Word Magazine October 1986 Page 19


by Ronald Nicola

Have you ever been to Antiochian Village? Chances are more people under 18 years old are able to answer in the affirmative than those who are beyond their teen years. Naturally, this is due to the fact that until September, 1985, Antiochian Village was primarily a summer camp facility. For the past nine summers, young people from throughout the United States and Canada have, in steadily increasing numbers, participated in camping sessions at this picturesque spot in western Pennsylvania’s Laurel Mountains.

Now however, the facilities at Antiochian Village have been expanded to include a magnificent Heritage and learning Center. Since the fall of 1985, a variety of programs have been held at the center which appeal to people of all ages and of varying interests. Antiochian Village is now a place where all Orthodox Christians, clergy and laity of all stages in life, can come for education, training, spiritual renewal, and fellowship.

The record shows that young people responded positively to the challenge placed before them to utilize a facility with great potential. Will adults respond in the same fashion to the challenge now before them to take full advantage of the Heritage and learning Center?

I raise this question as the result of an awareness gained through personal experience. As co-chairperson of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese Department of Stewardship, it was possible for me to coordinate a parish leaders training workshop at the Heritage and Learning Center. This event took place in March, 1986, and notices were sent to all parishes inviting them to send representatives. Many churches indicated their support for this type of program. Sixteen people were actually able to attend, and they represented nine parishes.

Since this seminar is envisioned as an annual event, it was important to establish a precedent and conduct the workshop with those who were able to make the journey to the Village. This decision proved to be most productive and rewarding. The sixteen came together, worked together, prayed together, and formed a bond of Christian love which was remarkable. I discovered through this first-hand experience that Antiochian Village is a place where such magic can happen.

This particular stewardship workshop was designed to provide participants, clergy and laity, with skills, training, and materials necessary to plan a parish level stewardship program. Activities were conducted to identify parish needs and then to design plans to address those areas. Three guidelines directed the working sessions held during this three day gathering. Commitment — participants pledged to devote significant time in their local parish applying the plans made during the workshop. Clergy — Laity Cooperation — no stewardship program can succeed unless it is developed and implemented through the joint efforts of the priest, parish council, and other committed individuals. The whole focus of a parish-level stewardship program is to discover ways of more meaningfully involving parishioners in the life of the Church. Stewardship workshops explore ways of inspiring people to recommit themselves to their faith and to give generously of their time, talents, and resources out of a sense of true love of God.

A beautiful spirit developed among the sixteen participants at this workshop. We worked hard on the goals and activities described above, but no one seemed to mind. In fact, a sense of joy and fulfillment soon filled our hearts as the seminar proceeded. The meeting areas, dining facilities and sleeping quarters at the Heritage and Learning Center are perfectly conducive to this, and many other, types of gatherings. The outside environment adds tremendously to the sense of peace and serenity. During breaks, quiet walks through the grounds, stopping at St. Ignatius Chapel, St. Thekla Outdoor Chapel, and scenic lookouts provide time for quiet reflection and productive conversation. The mood generated at the workshop became so inspiring that one participant, Fr. Elias Bitar, composed a prayer which captured his vision of stewardship!

0 Lord and Master of my life

Take from me the spirit of indifference, apathy and discouragement.

But rather give the spirit of involvement, service and sacrifice to thy servant.

Yea, 0 Lord and King, grant me to see my own lack of commitment to my faith,

To accept the challenges and responsibilities of Orthodoxy.

May I realize my duties toward my parish and joyfully accept them.

May I accept advice, follow spiritual leadership, and grow and mature in You, my Lord and Savior,

For I am Your Steward.

We have heard many comments about the travel obstacles people must deal with to reach Antiochian Village. I now know that no problem is too great to overcome when the reward is the love I shared with the people I met at this workshop. For years now, we have heard young people give oral, visual, and written testimonials about their experiences at Antiochian Village. It is time for all of us to listen to the children and to follow their lead. They (and their parents and parishes) have developed creative solutions to the problem of how to reach Antiochian Village. What they discovered is, it is not difficult at all. Once word began to spread about what a camping session at the Village was all about, motivation overcame any obstacle. Hopefully the adult community will respond to the same challenge and follow the lead of their children. It is time we listen to the children. At the time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:1-4

Author’s Note: In addition to this annual parish leaders’ workshop at the Heritage and learning Center, the Department of Stewardship is prepared to come to your parish and conduct similar training /planning sessions. Trained workshop leaders live in cities throughout the United States and Canada. Requests for more information and for setting up a workshop should be directed to the department through the Archdiocese Headquarters or by consulting the Archdiocese Directory for the names and addresses of the department coordinators.