Every December, hundreds of Orthodox Christian college students flock to one of three simultaneously held regional conferences during the week after the Great Feast of the Nativity. As in past years, the conferences were sponsored by the Orthodox Christian Fellowship were held at Antiochian Village, Bolivar, PA; Saint Iakovos Retreat Center, Kansasville, WI; and Saint Nicholas Ranch, Dunlap, CA December 27-30, 2016.
In addition to celebrating the liturgical services and Divine Liturgy, participants heard challenging presentations, participated in discussion groups and workshops, and enjoyed meeting their peers from around the country. Students also were delighted by the presence of His Grace, Bishop Gregory of Nyssa of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA, who delivered the homily during the conference Divine Liturgy.
The theme of this year’s conferences was “Come and See.” Introducing and developing the theme at the East Coast Conference at Antiochian Village was Archpriest Timothy Hojnicki, Rector of Holy Apostles Church [OCA], Mechanicsburg, PA. In his keynote address, he reflected on how people see Christ in us and how to share our faith with others. Other speakers included Archpriests Joel Gilliam [Antiochian Archdiocese] and Anthony Hughes [Greek Archdiocese]; Priests Nicholas Belcher, Bogdan Bucur, and Paul Abernathy, all of the Antiochian Archdiocese; and Jason Cantanese.
The theme was further developed in a series of workshops that enabled the participants to take a deeper look into prayer, the Orthodox Christian understanding of salvation, living the Christian life as a layperson, Scripture reading, and living the sacramental life.
“It is quite a remarkable event to have close to 300 college students come together from all over the country, from different jurisdictions (even calendars!), during their Christmas break and participate in this wonderful four-day event,” observed Father Timothy. “We had an intense schedule of workshops, fellowship and worship services that filled these days of spiritual reflection with grace that will be felt for a lifetime!”
Emma Solak, a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, Student Leadership Board Chairman and a member of the OCA Youth Department, agreed. “College Conference is a time to actively engage in the Faith—whether that’s through the speakers, developing new friends or reconnecting with old ones, participating in the services, or taking the time for personal reflection,” she said. “I think as college students we too often passively participate in the life of the Church because we get bogged down by the chaos of the semester. College Conference always reminds me to take a step back and focus on deepening my relationship with and love for Christ and my neighbor.”
Through the generosity of the OCA faithful and the Stewards of the Orthodox Church in America, ten scholarships were made available to OCA students to help defray their expenses in attending the conferences.
In related news, OCF is accepting applications from those interested in participating in its annual “Real Break” mission trips in March 2017. As an alternative to “Spring Break” activities, “Real Break” makes it possible for Orthodox Christian students to put their faith into action in a variety of domestic settings—including Alaska, Cleveland, New Orleans and Project Mexico—as well as in Thessaloniki, Romania and Jerusalem. Details and registration information may be found on the OCF web site.
Orthodox Christian Fellowship is the official campus ministry organization of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.