Sure, It’d Be Nice | Why OCF Matters

This month, Ben asked us to write about why you (as a future first year college student or maybe a transfer to a new school) should make the presence of an on-campus OCF a priority as you choose the place you’ll spend the next four or so years. Now, I can already hear you thinking (because it’s what I thought when I was in your shoes), “Why the sam hill should that matter? I don’t need an OCF; sure it’d be nice, but I’m not going to let it influence my school choice that much.”

Au contraire, my friend.

Maybe Orthodoxy has just been something you take part in because your parents want you to, or “it’s just what we do on Sundays”, or maybe it was something you did as a kid and kinda grew away from as you got older and started to make more decisions on your own. Maybe you’re already incredibly invested in Orthodoxy, already know you’re picking a school with an OCF, and this post is redundant for you. No matter what boat you’re in, if you take nothing else from this post, take the idea of giving OCF a chance, cause it might just surprise you.

At least for me, one of the most simultaneously thrilling and terrifying things about moving to college was the fact that I knew absolutely no one. Conveniently, OCF is a marvelous place to meet people and make new friends! Whoo friendship!

From time to just hang out and enjoy your newfound freedom, to late-night talks that shape the way you see the world and open your eyes to truths you never imagined, the friends you make in OCF bring with them lifelong connections and endless possibilities.

Now, if you fall into the category of people who aren’t really that invested in Orthodoxy or haven’t really gone to church in a while, fear not. At least to my mind, OCF is a lot less intimidating than going to a service. No tetas or yiayiás or babushkas eyeing you down, no priest or khouria asking where you’re from and if you’ll be coming regularly. It’s just a bunch of other college students looking to learn and find fellowship.

Plus, if you really start looking into the theology and academic side of Orthodoxy, mother of pearl, there an insane amount of information to sink your teeth into! When I wasn’t so sure about Orthodoxy and really questioning whether or not I could in good faith (all puns intended) commit myself, I found that delving into the foundations and core tenets of the faith helped me find resolution and direction.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that OCF has a pretty wide range of facets. Whether you’re looking for people to hang with, information about Orthodoxy, a place to come home to, or down time from the insanity of classes, OCF has it. Give it a chance, and it might just surprise you. OCF is to college as cayenne is to Mexican hot chocolate. The final product might be A-OK, but without it, you can just tell something is missing.

Kiara (like the Lion King II) Stewart is a senior art major at Alfred University, is a member/organizer of the Rochester OCF and is trying to start a new chapter in Alfred!!  When she’s not covered in clay in the studio, Kiara likes to spend her free time reading, hiking, and hanging out with the Amish.

From The Desk Of The Chairwoman: Graduating

From The Desk Of The Chairwoman: Graduating

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.



High School to College | Pro Tips with Maria Conte

High School to College | Pro Tips with Maria Conte

Transitions are THRILLING! The transition to college from high school is like sitting on top of a roller coaster, waiting for the carts to drop. That stomach lurch can either be exciting or terrifying, but knowing what to expect makes that drop easier, and the ride more enjoyable. So here are my top tips of how to prepare for college, and a little of what to expect.

What Are You Getting Yourself Into?

Those SATs are finally over and all of your college letters are back. Whew! When deciding between schools to go to, check out to see if they have an OCF and a church close to campus. Having an Orthodox community of students, and getting involved witha church, will set a solid foundation for your time in college, and help establish a lifestyle to take with you for the rest of your life. College is the first time many of us are on our own. We have to freedom to make our own habits. It’s much easier to go to church on Sunday morning if we have some OCF friends to keep us accountable and go get brunch with afterwards. OCF friends are a support system. We are all there to be there for one another.

Plus, OCF is an instant friend group in a new school!

Get to know when your OCF meets, join the Facebook page, and get in the habit of being plugged in right off the bat.

P.T.L. (Praise/Prioritize The Lord)

I’m a runner. If I don’t jog first thing in the morning, I end up sitting around the house and procrastinating other things I have to do. Anyone who’s a runner, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

My point is, that if we prioritize to get our mornings or weeks off on the right foot, most other things will follow. On mornings when I wake up early and run, I usually am more productive with my work. Likewise, prioritizing going to church on Sunday morning sets my week up on a good start. You have the freedom to prioritize what you want in college. 🙂

Find out where the Orthodox churches are close to campus. Don’t have a car? Find a carpool buddy (these often turn into brunch buddies–yum) from OCF. If you can’t find an OCF friend to carpool with, reach out to the church–parishioners love to help give rides to college students.

Sidenote: have fun and make post-liturgical traditions with your OCF friends!! My current tradition is getting iced coffees and donuts at Dunkin’ Donuts with my friends after church. (#teamdunkin)

Do Stuff.

Be a double-stuffed Oreo. In other words, make the most of what resources ya got in college. Why be a single stuff if you can be a double stuff? OCF has so many opportunities outside of your campus. Over winter break, you can attend College Conference, and over spring break you can do Real Break! These are fun ways to meet friends cross-country and to travel.

I’ll say it again, but having Orthodox friends is such a blessing and a strong support system that will be with you way past your days of English 101.

Oh yeah, do other stuff too! Enjoy college. Go to basketball game for free. Join clubs. That stuff is more good double stuff, too.

I Got Into One College So…

I got into only one college too guys! It’s somewhat refreshing, having that decision made for you (even though I ended up transferring, it was still okay). If you were like me, your college might not have an OCF. This could be your calling to take action and make an OCF for yourself and students to come! Thankfully the OCF website has AMAZING resources of how to set up an OCF. Reach out to the OCF team, they are great resources. You could build the foundation for generations to come.

Maybe there’s an OCF, but it’s inactive. I have also experienced this when I transferred schools. A tip I give to anyone getting OCF active is to make a schedule. Pick a weeknight and hold consistent meetings at that time each week. Reach out to the nearby parish priests or youth directors to help lead and facilitate meetings. Slow starts can be discouraging, but the key to this is being consistent in meeting. OCF will grow gradually. And keep getting the word out. 🙂 You are not alone if you are waiting to make your OCF stronger, and many people here at OCF who can help out.

Call home.

When I was little I thought my parents were the wisest folks in the world. And then I turned 17 and suddenly they knew NOTHING and I knew EVERYTHING.

It wasn’t until college when I started thinking my parents were smart again.

Maybe you have always had a strong relationship with you parents, but if you were anything like me, high school years could be a bit of duel between us. Something happens in college when you’re buddies again. I think college can humble us, and we suddenly realize we don’t know everything. Call your parents, they most likely have experienced many of the things you will go through in college, and talking to them when you need help is a great way of growing your relationship with your parents.

Parents are our number one fans. Keep close to them. Let them support you.

Find quiet time, and learn to say no (no mo FOMO).

There’s a geology study group on Wednesday! And then all your friends are going out for Chinese food. And Friday after class your friends are grabbing coffee and then hitting the basketball game.

There are SO many things going on in college: social and academic stuff. Let me tell you something, you won’t miss anything if you say no.

Definitely get involved, meet friends, and go to class–BUT! You have the power to say no sometimes. No mo FOMO. There will be plenty of opportunities to hang with friends. You need your time too. Some of the most rewarding moments in college that I had were walks all by myself, eating lunch outside in peace and quiet on a nice day, etc… It’s good slow down, and just have some quiet time.

It’s ok. Your paper will get done. And your friends will go out for Chinese food again. You’re not missing out.

One Christian, No Christian

One Christian, No Christian

Community is at the very core of the Christian life. The early Church had a saying, “unus Christianus, nullus Christianus.” One Christian, no Christian. The very fabric of our faith is experienced in community. We gather to celebrate the Liturgy, marriage, baptism, and so on. We gather to mourn the dead and to bear one another’s burdens. All in community. These are things we do as God’s community, the body of Christ.

Photo by Lestat (Jan Mehlich via Wikimedia Commons

The word “Church” is translated from the New Testament Greek word ekklesia, which means an assembly or a gathering of people. This is important for us to understand. Although colloquially we use the word “Church” to reference the building where we gather, this is technically a misnomer. Father Thomas Hopko (of blessed memory) suggested that a more proper way to speak would be to say, “we are gathering as the Church” rather than, “we are going to the Church”. The Church is first and foremost, a gathering of the people of God.

This is not to discount the Church building. There is an incredibly rich and important tradition surrounding the architecture and beautiful adornments of the building where we gather. However, the Church is more than just a collection of real estate. The Church is the transcendent reality of the Body of Christ gathered together, in communion.

This community is essential to the Christian life.

While the Church is much more than a social club, the social aspect of the Church is not to be discounted. We do not finish the Liturgy and go home immediately, we share in coffee or a meal. This is why there is such a strong emphasis on the various ministries of the Orthodox church that nurture fellowship. These programs strengthen the communities in which we worship.

While we are in college, Orthodox Christian Fellowship is one of the best ways we encounter the fellowship of the Orthodox Church. Through OCF, students are invited to engage the Church in a way that speaks directly to their needs as young adults. Chapters all over the country are visited by faithful and honorable priests who take time out of their schedules to minister to students as a subset of the church population with its own specific spiritual needs.

Also, as many students are living away from their home parishes, it’s a wonderful avenue to establish a spiritual support system in your new home.

If community is essential to the Christian life, and OCF is the Orthodox community on your college campus, and one plus one equals two, then we can reasonably say that OCF is an essential part of our college experience.

The spiritual life of the Church is work. Repentance is work. There is work appointed for us, and it is vital that we set out to do this work in community. We read in Ecclesiastes 4:9 that “two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor.” When we work together, we share in a greater reward.

Only a fool would set out on the journey to the Kingdom of God alone.

We must make use of every tool at our disposal. We need to gird ourselves with the strength of our Orthodox communities. It is imperative that we surround ourselves with the power of the Church, and engage it in every way we can.

While we are in college, OCF is a great way to do just that.

Mark Ghannam is a Junior at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor pursing a degree in economics, and serves as the Vice-President and Head of Clergy Relations for his OCF chapter. In his free time, Mark enjoys reading, rock climbing, and long walks on the beach while discussing Liturgical theology.Mark Ghannam is a Junior at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor pursing a degree in economics, and serves as the Vice-President and Head of Clergy Relations for his OCF chapter. In his free time, Mark enjoys reading, rock climbing, and long walks on the beach while discussing Liturgical theology.

My SLB Story | Fall In Love, Stay In Love

My SLB Story | Fall In Love, Stay In Love

One of the strengths of my OCF chapter, a characteristic I have found often in chapters across the country, is diversity. Students from all backgrounds, majors, and campus affiliations come together in Christ’s love, and that unity is the powerful backbone that keeps OCF strong. Aside from a mutual passion for Orthodoxy, one of the most predominant characteristics that I have noticed in my conversations with OCF students is that we’re all too busy. As applications for the 2017-2018 Student Leadership Board open this week, seventeen college students from around the country are about to get a whole lot busier.

Every leadership position is a risk. It’s a risk that your free time might shrink and your to-do list might grow. It’s a risk that you may discover weaknesses you never knew you had. It’s also a risk that you may unlock passion within your soul and turn your heart toward a purpose greater than yourself. Serving on the Student Leadership Board has done all of this for me and in the best of ways.

The past two years as Midwest Regional Student Leader have been incredibly transformative, empowering, and inspiring. Like any good organization, the value of OCF lies in its people. I am consistently blown away by the talent, spirit, and genuine love my fellow board members pour into their work for this ministry. These people, whom I am lucky enough to call my friends, inspire me every day to be a better Orthodox Christian. I am never without comforting and hilarious conversation from Emma, a good book suggestion from Dan, invaluable life advice from Christina, and innumerable other daily blessings.

Like any good organization, the value of OCF lies in its people.

 – Tweet this!

It is with confidence I assure you that the work of any SLB position, with the right disposition and attitude, will never have to feel like work. My OCF responsibilities are somehow the only work I get done throughout my day that makes the rest of my to-do list lighter. OCF leadership is more than a bullet point on a resume, but forever a mark on my heart. The Student Leadership Board has given me incredible experiences, lasting friendships, a GroupMe I would never dream of muting, and a strengthened faith in Christ our Lord. These are all blessings I would never change for the world, and I can’t wait to share them with the OCF community this coming year as the Chairwoman of the Student Leadership Board.

I will leave you with a favorite quote of mine by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.

I encourage you to consider applying for the OCF Student Leadership Board, get a little busier, and to take the risk that will decide everything.

Student Leadership Board applications are open! Whoo! They can be found riiiiight here.

Nicole Petrow is the outgoing Midwest Student Leader and incoming Chairwoman of the Student Leadership Board. She is a currently a junior at Creighton University, majoring in Classical & Near Eastern Civilizations & Classical Languages. In her spare time, she lip sync battles semi-professionally.