SLB Reflects | Applying to the Student Leadership Board Part 2

SLB Reflects | Applying to the Student Leadership Board Part 2

Carolina Mellekas, Northeast Student Leader

Why I Applied: After continually hearing about this team of Orthodox Christians who 1) genuinely invested their unique selves into all that OCF offers 2) bore witness to living Orthodoxy in college, and 3) stood steadfast in a mission that aspired to served me— some student who they didn’t even know— I finally ran out of reasons why not to be like them and apply.

These servant leaders contribute their God-given talents and training into something greater than us all, for us all. Applying was an opportunity to use the gifts, strengths, and even weaknesses I have towards OCFs enhancement. How could I miss an opportunity to serve at the forefront of a ministry that transformed my reality?

Favorite Moment:  On one of the nights of the Summer Leadership Institute everyone took a walk in St. Iakovos Retreat Center’s woods. We visited the various shrines scattered throughout the paths while chanting, praying, and hearing stories about each saint commemorated. Although powerful in its own experience, what particularly made this my favorite was how we got from saint to saint. We walked in what was seemingly total darkness and mud— something that as much as I love the outdoors, would have definitely not wanted to do alone—in fact, there’s no way I would even know where to walk. In walking with everyone, however, my steps never felt surer. We walked towards the saints collectively as one body, despite that many of us were strangers just days before and some of us even having yet to individually meet each other. We came from all across North America with different majors, jurisdictions, cultures; with different positions of OCF leadership and different stories; yet unconditionally united in our Orthodoxy. This above any other moment of SLI showed me who leaders of OCF are at their core, those walking together through the darkness and uncertainly—when things are challenging and sometimes scary—but nonetheless, yearning towards Christ as “the true Light Who enlightens and sanctifies” us and all our steps.

Biggest Takeaway:  Each and every member of the team’s solidarity: we come to Christ first and put any jurisdiction second. The SLB is the most progressive way an emerging young adult can witness, collaborate, and develop opportunities for and with the maximum audience to carry pan-Orthodoxy in North America. In just a few months of teamwork, I experienced the unmatched potential of pan-Orthodox leadership over the limits of solely functioning through an inter-community network. The SLB proved that the reality of our Orthodox Christian strength rests in unity now more than ever.

Why Apply: Only the SLB utilizes the most effective means to combine who we are today as college students with the vocational foundation of our tomorrow as that future parishioner, spouse, and parent God wills for us. If you feel affected by this mission and called to carry it through offering your own gifts, then this is what’s next for you.

Mark Sultani, College Conference East Student Leader

Why I Applied: I wanted to serve my fellow college students to help bring their faith into their lives at school.

Favorite Moment: College Conference East banquet

Biggest Takeaway: Sometimes you’ve got to make it up as you go. It’s honestly more fun that way.

Why Apply: To serve Christ and His flock during an important time in their lives alongside other Orthodox Christian peers and leaders. Gain experiences leading events and meetings, coordinating with priests and bishops, speakers, participants, and hosts.

Amelia Barron, Midwest Student Leader

Why I Applied:  I applied because I felt like there was a strong OCF community in my region, and I knew that there were a lot of people that could come together. Also, I am acquainted with a lot of priests and I thought that they all would want to get involved.

Favorite Moment: This passed Midwest spring retreat. Definitely. I met all new people, and it was incredible fellowship.  I loved sitting around and hanging out with everyone. We played mafia until really late at night, and I genuinely felt that everyone was getting to know each other.

Biggest Takeaway: Orthodoxy is out there in the college community. Students care, it’s not just a select few. You just have to reach out to them.

Why Apply?  Apply if you really want to make a difference, and if you have some ideas about OCF and want to change some aspects of it. You’d be surprised how your ideas, speaker choices, and retreats that are implemented can really help other students. It just gives them a place of comfort.

Michael Hostetler, Great Lakes Student Leader

Why I Applied: I applied to the OCF Student Leadership Board to expand my understanding of Orthodoxy in North America. Through attending Summer Leadership Institute, participating in board meetings, and planning my own retreats, I have a more complete understanding of what the future of Orthodoxy is going to be on our continent. The future of the Church is in our hands and from what I have seen, OCF has been an integral role in preparing me and thousands of Orthodox students alike to answer that call.

Favorite Moment: Summer Leadership Institute 2017! It was my first experience with Orthodox students from around the country, and it opened my eyes to the beauty that comes with pan-Orthodoxy.

Biggest Takeaway: Being on the SLB gave me amazing experiences that changed how I approach my spiritual life.

Why Apply? It is an opportunity to help shape the college experience of thousands of students around the continent while simultaneously strengthening your own college experiences and relationships.

Nora Haddad, College Conference West Student Leader

Why I Applied: I fell in love with College Conference West from my first time attending, and I applied to the SLB because God kept knocking, and knocking, and knocking…I couldn’t help but open the door and see what He was calling me to.

Favorite Moment: During College Conference West 2015, my first year as chairman, we prayed a Paraklesis service one evening, and on my committee, I had two liturgics committee members – an Antiochian male and a Greek woman, both extremely talented and proficient in their musical gifts for God.  The man lead the men in a men’s choir (anyone who wanted to chant) in Antiochian style responses while the woman did the same with the women’s choir.

The first notably impressionable aspect of this specific service was that there were more people chanting in the choirs than there were sitting in the pews. None of us could know how beautifully the service would be, and by God’s grace through the leadership and confidence of each liturgics leader, we did an entire Paraklesis in a full, perfectly-synced mesh of Antiochian and Greek chanting styles/translations—so seamlessly, that one would not know how difficult something like that actually is! We all bore witness to a true “hymn” of pan-Orthodoxy, such pureness and love for God that was manifested through unity in worship by brothers and sisters in Christ.

Biggest Takeaway: My life has been transformed forever, especially from the lasting friendships and leadership experience I have gained through OCF. These humans were put in my life for my salvation, and are the most inspiring people I have met in my life—I did not know that so many like-minded, God loving, motivated people existed that are my age. My biggest takeaway is the Hope that OCF has given me for the present and future of Orthodox Christians in the Western world.  This hope has inspired me to carry on that Love into everything I do, and to give to others what Christ has given me through OCF.

Why Apply?: “Inspiration is from the Holy Spirit.” As an SLB member, you have an opportunity and calling to contribute to the planning and activities that effect college students/anyone involved with OCF across the U.S. and Canada. You will meet incredible people, benefit from the experience of others, and learn TRUE leadership skills centered around Christ (that also benefit you in your future professional careers).  Most importantly, you will have a network of people praying for you and people you can pray for as well.  You are never, ever alone, are provided with the support you need as an OCF Leader, and the spiritual benefits are soul-saving.

Peter Savas, College Conference Midwest Student Leader

Why I Applied: I applied to the SLB because I saw it as a great opportunity to further develop my ministry by learning from amazing people whom I look up to, and by having real first hand experience while also having support to help me grow.

Favorite Moment: My favorite moment is when I re-met Mark Sultani.

Biggest Takeaway: The people around you are the people who make you who you are.

Why Apply: Apply to the SLB because it is a unique opportunity to harvest your leadership, problem-solving, promoting, and delegating skills in and for an Orthodox environment. It is one of the most humbling experiences, and also the most enlightening. Through your interactions with the SLB, with OCF, and with your faith, you will no longer just be a passive observer, but rather an active servant. And there is nothing more powerful than that.

Nicole Petrow, Student Leadership Board Chairwoman

Why I Applied: I don’t have a strong OCF chapter on my campus, and my freshman year was spiritually lonely. After attending College Conference in 2014, my eyes were opened to the wide world of OCF, and the many other opportunities I had to get involved and make a community for myself.
Favorite Moment: Definitely the Midwest Regional Retreat last spring. After working as Midwest RSL for two years, I planned this retreat and was absolutely blown away by the students that attended. Our registration reached capacity, we had incredible speakers, and I was able to see so clearly how the Holy Spirit works through this ministry.
Biggest Takeaway: My experience on the SLB has given me incredible leadership experience and given me the opportunity to connect with other Orthodox college students. Most importantly, the SLB has been fundamental in forming my faith as an adult, and given me meaningful friendships that will last beyond the four years of undergrad.
Why Apply: To find some of your best friends, grow in your faith, and become a servant leader for this important ministry.
SLB Reflects | Applying to the Student Leadership Board

SLB Reflects | Applying to the Student Leadership Board

Valerie Hanna, South Student Leader

Why I Applied: OCF isn’t just another school organization. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it a thousand times over. The opportunities provided by OCF are ones that teach, guide, encourage, and engage in ways I have never experienced in any other organization. There are things you learn in OCF that can be integrated into every aspect of your life. Having been challenged through so many different aspects of my faith alongside some of the best friends became one of the many reasons I applied to be on the SLB. I applied because I knew this would be one of the greatest decisions I would ever make (this has been proven true). In applying, I would be given one of the greatest opportunities in helping create events specifically catered to my OCF region. I knew OCF would always hold such a special place in my heart and now that I’ve had the blessing of serving on the SLB it’s more than integrated into everything I will ever do. To serve on this board has been one of my favorite adventures.

Favorite Moment: SLI, getting to help with College Conference, meeting new people at every event I’ve attended, and ultimately, gaining one of my best friends off of the SLB + so many more.

Biggest Takeaway: God’s love, grace, and kindness that radiates through the amazing people OCF has brought me whom I’ll be carrying with me through life.

Why Apply? Why not apply?

Anna Sobchak, Real Break Student Leader

Why I Applied: I really wanted to experience more of OCF at the national level because my favorite parts of OCF had been their national programs, most notably Real Break, as my current role may imply. Plus, as a senior I felt like it was my time to give back to this organization.

Favorite Moment: My favorite part of the SLB has definitely been SLI (the Summer Leadership Institute). It’s rare that you find a group of strangers from all over the continent that you instantly click with, and yet within mere days, I was absolutely in love.

Biggest Takeaway: My biggest takeaway…serving on the SLB has added depth to my faith. I joined the SLB because I felt like it was time for me to give back to the organization that had given so much to me already, but being a part of this ministry has taught me to be more intentional about my faith, to refocus and prioritize my life, and to appreciate just how rewarding serving in this ministry is.

Why Apply? Apply to the SLB because its just simply awesome.

Markayla Stroubakis, Southwest Student Leader

Why’d I Applied: I initially applied with some prodding and encouragement from the RSL before me. I figured it would be a cool opportunity, and just went for it, and here I am 3 years later!

Favorite Moment: In all 3 years I’ve had lots of favorite moments. But one of them has to be a rather humbling one. I planned a retreat and somehow on the day of, nobody showed up except me and the priest. I was pretty upset at first, and wanted to cancel it when I got the last text from a registrant saying they couldn’t come. But the priest told me we had to have the retreat, so when people asked, we could tell them how great it was. It was such a wonderful afternoon exploring my faith practically one-on-one with a priest. I learned so much about myself that day and it truly reinforced to me to always trust in God’s plan.

Biggest Takeaway: My biggest takeaway from OCF has been that this program truly changes you. Before I joined OCF, I was good about going to church and chanting and it was really nice. But that was it, just nice. Joining OCF has changed my attitude from feeling obliged to going to church to actually wanting to go to church. I read Orthodox books because I want to. I participate in and lead retreats and discussions not because I feel like I know the most about the Faith or the Church Fathers’ sayings, but because I want to learn from others and be that person who brings everyone together.

Why Apply: READ ABOVE ANSWER! Let yourself be open to having these experiences. If you’re on the fence, apply anyway because you truly will not know the difference that OCF will have on your life until you’re thrown into this position. You don’t have to be champion of Bible Bowl or chanter extraordinaire. Just be you. You’ll come out of this with a heightened sense of yourself as a college student, yourself as a leader, and yourself as an Orthodox Christian.

Quinn Marquardt, Mountain Student Leader

Why I Applied: I wanted to grow my region, grow my own chapter, and be able to make a difference on the lives of others.

Favorite Memory: I would say my favorite moment would just be SLI. Meeting the 17-18 board and opening it up to everyone was amazing. I met so many new people and made new lifelong friends.

Biggest Takeaway: I think my biggest takeaway would be that everyone is different. When I first joined the board, I was so shy and didn’t know what I would be doing. After being on the board, I have learned that everyone is different and when you reach out to someone, that can make all the difference.

Why Apply: Being on the board has changed my life for the better. I have made so many new friends, met new people, been able to get chapters up and running, and have had so many amazing experiences. If you apply, I know all of these will happen to you and hopefully even more. The SLB is such a wonderful thing and I know from experience, it will have a large impact on your life.

Spyridoula Fotinis, Public Relations Student Leader

Why I Applied: I re-applied because I just love the ministry of OCF so much and could not imagine transferring to a new school without a strong presence of OCF and the support of my fellow SLBers and well as all wonderful OCF peeps around North America.

Favorite Moment: Photo ops at SLI – We are totally weird and it’s great. Weird Orthodox SLBers.

Biggest Takeaway: Christ is Everything, and we need a strong community of peers to remind us of this and help us in our ministry to Christ in OCF and just in general, being strengthened by the wonderful people I serve with in all moments of life. They’re always only a phone call away.

Why Apply? There’s never a better time to serve Christ and His Church and your peers across North American than RIGHT NOW!! This present moment is incredibly important! It will be such a blessing in everything you do, and it’s always awesome how each new person brings so much to OCF. Just apply and trust in God! It’s gonna be great 🙂

Anastasia Lysack, Podcast Student Leader

Why I Applied: I applied because I wanted to serve the people who served me. I would not be the person I am today without my experiences in OCF, and I felt it was time to give back. Also, I had been involved with OCF for a while and loved the leadership position I already had in my chapter, so I felt that joining the SLB was the next logical step in my OCF involvement.

Favorite Moment: It’s so hard to pick one! That being said, one moment that is really sticking out to me as I write this happened last summer at the Summer Leadership Institute. The SLB had just spent an amazing two days getting to know one another and preparing for the upcoming school year, and now it was time for the other SLI participants to join us for the next several days. As many smiling faces trickled into the St. Iakovos Retreat Center, I was so impressed, not only by how joy-filled this group was, but how incomplete SLI was with only the Student Leadership Board present. Each member of OCF that I meet, whether they’re in a leadership position or not, inspires me in so many ways. It was then that I suddenly remembered that this was the reason I decided to apply for the SLB in the first place, and it helped me to see the rest of the Summer Leadership Institute in a different light than I did when I arrived there.

Biggest Takeaway:
It’s true that OCF needs students to help run its regional retreats, Real Break, College Conference, public relations, podcast, blog, and social media accounts (this isn’t even everything the SLB does!), but I don’t think I realized when I first sent out my application how much I needed the SLB. College is a time when we are encouraged to focus on our personal goals, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is all too easy to put your own needs before anything else (and yes, you can be doing this while still going to church on a weekly basis and never missing an OCF meeting). Being on the SLB taught me that, if I can take several hours out of my already busy week to serve the Church during college, then I honestly have no excuse not to dedicate that same amount of time to the Church once I’ve graduated. After all, the ultimate goal of OCF isn’t to create students that are really great OCF students — it is to encourage students in their walk with God and their service to the Church. While it’s completely true that there are many ways to serve the Church (different people are called on different paths — and that’s perfectly okay), I would encourage you to get in contact with an SLB member if you’re interested in applying. We would be more than happy to answer your questions.

Why Apply? Make new friends! Gain experiences that your college isn’t going to give you! Take advantage of this unique opportunity to serve the Church!

Fevronia Koufogazos, Southeast Student Leader

Why I applied: I saw the impact that the SLB had on OCF when I went to my first regional retreat and that was definitely something I wanted to be a part of. As much as I loved being just a member of OCF, I knew there was so much more that I could do to contribute to helping other college students grow in their faith.

Favorite moment: Reading Ben’s notes after each conference call (yes? no? maybe?). SLI for sure. Spending a week at the St. Iakovos Retreat Center with an awesome bunch of people was the best way to end summer break.

Biggest takeaway: I’ve always wanted to serve our faith and our Church in some way and being a part of the SLB has definitely allowed me to accomplish that. This experience will prepare me for after college graduation when I want to continue my involvement in church ministries.

Why apply: Be a part of something bigger than yourself!! It is our job as Orthodox Christians to bring others closer to Christ, and being on the SLB is a perfect way to do that. Also, automatically having a group of 18 friends is pretty cool too.

Mark Saber, Media Student Leader

Why I Applied: Shoutout to Christina Andresen and Kathrine Sackllah for encouraging me to apply. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I had friends who were on the leadership board, and it seemed fun.

Favorite Moment: My favorite moments were definitely all of leadership training and college conference — since I got to meet some of the coolest people EVER.

Biggest Takeaway: My biggest takeaway from the SLB has been the friendships I’ve formed with people I’ve met through OCF.

Why Apply? Ya got nothing to lose my friend. If you like meeting awesome people, being in charge of stuff, and going to OCF events, then go! Apply like the wind! Still undecided? Please refer to this video:

David Munkres, Northwest Student Leader

Why I Applied: I wanted to be able to provide the students of the Northwest Region with a space to grow in Christ! OCF has made me own my Orthodox Faith and has been one of the biggest blessings God has bestowed on me. I wanted to share that joy with others!

Favorite Moment: My favorite moment of my two years on the OCF board was attending College Conference (West and Midwest). I had a great time at both conferences meeting people from all over the nation!

Biggest Takeaway: I came away from the SLB is friends from all over the nation who I call brothers and sisters! The people really made the experience!

Why Apply? Apply because you want to have the experience of your life through OCF! OCF will give you what you put into it. Give it your all and OCF will change your life!

Impactful Lines | The Akathist of Thanksgiving

Impactful Lines | The Akathist of Thanksgiving

The OCF theme of the 2017-2018 school year is “Glory to God for All Things.” This phrase comes from the Akathist of Thanksgiving. Filled with many petitions covering the innumerable things for which we give thanks to God, we asked each SLB member to select their favorite we share the favorite line from the Akathist. Below are their answers.

“Glory to Thee, showing me the beauty of the universe.” – Val

“Blessed are they that will share in the King’s Banquet: but already on earth Thou givest me a foretaste of this blessedness. How many times with Thine own hand hast Thou held out to me Thy Body and Thy Blood, and I, though a miserable sinner, have received this Mystery, and have tasted Thy love, so ineffable, so heavenly.” – Tasya

“Glory to Thee, welcoming the impulse of our heart’s love.” – Caroline

“Glory to Thee for every happening. Every condition Thy providence has put me in.” – Quinn

“Outside is the darkness of the whirlwind, the terror and howling of the storm, but in the heart, in the presence of Christ, there is light and peace, silence: Alleluia!” – Spyri

“Glory to Thee, for what Thou hast hidden from us in Thy Wisdom.” – Anna

“Glory to Thee, making us dissatisfied with earthly things.” – Michael

“Glory to Thee for the joy of living, moving and being able to return Thy love.” – David

“Glory to Thee for calling me into being.” – Amelia

“Glory to Thee, sending us failure and misfortune that we may understand the sorrows of others.” – Nora

“Glory to Thee for the unforgettable moments of life.” – Fev

“Glory to Thee at the hushed hour of nightfall” – Peter

“Glory to Thee for every step of my life’s journey.” – Rachel

“Glory to Thee for the love of parents, for the faithfulness of friends.” – Markayla

“Glory to Thee for Thy mercies, seen and unseen.” – Mark Saber

“Glory to Thee, making Thyself known where man shows mercy on his neighbour.” – Ben

“Glory to Thee, making wonderfully Sweet the keeping of Thy commandments.” – Mark Sultani

“Glory to thee for the depths of thy wisdom, the whole world a living sign of it.” – Nicole

November Regional Feature: Southeast Region

November Regional Feature: Southeast Region

Every month, the OCF social media platforms will be featuring one of the nine regions of chapters. November is the month for the Southeast Region, which includes Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Alabama, Tennessee, and southern Kentucky.

On the blog, I’ll be asking the Regional Student Leader–for Southeast, the enchanting Fevronia Koufogazos–for a few names of people in their region who are absolutely rockin’ it. It’s an opportunity for every region to showcase and share that which makes them unique and awesome, and hopefully all the regions can learn from and grow with each other.

So, without further ado, your Southeast All-Stars!

Yianni Margiotis, North Carolina District Leader, UNC-Charlotte

My name is Yianni Margiotis, and I am a senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I am a double major in in Biology and Psychology, and I am currently applying to dental school. I am a student district leader of NC for OCF. I’m from Charlotte, NC, and I am somewhat of a basketball globetrotter. 

How did you get involved in OCF?

I first heard about OCF in my senior year in high school. Unfortunately, the university I was going to attend did not have an active chapter. Niko Wilk and Isabella Calpakis, great friends of mine and the founders of Charlotte’s chapter, successfully started OCF. Once I started college, I decided to attend an OCF meeting. Our chapter was small at first, but after a few years, the Charlotte OCF has grown tremendously, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of a wonderful group of Orthodox college students.

What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?

I have two amazing memories. My first greatest memory was attending my first Workdaze, a biannual event where Orthodox Christian college students from all over the Southeast get together for fellowship, community service, and to be in the presence of Christ. It was wonderful to meet so many college students with the same interest as me, along with the same faith. My second greatest memory was an ordinary OCF meeting that was held last year in 2016. It was ordinary because we have meetings twice a month per usual, however it’s great to see how far we have come as a chapter here in Charlotte.

What’s something cool going on in your chapter/district/region that you’d like to share?

In our region, we currently have over 110 college students attending Workdaze this fall. The last event that was held, which was in the spring, the number of college students was 68. It’s amazing to see how the message of Workdaze has spread to others and how new college students can see how great of a time it is to look forward to.

Any advice you could give to someone else in your position (Chapter Pres., District Leader, etc…) across the nation?

My advice for someone who is in my position currently, which is the Student District Leader of NC (or in this case, any state), would be to get to know as many people in OCF as you can in your district and keep in contact with them. By doing this, they can see that they are not in this alone. You have to set an example of how an Orthodox college student is suppose to act; that you can go through your college years with clarity of mind knowing that Christ is helping you every step of the way.

Adriana Lane, Media Team Member, NC State Design School

My name is Adriana Lane! I am a sophomore in the Design School at NC State University in Raleigh, NC, but I grew up in Greensboro, NC. I am planning to double major in both Design and Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. I would love to own a design company one day, and I love donuts and coffee! I am a member of the Media Team for the Southeast region; we create social media content to promote OCF.

How did you get involved in OCF?

I got involved in OCF at NC State during my freshman year through friends of mine. My first major event that I attended was Workdaze in the fall of last year, and I immediately fell in love with OCF.

What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?

Some of the greatest memories that I have had through OCF would definitely be at Workdaze. I was able to meet so many new friends and connect with Orthodox college students around the Southeast.

What’s something cool going on in your chapter/district/region that you’d like to share?

Workdaze is a retreat that we have once a semester in the Southeast! It is probably the best weekend out of my semester, and I look forward to it all year. We all come to the Diakonia Center (one of the most beautiful places on earth), and we volunteer for a weekend. It is a great way to see old friends and make new ones! As college students, I feel that we often get so caught up in our daily lives that we often put our faith on the back burner. For me personally, I find that this weekend is so important and provides a spiritual rejuvenation that helps me remember what really matters.

Any advice you could give to someone else in your position (Chapter Pres., District Leader, etc…) across the nation?

If I was to give someone advice in my position, I would probably say have fun and find a way to enjoy what you are doing. I am so thankful for the Southeast Media Team, they have all taught me so much. They are the most amazing and hardworking people, and we all have so much fun with what we do!

April Regional Feature: Southeast Region

April Regional Feature: Southeast Region

Every month, the OCF social media platforms will be featuring one of the nine regions of chapters. April is the month for the Southeast Region, which includes the wonderful states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and not one but two Carolinas.

On the blog, I’ll be asking the Regional Student Leader–for Southeast, the charming Niko Wilk–for a few names of people in their region who are absolutely rockin’ it. It’s an opportunity for every region to showcase and share that which makes them unique and awesome, and hopefully all the regions can learn from and grow with each other.

So, without further ado, your Southeast All-Stars!

Andrew Mamangakis, District Leader/Chapter President

How did you get involved in OCF?

I got involved with OCF because before I was president of the OCF chapter at UF, my brother Paul Mamangakis was the president. I saw the potential for those who wanted to follow Christ in college, but were deterred by the worldly society that surrounds us. Joining a community of fellow Orthodox Christians helps surround us with people that uphold similar values, encouraging students to stay within the Church.

What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?

My greatest memories from OCF have to be the road trips to and from South Carolina where the regional retreat is held at the Diakonia Center. Car rides listening to music, playing car games, and just talking about how excited we were to see our friends are some of the reasons I look forward to 7+ hours in a cramped car. The retreat itself is something I will never forget, which I why I’ve gone back every semester since I was a freshman. Building a fence for the animals, clearing out the woods, and painting the center are a few of the jobs that helped build relationships with people I’ll never forget.

What’s something cool going on in your chapter/district/region that you’d like to share?

Currently our OCF chapter is privileged to have Dr. Florin Curta, an amazing Romanian Orthodox history professor and author at UF, give a lecture series on the early centuries of Christianity up to the present day. It’s fascinating to learn about how Orthodoxy has been maintained throughout 2000 years while the world around us is ever-changing.

Any advice you could give to someone else in your position (Chapter Pres., District Leader, etc…) across the nation?

My advice to other chapter presidents or district leaders in OCF is to not be afraid of reaching out to fellow students, priests, parishioners, and any members in your community about OCF. More often than not, people are extremely helpful and interested in what our young adults are up to in college. Seeing students care about our Church encourages people of all ages to become closer to God.

John Shelton, District Leader

How did you get involved in OCF?

A former youth director had mentioned that the OCF chapter at my school had fallen apart…so I felt the need to resurrect it for my sake and to engage the community.

What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?

Some of my greatest memories from OCF have to be worshiping at our Southeast regional retreats. To celebrate divine liturgy at its purest form, singing hymns in full with 60 of your closest friends, is both humbling and awe inspiring.

What’s something cool going on in your chapter/district/region that you’d like to share?

In our district, we are planning an inter-chapter worship service at the historic Duke Chapel on the campus of Duke University!

Any advice you could give to someone else in your position (Chapter Pres., District Leader, etc…) across the nation?

Keep an open line and a constant line of communication with your chapter leaders and chapter members. The more we talk about OCF and our faith, the more active everyone will be! And most importantly, give people the opportunity to lead in their own way, because their level of comfort will increase and they will feel more willing to take ownership about their faith and role in our church.

SLB Applications | Quotes from the Board Members

SLB Applications | Quotes from the Board Members

After the positive response to our post last week of unattributed quotes to the New Orleans Real Break workers, we decided to do it again–this time, with our SLB members, encouraging you to apply to the SLB!

Quotes from: Markayla Stroubakis, Dan Bein, David Munkres, Emma Solak, Isabella Calpakis, Kathrine Sackllah, Mark Sultani, Nicole Petrow, Niko Wilk, Nora Haddad, Oana Grigoras, Peter Savas, Quinn Marquardt, Rachel Howanetz, Spiro Morris, Spyridoula Fotinis.

Question 1: How has being a member of the SLB affected your day-to-day life? What about your life overall?

“Hilarious group chat.”

“First, a GroupMe and a Snapchat group that never stops and kills my phone battery. Second, a GroupMe and Snapchat group that makes me literally laugh out loud, inspires me daily, and fills me with joy.”

“I now have 16 extra people that I pray for daily and look forward to hearing from in our GroupMe chat.”

“Honestly, the board has made me more motivated to keep my faith in the center of my life. Being in constant communication with people like Dan Bein, the Solaks, Niko Wilk, Nikky P, and literally everybody on the board makes me constantly see the benefits of living a Christ-centered life and it reminds me of how much I want that, and motivates me to do it.”

“My life overall has been affected in one of the most beautifully positive ways from being able to serve on the SLB. It is difficult to put words to the experience. I have been blessed with opportunities to meet and serve with other Orthodox Christian college students from all over North America. Many of which share my love and passion for the important ministry that is OCF. These people and opportunities are what continue to keep me working through the not-so-easy parts of college life, and ultimately has brought abundant amounts of laughs, smiles, and joy into my life.”

“Being a member of the SLB has, without a doubt, affected my day-to-day life. Growing up and even into my first year of college, I was very shy and introverted. I did not like being around people and talking to people was the worst! But I can honestly say, that being on the SLB has changed that. I feel more comfortable being around others and talking to people. I feel like being a member of the SLB has helped me to see what kind of person I am. It has showed me that I can be a leader and that I am able to just be myself without being shy and introverted. ”

Question 2: If you could assign one adjective to qualify what the SLB means to you, which would you choose and why?

“Well, I just had to Google what an adjective was…yikes! But my answer: There are definitely other adjectives to try to describe what the SLB means to me, but the word powerful hits it home for me. I joined the SLB not exactly sure what I was getting myself into. However, the moment I met my fellow SLBers, I felt like that was the place that I belonged. Being on the SLB has led to me coming out of my comfort zone and doing things I never imagined doing. I made friendships that I never thought would happen. I ran my own regional retreat which was very impactful. Being on the SLB has had a powerful influence on my life and has also changed my life for the better. ”

Family. It’s not an adjective but it’s the truth. Although I’m not the best at keeping in touch, I still feel connected to each person on the board. I honestly can’t explain why, but having Christ at the root of not only a relationship, but an entire community (like the SLB and OCF as a whole).. idk, it’s awesome. It’s an unexplicable personal and communal connection and devotion to Christ. I feel this way while I’m in the altar or in my congregation at home, but this is different because it’s not restricted to the walls of the church. It’s clear across campuses, state lines, and jurisdictions… so, it’s really cool and feels like a family.”

Thankful. I’m incredibly thankful to have served on the SLB for two years. It has given me more than I ever could have possibly dreamed of giving it. I am thankful for the best friends I have made, who have done awe-inspiring things for OCF; Christina and Donna who work so hard and offer sage life advice; every speaker I’ve ever heard at an OCF who taught me something new and strengthened my faith; every OCFer I’ve met who has filled me with the light of Christ that shines from within them. OCF has been the heart of my college experience and the SLB has been the heart of hearts.”

Family – The SLB has become my Orthodox family in college. More meaningful than any friend group or club, the SLB is a family which has formed my faith life and personal culture during years where they may have suffered otherwise.”

“Being on the SLB is fulfilling. You are serving the students in your region out of love. If you serve out of love, then there will be no greater joy that OCF can offer. Working to plan retreats and events where students can find God is some of the most fulfilling work I have ever done. It has also led to a deeper relationship with Christ.”

Real. Being on the Board is real for me. I produce real things, like videos and podcasts, interact with real people online, and participate in real projects with my other Board members. It’s not just theoretically talking about how to minister to my fellow college denizens, but it’s really ministry.”

Adventurous…not only has being on the SLB allowed me to form new ideas and experiences, but I have also literally traveled thousands of miles to be with the SLB at retreats, conferences, and Real Break, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Question 3: Why would you recommend someone apply to the SLB?

“There’s absolutely no reason not to apply to the SLB. I hate the words “I can’t” (ask Oana, she’ll attest to this). Apply because you love OCF, want to help it grow, have awesome new ideas, see room for change, want to grow stronger in your faith, want to develop your leadership and life skills, want to use your time and talent to serve God, and want to meet and work with some of the most faithful, funny, uplifting, and humble people who you will be privileged to call you friends.”

“Chances are that you have unique gifts that God intended for you to share with others. What is a better way to do that, than to step outside of your comfort zone, apply to the SLB, and use these gifts to make OCF an unforgettable experience for college students. (Is this supposed to be a question mark and not a period? Help me Ben English isn’t my first language)”

“Each of us possess specific skills and traits that give us the ability to serve others. By applying to be on the SLB, you would have the chance to become a leader for the Orthodox Church in a position that would ignite your inner potential. The effort that you offer is an act of love that would help the lives of college students in the Faith and especially those seeking Christ.”

“The running joke is that the SLB gives you friends. Yes, but you get so much more out of it, too. I don’t know about you, but I am constantly hearing the message–use your talents and gifts for the glory of God. If you love the OCF ministry and want to learn more about what it means to serve others with your whole heart, apply to the SLB. It is a humbling experience to be able to serve Christ and the church through this ministry. I encourage you to think about your God-given talents, your priorities, and how you want to spend your college career. Could you see yourself serving on the SLB? If so, apply. :)”

“I would recommend someone to apply to the SLB because it’s a great opportunity not only to learn the faith, but to actively do faith. Just by being on the SLB, you think about God and your faith on a regular basis, which at college can be difficult. And! you get to do something so cool with an organization that is worthwhile. So, selfishly, it keeps me on track through gaining knowledge and serving others which is a really cool thing.”

Real Break New Orleans | Quotes from the Workers

Real Break New Orleans | Quotes from the Workers

It’s Thursday, Day 3 here in St. Tammany West. In the middle of our trip, I wanted to take the opportunity to ask the workers about their experience on the trip so far. So, this is Real Break New Orleans, as told by Eyvonnka Rizkallah, Maria Nasser, Meredith Ashton, Rose Ansara, James Jabbour, and Ben Solak.

“It’s a really good mix. You get to do service but you also get to learn about an area I feel like a lot of people know about but not the extent that people should. I know I’ve learned a lot about Katrina and the people here and how it affected them even though it was so long ago.”

“You’re not going internationally. You’re helping people who are in your country who may have been hidden in the dark.”

“Seeing as though I don’t have an OCF at my local university, this was my opportunity to get involved.”

“It’s a nice time to reevaluate where you are in your semester, by serving someone besides yourself. You also have the opportunity to enhance friendships and create new ones through the dioceses. Meeting new people through our faith can be difficult—we only have a few events throughout the year. But this is a unique, intimate setting. The group is small and you’re serving where you are. It makes it different.”

“It’s really like eye-opening, because I had no idea. Like seeing pictures and hearing things are one thing, but if you come down and you see all the damage in person that’s still here…it’s ridiculous.”

“I really liked using the electric screwdriver. No, wait. That’s not what it’s called. I don’t know what it’s called. The screw thing.” (drill)

“It’s an intimate way to get to know a community that isn’t yours, and to be an Orthodox presence in that community is really cool, to share your faith. It’s much different than just going to New Orleans and going to restaurants and going to a party. You get to be directly in the neighborhood, be with the people who live here, get to know them and what matters to them. And that’s a really different experience than you’d get on a more traditional spring break trip.”

“The culture is so much different here from where I lived.”

“I thought it would take the mission trip aspect of things I’ve done in other places around the world and put it in my own country, so I could help people where I live, and I really liked that.”

“I was really excited about building homes for people who really need them. Putting our blood, sweat, and tears into everything we do. It’s a great way to bond with people who are from New Orleans. At the end of the day, you know that your hard work was going to contribute to something even bigger.”

“I’ve really loved eating the food. I’ve probably gained like ten pounds. But overall, great experience. I’d definitely do it again.”

“I wanted to go to Real Break New Orleans. It’s more fulfilling than going to Miami and partying. This is definitely real stuff. That’s why it’s called Real Break.”

If you want to follow Real Break NOLA, or any OCF event, be sure to follow OCF’s Snapchat @OCFMinistry. My caption game is fire.

March Regional Feature: South Region

March Regional Feature: South Region

Every month, the OCF social media platforms will be featuring one of the nine regions of chapters. March is the month for my birthday the South Region, which includes the great states of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Yee-haw!

On the blog, I’ll be asking the Regional Student Leader–for South, the striking Kathrine Sackllah–for a few names of people in their region who are absolutely rockin’ it. It’s an opportunity for every region to showcase and share that which makes them unique and awesome, and hopefully all the regions can learn from and grow with each other.

So, without further ado, your South All-Stars!

Anna Sobchak, Chapter President, SMU

Hi! My name is Anna Sobchak, a junior at Southern Methodist University (SMU), majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Math and currently chapter president.

How did you get involved in OCF?

Haha. It’s not a very exciting story, I’m afraid. I always knew SMU had a chapter at OCF; it was something I made sure of at all the schools I applied to. I had a friend who got me in contact with the coordinator and just went to the first meeting.

What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?

Growing up in Houston, I love every time we have a regional retreat and I get to see all the friends I grew up with. However, I would have to say my greatest experience so far was when I went to Jerusalem last spring for Real Break. It was beautiful and exciting and…honestly, I don’t even know how to describe it. Seeing all of the holy sites and just walking around the Sea of Galilee or through the Old City…it made the biblical stories seem so much more real and relatable. 10/10 would recommend.

Any advice you could give to someone else in your position?

Somehow I ended up as chapter president, but whether you just go to weekly meetings or are involved in the national level, my advice is to make sure you get involved. Different chapters do different things, but at the end of the day, it’s comforting to know that while you are at college in a new city, maybe even a new country, you have at least one brother or sister in Christ there with you. And the more you get involved, the more you’ll find out just how interconnected the Orthodox communities are all across the US.

Valerie Hanna, Central Texas District Student Leader, Texas A&M

Valerie Hanna is from Houston, Texas and a junior at Texas A&M University (Whoop!), studying Telecomm. Media Studies with a minor in Art. She is secretary of her OCF chapter and District Student Leader of Central Texas. She loves teaching Sunday School at St. Silouan Antiochian Orthodox Church, reading books instead of studying (uh-oh), practically living at her local coffee shop, sketching Disney characters, being at camp, and attending concerts.

And how did you get involved in OCF?

I knew I wanted to be in OCF before my freshman year even began. Having grown up involved in Teen SOYO, getting involved in OCF just felt like the natural “next step” in my church involvement when I left home. When applying to schools, I made sure there was a church with an OCF chapter in the general area because I knew I was going to need them. Fast forward three years, and I am both an officer in my chapter as well as District Student Leader for Central Texas and it’s been pretty great.

What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?

Last year we had a meeting right after the last Pre-Sanctified Liturgy during Lent where we got together and had some of the students teach others how to make crosses out of palms for Palm Sunday which led to us staying at the church for quite a while consisting of so much singing and so much fun. 10/10 would recommend as a fun & stress-free meeting before Holy Week! Despite the social events we have had in the past, this one felt like a really strong bonding experience for our entire group.

Any advice you could give to someone else in your position (Chapter Pres., District Leader, etc…) across the nation?

Embrace it and let it teach you things you didn’t even know you needed to learn. This goes beyond being a leadership position. You’re going to learn things that are beyond yourself. God works in each of us very differently, I feel this goes without saying, but you will be surprised as to how He is going to work through you. The feeling of being able to help nourish other OCF chapters beyond your own is incredible. I’ve put together events and done things I never in a thousand years pictured myself doing before this school year started. OCF isn’t just a temporary thing throughout my four years of college. OCF has given me my best friends, strengthened my relationships with others, and been the backbone of my entire college experience. It is what has helped keep me sane in the moments I felt so overwhelmed all I wanted to do was cry. OCF has been one of the constant reminders of the love that God has for me, for all of us. Being a leader in an organization He has allowed us to establish as a stepping stone in our journey toward salvation is more than I have ever been worthy of, but something to be so incredibly thankful for.

February Regional Feature: Northeast Region

February Regional Feature: Northeast Region

Every month, the OCF social media platforms will be featuring one of the nine regions of chapters. January is the month for the Northeast Region, which includes the wonderful states of Vermont, Massachusetts (congrats Pats fans), Rhode Island, Maine, the provinces of western Ontario and Quebec, and the brand spankin’ New Hampshire, York, and Jersey.

On the blog, I’ll be asking the Regional Student Leader–for Northeast, the indomitable Spyridoula Fotinis–for a few names of people in their region who are absolutely rockin’ it. It’s an opportunity for every region to showcase and share that which makes them unique and awesome, and hopefully all the regions can learn from and grow with each other.

So, without further ado, your Northeast All-Stars!

Stephanie Katartzis, Chapter President, University of Rhode Island

My name is Stephanie Katartzis. I grew up in Bethpage, New York and am currently a sophomore in a six-year pharmacy program at the University of Rhode Island. I am the president of the OCF for my chapter– one that was just freshly formed (yay!). However, this semester you can catch me studying abroad in Rhodes, Greece!

How did you get involved in OCF?

Entering college as a freshman, I was disappointed to find out that my school did not have an OCF chapter, nor an Orthodox Christian Church that was easily accessible without a car. I was determined to find other students on the same boat, and I also reached out to the parish members from the nearest Orthodox Church, St. Spyridon. Through God’s works, I found several other students motivated to start an organization on campus, and I was blessed to meet families that were more than willing to give me and the other students rides to church. Now, coming into my sophomore year, we have close to ten active members and a dedicated, amazing advisor, Fr. John.

What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?

College Conference East 2015 played a big part in inspiring me to start an OCF chapter on my campus. There is nothing more satisfying than being immersed in tons of fun events and enlightening workshops with close to 300 other students of the same faith. Chartering a chapter at my school was my way of bringing a piece of CCEast back with me.

Nick Cizin, Chapter Member/Treasurer, Seton Hall University

I’m a freshman accounting major at Seton Hall University’s Stillman School of Business. In my free time, I enjoy playing on Seton Hall’s Men’s Club Ice Hockey team, watching sports, and fishing. I intend on being the treasurer at Seton Hall’s OCF chapter.

Tell us about your OCF story.

I got involved in OCF after I joined a Coptic Orthodox group at Seton Hall, called Seton Hall Orthodox Fellowship, thinking it was OCF. I then proceeded to find the Seton Hall’s OCF chapter, only to find out the club’s creation had been halted last year. Because Seton Hall is a Catholic university, all religious clubs must be approved by campus ministry, and campus ministry did not see a need for two Orthodox clubs, as the Coptic Orthodox club had already been formed. I met with the students that tried to form the chapter last year, and still we had no solution to this problem. Fortunately, about halfway through the first semester luck turned our way as we discovered there was a new director of campus ministry. We are in the process meeting with the new director, and can only pray he is more open to the idea of having two Orthodox clubs on campus.

As of now, Seton Hall is without a chapter, but graciously enough, president of New Jersey’s County College of Morris chapter, Spyridoula Fotinis, has invited Seton Hall students to join in their chapter’s activities. I would like to thank her, on behalf of all Seton Hall OCF students, for this.

Since our OCF chapter is in the process of forming, I would actually appreciate any tips from treasurers in other OCF chapter treasurers. You can contact me at

What positive experience have you had with OCF?

My favorite OCF experience thus far was College Conference, hands down. I enjoyed College Conference so much because of the people I was able to meet. I met Orthodox students from all different ethnic backgrounds, and got a taste of their cultures, like I never had before. I also surprisingly met students from Seton Hall that I had never met before. Finally, I met lots of wonderful people that were willing to lend advice and support in regard to the issues we are having with campus ministry. Other students, whose OCF chapters share their school with similar Coptic Orthodox clubs, offered advice on keeping a positive relationship with them. I even got a chance to speak to His Grace, Bishop Gregory, who was more than happy to assist in our OCF chapter’s creation, should we encounter problems with the new director of campus ministry.

Eleni Florakis, OCF President, Binghamton University

Hi! I’m Eleni Florakis and I’m a pre-med senior, majoring in Integrative Neuroscience and minoring in Global Studies. I’m originally from New Rochelle, NY but currently attend Binghamton University, where I am President of the OCF there. In my free time I enjoy playing piano and flute (which I also play in the Binghamton University Orchestra), running, hiking, playing intramural volleyball, reading, and travelling.

OCF story! Go!

I first heard of OCF from my older brother and was super excited to join in my freshman year. However, when I got to Binghamton University, I was disappointed to find out that OCF did not exist on Binghamton’s campus. That is when it became my mission to start a chapter. Starting out was definitely rough, and it was hard to find the time to devote to this worthy cause. Because of this, it took a couple of tries, but the persistence was definitely worth it. I am very excited to say that Binghamton University’s OCF is now in the process of getting officially chartered by the school!

Anything cool going on in Binghamton you’d like to share?

Something cool that goes on throughout the semester that our OCF helps out with is a Community Meal Service at St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Downtown Binghamton. This occurs every Monday of the week, where over 100 community members come to enjoy a hot, three-course meal. Our OCF students help with setting up, serving food, cleaning up, and conversing with the community members. It’s a very humbling experience and a great way to serve our community!

Would you like to share any advice with someone else striving to start an OCF chapter?

My advice is to never give up! I know it can be disheartening at first to try and find enough members to become an active club, but don’t worry. With some prayer and determination, it will all eventually work out and more members will join!

Justine Younes, Chapter President, Queen’s University

Hi, my name is Justine Younes and I am a fourth year Engineering Chemistry student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario Canada. I am also the Chapter President/Co-Founder of Queen’s OCF, which we started just two-and-a-half years ago, and our chapter has already grown to twelve regular members. Glory be to God! Something cool about our chapter is that we only became an official school club THIS year (WOO!), so you can say we’ve been like the “underground Queen’s OCF” for two years, and had to get our OCF faculty member, a professor at our school, to book our rooms for us! Shoutout to Dr. Ana Siljak <3

Yes! Canada! We love Canada! Tell us about your OCF story.

After my first year in University, I remember feeling like something was missing from my life. Growing up I was always involved in Teen SOYO and loved being super involved in the church, but once I moved away for school, I never thought I would miss it that much. Well, one “hitchhike to church because I didn’t think 5km was a long walk and I didn’t want to miss Liturgy” later, I quickly realized how much I needed the church in my life. I had heard of OCF from my church community, so I knew that’s what was I wanted at Queen’s, I just didn’t know how to do it. So when the first Sunday of my second year rolled around, and I noticed a kid my age in the small St. Gregory of Nyssa mission church, I knew exactly that it was meant to be. He (Victor) was a first year at Queen’s University, and when I mentioned OCF to him, he immediately expressed his interest and enthusiasm to the idea! How God works! There was also a new priest, Fr. Mathew, who came that year to do his PhD at Queen’s, and he was very willing to be the spiritual adviser of our group! How God works again! And then our lovely faculty member (Ana, who was mentioned earlier) booked a room for us every week! So, by the will of God and through His many blessings, our underground OCF chapter began.

Awesome. Anything cool you’d like to share?

Every year, the OCF chapters in our area take a trip to a monastery in Montreal for a chance to visit and meet other students in OCF at other schools. It is something our chapter always looks forward to, and it is so special and important for people our age to visit monasteries and to explore the other path that God has laid down for us. It is also just the most beautiful place to find peace and refuge from the world, which is ideal for retreat settings and meeting and connecting to other students that are struggling in the faith and in the same situation as yourself.

Why Should You Attend College Conference Midwest? The Speakers Speak

Why Should You Attend College Conference Midwest? The Speakers Speak

It’s the first year of College Conference Midwest! We’ve interviewed all of the speakers–and the always-charming College Conference Midwest Student Leader, Peter Savas–and asked them about their workshops, their history, and why they think you should attend CC Midwest. Read along to find out what to expect from OCF’s shiny new program!

Keynote Speaker Fr. Panagiotis Boznos

Fr. Panagiotis BoznosFr. Panagiotis Boznos is the Proistamenos of Saints Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Glenview, IL. He was born and spent most of his childhood in the Chicago suburbs, before attending the University of Oklahoma, where he received his BA in 2008 in Religious Studies and Classical Greek. He then went on to receive his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. While a student at Holy Cross, Fr. Panagiotis met and married his wife, Presbytera Nichole. They have two children, and have been serving the community of Saints Peter and Paul since the summer of 2013.

Fr. Panagiotis–you are the keynote speaker! Why are you excited to speak to the Conference’s Theme of “Come and See” (John 1:39)?

“I am excited to speak on the theme ‘Come and See’ because it is the invitation that both Christ and His disciples use (John 1.38-51). Christ calls His followers to Himself using these words, and those who hear it make that same invitation to others. ‘Come and See’ is at the same time a personal invitation for our own salvation in Christ and a responsibility of the Christian to draw others toward salvation, as well. These words, and they way in which they are used, mean that we must be transfigured and sanctified in Christ and that our sanctification is not complete without the salvation of our fellow man.”

Fr. Gabriel Bilas

static1-squarespaceFr. Gabriel is the rector of St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church in Fenton, Michigan.  He live in nearby Linden, Michigan with his Matushka Laura and two beautiful children, Lucy and Noah!

He grew up in Akron, OH and was a member of St. Elia Orthodox Church of the Orthodox Church in America.  After spending ten years in the banking industry, his wife gave him the blessing to go and pursue a seminary education, and further discern a calling he had received to the priesthood.  After graduating from St. Tikhon’s Seminary, he served in a Russian Patriarchal Parish in Youngstown, OH while he awaited assignment from his diocese. He has been at St. Mary Magdalene since February, and he and his family cannot picture themselves anywhere else!

Having been a member of OCF himself, and having also attended the conference at Antiochian Village, he knew how important it was to have a vibrant local OCF for our college students. One of the first priorities in coming to the Fenton area was to establish an OCF in Flint. He has a fantastic group of college students from the four area Orthodox churches who worked hard in getting this new chapter established, and he am extremely excited at the possibilities!

On what topic will you be speaking? Why will your topic be interesting/helpful to college students?

“The title of my workshop is ‘Living Sacramentally.’ College was a confusing time for me. Although I never left the Orthodox faith, there was a time when I allowed the pressures of college to get to me, causing me to change the priorities in my life. I lost sight my role as an Orthodox Christian, and allowed the temptations of the world to overwhelm me.

What I hope to share with the students, is just how important their roles are as Orthodox Christians in the world…especially as students. Life presents so many challenges which cause us to lose our focus on Christ. St. Theophan the Recluse calls the battles within ourselves ‘unseen warfare.’ I hope to enhance the students’ understanding of the armor and weapons they were given (specifically baptism, chrismation, and the Eucharist) to fight in that war…making sure they end up on top.”

What’s the one thing at CC Midwest for which you’re the most excited?

“I love meeting new people and sharing ideas!  I gain inspiration and strength by hearing stories of how others are coping in this ‘unseen warfare!'”

Why would you recommend a student come to CC Midwest?

“I would recommend students to come to the conference for the very last word in ‘OCF’…fellowship!

One of the great things that the OCF does is create a system to hold individual students accountable to each other. You make lifelong friends who you can journey through the difficulties of college life with!

Let’s face it, college (and the years immediately after) are an extremely vulnerable time for students and their faith.  The percentages of Christians who abandon their belief in Christ during this time in their life are staggering!  By having an organization like the OCF, students can reach out to their friends who are struggling with their faith, pray for them, and give them strength to endure the hardships that come with college.”

Fr. Ciprian Sas

frciprian_outsideFr. Ciprian Sas was born in Timisoara, Romania in 1975. When he was 13 years old, his parents fled communist Romania with secret plans and trust in God that they would be reunited with their five minor children (ages 3-15) in the “free world.” Following eight to ten months of pressures from the International Red Cross on the Romanian Communist Government, he and his siblings were reunited with their parents in Sweden, where they lived for a year before moving to Canada. Fr. Ciprian received his theology degree from St. Andrew’s College in Canada, a Masters in International Business from St. Mary’s University in Minnesota, and a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His Presbytera Dr. Magdalena Sas and Fr. Ciprian have three children: Elijah (13), Emanuela (11), and Isaiah (8). Fr. Ciprian has served St. Andrew’s Church in Las Vegas, NV for three years, St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Cedar Rapids, IA for almost seven years, and his current parish All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Peoria, IL for four years.

What will your workshop cover?

“In an attempt to deepen our Orthodox Christian understanding of Salvation, my workshop will address numerous topics directly related to our salvation, such as faith, heaven and hell, sin, suffering, sacrifice, blessings, prosperity, good works, life in Christ, and acquisition of the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox Christian doctrines on these topics will be compared and contrasted to other Christian faiths and even other religions. The conclusion of this workshop will focus on everyday life behaviors and manifestations of an Orthodox Christian.”

Fr. Kosmas Kallis

kosmas-and-annaFr. Kosmas Kallis is the Youth Director/Associate Pastor at SS. Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Glenview, Illinois.  He is originally from the home of the greatest hockey franchise in the United States, Detroit, Michigan: Hockeytown, USA.  He is the advisor to the OCF at Northwestern University and loves having the opportunity to get to know and be inspired by the young adults in the area.

On what topic will you be speaking? Why will your topic be interesting/helpful to college students?

“I will be speaking with my wife, Anna Kallis, on the topic ‘He Made Them Male And Female.’ I think the title says it all.”

What’s the one thing at CC Midwest for which you’re the most excited?

“Bonfires. And s’mores. An spending time with inspiring, interested, engaging young adults of the Midwest.”

Why would you recommend a student come to CC Midwest?

“I would say that without taking time to retreat over Christmas Break, a college kid will not truly have come ‘home’.  To really go ‘home’ for break means to come back to Christ.  If a student comes to CC Midwest, they will find Christ in their fellow students, in their discussions and lessons, and, most importantly in the chalice on Friday morning.”

Peter Savas

This is Peter Savas. Peter is running College Conference Midwest. Don't you want to see this smiling face over your winter break?

This is Peter Savas. Peter is running College Conference Midwest. Don’t you want to see this smiling face over your winter break?

Peter Savas is from the west suburbs of Chicago, specifically Holy Apostles Parish in Westchester IL. He is an active member in my OCF at Loyola University Chicago, and he is the student leader for College Conference Midwest!

Why did you decide to become CC Midwest leader?

“I always heard about College Conference, and I never got to go because it involved buying a flight, which around the holidays, was super expensive. So, when I heard there would be a College Conference opening up near Chicago, I was so pumped. I wanted to be a part of it, and help it be an amazing opportunity for college kids around the Midwest.”

What’s the one thing at CC Midwest for which you’re the most excited?

“I think just the fact that this is the opening year is really cool. This is the year where we all can kind of set the stage and start traditions. We can really make College Conference into our own. I think it’s cool to be a part of something that will outlast you. And because it’s the first year of CC Midwest, we get that opportunity. All of us that go to College Conference are going to be pioneers. We can tell our kids when they go to CC Midwest that we went to the very first one. We started the tradition that they are looking forward to so much, and I think that that’s really cool. So, I think just being a part of something really cool and new is exciting to me.”

Why would you recommend a student come to CC Midwest?

“College is tough. College is awesome… but college is tough. At least for me it is. I feel like when I’m at school I go into a bubble. I am so into whatever is going on around campus that I get lost in it. I kind of lose myself in the hustle and bustle of college. CC Midwest is an opportunity to recharge, refocus, and rejuvenate. It’s a place to regain perspective. It’s a place to ground yourself from the bubble of college. It’s a place where people can be genuine. Where people don’t have to worry about this or that or feel as though they have to act in a certain way. It’s an opportunity for a person to be authentic as themselves. I think that’s the most important thing that I really am looking forward to. I just can’t wait to be able to be genuine. That’s why I would recommend CC Midwest. Obviously it’s gonna be lit…but it’s an opportunity to be genuine with your friends, with yourself and with God. So, I think that everybody should come to CC Midwest, it is seriously gonna be awesome.”

October Regional Feature: Southwest Region

Every month, the OCF social media platforms will be featuring one of the nine regions of chapters. October is the month for the Southwest Region, which includes California, Nevada, and Arizona.

On the blog, I’ll be asking the Regional Student Leader–for Southwest, the charming Markayla Stroubakis–for a few names of people in their region who are absolutely rockin’ it. It’s an opportunity for every region to showcase and share that which makes them unique and awesome, and hopefully all the regions can learn from and grow with each other.

So, without further ado, your Southwest All-Stars!

Mathew Madain, Vice President, UC Berkeley

Version 2Hello! I’m Mathew Madain, a sophomore at UC Berkeley studying international relations. I’m originally from Los Angeles, with family across SoCal and Jordan. I am the vice president of Cal’s OCF chapter and I’m hopeful that our community will continue to grow! I am also very active in UC Berkeley’s Rotaract Club and the Olive Tree Initiative.

So, how did you find out about OCF?

I first discovered OCF as an incoming freshman through a little poster I saw near Sproul Plaza (our main entrance) at my UC Berkeley orientation weekend. A few weeks later, I happened to meet some OCF students tabling on Sproul and learned from them the dates/times of our chapel services and meetings. Ever since then, I’ve attended meetings (almost) every week!

What’s your favorite OCF story?

One Saturday morning, my OCF chapter woke up very early and decided to hike up to Berkeley’s “Big C”. Throughout the hike, we shared jokes and stories and got to know each other very well. On our way back down, we encountered a few coyotes. We managed to stay calm and they walked past the trail within minutes… We all came out safely and enjoyed a nice brunch with ice cream later!

What are a few things unique or special to your chapter?

Our OCF is extremely fortunate to have the support and close collaboration of the Patriarch Athenogaras Orthodox Institute and His Eminence Metropolitan Nikitas (many years!). With this support, we are able to attend Divine Liturgy every Tuesday evening and enjoy dinner and spiritual discussions.

On most weekends, our OCF visits local Bay Area parishes and cultural festivals in an effort to experience the diversity within Orthodoxy. We’ve visited and plan to visit Greek, Antiochian, Russian, and Jerusalem parishes – and hope to include more dioceses in the near future!

What’s some advice you could give to someone else in your position across the nation?

Outreach is key. Try to invite new members – both Orthodox and members of other Christian backgrounds – to your fellowship meetings frequently. Also, look for ways to include charitable service within your chapter’s activities. IOCC is always willing to assist in planning fundraisers!

img_4195  Sophia Berg, District Student Leader, SoCal (I’ve recently learned this means Southern California. Very catchy)

Hello! My name is Sophia Berg, and I’m a second year Nutrition major at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. I’m member of the OCF Chapter at Cal Poly, as well the District Student Leader for Southern California this year.

Some fun facts about me are – I’ve lived in 7 different states, I play the cello, and I love to go sailing!

And how did you get involved with OCF?

I first got involved in OCF when I came to Cal Poly through a mutual friend who was also involved. I really loved the community and family that OCF provided last year, so I knew I wanted to get more involved this year. Therefore, I applied to be the District Leader of Southern California, and I love it so far!

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done with your OCF?

The coolest thing I’ve ever done with OCF was celebrating Pascha this past Spring. Those of us who were away from our families for Easter decided to get together after the service and celebrate with each other. We made traditional Pascha foods like kulich and Pascha cheese, as well as comfort foods like quiche, bacon, and milkshakes! Even though we missed our families at home and our usual Pascha traditions, we grew close as an OCF family and started our own OCF traditions together!img_5581

How about something unique to your chapter?

This past year, our chapter started a Greek Dancing group! It began last year as just a few students who got together to dance for fun. The group grew as more people joined, and even I started dancing though I had never done it before. By the end of the year, we were dancing at our church’s Greek Festival, and this year we hope to perform more and even compete at a competition in San Diego called FDF (Folk Dance Festival). Not only has it been a great way to celebrate our Greek heritage, but we have all grown so much closer because of it!

What’s some advice you could give to someone else in your position across the nation?

Some advice I would give to another person in my position is to not be afraid to ask people for help! More often then not, people are more then willing to give you a hand. In addition, the more people you make connections with, the more people learn about OCF, what we do, and Orthodoxy.

Your Regional Student Leader and the Retreat they’re organizing for YOU

Your Regional Student Leader and the Retreat they’re organizing for YOU

What a time to be alive! College Conference registration is OPEN! Real Break registration is OPEN! And finally, Regional Retreat registration is–you guessed it–OPEN!

The comprehensive list of Regional Retreats currently scheduled and open for registration (did you hear? Registration is OPEN!) can be found on the OCF Events page right here.

To tell you a little more about what Regional Retreats are and why you should go, I’d like to introduce to you your very own Regional Student Leader! If you’re unsure in which region you live, check out this handy-dandy map right here!

Red -- Northwest Dark Blue -- Southwest Yellow -- Mountain Light Blue -- Midwest Dark Green -- South Pink -- Great Lakes Orange -- Southeast Light Green -- Mid-Atlantic Purple -- Northeast

Red – Northwest
Dark Blue – Southwest
Yellow – Mountain
Light Blue – Midwest
Dark Green – South
Pink – Great Lakes
Orange – Southeast
Light Green – Mid-Atlantic
Purple – Northeast

Please get in contact with your RSL–they’re here for you and built to make your life awesome.

If you’ve attended a Regional Retreat and have a story you’d like to share, I’d LOVE to feature it on the blog. Contact me at and I’ll set you up.

Without further ado–here are your RSLs, and their thoughts on Regional Retreats!

1. So, what exactly is a Regional Retreat? Like, what happens?

NikoA Regional Retreat is an event that brings Orthodox college students (and those inquiring about the Faith) together for a wholesome weekend of discussion, fellowship, service, and worship. Students of all jurisdictions come from around the entire region to meet friends, offer work for the Glory of God through a service project, and most importantly worship together as the body of Christ.

 – Niko Wilk, Southeast Regional Student Leader

2. So why should I go?Rachel

You should go because it is such a NEEDED break from your school work. Also, it is a good way to be spiritually renewed and regain your energy for the rest of the semester. Another bonus is that you get to meet some incredible people who are going through similar life experiences as you, and I mean, who doesn’t like more Orthodox Christian friends?

 – Rachel Howanetz, Mid-Atlantic Regional Student Leader

3. What makes regional retreats special, unique? Why are they different from my regular OCF chapter meeting?

So you can find an Orthodox spouse!!!!!! HAHA jk Ben don’t put that in the blog.

Nicole(Yeah, okay Nicole.)

If there’s one piece of advice I have to offer, it is not to let your college OCF chapter become your only experience with Orthodoxy in college. Retreats such as this one can introduce you to the wide world of OCF that exists outside of your comfort zone at school. Boris Pasternak once wrote that unshared happiness is not happiness – and I think to a certain extent the same can be said for one’s faith life. Come to the Midwest regional retreat to take a breather from school, meet new friends, and rejuvenate your faith life.
 – Nicole Petrow, Midwest Regional Student Leader

4. What was the best regional retreat you’ve ever attended? What made it so good?


The best retreat I ever attended was in Syracuse, NY. The speakers were really great, but what made it meaningful for me was the priest’s advice of how to deal with a very difficult professor who tested my own faith. I came back equipped with the right tools of patience and prayer, plus all the ethnic dances were quite a workout and a lot of fun!

 – Sypridoula Fotinis, Northeast Regional Student Leader

5. Okay, in 1-6 words, why will your regional retreat be the best in the country?

Incredible retreat center and awesome speakers! LITURGICAL. ARTS. Need I say more? We have a nature walk! Because Christ is at the center! It’s in the mountains of Colorado. Faith, Friends, and Fun! Abbot Tryphon will be speaking! It brings us love at home. TEXAS.

6. How has a regional retreat 13246420_10204589950388632_4155340880391939275_ochanged your life?

Even as a Regional Student Leader, I haven’t been to one yet. This will be the first retreat in the Northwest Region. Planning it has been a blessing to realize that I can do things that scare me when I’m with Christ.

 – David Munkres, Northwest Regional Student Leader

7. Funniest story ever from a regional retreat–go!

Spiro[This one time at the OCF retreat, (please omit this section) NOPE!] Our group sat around a table and a waitress asks us if we would like desert.  Then the priest says, “Orange whip? Orange whip?” quoting the Blues Brothers.  I immediately began cracking up, then we look around and realize that no one understood the reference but us.

 – Spiro Morris, Great Lakes Regional Student Leader

8. Why did you want to become a Regional Student Leader and start organizing these retreats?

I wanted to become a Regional Student Leader because when I started college, I didn’t Quinnhave any Orthodox friends on campus, there was no OCF chapter on campus, and the closest church was 45 minutes away and a lot of the time, the road was closed so I couldn’t make it over in the winter. I decided to start a chapter at my university and it is finally almost in place!

I didn’t know about the Mountain Regional Retreat until two months after it had taken place. I knew that I really could have benefited from attending this retreat and that is a very large reason why I because a regional leader…to help get the word out about the regional retreat and let other OCF students know the benefits from attending.

 – Quinn Marquadt, Mountain Regional Student Leader

9. Okay, what if I can’t make it on the weekend it’s scheduled? Are there other things for me to do?

IMG_5790On this particular weekend the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco is also having their annual fall young adult retreat.  That will be held at the Monastery in Dunlap, CA.  Otherwise, definitely contact me to see how you can get involved, whether it be at a local chapter, or remotely! There are always opportunities for you to grow in Christ– and I encourage you to take these opportunities.  You will be so happy you did.

 – Markayla Stroubakis, Southwest Regional Student Leader

10. Any other advice/info?Kathrine


 – Kathrine Sackllah, South Regional Student Leader
The SLB Tells You Why to Apply

The SLB Tells You Why to Apply

Yianni Gagianas, Chairman

Why I Applied: I applied to the SLB to help serve the Church, experience church leadership, and meet more Orthodox Christians my age.

Favorite Moment: Going to SLI in August and training with the SLB.

Biggest Takeaway: Learning better teamwork

Why Apply? Because you will gain much more than you give.


Anna Valliant, College Conference East Student Leader

Why I Applied: I had been involved in OCF throughout my 4 years of college and decided I wanted to continue my love for OCF a step further. My favorite part of the year is College Conference, so I knew that being a student leader to coordinate CCEast was exactly what I wanted to do before graduating! I was blessed to have so many amazing experiences during my first 3 College Conferences that I wanted to share my love for this conference with other students and give them the same faith-filled and joyous experience that I had!

Favorite Moment: My favorite moment of OCF this year was sharing the faith with over 300 students at College Conference East at the Paraklesis service. We were blessed to be in the presence of the myrrh-streaming icon, the Kardiotissa. There is something so pure and beautiful about 300 students singing to the Mother of God. As the voices filled St. Ignatius Chapel, I was overcome with joy and peace, knowing that all of us were there to deepen our love for Christ.

Biggest Takeaway: My biggest takeaway is how many new friends in Christ I made by being on the SLB. Even though some of us have only been together twice, we became so close because of our shared love for Christ! You never know how much of an impact a small group of people can have on your life, and I am so blessed to have had this opportunity!

Why Apply? If you have ideas about how to improve and promote OCF across the country, apply to be a student leader! As Orthodox Christians in college, so many of our friends are leaving the faith, so challenge yourself to bring those friends and others back into the faith!


Alexandra Abboud, Real Break Student Leader

Why I Applied: Real Break changed my life, and I wanted to share the light of Real Break with everyone I could.

Favorite Moment: Summer Leadership Institute in New York City. The stress and following laughter that ensued from trying to get 16 people on the same subway train is something I will remember forever.

Biggest Takeaway: I learned so much about myself as a leader as well as what it takes to successfully work with others.

Why Apply? The SLB is an opportunity to become a leader in the Orthodox Church and create unforgettable friendships that will quickly will become unbreakable.


Andrea Tsatalis, Great Lakes Regional Student Leader

Why I Applied: I applied to the OCF Student Leadership Board to serve Christ and His Church in what I believed would be an enriching and challenging way to respond to Christ’s ongoing call for me to grow (and help others grow) as an Orthodox Christian.

Favorite Moment: As the Great Lakes Student Leader I planned a fall retreat in Toledo, Ohio where OCF college students prepared, donated, and shared meals with the city’s impoverished. Being able to speak with this community, actively see Christ in our neighbors, and spread His love by reflecting the call in Matthew 25:35-40 to give drink to the thirsty, see strangers and invite them in, look after the sick, etc. was a unique blessing and re-orientation of my spiritual compass.

Biggest Takeaway: Aside from the financial (budgeting, fundraising) and managerial (planning events, coordinating officers) skills I learned from serving on SLB, my interactions with OCF members and my fellow SLB members changed me as an Orthodox Christian. Witnessing their faith, hearing their opinions on current events through an Orthodox lens, or simply communing with them in prayer has elevated my understanding of theology and supported me through the admitted struggles of “keeping the faith” in our secular world.

Why Apply? As a 20-something, it seems as though I am expected to “literally, can’t even” when it comes to social responsibility. It is easy, and perhaps the presumption, for our generation to rely on parents, grandparents, and the elderly to lead the Orthodox Church. Our predecessors have immigrated to this country, built our churches, fundraised our community centers, and maintained the Orthodox Faith through world wars and economic depressions. We must act ardently and urgently to personally preserve, protect, and strengthen our Faith so that it may comfort and guide our and future generations. Apply to the OCF Student Leadership Board. Take a step closer to Christ and prepare yourself to lead a community that increasingly needs your leadership, foresight, and faith to propel it forward.


Katherine Konstans, Public Relations Student Leader

Why I Applied: I decided to apply because I wanted to help give every incoming college freshman the experience that I have had through OCF.

Favorite Moment: Meeting fellow Orthodox college students from different jurisdictions and different parts of the country.

Biggest Takeaway: While we have accomplished so much, there is still so much more to be done, and it is important that the board continue on in its work so that we can continue to grow.

Why Apply? Don’t get discouraged when people don’t call/email you back or sign up for things because in the end, when just a few people do reach back out to you, it makes it that much more meaningful.


Markayla Stroubakis, Southwest Regional Student Leader

Why I Applied: After seeing numerous Facebook promotions and posts for the Why Apply campaign, I decided to talk to the RSL of my region at the time to see if applying was something I wanted to do. He really pushed me to apply (and even got the deadline extended for me–thanks Patrick!). After considering his incredible experiences being on the Board and the impact that I would be able to have on Orthodox college students in my state and beyond, I decided that I wanted to have the opportunity to make that difference and change lives.

Favorite Moment: My favorite moment of being on the board was during College Conference. We had all gathered in the new chapel at St. Nicholas Ranch to sing a Paraklesis service. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. There were SO many people singing, and so many incredible voices. As a singer, one of the greatest blessings is to be able to lift up my voice to glorify God. But when a community gathers, and we are able to praise Him in song TOGETHER, is an extremely special and humbling experience.

Biggest Takeaway: Although this position isn’t full of emails and people asking questions, you really do impact everyone in your region by establishing OCFs. By what you do now, you’re even impacting people that will attend college in five, ten, twenty years. It’s a great responsibility.

Why Apply? While serving on the Board is a great responsibility, you will have SO much fun doing it. Everybody on the board is an incredible human that I am very lucky and blessed to know. So, why NOT apply? You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.


Alex Kuvshinoff, Northeast Regional Student Leader

Why I Applied: I was inspired to apply after going to College Conference in 2013 and seeing how united the OCF Student Leadership Board appeared. They worked so enthusiastically for one another and for everyone else there, without asking for anything in return. I wanted to be a part of a community working for others in the name of Christ.

Favorite Moment: My favorite part of the SLB is being inspired by my peers. They work tirelessly for me and so many students. As unworthy as I am to serve with such great people, I am honored to have been motivated in my work and faith by their example. My favorite memory was from SLB training in 2014 when we went to a square dancing place in Texas. For a New Yorker, it was quite the a culture shock!

Biggest Takeaway: My biggest takeaway from the OCF SLB is that sometimes things you work for don’t always come into fruition. Hours are spent working, and sometimes it is hard to remember who the hours are going to. In the end, they are going to God. OCF is a great way to use our talents gifted to us by God for others.

Why Apply? I have talked about OCF more in interviews than any of my internships. The magnitude and experience you get are truly unique, and I stand by that after 5 other business field internships. So when it comes to capitalizing on limited time as a student, OCF SLB gives both work experience and experience living out the Gospel simultaneously.


Mary Anna Roden, Southeast Regional Student Leader

Why I Applied: I applied to SLB because I believe in the potential of OCF to influence people at a very pivotal time in their lives. Because of that, I also believe that a lot of responsibility lies in the hands of our generation. I knew that if I wanted to see Orthodoxy grow in this country, if I wanted changes in the face of typical “campus ministries,” if I wanted a support system and ministry that would encourage Orthodox Christians for years to come, then I couldn’t sit passively by and hope for it to happen spontaneously.

Favorite Moment: My favorite moment was the first video conference I had with my 7 district leaders. It was at that point when I realized that the passion to spread our Faith wasn’t just limited to the SLB. They’ve worked so hard to build up OCF here in the Southeast, and it’s been an incredible blessing to work alongside them.

Biggest Takeaway: From the national board to the students, we all want to see changes. I’d even venture to say that those who are not yet Orthodox want changes. It is a powerfully invigorating feeling to realize you’re not alone in your passions, especially when that passion is the Church. The OCF Student Leadership Board is a wonderful medium to share that inspiration with your peers and make REAL changes and REAL progress in your communities.

Why Apply? OCF Student Leadership Board allows you to make connections with Orthodox Christians your own age. You’ll meet welcoming, down-to-earth people who uphold the same values as you. Most importantly though, you’ll have a chance to be a part of something bigger than yourself.


Nicole Petrow, Midwest Regional Student Leader

Why I Applied: I applied to the SLB because OCF had become my favorite part of my college experience, and I was looking for ways to get more involved. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, and it turned out to be better than I could have imagined.

Favorite Moment: My favorite moment on the board was chanting with other SLB members at College Conference East this winter. After a semester on the SLB, I had come to appreciate the other members of the board as some of my closest Orthodox friends who motivate me every day to strengthen my relationship with God. Being able to chant with them after months of separation was a really special experience.

Biggest Takeaway: Being Orthodox in the Midwest, where the average OCF chapter has 5-10 members, can become disheartening at times. Working on the SLB this year has opened my eyes to the truly powerful presence Orthodoxy has in the US, and strengthened my own relationship with Christ and the Orthodox community at large.

Why Apply? To meet amazing people, give back to the Orthodox community, and grow in your faith.


Matthew Monos, Media Student Leader

Why I Applied: I applied to the SLB after an amazing experience at College Conference East 2013. I wanted to give something back to the organization the gave so much to me and help to give other students as special of an experience as I had.

Favorite Moment: One of my favorite personal moments was unveiling the OCF Connect App at College Conference East 2014. It was amazing to see all of our hard work finally unveiled and shared with all of our friends and peers, and to see it responded to so positively.

Biggest Takeaway: When His Grace Bishop Gregory tells us that we aren’t the future of the Church, but are the here and now, he is absolutely right. We don’t need to wait to make a difference, we can start right now. Most gratifyingly, we can start making that difference in a way that positively effects the lives of other college students around the country.

Why Apply? Apply for the very reason I said above. You can make a difference now. Christ’s call to serve is not something that begins within parish life at age 30 once you’re married and have a kid. There is an active call to serve even now within collegiate life. Step up to the challenge, because it will be to the spiritual benefit of your friends and peers, yourself and most importantly, to the Glory of God.


Katerina Therianos, Mountain Regional Student Leader

Why I Applied: I was the president of my university’s chapter for several years and thought it was time to try working with OCF in a different capacity. This gave someone else the chance to step up to the plate in our chapter and me a chance to meet new OCF students.

Favorite Moment: Anytime I get to see everyone else on the SLB, whether it’s during our conference calls, regional retreats, or College Conference. It’s always a reminder of how widespread OCF is and how wonderful our OCF friends are.

Biggest Takeaway: Working in a leadership position this big is humbling to the soul. It makes you realize how much you still have to learn about leadership and about your faith, but, at the same time, it’s incredibly inspiring. You’re working with people who truly love this ministry and love Christ and seeing this helps you in all aspects of your life.

Why Apply? It’ll change your life, whether you believe it or not. It could be a tiny (seemingly inconsequential) change, or it could have a huge dramatic impact. Apply and see what happens, because if that’s where the Lord wants you serving, you’ll be right where you should be.


Hibbah Kaileh, South Student Leader

Why I Applied: I grew up very involved in SOYO and other aspects of the church, and OCF has always fascinated me because it’s a pan-Orthodox fellowship, and I wanted to get involved and meet other Orthodox college students from different jurisdictions. I happened to be good friends with the regional leader before me, and she constantly raved about OCF and how fun the training and the OCF board was. So I decided to apply and here we are!

Favorite Moment: My favorite moment was spending time with all the other college students at the South Regional Retreat. The South region has slowly but steadily grown over the years and our Spring Retreat had over 40 attendees, the biggest event in the region for quite a while! The fellowship that lasted well into the night on Friday and Saturday with everyone was so beautiful and uplifting and it was truly a blessing from God to have so many of us gathered there that weekend.

Biggest Takeaway: Being on the OCF board has challenged me to grow in my faith more than I ever have before. I have been constantly inspired to be a better Christian by my fellow board members and to be a better servant as a student leader. As I get ready to graduate, OCF has taught me what it means to be an Orthodox Christian in this world, and it has made me so much better equipped to handle the future and what it has to offer. Being on the board has taught me what it means to lead by serving, and none of it would have happened without this experience.

Why Apply? First of all, why not apply? You have nothing to lose! It is one of the most enriching experiences I have ever been blessed to be a part of. Think of it as an infomercial. Apply within the next month and we’ll throw in an incredible support system of Orthodox college students from throughout the country, an awesome chairwoman to guide you through the year (shout out Emma), an incredibly inspiring leadership training, and a prayer inspiration guarantee. Apply now, and we’ll even throw in constant Orthodox memes and puns at the low low price of help with your salvation. How could you pass this offer up!?


Camille Bever, Northwest Regional Student Leader

Why I Applied: Being on the Student Leadership Board of OCF seemed like a great opportunity to bring young adults together and dive deeper into the Orthodox faith

Favorite Moment: Getting to know my fellow regional leaders!

Biggest Takeaway: There’s no better way to strengthen your faith and enrich your young adult life than to bring people together and help strengthen your own and others relationships with God.

Why Apply? This is a fantastic opportunity to enhance your young adult lives and the lives of those around you!


Karma Khoury, Mid-Atlantic Regional Student Leader

Why I Applied: My non-Orthodox friends will tell you, I am definitely obsessed with OCF. OCF has been one of the best parts of my college career. It has brought me closer to the Faith, amazing friends, and a place to feel at home. I always went to College Conference and as many retreats that I could and when I found out that I could apply to be on the SLB, that I could help OCF continue to change people’s lives, I knew without a doubt I had to do it.

Favorite Moment: My absolute favorite moment was one night at College Conference I saw this group of kids who were hanging out, having a great time, enjoying each other’s company, reflecting on the talks that they had attended that day when one of them came to me. She thanked me for planning the fall regional retreat, where they had all met. She said that they all went to different schools in different districts and were it not for these retreats they would have never met. Feeling the love that they shared for one another and the Church was such an amazing thing to witness, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Biggest Takeaway: Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. I was no public speaker before the SLB, and I didn’t think I could successfully plan a party, let alone a whole retreat. I definitely was not the most well-versed in the theology of the Church, but with the love and support from the SLB and having faith in God, I have gained these skills that will last me a lifetime. I have learned so much about the faith and my fellow Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ. I love the fact that I got to make a difference in people’s lives, it truly was the most rewarding thing I have done with my free time in college. It is work, but it is amazingly gratifying, and no matter what you have on your plate, you can do it. God is there helping to guide you every step of the way. Have faith that you can do it and do an amazing job and you will see what a wonderful gift it is to work in this ministry.

Why Apply? You should definitely apply to be on the SLB! If you want to make a difference, help OCF flourish, and be blessed with contributing to this ministry that keeps you and your fellow students close to the faith then the SLB is for you. I hate to say it but “be the change you want to see in the world,” help OCF continue to get better and enjoy it along the way! You gain incredible experiences, for both the Kingdom and this world. You make amazing friends, and you make amazing memories. I cannot stress enough what an amazing experience it has been to be on the SLB. I have been truly blessed to get to work in this ministry of the Church. You can definitely do it. Don’t second guess yourself. Just take a leap of faith and see what amazing things the Lord can put in front of you.


Nora Haddad, College Conference West Student Leader

Why I Applied: I applied as the College Conference West chairman because I fell in love with this conference immediately: the people, the program, the monastery, everything. My life was changed and transformed entirely and positively; I could not help but return every year. However, I did not intend on or ever see myself being the chairman, but some beautiful souls encouraged me and thought I would do well in this position, and because of their belief in me, it allowed me to have faith and recognize that I needed to use whatever talent God had given me to give back to something I cherished so dearly!

Favorite Moment: Being in this position entails the witnessing of many favorite moments, but on the second evening, we had a Paraklesis in a newly-built chapel on the camp grounds. On one side, we had female chanters lead by Katerina Therianos (I was able to be part of this side), doing the GOA-style of melodies, and on the other, we had male chanters lead by Nicholas Baba, doing the Antiochian-style of melodies. Prior, some clergy were hesitant about this back-and-forth with different styles, but when it came to service time, the Antiochian and Greek styles blended and were reciprocated with unfathomable, flawless beauty, by grace of the Holy Spirit and by the God-fearing leadership of Katerina and Nicholas.

Biggest Takeaway: Being able to witness the transformation of the participants from beginning to end filled my heart with unparalleled joy and served as a testimony and witness to how the Holy Spirit can touch, encourage, and enlighten each and every individual person. From the outside, it may seem like I was chairman this year because of whatever visible reason, but honestly, no words can describe how much I was able to grow spiritually simply by witnessing the transformation of everyone else– individually and as an entire group. I could not have witnessed this the same way if I was not the chairman.

Why Apply? “Desire and effort must come from you. God will provide the power and results” (St. Paisios of Mount Athos). You will not be alone in this position: help will come from everywhere. There is an entire committee backing you up, as well as the encouragement from the entire Student Leadership Board. Any questions you have will be answered, and the results of the conference are completely and utterly worth every ounce of work put into it!


Emma Solak, Publications Student Leader

Why I Applied: By luck of having some friends on the previous board, I was able to see a lot of the work the SLB does. I knew I wanted to be a part of the machine that makes OCF run. I saw them in action at College Conference or regional retreats and wanted to be up there leading. I already loved everything I did with my OCF–whether it was planning an event, discussing living the Orthodox life, or just hanging out–and the SLB was just an augmentation of that.

Favorite Moment: Meeting everyone for the first time at SLI. We were so hungry but had to wait for dinner, so we all crammed into someone’s tiny hotel room and ate all of Anna’s mints. There’s really no better way to bond with people.

Biggest Takeaway: The friendships I’ve made on the board. I haven’t seen some of the other board members since SLI and some I’ve only seen once since then at College Conference, but they are some of my dearest friends.

Why Apply? Because you’ll get to work with me! Haha, just kidding. Applying to the SLB was easily the best decision I’ve made during my college career. It’s a lot of work, but it teaches you important skills like time management, organization, and leadership–all while serving the Church. You learn so much about yourself and the faith. You make incredible friendships and work with amazing, dedicated, intelligent, faithful people. There’s absolutely no reason not to apply!



A Very Thankful SLB

A Very Thankful SLB

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we celebrate this day by giving thanks to God for all things, here’s what your SLB is thankful for.



“All the amazing friends I have made through OCF!”

-Yianni Gagianas, Chairman

“Trees, because they’re strongly rooted and absolutely beautiful.”

-Camille Bever, Northwest Student Leader

“The intercessions of Saint Nektarios for my family members who battled with cancer, as well as the efforts from all youth workers that helped solidify my faith at a young age .”

-Alex Kuvshinoff, Northeast Student Leader

“My friends and family who support me in everything I do.”

-Alexandra Abboud, Real Break Student Leader

“God’s love–manifested in good health, quality relationships, safety & security, and the existence of MorningStar vegan products during fasting periods. ”

-Andrea Tsatalis, Great Lakes Student Leader

“The ability to forgive, repent, confess, be absolved, repeat.”

-Nora Haddad, College Conference West Student Leader

“To have a close-knit OCF here at Pitt’s campus. I am constantly surrounded by a group of people who continue to help me learn about the faith, while also supporting me to grow closer to Christ. I am thankful and truly blessed to not only call my OCF my friends but also my family!”

-Anna Valliant, College Conference East Student Leader

“All the little imperfections in my life. I’m learning that they’re what set my life apart from the person next to me.”

-Mary Anna Roden, Southeast Student Leader

“My health and safety, and the health and safety of my loved ones.  Additionally I’m thankful to be blessed with curiosity and passion for learning, and being at a university that facilitates and encourages this development.  I’m thankful for my family and friends, for beautiful music, the beach, San Francisco, and kale smoothies. ”

-Markayla Stroubakis, Southwest Student Leader

“My fiancee and my supportive family.”

-Katherine Konstans, Public Relations Student Leader

“Christ’s unceasing love that I feel everyday, and the ability to pray and learn and live freely in a loving community.”

-Nicole Petrow, Midwest Student Leader

“All my Orthodox friends and family and also for my non-Orthodox friends who understand and support my faith.”

-Katerina Theriano, Mountain Student Leader

“My beautiful [smallah] siblings and my incredible camp family that are there for me 25/8!”

-Hibbah Kaileh, South Student Leader

“The friends I made in OCF, they are the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and they are always there for you, through thick and thin. They are truly a blessing in my life.”

-Karma Khoury, Mid-Atlantic Student Leader

“It is an amazing cliche to say this, but one of the things that I feel the most thankful for right now are all of my amazing friends. While roadtripping around the country over the last week, I reflected and realized that I have been blessed with not just friendships, but beautiful spiritual friendships that have given me inspiration to grow and stretch higher. Glory to God!”

-Matthew Monos, Media Student Leader

“All the safe traveling I’ve done and will God-willing continue to do, my very loud and loving family, caring friends, and St. George’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh for letting me park in their parking lot so I don’t have to embarrass myself by attempting to parallel park on the street.”

-Emma Solak, Publications Student Leader


My Real Break Story: Student Reflections

My Real Break Story: Student Reflections

Students think back on their Real Break trips from last spring.

Real Break Alaska 2015

Real Break Alaska 2015


“Through this mission, God revealed to me Orthodox Christians pursuing the Truth in every aspect of life. It filled me with joy to be shown that at every corner of the United States, despite Orthodoxy being an overwhelming minority, God is worshiped in humble obedience to the Apostolic Tradition handed down by the Fathers of the Church.”

Oliver Filutowski, Alaska

“God works in ways we may not always understand, but He gives us the strength to carry on and make life meaningful through fellowship, faith, friends, and family; I consider my Real Break group to fall under each of those categories.”

Alexandra Mamangakis, Alaska

“I often think about the beautiful, humble people I met there when I feel alone and discouraged. Their smiles and hugs still warm my soul.”

-Elizabeth Clark, Romania

“We all thought we were going on a trip to give our help to these children, but we were all wrong. They did not really need any help from us. They gave us all so much more than we could’ve given to them. The light of the Holy Spirit radiated from the hearts of these children and poured onto us. Real Break is an experience for which I am eternally grateful.”

Michaela Connally, Romania


Real Break Guatemala 2015

Real Break Guatemala 2015

Sometimes as an Orthodox young person, I wonder how it is possible to fulfill Jesus’ command to serve others and “love our neighbors as ourselves”. Whether we know it or not, as college students, we are already equipped with the things necessary to allow us to do this: time, energy, enthusiasm, and support of the members of our parishes.”

-Julia Goussetis, Guatemala

“Some of my favorite moments were spent as we explored the City and visited two beautiful Orthodox Churches. I grew so much in my Faith that week through the amazing people I met, which I will always be grateful for.”

Maria Phyrillas, New Orleans

“Even though there is still such destruction from the hurricane, everyone there radiated such joy and warmth about life. I learned so much about myself and the importance of giving back to people who need it most.”

-Anna Valliant, New Orleans

RB New Orleans 2015

Real Break New Orleans 2015

REGISTER for Real Break today!

Takeaways from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Retreat

Takeaways from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Retreat


Students at Agia Skepi Monastery

Last month, students from the Mid-Atlantic Region gathered in Taylor, PA for an evening with at St. George with Fr. Mark Leasure and the myrrh-streaming Kardiotissa icon. They also enjoyed a talk on martyrdom by Fr. Andrew Damick and a visit to Agia Skepi monastery. Here are some thoughts from the students reflecting on the retreat:

“You are never alone when you have your faith.”

Maria Kirifdes, sophomore, University of Delaware

“I love the retreats OCF hosts. Experiencing the beauty and peace of the nus and their home was quite moving. [I took away] a sense of renewal in a hectic semester and peace. Also, a stronger growing in my faith.”

Ethan Comfort, junior, Kent State Univeristy

“I feel like I’m on a spiritual high.”

Kyriakos Theophanous, senior, University of Pittsburgh

“I was in awe being the presence of the icon. I loved that we all chanted together with such love in our voices. Miracles exist all around us. We have to open our hearts and believe in the protection of the Panagia.”

Jenna Ionnidis, junior, Millersville University

“Don’t follow your heart, lend your heart.”

Christina Gregoraski, freshman, University of Delaware



Seeing Christ in Thy Neighbor – Takeaways from the Great Lakes Regional Retreat

Seeing Christ in Thy Neighbor – Takeaways from the Great Lakes Regional Retreat


Gathering in downtown Toledo

At the Great Lakes Regional Retreat on September 18th – September 19th, students gathered in Toledo, Ohio for a weekend of service. Friday night the students enjoyed fellowship and made PBJ sandwiches to prepare for their day with the homeless. On a rainy Saturday, the students participated in 1Matter‘s Saturday Morning Picnic, where they ate lunch and got to know the local homeless community. Here are some of their thoughts.

“This was the perfect break from school! It was relaxing and everyone in Toledo made me feel at home. It also made me remember that we need to care for our neighbors no matter where they come from!”

Danielle Pappas, senior, Purdue University

“Feeding the homeless was amazing. I felt during that movement social status barriers were completely broken and I had learned so much from them about being strong in your faith and that happiness doesn’t come from anything other than God and doing his work. I felt completely one with the community by simply being fully enveloped in a conversation.”

Callie Carioti, senior, Miami University of Ohio

“Sometimes at retreats people split off into cliques, but that didn’t happen much (thumbs up!). Talking in small groups was memorable, we had some cool bro-bonding and a good convo about leading a Christian life as a man. Volunteering at the picnic showed me that I need to really reevaluate some of my priorities and bring them into line with my values.”

Michael Cook, first year masters student, The University of Western Ontario

“Talking to the homeless really stood out because I’ve never been able to do something like that and talk to these people and hearing all the astounding things they had to say was amazing. I think I will look at homeless people differently knowing one small action showing that someone  matters, I could change or save a life.”

Sid Fragoulis, junior, Ohio State University

“Going to hand out food and talk to the homeless stood out to me the most. I learned a lot about something I was unfamiliar with which I feel was very beneficial and important to have experienced. [I was reminded] Christ is within each and every person and he calls us to who show love to all. Also, seeing how happy people are at the smallest of gestures was an eye opener.”

Savannah Belt, freshmen, Purdue University


Sharing Christ’s love with all

Orthodox College Prep: Upperclassmen Advice

Orthodox College Prep: Upperclassmen Advice

Lehigh UniversityStarting college is a scary time – alone and away from home, trying to navigate your way through the unknown territory of classes, dorm living, and new friends. To guide you through the blur of beginning, here are some words from real life OCF students who survived their first year.


“College (and freshman year especially) is an exciting time, but it’s also easy to get swept up in a wave of busyness. While juggling classes and clubs and plain old fear of missing out, a lot of college students underestimate the value of taking the time to just do nothing…to just be. Try to take just 10 minutes every day to unplug from everything and pray. Life doesn’t get any less stressful after college (surprise!), so making the effort now to be intentional about quietness and prayer will go a long way for you as your journey continues.”

Tim Markatos, Georgetown University


“College will give you some of the best times of your life… but it may also give you some of the worst. My words of advice are to please remember who you are, no matter where you are. And in times of doubts, stay connected with the Church community. Remember the story of Thomas who demanded proof that Christ resurrected. Even during his doubts Thomas stayed connected with the apostles, and they stayed with him. The Orthodox Church has the testimony of men and women who had their lives radically changed because of the resurrection of Christ. Among those was Thomas himself, who was so convinced he had seen the risen of Christ he died a martyr’s death. Gladly he died for which he once doubted.”

-Elyse Zappia, LIU (Long Island University) Post


“Christ says, ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you’ (Matthew 6:33). There is going to be a lot to get used to in the coming days weeks and months, but I urge you to seek out the local parish by your school at your first opportunity, if you have not already. By doing so, you have a whole community of people to help and support you. Also, meet and become friends with the OCF at your school, and if possible at nearby schools. College is a place of a variety of values, but whatever time you spend with your OCF friends, whatever you are doing, you know that you are surrounded by people who share your values, which can be surprisingly refreshing in the middle of college life. I know for sure that every aspect of my life (academic, social, musical, athletic, spiritual) would not be as successful if I was not a part of my local parish or OCF.”

Paul Murray, Franklin & Marshall College



One Word for OCF

One Word for OCF

11899930_10207711051882721_8035902959699162495_nLast week, the sixteen members of this year’s Student Leadership Board flew into New York City for an intensive institute which strengthened them in leadership, spirituality, and fellowship. The SLB attended workshops on public speaking, conflict resolution, prayer life, media ministry, and engaging in loving dialogue led by various figures of the Orthodox Church, including Fr. Theodore Petrides, Dr. Phillip Mamalakis, Bobby Maddex from Ancient Faith Radio, OCF staff members Christina Andresen and Donna Levas, as well as our very own chairman, Yianni Gagianas. The students also volunteered at Emmaus House, explored New York City, and even held compline in a hotel room. After a full five days of planning, learning, and growing together, this is what the board has to say about this upcoming year for OCF in just one word:



-Yianni Gagianas, Chairman



-Mary Anna Roden, Southeast Student Leader



-Markayla Stroubakis, Southwest Student Leader



-Katerina Therianos, Mountain Student Leader



-Hibbah Kaileh, South Student Leader



-Alex Kuvshinoff, Northeast Student Leader



-Karma Khoury, Mid-Atlantic Student Leader



-Nicole Petrow, Midwest Student Leader



-Andrea Tsatalis, Great Lakes Student Leader



-Nora Haddad, College Conference West Student Leader



-Anna Valiant, College Conference East Student Leader



-Alexandra Abboud, Real Break Student Leader



-Matthew Monos, Media Student Leader and Camille Bever, Northwest Student Leader



-Katherine Konstans, Publications Student Leader



-Emma Solak, Publications Student Leader