Through my years of being Orthodox, I have really only been exposed to our Diocese and the way we practice and live our Faith. Orthodox Christian Fellowship’s College Conference held at Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania at the end of December changed that. I signed up for College Conference East not knowing what to expect. All I knew was that I was going to be meeting a bunch of new people, college students like me. I had been going to Camp Nazareth for many years and figured this experience would be similar, but simply now with other college students. My friends from Camp have always been the best of friends and I was excited to make new friendships that would last a lifetime. I figured that was what was in store for me. This is one of those times in life when I am absolutely happy to say I was wrong.
After my few days at Antiochian Village my faith was deepened in ways that words cannot explain. I learned so much about my faith and how to live a deeper (and perhaps better) Orthodox life. As students, we listened to many wise priests and bishops talk about things that we, as college students, struggle with today. We were blessed by the presence of the weeping icons from our church of St. George in Taylor, Pennsylvania. One thing we did every day that I really enjoyed was having the Compline service in the evening and then singing hymns well into the night. This was an amazing experience to me because I heard and sang not only my Carpatho-Russian hymns, but also the hymns from the traditions of the Greek and Antiochian college students.
One thing I always enjoyed during Camp was learning the ethnic dancing. During the last night of the Conference, they played Greek and Antiochian ethnic dance music. After having made many friends, they quickly taught me the dances and I was able to join right in with them. This meant a lot to me because I did not just feel like a Carpatho-Russian college student attending someone else’s Conference, but like an Orthodox Christian brought together with other Orthodox Christian college students.
I was scared and nervous at first about going to the College Conference because I only knew a couple people who were going there. I knew however that everything would turn out okay and that I would have a wonderful time. I was right about that, but wrong about how much I would learn and deepen my faith. I could not have asked for a better group of people to spend 4 days with deepening my faith. I encourage all our college students to attend next year’s College Conference. For me, it really was an eye opening experience.
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