Learning from our Youth
Christ is Risen! Christos Anesti!
Every year since 1983, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Department of Religious Education has been running the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival. This is a wonderful opportunity where the youth of our churches prepare and offer a sermon on various topics of faith. They then present their sermon in the local parish, where they are judged for their content and the way they present. Two youth advance for the junior (7th-9th grade) and senior (10th-12th grade) division. They then compete against youth in their local district (among 10 churches), and move on to the Metropolis level, and then possibly the Archdiocesan level.
Thousands of Greek Orthodox youth have participated in this event, learning their faith, developing their skills in public speaking, and offering a beautiful witness in expressing their Orthodoxy to other young people and to our communities at large.
Our Church has only participated in this Oratorical Festival twice before. This year, we had five participants from our Church get involved - Maia Beaudry, Olivia Neslusan, John Neslusan, Christina Tonna, and Theodora Veronis. They each chose from various possible topics, and needed to develop a sermon, while also practicing their public speaking. In this issue of The Light, you will read four of the sermons offered at the district level on April 29th.
I am highlighting these sermons because I am proud of how well our youth did, and think that their participation is a great witness for our other youth, as well as for us adults. We all should never be shy to talk about our faith in public, and to become ambassadors of Jesus Christ to the world at large, as these youth are doing. Unfortunately, what hinders too many people from talking about their faith is that they do not know their faith well. They don’t know how to answer tough questions, or are unsure of what our faith actually proclaims. This is a serious challenge to all of us to better learn our faith, and as St. Peter says, to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15)
Too often people think that it is solely the role of the priest to talk about faith issues. As Orthodox Christians, we all need to remember that at our baptism, we each were united to Jesus Christ, and became His ambassadors to the world. We are all called to become true disciples of Jesus, learning our faith, growing in a Christ-centered life, and becoming witnesses of His love and Good News to the world around. That is why the first Gospel lesson we hear on the day of our baptism is precisely the Great Commission, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them all the things that I have commanded you.”
We are called to go forth and “teach” others. We can only teach what we know and what we strive to live. So this is a great challenge to each of us!
This is why I got so excited when I saw something like the Oratorical Festival this year. I felt blessed to not only hear our own youth talk about their faith, but to hear the youth from the other parishes as well proclaim their faith in such a beautiful and articulate manner. I’m sure when we move on to the Metropolis level competition in two weeks, we will only hear more and more excellent presentations from our youth. May God bless each one of them to become even greater ambassadors for Christ as they grow up
Read the following pages and see for yourself the inspiring sermons of these young people.
On another note, I want to thank Anesti Jordanoglou for organizing our Oratorical Festival this year, and our judges Rena Klebart and Eleanor Teguis.
May we all become more faithful witnesses and ambassadors of Jesus Christ to the world!
With love in our Risen and Victorious Lord,