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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.


Pasadena Hosts 32nd National Oratorical Festival

News Release


Contact: Anton C. Vrame Ph.D
Tel: 800 566-1088
FAX 617 850-1489
E-mail: [email protected]

June 15, 2015

Pasadena Hosts 32nd National Oratorical Festival

On Friday, June 4th eighteen Direct Archdiocese District and Metropolis finalists and their families arrived in Pasadena, California looking forward to an exciting Oratorical Festival weekend. After registering at the Westin Pasadena Hotel, they met with the host committee headed by Irene Albeck, Judith Christopoulos and Athena Dallas. Once they received their welcome bags filled with treats they got a chance to meet their fellow participants who were arriving at the same time.

The first scheduled event of the evening was a Paraklesis held at the Church of St. Anthony and a welcome by the Rev. Fr. Peter Stratos, Proestamenos. We were then hosted to a welcome reception at the home of John and Diane Vidalakis. An ice breaker, conducted by Stephanie (Yallourakis) Grant, a cast member of The Goldbergs, helped the finalists relax and get to know each other. His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco welcomed everyone and talked about how he was looking forward to hearing their speeches on Saturday morning.

Following an early morning breakfast held on the terrace of the Holy Trinity Ballroom, the Oratorical Festival was ready to commence. Introducing each orator, by topic and the speaking order number they selected, were past National and Metropolis finalists. One of the most popular topics in the junior division was the one on Malala which states: Malala Yousafzai is an inspirational example of fighting fearlessly for a noble cause in spite of threats against her life. Discuss a young saint or person from the Bible who illustrates such courage.

After a ten minute break, the speakers in the senior division began their orations. Two of the current topics in the senior division were: The Lord said, “I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25:36). What does this teach us about our attitudes toward those in jails and imprisoned? and Psalm 50 (51) begins, “Have mercy on me, O Lord…” It is considered the psalm of repentance. Discuss how praying this psalm might affect our understanding of repentance, confession, and forgiveness.

At the Awards Luncheon, which immediately followed, we were once again welcomed by Fr. Peter, the President of the Parish Council Philip “Ted” Attalla. Master of Ceremonies for the luncheon was Archon Mike Emmanuel, Chief Congressional and Senior News Correspondent for FOX News. He also talked about how he participated in his parish’s Oratorical Festival many years ago. Metropolitan Gerasimos spoke about how he was moved by the boldness of the speeches, challenging the audience, including the leadership of the Church to listen to the voice of our young people, their concerns, and their ideals for the future.

After giving a few remarks about the Oratorical Festival, Presvytera Margaret Orfanakos, invited all nine participants in the junior division up to the front. Each one was to receive a plaque recognizing their participation at the National Oratorical Festival, a certificate, signed by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and a scholarship from FAITH: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism Award. The following six individuals were the recipients of Honorable Mention. In addition to the above mentioned awards they will also receive a $500 monetary award. Direct Archdiocesan District: Marika Reynolds-Archangel Michael Church, Port Washington, NY; Metropolis of Boston: Alexandra Nichols-Annunciation Church, Cranston, RI; Metropolis of Denver: Anastasia Therianos-Assumption Cathedral, Denver, CO; Metropolis of New Jersey: Kyriaki Melizanis-Ascension Church, Fairview, NJ; Metropolis of Pittsburgh: Alexander SalemAnnunciation Church, Akron, OH; Metropolis of San Francisco: Ruth Hailey-St. John the Baptist Church, Beaverton, OR.

Third Place and a $1000 college scholarship went to Christian George from St. Nicholas Church, Troy, MI in the Metropolis of Detroit. Second Place and a $1500 college scholarship was given to Dennis Polite from St. Andrew Church, Chicago, IL in the Metropolis of Chicago. First Place and a $2000 college scholarship was awarded to Sophia Hagen from Sts. Rafael, Nicholas and Irene Church in Cumming, GA in the Metropolis of Atlanta. Those receiving Honorable Mention in the senior division were: Direct Archdiocesan District: Pauline Pedas-St. Sophia Cathedral, Washington, DC; Metropolis of Boston: Nickolas EliadisDormition of the Virgin Mary Church, Somerville, MA; Metropolis of Chicago: Maria KardasisSts. Peter and Paul Church, Glenview, IL; Metropolis of Denver: Kalliope Elliott-Annunciation Church, Kansas City, MO; Metropolis of Detroit: Jordan George-St. Nicholas Church, Troy, MI; Metropolis of San Francisco: Timothy Kaelin-St. George Church, Eugene, OR. Third Place and a $1000 college scholarship in the senior division was awarded to Dimitri Godur, from St. Sophia Cathedral in Miami, FL in the Metropolis of Atlanta. Second Place and a $1500 college scholarship went to Alexandra Birbilis from St. Thomas Church in Cherry Hill, NJ in the Metropolis of New Jersey. The recipient of First Place a $2000 college scholarship was Elena Bilotto from Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church in Aliquippa, PA.

After a quick change at the hotel everyone, along with Metropolitan Gerasimos, Bishop Apostolos of Medeia, Chancellor of the Metropolis of San Francisco and Fr. Peter went to Universal Studios where a tram tour gave the group an insider’s look at the back lots where movies are made. It was an inspiring and fun day filled with happy memories.

Sunday morning came way too quickly. The finalists and their families attended a Hierarchical Liturgy with Metropolitan Gerasimos and Bishop Apostolos as co-celebrants. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios was unable to be present for the weekend because Vice President Joe Biden asked him to attend the funeral of his son, which took place on Saturday morning. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, both Sophia Hagen and Elena Bilotto gave their winning speeches to the entire congregation.

Once again we assembled in the Holy Trinity Ballroom where a sumptuous lunch was enjoyed by all in attendance. Serving as Master of Ceremonies was Vice President of the Parish Council, John Vidalakis, who spoke so eloquently and emotionally about the weekend. Philip “Ted” Attala once again thanked everyone from the Parish of St. Anthony for working so diligently to ensure that the weekend went as beautifully as it did. Irene Albeck, Judith Christopoulos and Athena Dallas were singled out as the powers who spearheaded the committee. In recognition of their work and dedication they were each given a hand painted icon of St. John Chrysostom. His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos made final remarks and brought to a close another fantastic and memorable weekend.