Hellenic College Takes Incoming Students on Annual Retreat&The incoming students of Hellenic College recently took part in the annual Vocations Exploration Retreat at the St. Methodios Faith and Heritage Center in scenic Contoocook, New Hampshire. The weekend retreat provided the students with presentations, discussions, and time for reflection to answer the questions of this year’s retreat theme, “Who am I? Why am I here? What is my vocation?” Sponsored by the Office of Vocation and Ministry (OVM), the retreat was coordinated by OVM Assistant Director, Nicholas Belcher.
As students arrived at the facility in New Hampshire, they began with icebreakers that utilized StrengthsQuest, a strengths assessment that students took during orientation. Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to role-play in small teams with each contributing his or her own unique talents to solve problems. These activities were led by an outstanding student staff, which included Joshua Boyd, Andrew Horvath, Billie Kasapakis, Mary Long and George Tomczewski.
Saturday morning began with the service of Orthros in the camp chapel that was followed by a short homily by Fr. Gerasimos Makris, Chaplain for Hellenic College/Holy Cross. After breakfast, Dr. Demetrios Katos, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, addressed the students on the Orthodox perspective of vocation. Dr. Katos reminded the students that what we do in life, whether we choose marriage or monasticism, priesthood or secular employments, is not as important as how we live our life. All are called to reach their divine potential, and must make their life choices conform to Christ. “Ultimately, vocation is being divine-like, a child of God,” Katos added. His discussion concluded by highlighting how the students are to live out their calling in a community setting. Following the talk, the incoming students forged a mission statement for their class that would highlight the values they felt called to live up to during their time as Hellenic College students. After much deliberation, the group’s mission statement read: “During our time at Hellenic College, we will grow in Christ with our spiritual family, acquiring wisdom, maintaining good humor, and always striving to reach our potential.”
Having set forth this mission, the retreat participants were challenged to come up with constructive responses to some challenging aspects of campus life. After enjoying entertaining skits, the students engaged in a discussion on Fr. Thomas Hopko’s article Finding One’s Calling in Life where he exhorts that we “accept who we are, where we are, when we are and how we are, and to struggle to sanctify our real state of existence by the grace of God.”
After worshiping together at Vespers, a panel which included Dean Lily Macrakis, Dr. Demetrios Katos, Dr. James and Stephanie Skedros, Michael Kallas, Nikki Stournaras, and Fr. Gerasimos Makris provided the group with their personal accounts regarding their vocational paths in life. The Dean reminded the new students that it is okay not to know exactly what you are going to do because God provides all kinds of unforeseen opportunities in life that one must be open to seeing.
On Sunday morning Fr. Nicholas Triantafilou, President of Hellenic College and Holy Cross, joined the retreat. Father Triantafilou led the students in a “Teaching Liturgy.” The students watched intently as Father Nick conducted the Kairon and vesting prayers. Furthermore, the students stated that it was a great blessing to see the preparation of the bread and wine during the Proskomide. The group chanting of Orthros and Liturgy was led by Holy Cross student Mary Long.
The Office of Vocation and Ministry (OVM) at Hellenic College is funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. The OVM provides opportunities for college students, high school students, and those who serve them, for growth in Orthodox Christian vocation and leadership through theological inquiry, ongoing reflection, and service activities by way of retreats, workshops, classes, conferences, study sessions, and mini-grants. Please refer to the OVM website for further information.