My beloved spiritual children in Christ, our Savior,
As a Greek Orthodox parish we have many challenges but none is greater than to nurture our Christian children in the Faith. Our Holy Archdiocese of America has the Department of Ministries to provide the necessary support, guidance, programs and activities for the young people of our Archdiocese.
The Department of Ministries states the following: "Our mission is to strengthen the relationship of young Orthodox Christians with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, encouraging them to become active sacramental participants in the life of the Body of Christ. The ministries offer them the opportunity to experience the Faith, ultimately leading them to Salvation. These ministries are not "organizations" or "clubs," but rather a ministry of the Church --a gathering of the faithful who share the same ages and common interests.
· HOPE Ministry (Holy Orthodox Primary Education): Holy Orthodox Primary Education, or HOPE, ministers to children in Kindergarten through 2nd grade. In smaller parishes, it is sometimes necessary to combine HOPE and JOY groups.
· JOY Ministry (Junior Orthodox Youth): Junior Orthodox Youth, or JOY, ministers to children in 3rd through 6th grade. The span from 3rd to 6th graced is a large one, and within it there are great variances in maturity. A well balanced JOY Ministry program will provide activities that meet the needs of all children in the ministry.
· GOYA Ministry (Greek Orthodox Youth of America): The Greek Orthodox Youth of America, or GOYA, ministers to young people ages 13-18. Teenagers should be in sixth/seventh through twelfth grades to participate, depending on how the junior high/middle school is structured with the area...Since GOYA is ministry of the Church, the orientation and implementation of the program should reflect the Orthodox Christian Faith, Holy Tradition and Life.
· ALTAR BOYS: The role of the Altar Boy remains a genuine and vital one in the Eucharistic Assembly of the faithful, as well as in other services. He stands ready to serve God in this capacity. It is a stewardship of Young men; a service that they offer to God as the regular Sunday offering of talent and ability.
· YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY: Young Adult Ministry ministers to young adults of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, ages 18-35 years old. There are many groups that fall within this category, including college-aged students, young professionals, young couples, etc. Each individual Young Adult Ministry should strive to minister to all young adults in the community as they transition through different life stages.
· EASTERN ORTHODOX COMMITTEE ON SCOUTING (EOCS): The EOCS was founded in 1960 under the auspices of the Standing Conference of Eastern Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) and is the officially recognized Eastern Orthodox religious committee for the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts USA, and Camp Fire Boys and Girls programs. EOCS provides support, programs, and recognitions to the scouts and scouters of Eastern Orthodox faith.
· CAMPING MINISTRIES: The purpose of the Office of Camping Ministries is to provide direction and unity for camping programs under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Whether an Archdiocesan, Metropolitan or Parish level camp, the Office of Camping Ministries is responsible for providing resources and training for camp staff, as well as for setting appropriate standards for camp operation.
The above Youth Ministries of our Archdiocese are extremely important for our Greek Orthodox Church in America. I ask you once again to make these ministries the number priority in our parish. We have been blessed with almost 100 children that should be involved in at least one of the above Church Ministries.
Our Chicago Metropolis offers many opportunities for our youth to join all the other Greek Orthodox youth and participate in the various and well organized activities throughout our Metropolis. One of the greatest of all investments of our Metropolis is the Saint Iakovos Retreat Center. "A place to celebrate our Faith and Heritage. Our Hellenic values are embedded in our Orthodox Faith, and the Saint Iakovos Retreat Center provides an ideal environment in which to appreciate, celebrate and strengthen the Greek Orthodox Church community."
I find it extremely disturbing and disappointing to see such indifference to our Church Youth Ministries. Our parish has great potential to have the Youth Ministries such as HOPE, JOY, GOYA, YOUNG ADULTS.
We all understand that the parish children are involved in activities outside the parish and there is nothing wrong with that. However, we must find time to engage them also in Church and Faith activities and ministries. We are losing our children from our Greek Orthodox Christian faith and Holy Tradition. Is that what you want as a parish, as parents, as a family?
This concern of mine, must become a parish concern. We must act now and not later. We have some wonderful and dedicated volunteers that are willing to operate these ministries but we need the children!
With agape in our Lord,