Oratorical Festival 2016 of the Midwest Diocese

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:
Sara Vucic
Jovana Stanojevic
Milica Videnovic

From St. Elijah, Merelville Indiana:
Jakob Delic

From St. Nikola, Chicago:
Danijela Radunovic

From St. Basil of Ostrog, Lake Forest Illinois:
Gabriella Veljkovic
Ivana Bozic
Luka Pavlakis

We also take the opportunity to thank our wonderful Judges:
Hieromonk Alexei
Dn. Joseph Appling
Arita Damroze

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

Report to the Annual Diocesan Assembly

March 17, 2015
Your Grace, Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

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 (Baltić), Priests Nikola Radovančevićand Radomir Plavšić, Protinica Snežana Novaković, Deacon Marko Bojović, Borka Grimsgard, Mirjana Čubrić, and college students: Jovan Šinik, Ana Mihajlović, Sandra Glišić, Katarina Ivančević, Milica Vuksanović and KosovkaSprečo. Also the members of the Youth Council, elected for the first time at our last year’s Diocesan Assembly: Darija Vukanić, Jovana Jevtić and Natalie Kosanovich.
– 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.

In Christ,

Dragan Petrovic – priest

Report of Diocesan Youth Department

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