I think October may be my favorite month of the OCF season. Obviously, it’s Orthodox Awareness Month, so a ton of chapters across the nation are completing challenges and racking up points as they grow the influence and awareness of their OCF chapter. That’s unquestionably dope.
October is also awesome because there’s so many things for which to register–College Conference and Real Break are the first two, big programs that come to mind. The majority of the registrants for these programs come in this month, as students start planning how they’ll stay involved with OCF over their breaks.
But my favorite part of October is the massive swell of Regional Retreats (and other regional/district events, such as YES College Days). Though those big national programs have great merit, the power of OCF will always be the chapter life, and from the chapter life effortlessly blossoms the district and regional community.
Which brings us to the best thing ever: Regional Retreats.
Peter Savas, ladies and gentlemen
If you’re in the Midwest (what’s good fam?) then I have great news and terrible news: you have a Regional Retreat coming up!…and it’s already full. But hey: Northeast and Northwest–get a move on!
Mid-Atlantic? Yinz..Y’inz’s?…y’all’s already happened. Hope you didn’t slack.
I like to tout district and regional events as that natural extension of chapter life, but even for folks like me without a chapter, regional life becomes all the more crucial. It is the closest replacement for chapter life that can be achieved. I still remember my first Regional Retreat fondly: organized by current SLB chairwoman Nicole Petrow (but not really, shouts to Amelia Barron and Alexandra Mamalakis), it finally gave me a taste of that which I always imagined OCF provided.
I rolled up to Kenosha, Wisconsin in Peter Savas’s car, having endured the 1.5 hour trip through the Red Line and the Blue Line to make it to some church in northwest Chicago I didn’t even know. I sat in the back seat with Deanna Kolas and learned things about Minnesohta, like how to correctly pronounce Minnesohta.
We arrived late (100% Peter’s fault) and slid in to Fr. Patrick Reardon’s keynote session. Fr. Patrick’s mind-blowing, gang. He’s one of these priests that’s been everywhere and interfaced with every faith you can imagine and he just sat at a table with a Bible in front of him, quoting Scripture at least 200 times.
And he didn’t even open the Bible once. It was just there for show. The whole thing was up in his head.
He talked about the Stoics and Epicureans, the roles of women in the church, stupid stuff that Paul did when he was evangelizing. I just sat there and thought to myself how he could probably take any one of my professors to town and back four times over. I’m pretty sure Peter and I also ended up busting out in silent laughter for some reason–you know, that pinch-your-nose-and-grab-your-sides-cause-you’re-trying-not-to-make-noise laughter? Can’t for the life of me remember why. I feel like Welch’s fruit snacks were involved, but that’s all I’ve got.
Fr. Pat, with Bible.
I had cool camp connections with a bunch of people I didn’t think I would–I knew Elias Pagones’ sister and somebody’s else’s friend or cousin or something. Maria Pavlos and I talked bands (Glass Animals is Top-5 and alt-J is Top-3 don’t @ me) for like, two hours around the bonfire, and then proceeded to have a random Facebook Messenger conversation about it a few weeks post-retreat. Alexandra Mamalakis and I talked half-marathons and all the smart people in her family at 1 in the morning.
And we served a Paraklesis by candlelight. That was a fantastic Paraklesis.
Everything I ever wanted to get out of OCF, I got in little bite-sized pieces over that weekend. I miss St. Iakovos Retreat Center and the hanging icons in the tiny chapel and the unique icon of Christ in the welcome lodge. I miss that written telephone game and the huge monastery where I went to communion at the wrong time.
And that Midwest Retreat that’s all filled up? Yeah, I’m one of the names on the outside looking in.
I’ve got work that weekend–and don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I write about football. It’s the ideal situation for me, given that my usual outlet for work avoidance was, uh, football-watching. But I want to get back to that retreat more than just about anything, and I can’t.
Try a Regional Retreat. Not for me, but for yourself–unless “for me” really motivates you, in which case, try a Regional Retreat for me. If you’ve already gone, go again, because we should but I can’t so you must.
And be sure to remember what fruit snack-related humor puts you in stitches when you’re there.
Sup team! My name is Benjamin Solak, and I’ll be your Publications Student Leader for OCF 2017-2018!
Wait…didn’t you do this job last year?
And they gave it to you again?!
I’m as surprised as you are, dear reader.
Okay, so what’s the plan for the blog this year?
A lot of super cool stuff. After our Blog Contributor program went super well last year, we look to be reviving that this year, starting in October, with a couple familiar faces, and some new ones too. If you’re interested in being a Blog Contributor, or if you’re unfamiliar with the program, you should email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll be looking to engage the community in an even bigger way this year. The loveliest part of the OCF Blog is that it is an ongoing, national effort of OCF. It allows OCFers from Nebraska and New York to connect with those in Nevada and North Carolina. Anytime there is a College Conference, Real Break trip, Regional Retreat, District Retreat, Day of Prayer activity, Day of Light activity, OAM challenge–anything–I want to hear about it! If your chapter has done something cool and you think the blog should know, you should email me at email@example.com.
Are you just thirsty for emails because they make you feel important?
Oh, most definitely.
Do you have anything else in the works for us to know about?
Okay, what else CAN you tell us?
I’m a third-year student at the University of Chicago (which is in Chicago. Sometimes people ask me that.) studying Comparative Human Development. I’m an unhealthy football fan, and I cover the Philadelphia Eagles for a site called Bleeding Green Nation, and college football and the NFL Draft with NDT Scouting. I run when my knee doesn’t hurt and complain when it does. Sometimes I pace myself, and eat the entire package of Chips Ahoy Chewy in two sittings.
I can also tell you that the mission of this blog is to magnify exposure. Whether it’s something done in the OCF that merits the eyes of the national body, or if it’s you, and how the OCF blog can assist your spiritual growth and enrich your college life. The four pillars of OCF are fellowship, education, worship, and service–and all four of those will be highlighted throughout the year, that the multiple and international efforts of OCF may always present to you a full body of the church.
I run the blog, but the blog isn’t about me, it’s about you–and, not unlike Horton the elephant, I mean what I say and say what I mean. As your OCF year enters full swing, I’m excited to be right there with you.
What a guy.
Oh stop, you.
Read on for a post about chapter meeting and activity ideas that incorporate the four pillars of OCF!
So it was about 4 o’clock when my good friend picked me up from Norman, Oklahoma to go to the OCF South Regional Retreat (which was well organized by Katherine Sackllah and George Katrib, who did a wonderful job!) I was pumped to see my old friends from camp and make new friends in the faith. The drive was long but well worth it when we arrived.
When we arrived at 9 o’clock at night after our last stop at CVS because someone who shouldn’t be named had a fever and potentially could have infected everyone at the retreat, but on the bright side no one got sick! So as I walked in with my obnoxious Bob Stoop visor and an OU PFG shirt, I interrupted what was probably the most fascinating talk of my Orthodox Christian life. The talk was with Fr. Simeon and he discussed various topics about the faith that were thought-provoking and led me to further understand Orthodoxy.
Throughout the retreat, we enjoyed each other’s company and we could really dive into the talks. The weather was perfect, the people there were amazing, and the experiences that we had were unforgettable (especially when some people flipped their canoe after a game of King of the Hill). Even though everyone there was looking for a good Orthodox Christian wife or husband (just kidding), we were able to make new friends in the faith and overall have a grand ol’ time.
To be more specific, my biggest take away was the fact that every college student was struggling with the same issues that I was. Being a college student, as we all know, is difficult, especially in the secular world which we live in. We have issues that we have to deal with, such as drinking on a Saturday night or being pressured into sex by a boyfriend or girlfriend. After going through a rough spot in my life, and then attending this retreat, I was able to become rejuvenated in the faith and live as a light on my campus.
Our calling is to get to Heaven and take everyone with us that we can through Christ. This was evident at the retreat. The people, like I said, were amazing and really felt the Holy Spirit work through them, because they felt comfortable and more at home. I felt that the people there trusted everyone and could share their experiences with the Orthodox church in a non-judgmental way. It was truly a “home away from home.”
After returning back to my university, I reflected on the retreat and was really inspired to contribute back to the Orthodox Church.
Shout out to all the regional leaders (Valerie Hanna and Anna Sobchak) that were there and the OCF leaders (Katherine Sackllah and George Katrib) who made this experience such a blessing. Lastly I would like to thank Fr. Simeon for providing us with his wisdom and taking time out of his busy schedule to visit and talk with us.
Peter Huseth attends the one and only University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. He is an advertising major with a minor in English Writing. He’s currently a sophomore, and when he isn’t in deep theological thought, he’s playing guitar for the beautiful handmaidens of God.
On this blog, we do a superb job talking about and giving advice for the daunting transition from high school to college. It’s a big change, most likely unlike anything you’ve experienced in your young life so far. OCF welcomes you with open arms to college life, providing a safe haven of friends, faith, and Jesus. I don’t need to tell you more — you can read about it here, here, and here.
Photo by BlueField Photos via flickr
What we don’t talk about too much on this blog is transitioning out of college and into the “real” world. As I prepare to graduate in five short weeks, I’m beginning this new phase of transition. I feel ready to move on after I receive my diploma because of OCF.
OCF taught me how to go to church on my own. It connected me with priests and friends at my college that made the task much less daunting. If you’re like me, the church you grew up in became like your second home; the parish your second family. To enter such a close knit environment as a foreigner is awkward and little scary. Through OCF, I’ve church hopped in the best possible way, both at school and various retreats and events. I’ve been exposed to various jurisdictions, chanting and singing styles, different ethnic traditions. OCF has made me more comfortable with Orthodoxy holistically, not just my isolated parish or jurisdiction.
OCF gave me friends. We have a running joke on the SLB that “OCF gives you friends,” but it really is true! I have friends from my chapter whom I’m blessed to see on an almost daily basis, friends from OCF events I joyfully reunite with at College Conference or Real Break, friends from the SLB I drive or fly long distances to see. I’m moving to Mobile, Alabama (you know, the Ortho-hub of America) after graduation. My spiritual advisor for OCF knows the priest at the only Orthodox church there, and one of my friends from my chapter and the SLB has a cousin who goes to that church. The Orthodox world is already tiny, and OCF just extends your reach even more.
OCF helped me grow as a person. Through my various roles in OCF, I’ve become a more self-confident person. I use to be cripplingly self-conscious and care much too much about what other people thought of me. Through the people I’ve met, the relationships I’ve formed, and the immense pouring of God’s love upon me, I am more comfortable with myself than I’ve ever been. I feel well-established in my faith, confident to go out in the world beyond the edges of college, to turn from Orthodox college student to Orthodox young professional.
I could go on and on about how OCF has been exceptionally transformative in my life; the heart of my college experience. But I leave you with just these three in the hopes that you, too, will reap the benefits of OCF. Join your local chapter, go to a retreat, apply to the SLB. OCF has so much to offer if you just give of yourself and trust in God.
I’d like to take a moment to thank my sister, Emma Solak. She’s the current Chairwoman of the Student Leadership Board, and she has done such a job, one adjective could not possibly describe her wild success. Stellar and monumental come to mind. Ground-breaking, earth-shattering, awe-inspiring, and other hyphenated things.
But that’s just a biased brother’s opinion. More concretely, she held this position before me and really encouraged me to apply for it. Glory be to God for that. This position and this experience have been incredibly valuable for me, and without her, this opportunity may have passed me by.
That, I suppose, is my encouragement to you, OCF student. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by. Apply just in case. Apply if you’re unsure. Apply if you have even the slightest inkling that you may enjoy it. The last thing you want is to look back with regret.
In honor of the outgoing chairwoman, I’d like to compose a post in the spirit of her hallmark: really funny GIFs, all in a row. She could do a better job, most definitely. But here we go nonetheless.
9 Reasons To Apply To The SLB
1. You’ll be a great help to others
2. It will further your relationship with God
3. You’ll grow that ‘dox network
4. Christina, one of our directors, has really cute and funny kids that will occasionally pop into video calls
5. You may or may not get to hang out with me
6. Let’s be real: it won’t look bad on a resume
7. You’ll get to explain even more Orthodox stuff to your non-Orthodox friends
8. You’ll be (part of) the National (Student) Leader(ship Board) of a thing!
9. You’ll get to write this post next year
At the end of the day, there is no fence on which you should be. If you think there’s the tiniest chance you might want to, do it. Apply. It’s rad-tastic.