God Lives on the First Floor

God Lives on the First Floor

When my friends in our chapter of OCF told me about the Great Lakes retreat, I was initially very hesitant go with fall semester crunch-time descending upon us. In the end, however, I decided to go with them because the retreat was not only the weekend of my name day (the feast of St. Demetrios), but also the weekend of the 40-day memorial of my godfather, named Demetrios, who shares my patron saint. It seemed like a good time to say, “Homework can wait. I need to focus on God right now.” I am so glad I did.

The first evening of the retreat, we had a Paraklesis service at St. George Orthodox Church in Fishers, Indiana, opening our time together in prayer. Then we played icebreaker games before heading over to the house on the parish’s property, which they graciously provided for us to spend the night in. We stayed up late sharing our stories with each other, making up songs together, and confiding in one another about our struggles, questions, and concerns that are currently heavy on our hearts.

The second day, which we mostly spent at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Carmel, Indiana, largely focused on the discussion of our assigned topic, “Thou Art With Me: A Present God in a Broken World.” Mr. Niko Tzetzis gave us a fantastic presentation about Fr. Stephen Freeman’s book, Everywhere Present. In this book, Fr. Freeman explains the “two-story universe” theory. He states that the American culture in the 21stcentury conditions us to operate under the assumption that we live on the “first floor” of the universe, and that God lives on the “second floor” above us. Exiled to this distant second floor, God seems far from us and we rarely interact with Him except to ask Him for things. Our discussion led by Mr. Tzetzis was more impactful than just buying the book and reading it alone (though I highly recommend the book, I’m reading it now!) because we were able to speak to our specific, personal, and unique challenges in finding and acknowledging the constant presence of God. We worked together as individuals and as a group to find ways that we can increase our awareness of the fact that God does live on the “first floor” of the universe with us, and that He is present with us everywhere, always.

Along with the discussion of our topic, we had a service event! We cut up old plastic bags from grocery stores—which we had all saved for this event instead of throwing them away—and learned how to tie them together to make waterproof mats for people experiencing homelessness to sleep on. This event was a wonderful idea because it’s a practice that we can take back to our colleges, parishes, and OCF chapters. It is good for both the people receiving the mats and for the environment by reducing plastic waste!

There are many moments I will never forget, and I could write about this retreat for a very long time, but one moment stands out. On the second day, we put our phones away and had 10 minutes of quiet time in the nave at Holy Trinity. After this quiet time, Mr. Tzetzis gathered us all together and said, “I don’t know if you’ve heard…” My stomach immediately sank. He told us about the senseless violence that had occurred earlier that day at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Immediately, led by the priest at Holy Trinity, we prayed the Trisagion Service together for the victims. Mr. Tzetzis reminded us afterward that when we pray, we are praying simultaneously with the angels, the saints, the departed, and our Lord. They are all present with us everywhere and always in the reality of our one-story universe.

While I originally debated about attending the retreat, I’m overjoyed that I went. The power of the lifelong friendships you form and the spiritual refocusing you experience at OCF events is not to be underestimated. Yes, we have homework, jobs, hobbies, other student organizations, and every other worldly distraction you can think of. Despite these distractions, please always take the opportunity to attend OCF events, including but not limited to your regional and district retreats, College Conference, and Real Break. I promise you, whatever you give to OCF and to the Church, even if it is only your time, attention, and presence, you will receive back multiplied.

My name is Demetra Chiafos. I am currently a third year at The Ohio State University, where I am the secretary of our OCF chapter and am pursuing a dual degree in dance and the Japanese language. Two fun facts about me are that I play the piano and I love writing short stories and novels!


December Regional Feature: Great Lakes Region

December Regional Feature: Great Lakes Region

Every month, the OCF social media platforms will be featuring one of the nine regions of chapters. December is the month for the Great Lakes Region, which includes Michigan, Indiana, western Ohio, and northern Kentucky.

On the blog, I’ll be asking the Regional Student Leader–for Great Lakes, the dashing Spiro Morris–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 Great Lakes All-Stars!

David Schutt, Chapter President, Flint, Michigan

My name is David Schutt. I grew up in Grand Blanc, MI. I attend St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church in Fenton. I’m a freshman studying Mechanical Engineering at Kettering University in Flint. I play the piano, I’m an amateur astronomer, I’m an avid reader, and I love the Church.

How did you get involved in OCF?

I’ve always imagined myself being involved in an OCF chapter when I went to college. So when my parish priest suggested that we get one started in Flint, I was more than happy to take the reins. We have four relatively small schools in the Flint area, and there was no OCF chapter. Our chapter is kind of unique, because it isn’t exclusive to only one school. We have members from all the local schools.
What is your greatest memory/experience from OCF?
The Flint chapter is only a few months old, but we’ve already had lots of fun. One of the best experiences I’ve had was our first trip to the soup kitchen. I had been to soup kitchens before, but there was one guy we met who really made our day. When we were finally cleaning up, one of the people we had served went up to us and sincerely thanked us. He said he eats there everyday, but he wants to serve the poor, too! This man was probably homeless and desperate himself, and he wanted nothing more than to serve other people like him.
What’s something you’re doing, right now, in your chapter, that you’d like to share with us?
We’ve got lots of stuff going on in our chapter. My sister is a member of our OCF, and she’s also the FOCUS ambassador for the Flint area. So recently we’ve been working with FOCUS to do charitable things around the community. Just last week we made 100 Christmas cards for less-fortunate kids. Meanwhile, I’m trying to get some students from our chapter to sign up for the Midwest Conference (which I’m really looking forward to). Also, we finally established a new bank account. And I’m trying to iron out some of the details for our next meeting. Nothing that exciting right now, but we’re doing well!

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

At our chapter we rotate between “fun” meetings, educational meetings, and charitable meetings. I think it’s a good strategy because we’re doing something new every time and we can generate interest for OCF with our fun meetings. I don’t think we would be as successful if it wasn’t for that mixed schedule. However, we have been struggling with our attendance. We’ve got about twenty people on our email list, and sometimes we only have two or three at the meetings. I’m trying to think of new ways to motivate people. That’s our biggest problem, and I think it’s the most important thing for a chapter leader to watch out for.

Alexi Kakaris-Porter, Eastern Michigan District Student Leader

Alexi Kakaris-Porter, University of Michigan-Dearborn. Greek Archdiocese. Major in Economics, Minors in Biology and Spanish. Just accepted into dental school at the University of Detroit Mercy. One hobby includes melting and casting metal in my backyard.
How did you get involved in OCF?
I was born into the church and was involved in almost all of the ministries throughout high school. However, until my freshman year, Orthodoxy was something nice that required you to go to church on Sundays and that was it. As I entered college, I realized my understanding of Orthodoxy was very limited and that I had a choice. I could either learn about and embrace the faith, or I could brush it aside. I chose to follow the faith and study it along with byzantine chant. I did not know that there was a group dedicated to college ministry. My freshman year, I had made some Orthodox friends who told me they had gone to something called College Conference. This intrigued me and I looked into it further. This is how I discovered OCF. By my sophomore year, I wanted to start a chapter so that I could bring together Orthodox students and to tell other about the faith. By winter of my junior year (January 2015) our chapter was officially recognized by the school and the national board. This year I applied and was given the position of the Eastern MI District leader.
What’s your greatest memory/experience from OCF? 

College Conference 2015.  I learned so much about the faith and was able to meet many wonderful people from all over the country.

What’s something you’re doing, right now, in your chapter, that you’d like to share with us?

We just had our district retreat two weeks ago. We also just hosted a Day of Light scheduled as a way to get people together right before finals started to pray together for a good end to the semester and the year.

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

Don’t get discouraged. It can be very difficult to get people to participate. My school is 90% commuter and the majority of students do not stay on campus after their last class, so finding a good time to meet is difficult. Keep having events,  keep encouraging people to come, and results will come. As a district leader, keep reaching out and work on just being friends with the chapter presidents.

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 publicationsstudent@ocf.net 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
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