us, I continue to be amazed and filled with joy at just how blessed our archdiocese and Holy Orthodox Church here in North America is to have so many dedicated, loving, and Christ-centered young persons in our midst. So often the media is filled with all that is wrong in our society, especially among young people, yet all we need to do is look at you, the youth of this archdiocese, and know that God is present and working in you.
Des Plaines, IL – More than 60 parents, clergy and youth leaders attended a breakfast forum titled “How To Talk To Your Kids…and save your child from substance use/abuse” on Saturday, December 8 at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Des Plaines, IL, a northwest suburb of Chicago. Sponsored by the Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth (OCCHY), the forum hosted people from seven Orthodox jurisdictions representing fifteen parishes in the Greater Chicago area.
Following a prayer and welcome from OCCHY Director Fr. Nicholas Dahdal, and brief introduction to OCCHY by Project Coordinator Gordana Trbuhovich, the program began with a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) video presentation, featuring Dr. Nora Volkow. Three dynamic speakers followed, beginning with Fr. Athanasios Papagiannis, LCSW, a licensed social worker and assistant priest at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago. Father Athanasios stressed positive and spiritual relationships in his presentation, “You and Your Child." “The way you bend the young branch,” Father stated, “is the direction in which the tree will grow."
December 15, 2012
Dear Teens of the Antiochian Archdiocese,
Please keep in your prayers all of the children and adults killed this past Friday in Newtown, Connecticut.
There are no words to describe the why of these senseless killing of innocent children and adults.
Our hope, trust, and comfort is found in God the Father who so loved us that He sent His own Son to become one of us, to die on the Cross, and to rise from the dead, making a way to the Kingdom for us so that we might have life in abundance.
May the approaching Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ bring you comfort and peace as we contemplate the tremendous and unending love of God for each of us. May His love and His presence bring you great comfort in the coming weeks and year.
Yours in Christ,
V. Rev. Dr. Joseph F Purpura
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Helping Our Orthodox Youth Follow and Represent Christ
Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church + Austin, TX
Janury 24-26, 2013
Download Flyer (PDF)
The 11 Annual Orthodox Christian Camp & Youth Worker Conference provides an arena for Orthodox youth workers from different jurisdictions to share and provide resources. The conference will include keynote and guest speakers, educational presentations, break out sessions and fellowship. All Orthodox parish and diocese youth workers, camp directors and staff, and OCF chaplains are invited to attend.
Father Apostolos Hill, the keynote speaker, has served in the Orthodox Church for the last twenty years as cantor, youth director, catechist, deacon, and priest. Currently, Fr. Hill serves as Proestamenos of St. George Greek Orthodox Church of Prescott, AZ. He has been actively involved in youth ministry serving the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, the camping ministry in Denver's Greek Metropolis, Ionian Village, with OCF Real Break Ministry leading trips to Greece and Guatemala, and with youth street ministry.
The Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) has announced that registration is now open for their Real Break program. Explains the OCF website, "The Real Break program provides an alternative to the 'traditional' Spring Break. It exists to provide the most authentic experience possible, modeled as a full Christian lifestyle, which includes fellowship, prayer within community, witness and service. OCF organizes both domestic and international trips to give college students the opportunity to serve those less fortunate and to do something 'real' for themselves and for God. OCF’s Real Break has been running since 2000 with over a thousand students participating in these life-changing trips. Past trips have included: Mexico, Guatemala, Jerusalem, Constantinople, Raphael House, St. Basil Academy, Greece, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Romania, Buenos Aires, Alaska, and more."
Seven Real Break trips are planned for March, 2013, serving communities in Guatemala, New Orleans, Toronto, LA Skid Row, Honduras, Constantinople (Istanbul), and Mexico. Students can register online, and view both an introductory video and a short fundraising tutorial.
On the first Sunday in December, Youth Equipped to Serve (YES) is inviting all parishes to participate in YES Awareness Day. A ministry of The Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS), YES provides opportunities for junior high and high school students to participate in formative weekends of service in cities around the United States. An upcoming YES weekend, sponsored by St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church of Pawtucket, RI, is scheduled for Friday, December 14, through Sunday, December 16, in Providence.
Notes Director Katrina Bitar, "We would be so grateful if you took the time to share our ministry with your community and helped to raise funds that will enable us to meet the needs of the people we serve." A letter which can be read in parishes during the YES Sunday observance, reads in part:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we approach the Nativity of our Lord, I am blessed today to have the opportunity to share with you, the YES Program—Youth Equipped to Serve—of FOCUS North America.
What is "Village at Home"? Antiochian Village's website explains, "In an effort to stay connected to our campers and introduce young people to the camp experience, we have established our Village at Home program. In short, we visit a parish, at the invitation of their pastor, and run a modified day of camp at the parish. We ask the host parish to extend invitations to neighboring churches with hope of exposing as many young people to the Antiochian Village camping program. We recruit former staff members to join us for the day to assist with the program. The day somewhat mimics a day of camp."
October is the month to introduce teens to the many opportunities to minister in the Church. Teens are encouraged to read the Epistle, chant and sing in the choir, assist in church school, and give sermons approved by the priest.
Additionally, there are several committees that the national leadership of SOYO is promoting in 2012-2013. Dana Zawahri, NAC SOYO Unity Committee Coordinator explained, "A major one is the Unity Committee, established at the last Leadership Training in Chicago. This committee focuses on uniting teens from different Orthodox Christian jurisdictions. Each diocese was given a specific task this year to encourage the teens there to take part. The idea of unity itself has become a very popular subject among our teens. Myriam Zakaib, Treasurer of the Diocese of Ottawa, remarked, 'I think Orthodox unity is important because we are all here to serve Christ. We are all brothers and sisters in His name and we should be working together to serve Him. It does not matter whether you are Russian or Greek, or anything else: you are first an Orthodox Christian.'"
On October 9, 2012, Ancient Faith Radio (AFR) posted an interview with Carole Buleza, the Antiochian Archdiocese's director of the Department of Christian Education. In the interview, Mrs. Buleza and AFR Operations Manager Bobby Maddex discussed the 2012 Orthodox Institute, the pan-Othodox conference for educators and parish leaders, scheduled for November 1–4th at Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.
"Why did you choose this theme?" asked Mr. Maddex, referring to the Institute's title: "Culture. Morality. Spirituality. A conference to survey current cultural views, beliefs of the Church, and the challenges facing young people."
"We've had requests to have an entire conference dedicated to understanding moral issues, since the issues pervading our culture are seemingly not in keeping with the Orthodox faith," responded Mrs. Buleza. "We have to understand this culture we live in, and also, we can't appreciate the Orthodox stand on these issues without a real grasp and adherence to our spirituality. These moral challenges are facing our teens, but are also impacting all of us."
Carole explained why each speaker is uniquely qualified to address the issues faced by educators and families today, not the least of which is that each of the featured presenters are parents of teens, and thus are currently dealing in a very practical way with the issues that will be discussed at the Institute. She noted that topics such as social media, transgender issues and homosexuality, substance abuse, and effective communication with youth, will be addressed by the Institute's instructors.
"The Bible 'enchants our ears with birdsong.' It enchants us and delights us. It brings us peace, but it also instills awe. The Bible is filled with great deeds and acts of love. What is most delightful, however, is the fact that all these great deeds involve human beings, not superheroes. Whether through Noah building an ark or Moses leading a whole nation out of slavery, God is acting through people like us, people who have as great a potential to love as to sin."
These and other well-chosen words prompted this year's Oratorical Festival judges to award Peter Somi the 2012 Festival Judges' Choice Award. Peter hails from St. George Cathedral in Worcester (Diocese of Worcester and New England) and his full speech can be read here.
Esther Simbol, Bible Bowl Coordinator, writes that this year's Fellowship of St. John the Divine North American Council (NAC) Bible Bowl at Antiochian Village received rousing support from 300 campers, who cheered for their favorite teams. The Topic this year was St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, and all seven Dioceses were represented. This year’s winner was the team from St. Elias Cathedral, Ottawa, Ontario, representing the Diocese of Ottawa, Eastern Canada and Upper State New York. The team consisted of Amanda Salibi, Maria Fakhouri and Milad Hamwi. Read about the theme and the participants in September's The Word.
Melinda Bentz, President of the Antiochian Women Diocese of Los Angeles, and the Diocese of Eagle River, reminds the faithful that this is the time of year to remember the Orthodox students who have settled into their studies at colleges all around the country. The Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) observes College Student Sunday on September 16, and this year the faithful in parishes are encouraged to make an extra effort to reach out to their collegians in their first forty days of school.
Melinda writes, "As mothers, sisters, wives, and God-mothers, we have been asked to help the OCF personally reach our incoming college freshmen. While at the summer meeting, we as Antiochian Women were presented with a request to help the OCF reach out to each Orthodox college freshman and invite them to their local parish, connect with the local OCF priest and solidify their commitment to their Orthodox faith during their college years."
The Chairman of the Department of Youth and Parish Ministries, V. Rev. Dr. Joseph Purpura has been creating and implementing youth training programs across the United States and Canada since the late 1980's. He has held numerous appointments over the years and is currently overseeing a number of programs, both established and new. Over the summer he coordinated SOYO Diocesan General Assemblies, elections, the Leadership Conference, Bible Bowl Festival, Oratorical Contest and Special Olympics Sports Camp. Antiochian.org asked him for an update as he looks to the Archdiocese's fall youth schedule.
1. What is the Healthy Youth Initiative? In general, can you update us on the progress of OCCHY (Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth)?
The Healthy Youth Initiative offers Orthodox Christian communities the opportunity to heighten awareness of substance abuse issues and to recognize and respect the sanctity of the human body. By developing local community networks, parish leaders are able to establish healthier living conditions for our youth. Local coalitions promote substance abuse solutions through policy change, environmental design modification and substance abuse prevention strategies.
The Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth [OCCHY], a national alliance offering communities an opportunity to heighten awareness of how to combat substance abuse, prevent bullying, encourage sexual abstinence outside of marriage, and encourage respect for the sanctity of the human body, recently established headquarters in Cicero, IL.
Founded by the Department of Youth Ministries of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, in conjunction with Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, OCCHY was awarded a five-year Drug Free Community matching grant of $125,000.00 per year, according to Archpriest Nicholas Dahdal, OCCHY Director.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Christmas in July? Absolutely! With joy, the Sacred Music Department hosted the 27th Annual Sacred Music Institute July 25-29 as the sounds of the Nativity resounded throughout the Antiochian Village’s Heritage and Learning Center. Bishop Thomas of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid- Atlantic, and one hundred participants from the United States and Canada, celebrated the Feast in song and chant through workshops, rehearsals and concerts. Sacred Music Chairman, Christopher Holwey added, “It was an inspiring and moving week for everyone involved.”
Event Chairman, Paul Jabara of St George, Montreal in Quebec, Canada, Sacred Music Coodinator of Los Angeles and the West, Mareena Boosamra Ball, and Diocese of Wichita and Mid America Music Coordinator, Chris Farha, coordinated the premiere of a Youth Music Ministry (YMM) program for 20 teens representing each Diocese. After completing an application and writing an essay, each Diocesan Music Coordinator selected qualified teen singers to participate in a pilot program funded by scholarships from Antiochian Hierarchs and individual donors. The teens chosen attended classes in vocal techniques, basic conducting, sight singing and music theory, taught by Los Angeles and the West Diocese Sacred Music Coordinator, Mareena Boosamra-Ball.
Brookline, MA (OCF)
Orthodox Christian Fellowship's Executive Director Jennifer Nahas writes:
I hope all of you are having a restful, but fun summer. We here at the North American office look forward to working with all of you to engage in fellowship, fun, service, and spiritual growth during the 2012-2013 school year.
To kick things off, your student leaders participated in a five day Summer Leadership Institute here at Hellenic College, the home of the North American Office. This year's Student Advisory Board is full of diversity, energy, and passion; they are from all over the country, from different schools and different Orthodox jurisdictions. Their jobs are to serve you by supporting local chapters and leading OCF's North American programs. Since chapter outreach is a high priority, I wouldn't be surprised if some of you have already heard from the regional representatives in your regions to find out what your chapter's plans are for the upcoming school year.
Update, 5/30/12: A small but important change has been made to the logos. Please download and use the currently attached versions. In addition, PDF versions are now available.
Color and black and white versions of the official logo for 2013 Parish Life Conferences are now available online: