We’ve got good news!  Applications for the 2020-2021 OCF Student Leadership Board are now open

We’ve got good news! Applications for the 2020-2021 OCF Student Leadership Board are now open

Each spring, Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) selects a team of talented students to take on leadership positions in Orthodox campus ministry. The Student Leadership Board (SLB) works with staff and clergy volunteers to plan and implement the programs of OCF, advise and inspire their peers on campuses, and assist in the development of new resources and programs for Orthodox college students. OCF is currently seeking applicants for all positions for the 2020-2021 SLB.

Serving on the SLB offers students a unique opportunity to develop their leadership skills while growing in their faith and giving back to the Church. Current Student Leadership Board Chairman, Caroline Retzios, encourages any student who has been impacted by OCF to consider applying.

“OCF gives us so many opportunities to grow in our faith,” Retzios said. “If you desire to grow closer to Christ through service to your peers, build life-long friendships, and learn more about your faith, apply!”

As part of their training, SLB members will attend OCF’s Summer Leadership Institute.

Recommendations for applicants and questions may be directed to studentleadership@ocf.net.

Applications and are due MARCH 29, 2020.

2019-2020 Student Leadership Board Applications are now open!

2019-2020 Student Leadership Board Applications are now open!

Every year, OCF selects a team of talented students to take on leadership positions in Orthodox campus ministry. The Student Leadership Board (SLB) works with staff and clergy volunteers to plan and implement the programs of OCF, advise and inspire their peers on campuses, and develop new resources and programs for Orthodox college students. OCF is currently seeking applicants for all positions for the 2019-2020 Student Leadership Board.

Serving on the SLB offers students a unique opportunity to develop their leadership skills while growing in their faith and giving back to the Church. Current Student Leadership Board Chairman, Caroline Mellekas, encourages any student who has been impacted by OCF to consider applying, “If you feel affected by the mission of OCF and called to carry it through offering your own gifts, then this is what’s next for you.”

As part of their training, SLB members will attend OCF’s Summer Leadership Institute free of charge! Additionally, SLB members will receive priority registration for College Conference and Real Break. Recommendations for applicants and questions can be directed at studentleadership@ocf.netApplications are due MARCH 29, 2019.

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.
Student Leadership Board | Why Apply

Student Leadership Board | Why Apply

Ah! SLB applications are open!

This is the first year of my college career that I won’t be applying for the Student Leadership Board–it feels weird. I’ve loved my position here, made some amazing friends and ridiculous memories alike, and hopefully done some good for the parents, students, and chapter advisers that swing by the blog.

In a perfect world, I’m back for year 3. But the world ain’t perfect–it’s incredibly busy, sometimes super stressful, and full of sacrifices. I’m incredibly blessed to attend a great college–but it’s very rigorous; incredibly blessed to have rewarding jobs in my prospective field for the future–but they demand the bulk of my time.

It would be cowardly and dishonest to not stand before you today and tell you I didn’t do nearly as good of a job this year in my position as the Publications Student Leader as I should have. I didn’t do nearly as good of a job on schoolwork, actual job work, going to the gym, reading for leisure, whatever. Life overwhelmed me.

I tell you this to offer a cautionary tale: if you’re going to do something, do it right. When you apply to the Student Leadership Board, it shouldn’t be primarily that you may throw it on your resume (though it certainly doesn’t hurt). It shouldn’t be because your friends are also applying for the Board (though they should and that’d be nice). It should be because you want to help Orthodox college students get through the briar patch–you want to, and you can as well.

Being on the OCF board is mission work. We forget that sometimes: it is mission work for the Church. We are spreading Christianity, not only to those in our communities who may be interested, but also to those who were raised in the Church. Whether we grew up in the Church or only recently joined it, we are always growing into the Church, growing through the Church. As we develop, so much our relationship with the Church–we encounter new things, experience and overcome new struggles by breaching new, previously undiscovered corners of our faith.

In short, college changes us: but the Church accompanies and even guides us through that change. OCF helps the Church do just that.

Being on the Student Leadership Board places the onus of helping the Church guide students through the college change squarely on your shoulders. This is your mission. When you work as a Regional Student Leader, you organize events for, reach out to, and coordinate with all of the OCFers in your area. When you work on the Programs side of things–Real Break, College Conferences–you spend all year forming the incredible, nationwide opportunities that only places like OCF can provide. When you work on my side of things–Media, Podcast, PR, Publications–you have a daily grind of linking OCF chapters from across the nation, and unifying us all through our common struggles and successes.

But you aren’t only the agent of the mission; you are also the subject. You are in college; you change. It is, I think, a fallacy to say “I am not strong in my faith, I’m struggling so much, I can’t be on the OCF board.” Rather, joining the board only gets you closer to the process, deeper into the restorative and strengthening powers of the Church and the faith. It is work, yes–but it is also respite, joy, and salvation. That is, inherently, what I think we all experience in our faith: work, trial, tribulation, struggle–but through these fires, we grow and experience Christ.

Apply for the Student Leadership Board. Serve the mission of the Church. Struggle, grow, and encounter Christ.

Summer Leadership Institute | No Longer Jew or Greek

Summer Leadership Institute | No Longer Jew or Greek

I’m fortunate to have the perspective on SLI that I do. Last year, in 2016, it was hosted for the first time at St. Iakavos Retreat Center in Kenosha, WI (10/10, currently recommending to friends)–but it was a closed retreat. Only the Student Leadership Board (SLB) attended, and the entirety of the retreat was geared on preparing those students for their distinct roles, as Northwest Regional Leader or Real Break Student Leader or Publications Student Leader (hi that’s me), and for their collective role, as young leaders in OCF and in the church.

This summer, in 2017, SLI changed. It became a two-pronged effort–the first prong remained the same, in that only the SLB attended the first portion of the retreat and participated in the same events as last year. The second half of the retreat, however, was open to the whole of OCF. The keynote speaker, the workshops, the skills training, the worship opportunities, the fellowship–all of the pieces that make an OCF retreat so special–were extended to everyone.

The numbers at SLI more than doubled, once opened to everyone. But the experience of SLI wasn’t enriched solely because of the numbers amassed–it was the fresh insight, the boots-on-the-ground perspective offered by so many of the new participants that added a different depth to SLI.

You see, we all have interesting OCF stories–how we arrived to the place at which we currently are with OCF. Sharing those stories–“My OCF Story”–is one of the first activities we did at the retreat. My OCF story has always been pretty lame: I go to a school with no chapter, and I lack the resources to start one with any consistency. I always wanted to be involved with OCF, however, and my sister worked on the SLB as the Publications Student Leader. Once she left the position, I applied for it and got it. And here I’ve stayed.

As such, I’m woefully divorced from chapter life. I don’t get that weekly dose of camaraderie that wooed so many others to regular involvement with OCF; nobody rides the train with me to church on Sundays. It’s not all lamentable, however–my lack of chapter life leads to greater involvement with regional and national programs, to get my OCF fix.

My example serves the point: college is all about new perspectives and experiences and responsibilities, right? I mean, that’s what everybody and their mother warned you about when you first left home, a bright-eyed freshman. And universities across the nation endeavor, night and day, to create safe spaces in which each individual has the freedom and security to be who they believe they are.

We often frame those differing perspectives in a light combative with the Church. That the new experiences and perspectives and opinions will seek to pull us away from the Church, make us question our faith, chew into our time that otherwise would be spent in worship and prayer. There’s a lot of truth there, I’m afraid. A lot of what’s common to universities–from party culture to liberal arts curriculum–finds itself at odds with the faith.

But there is no reason why differing experiences, perspectives, and opinions cannot be geared to strengthen our faith as well. OCF retreats regularly present us this opportunity: to hear from a Greek who grew up in Chicago and that’s all he knows of the Orthodox church; from a Russian who immigrated to Wisconsin when she was young; from a convert who has lived in twelve different states and attended thirty different churches.

The young men and women who attended SLI were living proof, not only of the vitality of the Church, but of its resiliency. College life allegedly pulls us away from the Church–and the threat is there, certainly–but OCF programs keep growing bigger and faster, incorporating new faces and stories. The laughs and prayers and shares of SLI, as a microcosm for OCF as whole, showed our vibrancy and our joy as collegiate Orthodox Christians.

Thank God SLI was opened to all of OCF. The strength of OCF isn’t the board, nor is OCF for the board. It was important that we had those days, to coordinate and plan for the year to come–but far more important was the time we had together. The mission of OCF is realized in the chapter members, who unabashedly bring the entirety of who they are to the table, and through their singularity, bring us all closer as one in Christ Jesus.