The 2nd Annual Diocesan Youth Day was on 16 August as over 100 participants gathered at Saint Mary Orthodox Church, Jackson NJ. The weather was beautiful; the enthusiasm spectacular! Participants included 7 Clergy, 30 adult chaperones and 70+ youth participants representing 13 parishes in our diocese. A parish from Rahway NJ of the American Carpatho-Russian Diocese also participated. At registration each youth participant was given a green t-shirt to wear with “Orthodox Youth Day 2012” written on the front so they could easily be identified.
Before we begin any type of work, we pray! So, the day began with Father Jason Vansuch (Chairperson, Department of Youth Ministry) leading prayers in celebrating a Molieben Service. Imagine hearing a choir filled with nearly 100 voices ranging from the youngest child to the oldest adult -- truly the “Future of Our Church” was present! Archpriest Stephen Evanina (Holy Assumption Church, Clifton NJ) directed the choir as all sang together. After giving thanks to God and asking His blessing upon their endeavors, breakfast was served. While everyone was enjoying the delicious continental breakfast, it was time to “Stump the Clergy!” The Clergy held a Question and Answer Session with the participants where everyone had the opportunity to spend some time with the priests, asking them questions as well as enjoying fellowship and discussion with them. Following the “Q&A” session, it was time to pack everything up and load everyone onto the buses or into their cars and head off to Six Flags Great Adventure for the rest of the day! Due to his busy schedule, Bishop Michael was not able to be present for the beginning part of the day, but he joined up with the group later on at Six Flags. As it turned out, by the time the group entered the Park the sun was shining brightly: Glory to God for All Things!
At the Park it was time for the chaperones to take their groups to wherever they wanted to go: Batman the Ride, Kinga Ka, El Toro, Green Lantern, just to mention a few of the many rides the children enjoyed while at Six Flags. Riding all of those rides can build up an appetite, so when it came time for lunch all gathered together around the “Water Fountain” to distribute a free meal voucher to the youth participants to enjoy a delicious meal. By this time, Bishop Michael arrived and, spontaneously, the large group of children ran up to him and received his blessing (offering him loving hugs in return). What a blessing to behold a flock of children gather around their Shepherd.
After lunchtime it was back to more rides and thrills before heading back to Saint Mary’s Church Hall for the departure home.
“It is always a blessing to see the children come together. It was more of a blessing to see the children come together and gather around their Bishop. And for this, we are truly grateful,” said Father Vansuch. “To see about 70 children, 30 adults, and 7 clergy pray together and enjoy Christian Fellowship with one another gathered around His Grace for a day at the park was truly a blessing from God and was truly a blessing for not only those who participated but also for the entire diocese. It was good to see the youth of all ages come together where old friendships were strengthened and new ones were made. I pray and believe that this Youth Day event will be the foundation of many more activities and gatherings for the youth of our diocese. As always, we must be patient and follow God’s voice and allow Him to guide us. We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful, loving, and caring Shepherd and Hierarch in His Grace, Bishop Michael! We express our sincere and heartfelt thanks and appreciation to His Grace for his blessing, leadership, guidance, and support for this year’s Diocesan Youth Day. Thank-you, dear Vladika! We also express our sincere and heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Father John and Matushka Ludmila Prokopiuk and the faithful of Saint Mary Russian Orthodox Church for their hard work and assistance for allowing us to use their parish hall. The faithful of Saint Mary Russian Orthodox Church worked very hard in preparing the hall as well as providing the continental breakfast for our participants, and for this we are truly grateful. This event could not have happened if it wasn’t for the parish priests and their support; the parents who made arrangements for their children to participate; those who worked on the committee and all that they have done to make it a success; and especially, if it wasn’t for the enthusiastic children who brought their joy and excitement with them. Truly, this was a bright day in the life of our diocese where ‘The Future of Our Church’ was seen and heard enjoying fellowship with one another and with their bishop. Glory to God for all things!”