My OCF Story: Presbytera Stephanie Petrides
In this series, “My OCF Story,” alumni share their experiences from their time in OCF and its impact on their transition and life in the post-grad real world.
I graduated from Gordon College in 2008 with a degree in English and Secondary Education and I taught high school for a short time before attending Holy Cross Seminary for one year. I met my husband at an OCF retreat at Penn state in 2007, we were married in 2010, and we welcomed our first son in 2011. After getting married, I went back to work to help put my husband through seminary and was there until my husband graduated and was placed at a parish in Bethlehem, PA. Our second son was born about 6 months after we were placed and I am now a stay-at-home mom with my two sons, ages 4 1/2 and 1 1/2. In my spare time (which isn’t much), I help run our Moms & Tots group at church, I’m involved in the PTO at my son’s school (which is also our parish’s school), and I tutor to keep my foot in the door with education. My dream is to work at or help start an Orthodox School someday.
My most remarkable memory of OCF was at my first College Conference. I knew only two of the 200 or so students who were attending so I was a little nervous. But as I stood in church alongside all of these other college students, as I sat in discussion groups and listened to them asking questions, and as I got to know so many of them and their stories, I felt so encouraged in my faith. Up to that point I had a handful of Orthodox friends at church, some from camp, a few from my college, but it was hard not to feel a little alone in my faith. But being surrounded by so many other Orthodox young adults who were also striving to live a moral and faithful life in the midst of all of the temptations of college life, I felt an overwhelming sense of support and community. Those OCF friendships that I began forming that week carried me through the rest of my college experience.
That leads me to how OCF has influenced my life. I was blessed to have a wonderful OCF at my college where we did daily morning prayers, weekly meetings, and frequent dinners and get togethers. I attended four College Conferences, served on the Student Advisory Board [now the SLB], and did Real Break El Salvador. And by my senior year of college, I was also traveling every other weekend or so to attend other colleges’ OCF retreats all over the northeast and sometimes beyond. The relationships that I built from all of these OCF events and programs are the people that I have relied on over the past almost 10 years. They are the ones who encouraged me in my faith, who helped me through difficult situations at work, and who stood up with me at my wedding–not to mention that I met the man I married at one of these OCF retreats 🙂 And it is because of all this that I also encouraged my sister and sisters-in-law to get involved in OCF and now, as a presbytera, the local college students at our parish. OCF played such a crucial role in strengthening me in my faith during the challenging college years and in fortifying me to go out into a world that does nothing but attack and challenge everything that we believe. And in a world where everything is focused on making money, getting ahead, and earning degrees, awards and recognition, OCF helped shift my focus and reminded me that my vocation should be centered on who I am (an Orthodox Christian), not what I am. For all of the retreats, programs, but most importantly the people OCF brought into my life, I am forever grateful.