2009 Midwest St. Herman Youth Conference
With the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Peter of Cleveland, this year’s St. Herman youth conference was held December 26-28 in the little Indiana town of Shipshewana. A group of 28 young adults and clergy gathered together to pray, talk, and worship. We had a wonderful array of speakers, including Fr. Seraphim (Baltic), Fr. Paisius Altschul, Salome Zhvania, Fr. Daniel Marshall and Reader Alex Petrovsky. Everyone was engaged in the topic of “Orthodoxy around the world and in my world.”
After getting acquainted on Saturday morning, Fr. Daniel served a moleben asking St. Herman of Alaska for guidance. After lunch, we heard a very interesting talk by Hieromonk Seraphim from New Gracanica Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Grayslake, Illinois. He spoke about personal prayer and Christian duties. Questions were raised from the participants as to how to live in the world in an Orthodox way. He shared several insights with us as well as words from the Fathers of the Church.
Later in the day Fr. Paisius Altschul from St. Mary of Egypt Serbian Orthodox Church in Kansas City, Missouri told us about some of the ways that his church community is accepting the call to serve in a new way. He discussed how we should see the image of God in every person. Being involved in a group called FOCUS (http://www.focusnorthamerica.org/) his words inspired the participants to start thinking of the ways we can get involved in community service. The work that is being done with the homeless there is truly exceptional. Preaching the Gospel to those who have not had the chance to hear it is a testimony of God’s purpose in our lives.
On Saturday and Sunday the youth spent a significant amount of time visiting, participating and singing at the conference host parish, Holy Virgin Protection Church in nearby Goshen, Indiana. One of the most significant parts of the retreat included partaking in Confession and Holy Communion together. Prayers before communion were read by some of the participants on Saturday night.
Sunday’s Liturgy was festive and truly filled with God’s Holy Spirit. After lunch, the conference continued with Fr. Paisius proposing ways of radically living for the Lord. He explained his own spiritual journey to Orthodoxy and described the formation of Reconciliation Services, the outreach to the homeless affiliated with his parish. Bishop Peter offered his insights on the need of young Orthodox adults to serve in the community.
Sunday evening Salome Zhvania took us on a journey to her homeland of Georgia, an Orthodox country that is rich in its traditions and culture. Salome is an exchange student in Goshen, Indiana and is attending Holy Virgin Protection Church there. We saw beautiful pictures of the monasteries and holy places. She gave us a history of the martyrs of Georgia, and showed us some Georgian artifacts. It was such a pleasure to hear her speak. She’s a wonderful young lady who is trying to live a pious life for Christ. Alex Petrovsky took us on a whirlwind tour of Orthodoxy around the world. He showed us pictures of the churches and proved to us that Orthodoxy does exist on all the continents.
Throughout the whole weekend participants took advantage of the game facilities at the retreat center, meals prepared by the staff, and walks outside. Monday morning we drove down to an Indiana state park to go tobogganing, which was a blast. Adding snow and cold temperatures made it even more fun!
The participants of the conference would like to thank the organizers of the Midwest St. Herman’s Conference for all their hard work, especially Bishop Peter, Fr. Daniel Marshall, Reader Alex Petrovsky, Fr. Gregory Joyce, and the sisterhood of the Holy Virgin Protection Church in Goshen, who prepared wonderful food for us at the parish.
2009 Midwest St. Herman Youth Conference - 12/26/09