September 19, 2004—College Student Sunday
...And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers. (Acts 2:42)
To all the Clergy and the Laity of the Holy Orthodox Churches in the Americas Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The passage cited above from the book of the Acts of the Apostles is a beautiful description of the manner in which early Christians organized and conducted their lives as a united community. Today, over 40,000 Orthodox Christian college students studying on hundreds of campuses throughout North America are called to live the very same ideal, gathering together in a spirit of learning, fellowship, and worship through the work of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), the official campus ministry effort under SCOBA.
Our college students come from diverse places of origin to live on campuses that are sometimes thousands of miles away from their homes. For many of them, it is the first time they are living on their own. During these challenging years of college, our students are faced with unprecedented opportunities for learning, for personal growth, and for psychological and spiritual development. However, as they are exposed to new ideas and environments, and as they encounter others who come from a wide array of cultural and religious backgrounds, they are also faced with perplexing conditions that often challenge their identities and their Orthodox Christian faith.
The presence of the OCF on the college campus is so very crucial in that it serves as a community that brings students together and anchors them firmly in their Orthodox Christian faith. Through communal prayer, fellowship, philanthropy, and witness, students who participate in the OCF can be sure that their encounter with others from different walks of life will truly enrich and enhance their growth as Orthodox Christians. Likewise in the classroom, their exposure to philosophical worldviews and teachings that sometimes diverge from Orthodox Christian thought will also beautifully augment their intellectual and spiritual growth.
For some time, colleges and universities throughout North America have been cognizant of the need to focus upon the spiritual development of their students. Many schools of higher learning have developed campus ministry programs to this end, therefore welcoming and supporting OCF chapters. As hierarchs of the Standing Conference, we commend these schools for their dedication to the religious needs of students from all faiths, and specifically for their support of our Orthodox Christian students who are in need of a place of true community and fellowship.
As the ministry of the OCF continues to flourish, as is evidenced already by its dedicated team of student advisors and staff in offices across America, we encourage our priests and parishes to support this important ministry through prayer and through financial assistance. Accordingly, we designate this Sunday following the Elevation of the Holy Cross, September 19, as our annual College Student Sunday. On this day, we call upon each of you to remember the particular needs of college students, who face incredible challenges and opportunities, and to make other young people who are preparing for college aware of the opportunities that are open to them through the OCF and its valuable programs.
As we begin the new ecclesiastical year and the new academic year, it is our heartfelt prayer that all of you, especially our students, may hold to the example of the early Christians, gathering together as a united community in learning, fellowship, prayer, and in unceasing ministry to others.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you always.
+ Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Orthodox Church in America
+ Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
+ Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary
Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada
+ Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA
+ Bishop ILIA
Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America
+ Metropolitan HERMAN
Orthodox Church in America
+ Archbishop NICOLAE
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada
+ Metropolitan JOSEPH
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church
+ Metropolitan CONSTANTINE
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA