The Campus Outreach and Young Adult Ministry at Christ the Savior Church
By Dorothy Sysak
The Parish Ministries Conference in 1997 at St. Tikhon’s Seminary planted “a seed” from which “the call to serve” started the Campus Outreach and Young Adult Ministry at our parish. With the permission of our pastor, we began.
The Student Directory (B. Fetsko)
A student directory was prepared that gives the names of present high school graduates and college students from the parish and young adults in the military service. Also included were college students from nearby colleges who attend services at our parish.
Other directory information consists of the college address, telephone, email, study major, birthday and namesday. We also give the name and telephone of the church and pastor ministering to the college student while away from home.
The students were provided with information about Orthodox churches in the vicinity of their college as well. Mailing labels were prepared and a student directory was mailed to each student whose name appeared in the directory.
Pastor’s Observation (Fr. D. Ressetar)
The Student Directory provides accessible information for contacting students and access to other clergy ministering to students away from home. Available mailing labels provide opportunity to send mailing of special events and bulletins to them. And at times, students will also receive a telephone call from Fr. Dan asking, “How are you doing out there?” The financial expenses of mailing, stamps, and cards are underwritten by the Ladies’ Guild.
Pine Cone Prayer Project
In early December 1997, Dn. Michael Anderson, Director of the OCA Youth and Young Adult Ministry, visited. He advised us that prayer for each individual name in the student directory would be the most important part of this ministry. The idea or “seed” for the Pine Cone Project began to take shape.
Twenty two pine cones were sprayed with silver paint and decorated with ribbon. A tag was attached to each cone, bearing the student’s name and college or military service. The Men’s Club provided a beautiful fresh Christmas tree for the pine cones. Each student or family member placed a cone on the tree. After the Feast of Theophany, persons who wished to pray for a student, took a pine cone to remember that student in prayer for the year on a regular basis.
Students know that they have a special person remembering them in prayer, their Pine Cone Prayer Partner. We encourage student and prayer partner to get to know each other.
The project was repeated again this past Christmas. People who were already praying for specific students got the chance to choose the same student first. As this project continues, there has been more and more contact between the prayer partner and the student.
The Jekel Family’s Experience With The Pine Cone Project
As a family, we need tangible ways to remember how we should live as Orthodox Christians. The Pine Cone Project is one of those reminders, pointing us to the blessings of participating in the Church family. The silver-sprayed cones hanging from our family icon shelf call to mind our promise to pray for three young adults approaching independence. We have three because our three young children each wanted to pick a pine cone.
Our prayer partners are in a time of life that involves choosing their vocations, making lifelong friendships, and sometimes choosing a spouse. Their daily lives also involve decisions that are smaller but just as important. Our prayers point our family to the God whose will, power, and wisdom to love these people transcends and shapes our own. As we ask God to bless these young people, He blesses us. We’re reminded of our practical and mystical connection with other Orthodox Christians, especially those in our parish family.
Our Newsletter, “The Scoop”
Our newsletter, “The Scoop”, is designed to share information about the students with each other. This information includes their projects, awards, travels, accomplishments, graduations, etc. We also share information on the feast day of the church and the fasting cycles. Birthdays and namesdays are remembered in the newsletter and often bits of encouragement. Five publications of the newsletter have been produced from January to December, 1998.
A Talent Offered To Help With “The Scoop” (J. Wevodau)
My service to the Campus and Young Adult Ministry began when someone was needed to print the newsletter. I volunteered eagerly as I love doing newsletters. Special graphics are chosen for each article within the newsletter form. After being reviewed, edited and revised, copies are made to send out to each name in the student directory. Recently, copies of the newsletter have been included in the Sunday bulletin to share with all.
I have found that by volunteering for this project, I have made new friends, learned about the young adults in our parish and met many parents of college students. I am quite impressed by the accomplishments of the young adults. We are all given different talents. It is gratifying to use our skills to share God’s Word with others.
E-MAIL (L. Smith and Subdn. R. Hathaway)
Messages for birthdays, namesdays and feastdays, and just to keep in touch and encourage are part of the contacts we maintain. It may be “Do you need a ride?” or “Heard you were ill. How are you doing?”
A Student’s Response (I. Arakelov)
Thank you for your kindness and thoughtfulness throughout the year. I’m happy to be a member of this wonderful parish.
Our Bulletin Board (E. Motoviloff Miller)
Looking for current up-to-date information about the Campus and Young Adult Ministry?...check the bulletin board in the Fellowship Hall. Photos and more photos. We have frequent photos of groups of students who have attended church, photos of students recognized for special awards or accomplishments, and photos of our graduates.
For Valentine’s day, a paraphrased text of the I Corinthians passage on the meaning of love was affixed to paper having a Valentine motif, and then laminated. It was sent to each person in the Directory. The little gift was well received. A number of thank you notes came back. Similarly the Prayer of St. Ephraim was laminated and sent during Great Lent .
In June we celebrated a GATHERING for students and young adults, their families and Pine Cone Prayer Partners. It was the first such social event. We had a nice turn out of about 25 people, 8-10 of whom were students.
Everyone attending brought a covered dish. We supplied the drinks and paper goods. We talked, swam, sang songs. It was good fellowship.
We think that this parish ministry is off to a good start. It is one to which we felt particularly called to serve. We hope that some of our ideas will be of inspiration to others.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. Do college students and young adults, particularly, feel they have a place in our parish life?
2. What is the value of a ministry to college students and young adults? How important is it?
3. Does our parish have such a ministry?
If yes, how does our ministry work? Does it need to be expanded in any way?
If no, can we begin such a ministry? How?
Dorothy Sysak is a member of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church, Harrisburg, PA and is the coordinator of the Campus Outreach and Young Adult Ministry.