Out of nine awesome essays, three were chosen to be presented to the diocesan assembly of the midwest Diocese:
Jakob Delic – won first place
Ivana Bozic – second
Nina Kostic – third
On the same day the youth board was chosen. Following are the specific roles appointed by the diocesan youth director:
Ivana Bozic – President
Daniella Radunovic – First V. P.
Sara Vucic – Second V. P.
Nina Kostic – Senior member
Jakob Delic -Secretary
We are truly grateful to the parents, church school teachers and priests of all the participants.
Participants from Old Holy Resurrection, Chicago:
From St. Elijah, Merelville Indiana:
From St. Nikola, Chicago:
From St. Basil of Ostrog, Lake Forest Illinois:
We also take the opportunity to thank our wonderful Judges:
Dn. Joseph Appling
Please look forward to these essays ( biographies and pictures) to appear in the Path of Orthodoxy.
An amazing event for which we are grateful to our Great God, our awesome Bishop Longin and members of the Diocesan Youth Department.
Dragan Petrovic- priest, Director of youth department for the New Gracanica Midwest Diocese
I will begin with a brief history of our Youth Department.
Nearly 15 years ago Bishop Longin called me and told me I was appointed to represent the youth of our diocese on a special task force team of the Serbian Orthodox Church on this continent – established by the Central Church Council. Being on that team, composed of representatives of each of our dioceses in United States and Canada, has been inspiring, educational and enlightening. Thanks to His Grace, the task force I mentioned, and many good people who were there to help and support us, we were able to:
* firmly establish the Youth Department for our diocese – with an assistant director, one part-time employee, and 12 members.
* infiltrate all the social media where the youth gather: website, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, tumbler, phone apps and more. All of this is regularly, some of them daily, updated.
* organize actual\physical gatherings – winter youth retreat for example.
There is nothing more urgent than saving our youth from: drugs, sexual misconduct, serious depression, emotional stress, loneliness, etc. First and foremost, however, is getting to them through social media and physical gatherings at retreats, camps and conferences – to enlighten them with our Orthodox Christian faith and Serbian tradition – which then naturally pushes all the bad things away. To prove my point I’d like to share the following. At the Winter Youth Retreats 2013 and 2014 on the last day, we asked the youth to write down two great things and one to improve on regarding the retreat. An overwhelming number of teens wrote, how even though they were allowed, they didn’t have the need for cell phones. That’s amazing – for a 21st-century teen not to be constantly mesmerized by their smart phone.
All of this requires time, effort and money. I take this opportunity to thank all those who have invested in our youth:
– first of all – members of the Youth Department: Hieromonk Serafim
– Fr. Tom Kazich with his Department of Education is always there to help, give advice and support.
– Mira Andjelković with all the sisters of our diocese who support us in many different ways.
– The faithful of St. Nicholas Church in Indianapolis who support me in this regard, especially Jim Fields who is our board member and regular volunteer for the parish and youth department – taking care of all the finances and the budget.
– My family, who offers me and my time given to the Youth Department.
– Last but certainly not least, our Bishop and Diocese and all those who have supported us with monthly donations. In fact if it wasn’t for the many delegates who promised and gave $20 a month for the past 12 months, plus several others who pleasantly surprised us a couple of times during the year – we really could not be nearly successful as we have been.
Please allow me to share some specifics of our success inthis past year.
– At our last Winter Youth Retreat we had a record-breaking, historic attendance of youth: over 110 participants – have in mind that we started four years ago with 30 participants. Now we are at the point of talking to and possibly hiring, presently out of work, architect who would (for very little money) give us a picture of what it would look like and how much it would cost to set up small log cabins on the monastery grounds – to accommodate more youth and to be used for different kinds of retreats. This of course would then be presented to the Diocesan Council for further looking into and possible development.
– Thanks to a very nice donation from a board president and friend of his, as well as a modest bill from a young Serbian movie maker, we were able to create a professional 10-minute promotional movie about our Winter Youth Retreat and Department. Each parish will receive one.
– Thanks to our Bishop (Diocese) for tuition, one of our youth department members, Jovan Šinik, aside from studying child psychology at a local university, has enrolled in the St. Stephen’s Theological Course. This two-year theological program will prepare him for future work with the youth of our diocese. We would like to have the ability to send at least one more of our students to the mentioned course.
– Thanks to the financial support of the Central Church Council, we were able to send seven of our college students (four of which are department members) to Phoenix, Arizona, for six days to the Theological Institute organized by the Serbian Church. They learned much and we need them to learn more.
– Every year since we started organizing the Winter Youth Retreat we were able to collect and distribute help to the poor and needy for Christmas.
– We have supported in different ways our youth of low income families.
– The annual budget of our Youth Department, even though we would like it to be much higher, we have built up from zero dollars to now around and over $10,000.
– The little book “From Conception to Redemption” you have in front of you is a gift to you. This is something I wrote mostly for my parish, but also for our youth to help them look at the whole life before them and hopefully understand that life without Church is hard, but with It is great and awesome.
– We regularly counsel youth over the phone, Internet and in person.
– We write recommendation letters for school and work.
– We study work on youth and follow trends.
– We organize St. Nikolaj Oratorical Festival. A youth from our diocese Jovana Jevtić won second place in Los Angeles last year. This year, the finals will be in Washington DC at the Youth Conference of the Serbian Orthodox Church – where we hope to send our finalist and maybe others.
– Much more has been done and details would take a long time to share.
At last, I would like to share the following with you. As our Department meets and always discusses what more we can do, we have recently reconstructed our Department and created special committees focusing on youth (high school students), but also since there is a serious need – on youth not recognized as youth yet (middle schoolers),and students at universities and those of that age who are usually completely forgotten. The middle schoolers are nowadays exposed to the same if not worse things than youth were back in the day. The college students are those who soon after will have families and have the need for the Church. If the Church is not there for them while they are away from home, they just may choose a church that was there for them – which a friend from college suggested. That church then they will be loyal to. We cannot allow that to happen.
We will be working on programs in the near future to help us support and make aware of each of our parishes – so that we can have a healthy youth and church loving (and supporting) young, out of college, people and families.
Most of the Orthodox jurisdictions in America invest much in their youth. We need to continue and do the same. I don’t like to bag, but I sincerely ask you, if you are able, to sign up and support us regularly for one year. Thank you in advance.
Dragan Petrovic – priest
In Proverbs we read:
“Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
By the Grace of God, prayers of His most holy mother, all the saints and angels, your support and the blessing of our dear bishop, the Youth Department of our diocese is able to contribute (in raising a child/youth) to the hard work of the parents, our department of religious education, church school teachers and good examples of the faithful of our diocese.
That which we are able to help with the upbringing of our young people is very little compared to those mentioned above, but certainly is essential and of great benefit.
Especially because in this age of extreme busyness of the parents while our young people are confronted with emotional confusion, questioning of sexuality and gender, abuse of legal and illegal drugs, and the list goes on.
Every little help counts and every hand extended is worthwhile and important. Our Diocese, by the way, is the only one in North America of the Serbian Church which is active in this regard.
We are using the social media to get to them and also to be there for them. For example, we have a Facebook page called “United youth of the Serbian Orthodox Church” where we have around 2000 members and the page is private but very active. In the past year, I have been doing Facebook live and recently one of the things which I have been offering to then is pre-wedding counseling. For those who don’t know what Facebook live is, it is a live stream video where they can ask questions and make comments. Even though initially only a few of them join in, later when I look at the video there is rarely less than 200 views and sometimes up to 500 or more.
When I communicate with them through the Facebook messenger or text messaging, I make every effort (doing all the research necessary) to answer their questions, but at the end I always tell them to confirm with their parents and their parish priest – always directing them to their local community.
In addition to this we organize different gatherings, like the winter youth retreat where every year so far we have broken the record of participants. Starting with 30 present several years ago to now close to 130. Because of overwhelming interest, this year we will have to break them up into 2 groups so that we can accept as many as we are able to handle. By the way, at these gatherings many of them have a life-changing experience. Others enjoy it because it is an ultimate place of love and care, learning and healing.
We write recommendation letters, we have monthly meetings, we assist with summer youth week at camp, we extend and organize different educational opportunities for our high school and college students – example: serve-x-treme with IOCC and theological Institute of the Serbian Orthodox Church, we organize an oratorical Festival, we assist in organizing the youth conference of the Serbian Church in North America and so on.
In this upcoming year we plan on organizing another oratorical Festival on a larger scale for the celebration of Saint Mardarije, we plan on finding other ways to be there for the youth since many of them are not using Facebook anymore but Snapchat and Instagram – something which we have but has not been as active as we would like it to be.
As you can see there is much to do. I am a part-time youth director with a part-time assistant. This is great for now and we are so thankful for this opportunity and your support – more and more parishes are supporting us, and next year we plan on putting a list of churches who invest in these efforts. We are especially grateful to our wonderful and much loving mothers and sisters.
Our hope and prayer is to in a few years have A full-time youth director who will be able to spend even more time and be there even more for our youth and students. A person who will be able to regularly travel from parish to parish searching for youth and establishing a relationship with them. So please pray for us, share this good news with the people of your parish and please, please support us financially.
PS every year for the past several years we had delegates come up to the table and sign up for a one year commitment of giving $20 a month to the Youth Department. In addition to that, they have gone to the executive board of each parish asking each church to include the Youth Department in the annual parish budget. We are truly grateful that the future of our church depends on it.
Dragan Petrovic – priest
Crazy John by Dionysios A. Makris
John, an ordinary bakery worker who died in the 1990s, was considered what Orthodox Church defines as a “Fool for Christ.” A saint who has the title Fool-for-Christ is one who is known for his apparent, yet holy, insanity. Foolishness for Christ refers to behavior such as giving up all one’s worldly possessions upon joining a monastic order. It can also refer to deliberate flouting of society’s conventions to serve a religious purpose — particularly of Christianity. Such individuals were known as both “holy fools” and “blessed fools.” John did those things and more besides. Such sainted people were very common in the old days, but are considered rare in modern times. This book is a compilation of stories from various people in the neighborhood of Athens, Greece where John lived.
Tamama: The Missing Girl of Pontos
by Georgios Andreades
This is the story of a girl ‘Tamama’, lost during the persecution of Pontic Greeks in Turkey during the years 1916-1923. Starving refugees who wandered aimlessly found homes in neighbouring Turkish houses. The Turkish families that made them their own, and the Greeks who had lost them, didn’t talk about these incidents for years. And so in 1916, Tamama found refuge in a Turkish family, but in her old age she began to speak her native tongue and yearned to return to her ancestral village, which only proves that identity isn’t lost even until death.
Royal Monastic: Princess Ileana of Romania
by Bev Cooke
The life of a princess is not all glamour, handsome princes, and beautiful clothes. It is also devotion to duty, sacrifice for your people, and a lot of just plain hard work. And if your country happens to suffer two world wars and a communist takeover in your lifetime, it means danger and suffering, exile and heartache as well. Princess Ileana of Romania endured all this and more. But her deeply rooted Orthodox faith saw her through it all, and eventually led her in her later years to the peaceful repose of monasticism. But that life included sacrifice and hard work as well, because as Mother Alexandra she was called to build the first English-language Orthodox women’s monastery in the United States: the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. Princess Ileana’s story is a thrilling tale of love and loss, danger and rescue, sacrifice and reward. Her inspiring life stands as a beacon of faith and holiness for young women of all times and nations to follow.
Voyage to the Rock by Father Matthew Penney
“To be like St. Herman of Alaska!” These words – only a family joke once, were now turning Martin’s world upside down. Catapulted from his ideal teenage existence in Boston to Newfoundland, Canada – a place affectionately called “The Rock” by its inhabitants, he doesn’t want anything to do with his father’s missionary dreams. Accompanied by his parents and his all-too-perky younger sister, a dismal summer of hard work and early mornings is all that awaits Martin. Or so he thinks… But all that changes the day he finds a bronze cross at the site of the historic Viking settlement, L’Anse aux Meadows. A whole new world opens to Martin then, one of trans-Atlantic voyages, unanswered clues, suspicious antique-dealers, narrow escapes, mysterious deaths, and at the center of it all is an ancient cross and a manuscript poem. A burning question begins his search: Is the cross Viking, or could it be from the fabled voyage of St. Brendan the Navigator? Now with the help of his sister, Brigid, and a local Newfoundland boy, Ashley, the three of them race to unlock the mystery of an ancient Christian treasure. But with the Old Wolf, Sullivan O’Connell hunting them, it isn’t just about treasure anymore… It’s about survival.
A Trace in the Sand: A Tale of the Early Martyrs
edited by Lawrence Damian Robinson
It is A.D. 274. Emperor Lucius Domitus Aurelianus rules the Roman Empire with the belief that no one is mightier than he and his gods. Kings tremble before him, and his subjects worship him as a new Jupiter, who holds the lives of men and nations in his hand. The “Roman Peace” means prosperity, security and happiness to the noble families of Rome. And all should be content in their lives of luxury and ease. But not everyone is … Alexamenos, the teenage son of the powerful Senator Poplius, wants to know what the purpose of his perfect life is. Handsome and rich, haughty and cruel, Alexamenos fears nothing and respects no one-until the day his life is saved by the slave boy Milvius. Finally, Alexamenos has met someone who possesses something that he cannot attain: an otherworldly peace. Soon the slave’s secret to happiness is revealed with a simple trace in the sand: Milvius is a Christian. The power of his Christian Faith wakens the Senator’s household to the call of God, but little do they know that the eyes of the Imperial Palace are on them. Before long the former pagans are facing danger, persecution, and even martyrdom.
The Other Side of the Bonfire
by Melinda Johnson
When Jewel finds herself out on the sidewalk, desperately hoping the taxi will arrive before her cheating boyfriend gets home, she knows it’s time to make a new life. But how? She’s never lived alone, and she’s never loved a man she could trust. With the help of a childhood friend, a bonfire, a chance encounter, and a leap of faith, Jewel discovers a world of creativity and love in the last place she ever dreamed of looking, a faith founded in an ancient tradition.
Keeper of the Light: Saint Macrina the Elder, Grandmother of Saints
by Bev Cooke
The road to sainthood takes a lifetime to travel. Late in the fourth century, Christians are labeled enemies of the Roman Empire–hounded, arrested, tortured, and executed. Macrina and her husband Basil, once-wealthy Christians, flee with their small son to the mountainous forests south of the Black Sea. There, Macrina embarks on a seven-year journey of unexpected tests and trials that will take her through a harsh and hungry wilderness pilgrimage, only to plunge her into poverty and danger on the streets of Neocaesarea. So begins Macrina’s adventure in faith, as she undertakes the process of becoming one of the most influential women in sacred history, the mother and grandmother of saints. Readers of all ages will be fascinated by the story of St. Macrina the Elder, who had a profound influence on her grandchildren, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Macrina the Younger. She is truly a great confessor of the Orthodox Christian faith.
Everyday Saints and Other Stories
by Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov)
In Communist Russia in 1984, five youths from non-religious backgrounds joined a monastery. This is the story of what they experienced and some of the “everyday saints” they met. The author says, “In this book I want to tell you about this beautiful new world of mine, where we live by laws completely different from those in ‘normal’ worldly life – a world of light and love, full of wondrous discoveries, hope, happiness, trials and triumphs, where even our defeats acquire profound significance: a world in which, above all, we can always sense powerful manifestations of divine strength and comfort.”
Letters to Saint Lydia
by Melinda Johnson
Lydia’s life is turning upside down. Her family has converted to Orthodox Christianity without her, she’s just about to leave home for college, one of her friends is pregnant, and soon she’ll be facing all the trials and temptations encountered by every young adult who’s on her own for the first time. Lydia needs a friend badly—and she finds one in the most unexpected place: an icon of St. Lydia. Young Lydia pours out her troubles in letters to St. Lydia, who (invisibly to Lydia) answers, guiding her through her time of troubles with deep love and compassion.
Bearing the Saint
by Donna Farley
Edmund is just an ordinary fisherman’s son from the island of Lindisfarne, whose one great talent and joy is running as a messenger for his bishop. But when Viking invaders threaten the holy island and its great treasure, the relics of St. Cuthbert, Edmund’s life changes forever. Along with his whole village, he must accompany their beloved saint on a perilous pilgrimage that will carry him across England, through adventure, heartbreak, miraculous deliverance, and budding love, all the way to manhood. Bearing the Saint brings to life the late ninth century in Northumbria, a turbulent period of invasion and conquest that concluded with an uneasy peace between Saxon and Dane. This gripping story, infused with the holy breath of St. Cuthbert, will hold readers of all ages spellbound.
Basil’s Search for Miracles
by Heather Zydek
In Basil’s Search for Miracles, Basil, an ordinary 12-year-old who dreams of being a reporter, is on a quest-he must find and report on true, modern miracles for his school paper, St. Norbert’s News. After Basil sees a real weeping icon, meets with people who have been miraculously healed of deadly illnesses, and more, he begins to understand his faith and put it in motion in his own life. He struggles to get along better with his single mom, and befriends the social outcast of the school, a silent boy named Anthony. Throughout his first year at a private parochial school, Basil not only researches a new miracle for each issue of the News, but also learns that everyday miracles can happen even in his own life.
From Conception to Redemption: The Path of Salvation
by Father Dragan Petrović
This book abounds with useful advice for every stage of life and the temptations which one faces. The writer, referring to each of the stages, starting with conception, shows why the Church is the healer and why life in her assumes a new meaning and purpose which are portrayed in the examples and advice featured in the book. Pointing out this aspect of the church life, and through a style of writing in which one undoubtedly feels the pastoral live, the author unnoticeably but steadily strengthens our faith, delivers hope that repentance is possible at any stage of our life, while self-awareness and a personal experience of that transformation turns a dumb despair into a quiet joy in which one gradually grows on the path to salvation.
The Purple Mantle
by Aliki Kafetzopoulou
Set in the Roman Empire during the reign of the notorious persecutor of Christians, Emperor Diocletian, The Purple Mantle is a moving story of faith and heroism amidst a society rife with confusion and fear. Author Aliki Kafetzopoulou has skillfully woven a rich historical tapestry full of spiritual depth, presenting a vivid picture of the intense circumstances in which the ancient Christians lived, and a close-up, immediate view of the exploits and contests of the early martyrs, through which the faith of Christ triumphed. Although written especially for young adults, this historical novel has enthralled people of all ages with its riveting narrative. Carefully tracing the spiritual awakening and growth of a young man and woman, it places in striking relief the ultimate choice faced by all of us – between the ephemeral comforts and grandeur of this world and the eternal joy and glory of the world to come.
I Saw the Holy Light by Archimandrite Sawa Achilleos
Many things have been told and have been written about the Holy Light. However, no matter what has been recorded, the Holy Light still remains on enigmatic phenomenon. This mysterious Light spontaneously and inexplicably pours forth every Holy Saturday from the Most Holy and Life-giving Tomb of the Resurrected Savior Christ. This book gives the background and history of how the Holy Light came to appear on Holy Saturday in Jerusalem and how one monk’s skepticism was trumped by this great miracle.
The Scent of Holiness: Lessons from a Woman’s Monastery
by Constantina Palmer
Join Constantina Palmer as she makes frequent pilgrimages to a women’s monastery in Greece and absorbs the nuns’ particular approach to their spiritual life. If you’re a woman who’s read of Mount Athos and longed to partake of its grace-filled atmosphere, this book is for you. Men who wish to understand how women’s spirituality differs from their own will find it a fascinating read as well.
Four Great Saints
translated by Leo Papadopulos
Full-length lives of four of the greatest of the Desert Fathers of the early church. They lived in the deserts of Egypt or Palestine in the fourth and fifth centuries. Each was a monastic pioneer of sorts, and each made a lasting contribution to the development of the monastic life in the Orthodox Church. Hundreds of men were so inspired by their wisdom and holiness that they followed them to remote desert locations to form monastic communities, some of which are still alive in the 21st century.
Nearly Orthodox: On Being a Modern Woman in an Ancient Tradition
by Angela Doll Carlson
From Catholic schoolgirl to punk rocker to emergent church planter, Angela Doll Carlson traveled a spiritual path that in many ways mirrors that of a whole generation. She takes us with her on a deep and revealing exploration of the forces that drove her toward Orthodoxy and the challenges that long kept her from fully entering in.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Cassiana is an exceptional spiritual writing of the Holy Bishop, which will help readers along the path to spiritual perfection. Cassiana, translated by Hieromonk Serafim Baltić, is often published in Book II of the Missionary Letters of St. Nikolai Velimirovich. “Whatever one might want to learn about Christian love, he will be able to learn it from this wondrous book.”
*Suggested for college-age students
The Orthodox Study Bible
The Orthodox Study Bible is the fruit of over twenty years of labor by many of the best Orthodox Christian theologians of our time. This long-awaited single volume brings together an original translation of the Old Testament from the Septuagint with the classic Orthodox Study Bible: New Testament and Psalms. Here, by the grace of God, you will find the living water of His Word with comprehensive study guides and teachings that bring to our modern world the mind of the ancient Christian Church.
Hear Me: A Prayer Book for Orthodox Teens
compiled by Annalisa Boyd
Hear Me is a prayer book designed to address the unique challenges Orthodox youth experience in their walk with Christ. This user-friendly manual communicates the importance of both corporate and personal faith. Prayers for school, friendships, and family give teens tools for successful relationships. A topical section offers encouragement as teens face daily challenges. The Q & A section answers practical questions the youth themselves may find challenging. Hear Me gives teens direction in using the tools Christ has given us – Holy Scripture as the map, and the Church and Her Traditions the compass, helping our youth find their own path toward God.
The word Youth with the three bar cross as the letter t – that’s who we are (the Youth), the cross is what we bear, and the third bar on the bottom (which points up) is what we are looking forward to – the kingdom of Heaven.
The four C’s as if around a cross with a fifth C around the youth. The four C’s means, only unity saves the Serbs – which could and should stand for any/every nation. Being that the four C’s are around a cross, it actually means, only holy (Cвета) unity saves the Serbs – because Serbs (or any nation) could unite and do something bad – this is why our ancestors made sure they put the four C’s around The Cross. C also stands for Christ’s youth.