By Anna Kyritsis
“For a brief moment I saw heaven. I felt the love, I heard the truth. It seemed like paradise, living in a perfect world.” That is how my friend Nina so eloquently summed up our experience. When I arrived at the Holy Cross / Hellenic College campus, I was excited for the CrossRoad program on vocation, but I had no idea what God had prepared for us. I was thrilled that I was accepted to this program, where I would have the opportunity to learn more about our faith as I discovered my vocation. I knew I was in for a good experience, but I did not expect that what I would learn would change my life and invigorate my faith. I was excited to meet new Orthodox teens, but I had no idea that we would gather as thirty kids from a variety of backgrounds and locations around the country, and leave as one, united in Christ, with a true bond. I had no idea that just ten days later I would be in tears as the program ended and we all traveled home. I had no idea that a month later I would be wishing with all my heart that I could go back, but also looking forward to a bright future, connected always to each other, and more importantly, connected to Christ.
The CrossRoad program is run by the wonderful people in the Office of Vocation and Ministry at Holy Cross / Hellenic College and was made possible by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment. It was designed for Orthodox youth entering their senior year in high school, or just entering college, to come together in fellowship and learn about vocation. The program was organized into three stages. The first stage was “Wrestling with Vocation,” where we identified our personal strengths. We also discussed the effects of the media on our lives and spent time in various activities getting to know each other. Each day we were blessed with the opportunity to attend Orthros and Vespers at the beautiful chapel on campus. We also had the chance to visit various Orthodox churches in the Boston area for Vespers on several evenings. [ <!-- splitter --> ]
The second stage was “Vocation and Christ.” We took two classes from two extraordinary professors at Holy Cross / Hellenic College. Fr. Eugen Pentiuc taught us about Genesis and metaphors. We learned that metaphors carry the human mind through the gap between man and the ineffable God. Our second class was with Dr. Demetrios Katos, in which we learned about theology. “God is more a part of us than our own limbs, more important than our heart,” Dr. Katos taught us. After each class we broke into small discussion groups to talk about what we learned and to clarify any questions we had. We learned a lot in our classes, but the classroom was not the only place in which we learned — the whole experience was filled with discovery. We took part in an iconography workshop taught by a very talented iconographer from Greece and we studied Byzantine chanting from one of our greatly talented staff members. We found out about Orthodox Christian Fellowship, the college group, and the importance of always staying connected to the Church. We learned about vocation and relationships from the very insightful and entertaining Dr. Rossi. Father Gerasimos taught us how to make prayer ropes, and Fr. Luke Veronis told us all about vocation and missions. We were also given special time to spend in quiet reflection and prayer almost every day. At CrossRoad we also had time for some fun, yet less educational activities too. We cheered at a Red Sox game and went shopping at Faneuil Hall. We even made a trip to play at the beach! We got to experience dorm life and we bonded deeply through all of our serious and fun activities.
The third stage was “Vocation and the Neighbor.” We crawled out of bed bright and early one Saturday morning for what was called a “Breakfast Search.” We split up into groups of three CrossRoadies and one staff member and we ventured into downtown Boston to find a homeless person to take to breakfast. We thought we were doing our neighbors a favor by giving them food, but in reality they taught us more than we could ever have expected. One group met a man who fought in Vietnam, lost a daughter, and was now homeless, yet he was still optimistic as he said, “I have had a lot of ups and downs in life, but mostly ups.” Wow! The “Breakfast Search” was an inspiring lesson in love and humility. We also had the opportunity to visit nursing homes, and again, we thought we were being helpful by visiting and talking with these elderly people, but they really taught us more than we anticipated.
During the magical ten days of CrossRoad I learned more about myself and my faith than I ever thought possible. I met amazing people who will be my friends forever. A day has not passed since the program where I have not talked to one of my friends and reminisced about the beautiful memories of that experience. No matter how much I wish I could go back to CrossRoad, I now know that God brought all thirty of us together through this program to strengthen our faiths and change our lives. Through this experience I learned that as an Orthodox Christian my vocation is to lead a life of holiness in whatever I do, because life is not about a title — our specific job, or our status — but it is about a person — how we live our lives according to God’s divine will. Mother Gavrilia beautifully proclaims this idea: “God is not interested in where you are or what you do… He is interested only in the quality and quantity of the love you give. Nothing else. Nothing else.” The CrossRoad program inspired my life in so many ways. Each day since has been a little brighter, as I strive to always remember and live what I learned during those amazing ten days.