His All Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, called together youth workers from around the world to participate in the International Youth Forum May 2-4, 2014. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA was represented by our director of Youth & Young Ministry, Natalie Kapeluck Nixon. The youth directors and coordinators present portrayed the diversity of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with representatives from such varying locations as Korea, New Zealand and Finland.
The chairman of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Committee for Youth, His Eminence Metropolitan Nikita, led the three day forum. The introductory sessions provided the participants the opportunity to discuss challenges faced in our ministry and that the youth face in our respective countries. It was enlightening to discover we share many of the same struggles. The issues identified as unique to a specific area were open for discussion and suggestions.
The later sessions focused on the creation of a network for youth and youth workers of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. There was much excitement over the possibilities such an international network could afford our ministries. The process to initiate such a resource has begun and with the blessing of His All Holiness will begin development. The members of the forum requested that the possibility for future gatherings such as this be explored for the purpose of learning, training and exchange of those working in youth ministry.
In addition to the forum's work sessions, participants were afforded the great opportunity to visit the historical Byzantine seat of Orthodoxy, Hagia Sophia. Whether it was a first visit or one of many, those in attendance were renewed with the awe and beauty of the structure and its place in our shared Orthodox history. The forum concluded by joining in Divine Liturgy at the Monastery of the Life Giving Spring of the Mother of God. This was another amazing opportunity for the participants to be with His All Holiness in receiving of the Sacraments. This particular monastery houses the resting place for the Ecumenical Patriarchs dating back several centuries. On this day the delegation was honored to be present for the annual memorial service, led by His All Holiness, for his predecessors.
Following a private luncheon with His All Holiness and his Synodal bishops, the participants of the forum began to make their respective journeys home. The participants have already established a means of communication to continue the good work and discussion begun this past week and look forward to future endeavors together on behalf of our Risen Lord!
Photos courtesy of Fr. Stephen Loposky, Kyriakos Vasilakis and Efstratios Chatzidakis