UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF YOUTH AND YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY
Mommy and Me, Daddy and Me Program Celebrates 15 Years
This summer marks the 15th anniversary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Mommy and Me, Daddy and Me program (MMDM). The director of Consistory Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry Natalie Kapeluck and the then Office of Family Director Debra Burgan founded MMDM. The hope was to provide a place for parents and children to spend time together in an Orthodox Family Environment. The children would be introduced to camp life at All Saints Camp and the parents given the opportunity to meet fellow Orthodox parents who are tackling the same challenges in today’s world. Fifteen years later, the program has far exceeded the expectations of its founders and become so much more than anticipated.
Under the current directors, Kira Senedak and Denise Strashinsky, parents and their children come for a week in early August to All Saints Camp to relax and enjoy being in a Christian community. Campers from Teenage Conference, another of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s programs, volunteer as Big Brothers and Big Sisters for the families. They assist the parents by watching their children, playing with them, doing arts and crafts with them, and giving the parents the chance to unwind. These Big Brothers and Big Sisters make it possible for the parents to attend guest lectures from speakers like Presvytera Melanie DiStefano, who spoke on this year’s theme of “In His Image” by relating it to her experience of raising a child with disabilities and Michael Kapeluck who discussed the theme as seen through the iconography of St Thomas Chapel.
In the last fifteen years, it has been wonderful to witness campers from the first ever session grow from small children into teenagers and in turn watch MMDM alumni return as staff. “Besides my daughter, Alexis, there are two other gals who started out here (today),” Fr. Taras Naumenko, the camp’s Spiritual Father, says. “They are Erica Holowko and Sophia Dobronos. I’m so happy that these three have maintained a friendship. They’ve gone through all the programs together and continue to be active in the church.” All three girls worked as Big Sisters in this year’s MMDM program.
Fr. Taras announced his retirement from the program at the final day's program. “To be up here nine years,” he says, speaking to the crowd of families and staff, “I do it for the love of this camp, the love of the church, and, most importantly, the love of the children.” Fr. Taras will be staying on with the camping ministry in another capacity with one of our other outstanding programs. Fr. Anthony Perkins will be stepping into the role of Spiritual Father for the MMDM program.
Families who have attended MMDM have enjoyed many wonderful activities through the years. Family crafts such as a large mosaic of the Mother of God, the first day hike, parent/child kickball games, the infamous MMDM campfires, and most importantly praying together as a family and an Orthodox Community.
The Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry would like to thank all of the past and present Spiritual Fathers, Directors, Staff and Families who have made Mommy & Me/ Daddy & Me the outstanding program that it is today. It is only through community and the love of Christ that we may succeed in endeavors. This program of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA is a shining testament to this and a true offering of our gifts back to our Lord.