Behold, I Make All Things New:
2012 National ACRY Convention

JOHNSTOWN, PA -- "Behold, I make all things New” (Revelation 21:5) was the theme of the  68th National Senior and 29th  Junior ACRY (American Carpatho Russian Youth) convention which took place on Labor Day Weekend,  Fri  August 31- Monday September 3, 2012 at the Holiday Inn in  Johnstown, PA. This year’s convention was  hosted by Christ the Saviour Cathedral of Johnstown, PA  ACRY Chapter #20. Those in attendance enjoyed the gracious hospitality of the Johnstown Chapter.

Upon receiving the joyful news at the onset of the convention that the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate had  elected  Archimandrite Grigorios (Tatsis) as our ruling Diocesan Bishop, an overwhelming spirit of peace and optimism about the future of the diocese and the ACRY rested upon the assembly.    The scriptural theme of renewal in Christ, came alive for the delegates who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, charted a course of growth and renewal for this longstanding youth and family ministry organization.

A special joy for those in attendance was witnessing first-hand, the coming of age of the National Junior ACRY. The adults in attendance were impressed by the spiritual maturity of the youth and their desire to witness to the Orthodox Faith.  Their presentation to the entire convention body about their recent mission trip to St. John the Compassionate Mission in Toronto was well received. Especially moving was the testimony by each member of the mission team about how this experience deepened their faith. While each member had their own particular story to share, the common thread was their shared experience of having had “fun in Christ”  This presentation led to a thoughtful discussion regarding the need for the Senior ACRY to engage in similar, hands-on outreach projects.

Throughout the business sessions, it became evident to the members of the Senior ACRY of the need to continue the strategic planning process to better align the operational structure of  the organization to its stated mission.  An engaging discussion on a proposal brought to the convention floor by the host chapter  regarding eliminating or changing the structure of  the  Annual Bowling Tournament and National Convention led to the formation of a special task force to study this issue and the broader need to streamline the operational structure of the National ACRY to allow for more flexibility and creativity in national programming. Many expressed the desire for a more hands-on convention format which might include small group discussions and workshops on topics of interest to youth and young adults. The members of the task force include individuals with professional backgrounds in strategic planning, representation from the Junior ACRY, the convention host chapter, and the executive board. The task force is slated to begin its work via teleconference in the near future.

In other areas of discussion, it was noted that  due to the hard work and diligence of  the Rockaway Chapter, $10,000 was raised during the past year. The proceeds of the fundraiser were distributed in the following manner: $5,000 to the Diocesan Mission Fund and $5,000 to assist  our diocesan parishes of Holy Ghost in Manville, New Jersey and St. John the Baptist of Rahway, NJ who experienced severe flood damage last year  from Hurricane Irene.  

 It was decided that the proceeds of the  2013 Lots of Luck fundraiser would be allocated to  the Diocesan Mission Fund,  Camp Nazareth,  Funding the costs of Junior ACRY Advisors to attend the Pan-Orthodox Youth Ministries conference, and the general fund of the ACRY.  

Other charitable donations approved at the Convention include, $100 to the Distinguished Diocesan Donors Program,  $1,000  to the Diocesan Apostolate For Youth to sponsor an edition of the Daylight youth newsletter and The “pass the hat” collection, totalling in excess of  $850.00, to benefit the IOCC  U.S. Domestic Disaster relief. This donation was made in honor of His Grace, Bishop-Elect Grigorios, who is the outgoing  Dean of  Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New Orleans which was impacted by the recent Hurricane Isaac.

The Junior ACRY under the leadership of President Tim Paproski, Senior Advisors, Amy Oblinsky and Rachel Pribish and  Spiritual Advisor, Very Rev. Miles Zdinak  set into motion plans to further the growth of the Jr ACRY and its outreach to the youth of the diocese.

The members reviewed the success of the Camp Presentation the first week and planned to make a slide-show to present at camp in Summer 2013 to encourage enrollment in the Jr. ACRY. It was decided that the Juniors, having a surplus of funds and a desire to do more philanthropic works, would increase their standing donations to Christ the Savior Seminary and the Metropolitan Nicholas Philanthropic Fund to aid a large class of Seminarians, as well as greatly increasing the Bishop John Scholarship fund to reward Juniors for their years of service to the organization. An additional $500 was gifted to Camp Nazareth to help cover the cost of its proposed on-line registration system.

The members also reviewed their successful campaign in support of  the St. John The Compassionate Mission of Toronto, Ontario (Canada).  Through their efforts, almost $2,500 was raised to support the Mission. It was decided that  the Jr. ACRY would continue to dedicate the Lenten mission project funds to St. John’s, and possibly sponsor another mission trip in the coming year, where the participants would  again offer “hands –on” assistance to the  poor and needy of Toronto.  

The Juniors also conducted their “pass the hat” collection for IOCC Domestic Disaster relief, in honor of Bishop-elect Grigorios, with almost $80 being raised.

Another highlight of the convention was a multi-media presentation  by Very Rev. Fr.  Stephen Loposky, the Administrator of Camp Nazareth on the topic “Why Camp Nazareth Works”  Father Stephen’s presentation put the earlier presentation by the Junior ACRY on their mission trip to St. John the Compassionate Mission into perspective. Father explained that the reason our camp program resonates so well with the youth of the diocese, is because it is centered in Christ.  This Christocentric experience reaches the hearts and souls of our youth, and leaves them hungering for more.  This is why the Junior ACRY is growing and the youth are becoming more engaged in actively living their Orthodox Faith.  In his presentation, Fr. Stephen identified five core components of the camping program: it is purposeful, mission and goal oriented, integrated, creative, “Orthodoxized” and includes something for everyone. It was suggested that a conscious effort to integrate these same principles within the Senior ACRY would lead to the desired growth and renewal it is seeking.  

Recognizing the need for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the convention took place within the context of the liturgical life of the Church, opening with Liturgy on Saturday morning concelebrated by the Very Rev. Fr. Peter Paproski, National Senior ACRY Spiritual Advisor and Very Rev. Fr. Miles Zdinak, National JR ACRY Spiritual Advisor. Sunday Divine Liturgy was celebrated at Christ the Saviour Cathedral by  Very Rev. Protopresbyter  Frank P. Miloro, Diocesan Chancellor, who represented His  Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, Supreme Patron, assisted by  Very Rev. Protopresbyter Peter Paproski,  National Sr. ACRY Spiritual Advisor, Very Rev. Fr. Miles Zdinak, National Junior ACRY Spiritual Advisor, Very Rev. Protopresbyter John Fedornock and Very Rev Fathers John Brancho and Stephen Loposky.  The congregational singing in the traditional Carpatho-Rusyn Plain Chant was led by parish cantor, Donald Koval.

A highlight of the weekend was the Sunday Evening, Grand Banquet  which took place in the ball room of the Holiday Inn. Toastmaster, Christopher Miloro masterfully guided the program which included addresses from the National Junior and Senior ACRY Presidents.  Very Rev. Fr. Miles Zdinak, was the keynote speaker. During the program a multi-media slide show, featuring photos from National ACRY events throughout the  years, which was compiled by Pani Constance Miloro was shown and each banquet guest received a copy of the DVD as a gift.  A special guest at the banquet  was Mr. George  Sukal who at age 98 is the oldest living ACRY member who was present at the first ACRY convention held in Johnstown in  1939. In gratitude for his  many years of enjoyment as a member of the ACRY   Mr. George Sukal donated $500 to the National Senior ACRY Scholarship and an addition $500.00 to the National Junior ACRY Scholarship Funds.

At the Grand Banquet the following scholarships were awarded:

Freshman: Anastasia Koss Chapter #30 Phoenixville, Kyra Leasure Chapter #21 Taylor, Maria Korchak Chapter #40 Binghamton,Alex Breno Chapter #25 Potomac and Emily Tusick Chapter #7 Ambridge; Sophomore: Kristopher Delvillano Chapter # 40 Binghamton, Joanna Puzakulics Chapter #40 Binghamton, Zachary Koss Chapter #30 Phoenixville and Iilenna Righetti Chapter #7 Ambridge; Junior: Kevin Coffman Chapter #30 Phoenixville; Seminarian: Matthew Dutko Chapter #40 Binghamton; Mary Kay Memorial: George Ellis Chapter #40 Binghamton;  Pani Jeanette  Moriak Scholarship:  Maria Korchak; Bishop John Memorial Scholarship: Alex Breno, Maria Korchak, Emily Tusick, and Kyra Leasure.

Also at the Grand Banquet was the crowning of the 2012-2013 Mr. and Miss Jr. ACRY, Paul Zdinak and Kate Rael.

The banquet concluded with the circle of unity and the singing of the ACRY March, and the singing of the festive  rendition of  Many Years, Zaspivajme which will be sung at all ACRY events in perpetual memory of His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas.

The Newly elected SR ACRY officers include: President:  Amy Coffman Chapter #30 Phoenixville; Vice President: Rachel Pribish Chapter #34 Elizabeth; Secretary: Maryann Hudak Chapter #36 Bayonne; Financial Secretary: Debbie Samilenko Chapter #23 Stratford; Treasurer : Barbara Fitzgerald Chapter #43 Rockaway; Chief Auditor: Mark Sudik Chapter #25 Potomac; Auditors: Kevin Coffman Chapter #30 Phoenixville and  Katherine Steinstra Chapter #11 Homestead; Sergeant-at-Arms: Stephanie Coffman Chapter-At-Large; Athletic Director: Danielle Bartko Chapter #11 Homestead; Custodian Of Properties: Donna Yarina Chapter #20 Johnstown; Publicity Director: Greg Kushner Chapter #30 Phoenixville and Junior Advisor: Angela Sudik Chapter #25  Potomac.

Junior ACRY officers include:  Tim Paproski, President; Paul Zdinak, Vice President; Sophia Timko, Corresponding Secretary: Jess Pak, Publicity Director: Cassandra Eddy; Treasurer; Kate Rael, Financial Secretary; John Puzakulics, Sergeant at Arms; Kaitlyn Caramela and Josef Samilenko, Auditors.

Much gratitude was expressed by all in attendance to the host chapter for their gracious hospitality and innovative family programming throughout the weekend.  All in attendance enjoyed the  Saturday evening trivia night, and the Sunday evening post-banquet party.  Who could forget the fun at the post banquet party which included a photo booth picture station, where  guests had the opportunity to have their pictures taken in various costumes, or  the  impromptu Rusyn bridal dance, for a newlywed couple who were guests at the hotel?

The  participants in this year’s 68th National Convention,  were blessed with the opportunity to gather together as a family in Christ,  to plan for the coming year and enjoy Christian fellowship.  The ACRY, in keeping with the Convention Theme, “Behold I Make All Things New…”  looks forward  in the New Church Year to working with His Grace, Bishop Elect Grigorios, who has great experience and a keen interest in youth ministry, to bring about a Christ-centered renewal of the ACRY.

Photo Gallery For Friday August 31
Photo Gallery For Sat September 2
Photo Gallery For Sun September 3