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There are not many chances in life to be surrounded by other people who have the same common ground as you do. Being united with so many Orthodox Christians in the same location is a rare occurrence. Fortunately we have Camp Nazareth to go to over the summer, the A.C.R.Y. Convention, and the bowling tournament as options throughout the year to partake in the wonderful fellowship of other Orthodox people.
Just recently I was given another opportunity: to spend four days with about three hundred other Orthodox college students from around the country at the Antiochian Village for what is called OCF’s College Conference East 2013. This experience allowed me to reunite with my fellow Diocesan friends, and also to meet students from many other Orthodox jurisdictions. During the different services of the weekend, I was able to listen to the way other Orthodox jurisdictions chant and to see that although we have our own cultural and ethnic backgrounds, we are all united in our Orthodox Faith. On a couple of the nights I participated in Greek and Arabian ethnic dances. It is chances like these that are great for us students to be able to learn about and respect the other cultures while practicing the same Faith.
With all of my peers, we were given five different times to learn more about our Faith in the workshops that were offered. They had twelve options and we choose the five that interested us the most. A discussion titled “Seeing other Christian Traditions in a Positive Way” lead by Fr. Radu Bordeianu was one that fascinated me. Father Bordeianu made me consider ideas that I never really thought about in relation to marriage. The last workshop that I went to was a discussion lead by Michael Pacurar. He was discussing the topic of “Uniting Orthodox Youth Across North America”. I felt as if this was important and useful because that was exactly what was happening at the Conference. We talked about other ways that we can become one united Orthodox Faith.
Another part of the program was an Orthodox Opportunities Fair. During this time there were various Orthodox organizations set up to give out information on the programs that they offer. Among some of the groups there was an OCF table, a table for Holy Cross and Hellenic College, and an area to represent Camp Nazareth. At this event I learned about an opportunity to study for a semester at Hellenic college in a Semester of Faith, and the OCF shared information on Real Break trips. Many of the other students showed interest in Camp Nazareth and we were able to give them information about the Camp and possible working opportunities. We learned that there are many Orthodox organizations and programs in which we could learn, deepen our faith and offer our God-given talents.
In addition to the workshops and the Opportunities Fair, we had three portions of the schedule designated to the keynote speaker. I am more than pleased to say that His Grace, Bishop Gregory of Nyssa, was the keynote speaker. During the first speaking time he kept all of us focused on his speech in a lecture like format. His next speaking time was a question and answer session where my peers and I could ask him anything that we wanted. Finally in his third speaking time, he asked Father Mark Leasure to bring in the Myrrh-streaming Icons of the Mother of God from his church in Taylor, Pennsylvania. This was an incredible experience for all of the students to be in the presence of this amazing miracle. Bishop Gregory's love of the youth really was clearly evident the whole weekend. Wherever I saw him, he was talking with a group of students, whether it was in a portion of the schedule, at meals, or during free time. It was a great pleasure to be able to visit with him over the weekend. Being able to go to College Conference was a great experience. It was worthwhile to give up a couple of days of winter break to spend in camaraderie with many other Orthodox college students.