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Update on the 2020 Oratorical Festival:

After very careful and thoughtful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s St. John Chrysostom National Oratorical Festival. Please know that we did not reach this decision lightly. We considered several different options for how we could host the festival online and met multiple times with the Metropolis level religious education coordinators and chairpersons to get their input and consider ways that we could proceed with judging speeches and/or essays at the national level. Until very recently, we thought we would be able to proceed with a revised format.

However, because of the escalation of the pandemic across the country, with some cities either already designated as coronavirus hot-zones or at risk of becoming hot-zones, we realize that the next few weeks are going to be very critical and stressful ones for many people across the country. This timing of course, coincides with when festival chairpersons, judges and church leaders would have had to dedicate time to plan for the festivals were we to proceed with planning for a national festival. We recognize too that parents already have a lot of extra responsibilities on their plates at this time, with many having to home-school their children and with job situations changing, and that our priests are charting new territory with remote services and ministering to families impacted by the pandemic. All of these considerations factored into our decision.

We realize that this decision may be very disappointing for families whose children worked hard on their speeches and essays, and were excited to proceed to the next levels of participation. We encourage local parishes and Metropolis religious education coordinators to find ways to acknowledge the hard work of the students. If a parish or Metropolis decides, for example, that they would like to encourage the children they work with to record speeches, we would be very interested in sharing those speeches from our Facebook account. But for all the reasons mentioned above — and especially because different cities are at different stages of dealing with the pandemic — we don’t feel it would be appropriate to request specific levels of participation from any Metropolis.

Many parishes have members who are already sick with the coronavirus and, tragically, some who have passed away. We pray for everyone’s health and safety, for the healing of those who have been infected by the coronavirus, and for the eternal memory of those who have passed away. We encourage everyone to follow the social distancing guidelines being recommended by public health and government officials to reduce the spread of the disease. May everyone have a blessed remainder of Lent and glorious celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection.

2020 Festival Information

About the Festival

Introduced in 1983, the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival provides Greek Orthodox teenagers the opportunity to write and talk about their faith. The Oratorical Festival Program begins at the parish level and is divided into three divisions:

Elementary Division (local festival only) for students in grades 4–6
Junior Division for students in grades 7–9
Senior Division for student in grades 10–12

The top speakers in the Junior and Senior Divisions advance to the district level. Two finalists in each district division represent the district at the Metropolis Oratorical Festival. The top speaker in each metropolis division is then selected to participate in the Archdiocese Finals, which is hosted by a different metropolis each year.

All eighteen finalists at the Archdiocese Finals participate in a weekend of activities, the highlight of which is the delivery of their speeches on Saturday morning. The Oratorical Festival Scholarship Fund provides college scholarships to the top speakers. Currently, the top three speakers of each division receive college scholarships of $2,000, $1,500 and $1,000. This year, each Honorable Mention speaker was awarded $500.

Katherine Orfanakos Demacopoulos serves as the Archdiocese Festival Chairperson.

National Festival

The 37th National Oratorical Festival will be hosted by the Metropolis of Denver and St. Spyridon Church in Loveland, CO on June 12-14, 2020.

The 36th National Oratorical Festival was hosted by the Direct Archdiocesan District and the Parish of Archangel Michael in Port Washington, NY on June 7-9, 2019.

The 35th National Oratorical Fesitval was hosted by the Metropolis of Chicago and the Parish of St. John the Baptist Des Plaines, IL on June 8-10, 2018. Check out pages 24 and 25 of the July-August 2018 edition of the Orthodox Observer, to read about the weekend!

FAITH: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism Awards

Each finalist receives an additional scholarship award from FAITH: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism as part of its grant to the Archdiocese. FAITH has made these awards to Oratorical Festival Finalists since 2007. We are grateful to the Founders of FAITH for their generous support of the youth of our Archdiocese and the Finalists of the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival.

The Chrysostom Scholarship for Hellenic College

In the 2020 St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival, each Senior and Junior division First, Second, and Third place finalist in each category (Oratory, Poetry, and Essay) at the Parish, District, Metropolis, and National levels of competition is eligible to receive a Chrysostom Scholarship upon acceptance to Hellenic College. This scholarship provides awards ranging from $2,500 up to $30,000 per year for four years. Please download the terms and conditions to view the award structure.

Information for SJCOF Chairpersons

Preparing for a Local Oratorical Festival

The Holy Resurrection Greek Orthodox Church in Brookville, NY, has held one of the more successful Oratorical Festival programs in our Archdiocese. A key to their success has been excellent organization and ongoing contact by the festival's chairperson with everyone involved at the local level, as well as with the District, Metropolis, and Archdiocese.

The Department is very grateful to Mrs. Vivian Casil for sharing a set of downloadable (pdf) letters and handouts used by the Resurrection parish that you might find helpful as you organize your parish Oratorical Festival.


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