37th Annual St. Herman Youth Conference - Washington DC
On the first day of St. Herman Youth Conference, the lobby swarms with strangers. But out of the chaos, a few familiar faces emerge, and over the next few days, new friends will become your family. Being young and Orthodox, after all, is not a particularly typical combination, and this common denominator transforms strangers into family in minutes. United by a common experience and faith, Americans, Russians, Canadians, Australians, Serb, and Greeks; teenagers and budding professionals; engineers and nurses; PKs (priests’ kids) and the recently chrismated – all diverse and unique – will come together.
The 37th Annual St. Herman Youth Conference of 2016 took place from December 23-27th at the Hyatt Hotel in Arlington, VA. Graciously hosted by St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC, this year’s conference boasted more than 200 participants, the biggest turnout of the decade. Courtesy of the cathedral’s rector, Archpriest Victor Potapov, the local committee, and St. John’s Sisterhood, conference participants had the opportunity to attend the All-Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy in the epochal cathedral. Honored guest speakers Priest Patrick Viscuso, a priest, scholar, and canonist of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America, and Archpriest Peter Perekrestov, the senior priest from Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral in San Francisco, prepared edifying lectures for the youth.
The conference was made possible by a generous grant from the Fund for Assistance (FFA) to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which has been faithfully supporting the three St. Herman Conferences held every year in December: on the East Coast, in the Midwest, and on the West Coast. Many of the participants expressed their gratitude to the FFA in a special video, which can be viewed on the FFA’s YouTube page here.
On Saturday, December 24, the first day of conference, Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal & Canada opened the conference with an inspiring, if laconic, speech. He reminded the youth that the ultimate goal of conference was not only social and emotional support, but spiritual edification; most importantly, communal Confession and Communion at Liturgy on Sunday. He closed with his traditional statement: "Since this year we have 200 participants here, I want there to be 100 marriages… Eventually. Maybe 10 years?" Thus, with Archbishop Gabriel’s blessing, the conference was officially open.
After His Eminence’s opening speech, Fr. Victor Potapov introduced the first guest lecturer, Fr. Patrick Viscuso. Fr. Patrick’s presentation, titled "Being the 1% in a Non-Orthodox World," focused on showing the Orthodox way in the context of multiculturalism and assimilation. Fr. Patrick began his lecture by presenting little-known statistics about Orthodoxy in America. In the U.S., about 800,000 people identify as Orthodox Christians (hence, Orthodox people indeed comprise less than 1% of the overall population). Only 26% of Orthodox attend Liturgy weekly, there is steady decline of marriages and baptisms, and the majority of Orthodox youth who begin college will never step into a church again. Fr. Patrick addressed two major problems that contribute to this decline: nationalism and secularism. Still, after setting up this rather daunting image, Fr. Patrick offered a few solutions: prayer, pilgrimage and, finally, nurturing a faith that is individualized and sincere.
Fr. Patrick’s lecture, as well as fellowship with the clergy – 16 priests and four deacons were present – must have spiritually moved the youth, as on Sunday most received Holy Communion from five chalices in the presence of the holy relics of St. John of Shanghai & San Francisco, brought to Washington by Fr. Peter Perekrestov. It should be noted that St. John’s Cathedral in Washington, DC, was founded by St. John in 1949 when he came to the nation’s capital to intercede before Congress on behalf of his flock stranded on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines.
Two days later, Fr. Peter’s lecture on St. John of Shanghai & San Francisco mesmerized the hall. He will soon be publishing his second book on the life of the saint, in honor of the upcoming 50th anniversary of St. John’s repose. Fr. Peter guided his audience through St. John’s long life, telling colorful, little-known anecdotes to reveal the inner life of St. John. When he spoke of how St. John faced enmity and dislike throughout his life, he quoted a priest who said that, while "we all want to repose with the saints, we don’t really want to live with them." By the end of the lecture, when Fr. Peter showed some footage from the saint’s life, St. John materialized in the room as a human with flaws and character, and yet – unquestionably holy.
In addition to lectures, conference attendees also participated in workshops and discussions. Every evening, there were social activities, such as choir rehearsals – the singing by 50 young people at Vigil and Liturgy was magnificent – folk singing, games including Jeopardy, Uno, and Jenga, and guitar playing. On Sunday, participants explored the capital for a few hours, with an optional photo challenge. The prize went to a group of Australians, who somehow managed to visit every monument in Washington in three hours. Perhaps most memorably, there was a “gingerbread church” competition, during which participants had one hour to produce the most impressive or canonically accurate church possible. After an hour of sticky fingers and competition, participants did indeed create some brilliant houses of prayer.
The last night’s talent show was a night of laughter. The judges were a show all in themselves, a hysterical little drama of Aussie sass, Russian babushka senility, and American attitude. The crowning and winning place went to seminarian George Luimes and Seraphim Teler for their variation of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" in Orthodox style.
On Tuesday, the participants set off in various directions. A little dazed, a little exhausted, but happier and spiritually stronger, everybody went home, wanting just one more thing: another conference sooner rather than later.
THE MIRACULOUS ICON OF THE MOTHER OF GOD THE “SOFTENER OF EVIL HEARTS” OR ‘’SEVEN ARROWS’’
The miraculous Icon of The Mother of God the "Softener of Evil Hearts" or "Seven Arrows"
Saturday, December 3rd - 3:30pm - Greeting of the icon and Akathist
Saturday, December 3rd - at 5:00pm - Vigil
Sunday, December 4th - at 9:30am - Divine Liturgy
First Annual Labor Day Young Singers’ Conference
The PaTRAM Institute will sponsor its first Labor Day Young Singers’ Conference to be held Labor Day weekend at Holy Trinity Monastery andSeminary located in Jordanville, NY. The purpose of PaTRAM’s conferences is to offer young Orthodox singers and musicians, ages 15 - 40, an opportunity to strengthen their musical skills and deepen their connection to the Orthodox Faith.
Under the direction of Dr. Peter Jermihov, Katya Lukianova, Dr. Irina Riazanova, Fr. Ephraim Willmarth, participants are given the opportunity to receive hands-on instruction, attend rehearsals and sing the All-Night Vigil and Hierarchal Divine Liturgy in a monastery setting.
Limited scholarships for full tuition costs are available, airfare and travel expenses to NY excluded.
Registration Closes Friday August 26th, 2016
of the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral’s Sisterhood
at 422 St-Joseph Blvd West, OUTREMONT
Saturday June 25th, 2016
From 10:00AM to 02:00PM
Russian specialties, baked goods , dishware, books, knick-knacks, and many more treasures.
For more information, please contact:
Albany, NY: Nativity of the Mother of God Parish hosts Annual St. Herman Youth Conference
During the last days of December, over 120 young people of the Russian Church Abroad gathered in Albany, the capital of New York State, at the parish of the Nativity of the Mother of God for the annual St. Herman Youth Conference. The conference has been held annually since the 1970s, and is arguably the most important youth activity of the Church Abroad. Each year sees its own remarkable highlights, and this year was no less successful.
Our parish here in Montreal supported six of our youth who all came back with warm, wonderful memories and a desire to attend next year’s conference. For this opportunity we thank all of our parishioner’s for their generous support.
Two speakers enlivened the conference with interesting talks followed by lively discussions. Priest John Whiteford delivered a lecture entitled "Answering Atheists," which outlined many of the arguments and points of debate often encountered by young people in educational institutions. Dr. Nadezhda Sexton spoke about how our psychological needs are met in various addictive misdirections in life. Her talk was entitled "Grant Me a Pure Vision."
The divine services were incredibly beautiful and led by His Eminence Gabriel, Archbishop of Montreal & Canada, Director of the St. Herman Executive Committee, and His Grace Nicholas, Bishop of Manhattan. Serving were sixteen priests from America, Canada, and Russia, six protodeacons, and many altar servers. The youth choir added to the beauty of the services under the direction of Protodeacon Serge Arlievsky, assisted by youth representatives.
On the first day of the conference, all of the participants traveled on a pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY where they are greeted by Archimandrite Luke (Murianka), abbot of the monastery. After a day of lectures, workshops, and tours, the youth joined in a bonfire beyond the chapel of Ven. John of Rila near the monastery ponds.
After the spiritually rewarding observance of the feast of Ven. Herman of Alaska, the patron saint of all the Americas, the clergy, parishioners, and conference participants attended a banquet in the church hall. After the festivities, there was laser tag for everyone on the church property. In the evening, after a Chinese Buffet, the annual talent show was well received and a joy for everyone. All of the participants enjoyed each other’s company for the rest of the evening and departed for their homes on Saturday morning.
It was announced that the 2017 St. Herman’s Conference will be hosted by the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington, DC. We look forward to another wonderful year of preparation and anticipate a tremendous attendance in the nation’s capital in a year’s time.