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YAL San Diego 2022 - Another Shining Success

YAL San Diego 2022 - Another Shining Success
By George Anagnostopoulos

What happens when 585 young adults from 33 states COMMIT to their faith, vocation and life? They form a powerful force that will lead our church and preserve our faith for generations to come! COMMIT was the theme for the 2022 Young Adult League (YAL) Conference hosted by the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco over Labor Day weekend in San Diego, California. Led by Conference Chairman George T. Anagnostopoulos, the young adult planning committee was committed to providing an unparalleled and balanced weekend for their fellow peers. The four cornerstones of the YAL ministry – Witness, Worship, Service, and Fellowship – were fully demonstrated throughout the Conference, and the young adults embraced every opportunity to be immersed in growing in their faith and finding their spiritual home in the Church.

His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos shared with the conference delegates, “COMMIT may only be a six-letter word, but it comes with a great responsibility, and one that I challenge you to carry after the conference. We are not just Orthodox Christians on Sundays when we attend Divine Liturgy. We are not just Orthodox Christians for the weekend of the YAL Conference. We are Orthodox Christians each and every day of our lives – that is what we must COMMIT to, and we must strive to fulfill that commitment through our thoughts, words and deeds. This conference is only the beginning of your commitment to Christ. Take what has been shared with you, take to heart the lessons you have learned, and follow the path to salvation.” 

The Conference was headlined by keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Christopher Flesoras of Saint Anna Greek Orthodox Church in Roseville, CA who offered a thought-provoking presentation on the theme “Commit”. In addition to his parish ministry, Father Christopher is also a Chaplain Major with the California Air National Guard 195th Wing, and the Associate Dean of Students at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Father Christopher emphasized that “either by virtue of one’s baptism and chrismation, we are committed to Christ”. However “if you are focused and committed you can be agile, you can pivot and you can trust. God is always present, it’s just whether you want to find Him or not and that is the choice all of us have every day.” Father Christopher went on to remind the young adults it doesn’t matter if you are a priest, lay person or young adult, each person can commit to God every single day. After lunch, young adults were grouped by age and had the opportunity to meet new friends and forge new relationships with their peers from across the country. 

In his remarks to the attendees YAL Conference Chairman George T. Anagnostopoulos emphasized the importance of making the most of the weekend and iterated “I challenge you to commit yourself to something, other than your job or your studies. Give of yourself fully; you’ll be happier, more well balanced and live a more successful and full life, and one that you can look back on and be proud of. Because in the end, your purpose on this earth will be defined by what and how much you choose to commit. The choice is yours. So, ‘Let us commit ourselves and our whole life to Christ Our God’”. 

Friday evening transported the conference participants back to 1999 and this Y2K themed event brought back the sights and sounds of the new millennium.

On Saturday, the Metropolis of San Francisco Family Wellness Ministry team hosted a panel titled "Getting Love Right!".  Family Wellness Ministry Director George Papageorge stated, “We are created for connection and when we connect with people we feel more alive. But there are many kinds of relationships, healthy and those that are not and we are going to discuss both today in a practical sense.” 

After the panel concluded, small breakout groups breakouts were led by Papageorge, Father Tom and Presv. Pat Tsagalakis, Father James and Presv. Donna Pappas  Fr. Christopher Flesoras, Fr. Gary Kyriacou, Father Christoper and Presv. Kalli Retelas, and Johanna Carter. In small groups, participants discussed what a Christ-centered relationship looks like in today's society and shared their personal stories and struggles on this topic. Growing closer to the faith first, along with another person, was emphasized as crucial for any strong foundational relationship. 

During Saturday’s lunch, Archon Regional Commanders Hon. Steven G. Counelis (Southern California) and Dr. Gregory G. Papadeas (Metropolis of Denver) introduced the conference attendees to the threats to international religious freedom, and to the major issues confronting the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This was an enlightening presentation for the young adults to learn about the significant and challenging circumstances facing our Mother Church.

As a central pillar of YAL, service was again a key component of the weekend. This year’s Diakonia project was once again sponsored by Metropolis Philoptochos, continuing the multi-year partnership between YAL and Philoptochos. This year the ladies of Philoptochos and young adults assembled 550 care packages for the homeless Veterans of San Diego through a local charity called “Courage to Call, San Diego 211”. Metropolis Philoptochos President Jeannie Ranglas and several members of the Philoptochos Board worked hand in hand with the young adults and built bonds of friendship and collaboration.

After giving back to the San Diego Community, it was time for  “Top Gun YAL”, the headline event of the weekend. Named with the classic movie in mind, this maritime event was aboard the 900 foot USS Midway Aircraft Carrier in the San Diego Bay. Keeping with the theme, participants wore their aviators, bomber jackets, flight suits, and custom Top Gun YAL patches for a once in a lifetime evening. Attendees had the opportunity to take photos with "California Maverick", tour the expansive flight deck and jump into real fighter jets and naval aircraft on board. After dinner and dessert, attendees headed downstairs to the 'hangar bay' where DJ Gus Sverkos was back playing all the classic rock from the 80's along with classic Greek music. 

Sunday morning began with the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, presided by His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, along with His Grace Bishop Ioannis of Phocaea, and several area clergy. That afternoon YAL participants enjoyed the beautiful Coronado Beach for lunch, activities, games, music, and the refreshing ocean.

The final event of the weekend was the “007 Bond Gala”. Attendees wore tuxedos and gowns as they took part in the formal gala dinner and program followed by a Live Greek Musician glendi. Young adult musicians played music from Crete, Thraki, Peloponnesos and Pontos. Hundreds of young adults holding hands together demonstrated the unity and love this group developed through the weekend as they danced to the music under traditional string lighting, and it was a perfect way to end the Conference weekend. The new Consul General of Greece in Los Angeles Ioannis Stamatekos also attended the conference and offered a greeting to the young adults at the banquet. Having just arrived on the west coast a few weeks earlier, it was a wonderful opportunity for Mr. Stamatekos to become engaged in the life of the Metropolis and learn about the vibrancy of the YAL movement.

Archon Hon. Steven and Mrs. Stacia Counelis offered the following, “As Advisors to the YAL Conference Ministry since 2018, we are exceptionally pleased that Greek Orthodox Young Adults from throughout our Metropolis of San Francisco, and every other Metropolis across the Nation, have accepted the invitation to come together in Worship, Fellowship, Witness and Service. Conference Chairman George Anagnostopoulos has, for the fourth year in a row,  successfully led a committed team of young adults that resulted in a robust program. We thank His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos for his paternal love and support of the Young Adults and this Ministry. We also thank the Metropolis Council and Staff for their continued support of this vital Ministry of our Church.”

Special thanks to George T. Anagnostopoulos who has served as the YAL Conference Chairman since 2019. The Executive Committee members for 2022 were: Joseph Dumont, Christos Kyriazi, Penelope Kyriazi, Anastasia Matty, Yianna Papadeas, Aaron Papagalos, Grace Paris, Anastasia Pickett, Christos Schwarz, Christine Scolinos, Marina Settelmayer, and Jenny Walters.

For more information on the YAL Conference and the ongoing YAL In Your Backyard regional events that are happening throughout the year, please email: [email protected].

See YAL soon!