Garrison, NY - Hundreds of young adults from around the country gathered in downtown Baltimore, Maryland from July 3-7, as part of the 21st National Young Adult League Conference. The theme of this year’s Conference was “Sign of the Cross: Vision and Victory.”
The Conference started on Thursday, July 3 with a welcoming reception at the Conference Hotel, the Renaissance Harborplace. D.J.’s Dennis and Achilles from Detroit, Michigan played music for the attendees, who also sampled a variety of hors d’oeuvres.
On Friday, the Conference continued with a series of seminars that dealt with differing aspects of Orthodox faith. Popular topics included Orthodoxy and Islam, Astrology and the Occult, and Christian Aplogetics. Fathers Christopher Flesoras, Mark Arey, Nicholas Verdaris, Manuel Burdusi and George Liacopoulos, Iman Basar Arafat, and Orthodox lay members Diane Tseckares and James Skedros conducted the seminars. “The seminars were excellent,” stated Seena Semerly of New York, who was attending her second National YAL Conference.
Andrew Natsios, the Director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) spoke at Friday’s luncheon, encouraging the young adults to become involved in service to their Church and to their fellow man. He was followed by Father Liacopoulos, who gave the keynote address on the Conference theme. In his remarks, Father Liacopoulos urged his audience to transform their inner selves by the power of the Cross and then, to focus on others, in a witness of Orthodox faith.
After a vespers service, attendees watched a fireworks extravaganza in Baltimore's Inner Harbor before enjoying a Greek Night at the hotel.
After starting their day at various service projects, such as the Ronald McDonald House and local senior citizen centers, the YAL members enjoyed a picnic complete with crabs, volleyball and music at the scenic Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Baltimore. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and Metropolitan Evangelos, the newly elected head of the host Metropolis of New Jersey, presided over Saturday Vespers at Saint Demetrios. The Archbishop spoke to the YAL conference participants, reminding them of the need to be stewards of the environment, citing the beautiful grounds of the church as an example.
That evening, an entire section of seats were occupied by YALers who cheered the Baltimore Orioles baseball team to a decisive victory in Camden Yards. Returning to the hotel, attendees were able to engage in a late night discussion and participate in confession.
On Sunday morning seven priests assisted Archbishop Demetrios and Metropolitan Evangelos at the Divine Liturgy held at the Annunciation Cathedral in downtown Baltimore. After the service, everyone enjoyed a light meal sponsored by the Annunciation Philoptochos Society. Then, Archbishop Demetrios spoke from the sanctuary on the Book of Revelation, interpreting part of the text and relating it to the participants. The Conference concluded Sunday night with a Grand Banquet at the hotel and dancing to the sounds of Zephyros, a Baltimore Greek band.
Fellowship and camaraderie were evident as attendees created friendships that will last a lifetime. “I’ve attended other Conferences, which were all good, but this was the most fun,” commented James Kavalaris of West Lafayette, Indiana. “Although I’ve been to several Conferences, I met many new people while reacquainting myself with good friends from years ago, “ stated Kyriakos Marudas, who, along with Andrea Liacouras and Ernie Rafailides, served as a co-chair of the Conference.
Perhaps, most important, the attendees left the Conference reinvigorated to tackle issues faced within their local parishes. “My wife and I left Baltimore with a desire to serve God and his Church in our local community,” stated George Georgountzos of Boston, Massachusetts. “There was so much positive energy at the Conference that it helped me refocus on the wonderful gift of Orthodoxy,” summed up Maria Crassas of Silver Spring, Maryland.
Contact:Dept. of Youth and Young Adults