OCL Annual Meeting 2015 – Orthodox Working Together [UPDATED WITH VIDEOS]

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OCL Board Members Seated: Andy Kartalis, Dr Peter Haikalis, George Pontikes, President and George Matsoukas, Exec Dir. Standing (L to R): Archbishop Benjamin, George Karcazes, Argo Georgandis Pyle, Chris Xeros, Archbishop Nathaniel, Bill Souvall, Archbishop Michael, Peter Petkas, Peter Zarras, Michael Pacurar and Susan Haikalis.

OCL Board Members
Seated: Andy Kartalis, Dr Peter Haikalis, George Pontikes, President and George Matsoukas, Exec Dir. Standing (L to R): Archbishop Benjamin, George Karcazes, Argo Georgandis Pyle, Chris Xeros, Archbishop Nathaniel, Bill Souvall, Archbishop Michael, Peter Petkas, Peter Zarras, Michael Pacurar and Susan Haikalis.

Source: Orthodox Christian Laity

The Orthodox Christian Laity board of directors and advisors enjoyed a productive, thoughtful and prayerful Annual Meeting at Mission Bay (San Diego), California during the weekend of November 5-8, 2015.  In addition to the nuts and bolts business of managing the organization, the topic of fundraising and developing a steady flow of financial support was discussed. The board spent considerable time discussing the work of the Assembly of Bishops and the work of the Great and Holy Council scheduled for the week of Pentecost in May 2016.

OCL has been a leading supporter of the work of the Assembly and its web site (ocl.org) has been the place to go to read about its efforts to develop a blueprint for administrative Unity of Orthodox Christianity in the USA.  OCL continues to advocate for a unified, self-governing, autocephalous Church. It supports the blueprint that makes the Assembly the synod of bishops that oversees Orthodoxy in the USA and elects its own head. It seems that the Assembly of Bishops is at an impasse, and it is our hope that the will of God for His Church will be fulfilled by the Bishops gathered for the Council.  The present uncanonical situation of administration in the USA is unacceptable to the faithful stewards of the Church in the USA.

The most vibrant group within the body of the Church that is outspoken about unity and comes together to remain Orthodox Christian in our secular country is our youth.  The board of OCL will work more directly with youth groups promoting Orthodox Unity and assist them in becoming a unified network.  To demonstrate this commitment, the OCL board has provided grant funding to assist Pan Orthodox United (panorthodoxunited.org), an Ohio 501(c)3 nonprofit, in its effort to develop a marketing outreach program to young adults.  It will accomplish this objective by using social media to collaborate and to coordinate local and national youth events in all the parallel jurisdictions. Through this outreach program, youth will know what events are taking place, where they are taking place and will be encouraged to participate.

OCL will continue to strengthen the Grassroots Network Advocates for Orthodox Unity which it developed during the Spring of 2015.  Please consider becoming a member within your local parish. OCL will provide you with information via its web site that you can disseminate locally and with your local clergy association.  Sign up at http://oi.vresp.com/?fid=08869c9ff2.

Send us information about what Pan Orthodox activities you are doing in your local community.  Check out the OCL Website feature Grassroots Unity in Action link under the Governance and Unity Banner Category. We will post your feature in this category.

At the OCL Annual Meeting which took place following the board meeting, the following board members were elected to a three-year term ending in 2018:  Susan Haikalis, Nick Karakas, George Pontikes, William Souvall, Dr Gayle Woloschak and Tony Kasmer.  Hon. Robert Poydasheff and Roy Snyder were transferred to the Advisory Board, and Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the Diocese of the West was elected to the Board of Advisors. Officers for 2016 will be: George Pontikes, President; Bill Souvall, Peter Petkas, Andy Kartalis, Vice Presidents; George Karcazes, Treasurer; and Argo Georgandis Pyle, Secretary.

Open Forum

On Friday evening, November 5, a San Diego Community Open Forum was presented at St. John of Damascus Orthodox Church in Poway, CA.  The community fellowship and hospitality reception was extraordinary, and the board thanks Fr. & Matushka Alexander Federoff, Matushka Wendy Cwiklinski and parish members for helping organize the Open Forum.  Videos of the presentations on the topic of The Work of the Assembly of Bishops by Archbishop Michael of NY/NJ , Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate; and on the topic Orthodox Working Together by Andy Kartalis, Cleveland reporting on OCF; and Ben De La Riva, Executive Director of St. Innocent Orphanage, are posted below at the end of this article.  The text of an overview of the work of the Assembly of Bishops presented by George Matsoukas is posted here.

Board Field Trip to Project Mexico & St Innocent Orphanage

Archbishop Nathaniel and OCL Board members with the boys at St Innocent Orphanage.

Archbishop Nathaniel and OCL Board members with the boys at St Innocent Orphanage.

On Saturday, November 6, two vans and 19 board members visited Project Mexico & St. Innocent Orphanage.   Ben and Soula De La Riva, one in each van, accompanied the board.  What an inspirational journey!  We met Father Nick and Presbytera and children, and John Cosby who has been in charge of operations in Mexico for 11 years.  We had lunch with the boys who live at the facility.  We enjoyed a tour of the dorms and homeschooling classes.  The boys were so grateful to receive the blessing from Archbishop Nathaniel.  We saw a group of boys receiving love and care in a Christian atmosphere.  They were happy and well groomed.  They radiated joy. They played and released their energy in a safe setting. We learned that so many of our young people journey to Project Mexico for two-week work and spiritual experiences.  Already, all of the 500+ slots for youth pilgrimages from the USA to Project Mexico are filled.

Archbishop Nathaniel with some of the boys.

Archbishop Nathaniel with some of the boys.

For me, the highlight of the meeting was the passion about the work of Project Mexico & St. Innocent Orphanage transmitted to us by Ben and Soula De La Riva.  This passion has been translated into developing the best environment possible for the boys on the limited budget and resources they have to work with.  The central point of this work is Jesus Christ. This is a Christ-centered ministry.  Soula and Ben and the whole staff are Christ’s hands, feet and mind on the ground.  Last year, our board visited the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC); and that environment on the East Coast of Florida in St. Augustine is well served by its staff.  I felt the same emotions and passion emanating from Alex Goodwin when he discussed the Christ-centered work of the mission projects.  Orthodox Christians united and working together in the name of Jesus Christ, transcending jurisdictional social and cultural barriers, are transforming lives. Imagine what we could accomplish if we pooled our administrative and financial resources?

Sunday Divine Liturgy and Unction Service Celebrated

Archbishop Nathaniel with monastics, visiting clergy and faithful after the Divine Liturgy at Holy Resurrection Monastery in Temecula, CA.

Archbishop Nathaniel with monastics, visiting clergy and faithful after the Divine Liturgy at Holy Resurrection Monastery in Temecula, CA.

On Sunday morning, the board traveled to Holy Resurrection Monastery in Temecula, California.  What a magnificent 27 acre setting in the heart of wine country!  The Liturgy was celebrated by His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit.  He was assisted by Hieromonk Dionisie and Hierodeacon Neonil who are monks in the Romanian Episcopate and who conduct the Liturgy in English.  The monastery is two years old. OCL Board members who have fallen asleep in the Lord this year, including Fathers Gordon Walker and Thomas Hopko as well as Anthony Andrikopoulos and James Koulogeorge, were remembered during the Liturgy.  The hospitality extended to the overflow of some 100 faithful was appreciated by all. It was bountiful.  Following the fellowship, the sacrament of Holy Unction was celebrated, and many stayed to receive the blessing.

This was a productive meeting, and we pray that working together, OCL will strengthen its independent educational ministry dedicated to unity, transparency, accountability and involved laity.

George Matsoukas, Executive Director

Videos of the Meeting

Introductionhttps://youtu.be/j3YUZZKlLwc

Archbishop Nathanielhttps://youtu.be/kA_l9nRLoBI

Andy Kartalishttps://youtu.be/yJ7LngcGJ1M

Michael Pacurarhttps://youtu.be/OEf5ASrIPLQ

Question & Answer Sessionhttps://youtu.be/x9K4_xMwa5Q

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