Malankara Orthodox conference draws 180 youth to seminary campus

SVS faculty member Dr. Albert S. Rossi fields questions from one of the 180 youth from the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, who attended a Thanksgiving Day weekend retreat on the seminary campus titled “Can You Hear Him Now?”

Thanksgiving Day weekend generally evokes expectations of food, family, and football. But on Saturday, November 29, 2008, one hundred and eighty youth met on St. Vladimir’s Seminary’s (SVS) campus for a different sort of fellowship: a retreat focused on discerning God’s voice and discovering their vocation. The theme of the retreat was “Can You Hear Him Now?”

The young people, ranging from 8th-graders to post-college graduates, hailed from Boston to Baltimore, and from parishes in the American Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, a church within the Oriental Orthodox communion. An annual conference always held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the retreat is sponsored by the Mor Gregorios Orthodox Christian Student Movement (MGOCSM), an organization which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary of ministering to the spiritual needs of young students.

Retreat master and speaker Dr. Albert S. Rossi titled his three presentations to the youth “Vocation, Silence, and Prayer,” “Vocations and Relationships,” and “Can You Hear Him Now?”. Dr. Rossi serves as Adjunct Professor of PastoralTheology at SVS. Miss Ceena Varghese, 2nd- year seminarian in the Master of Arts program at SVS, assisted in the retreat by using the medium of music, and Vijay Thomas, 3rd-year seminarian in the Master of Divinity program, was the campus organizer of the conference.

“This retreat really was important for our young people, who often have a lot on their plates, with school and family responsibilities, friends, and so on,” said The Rev. Dn. Philip Mathew, Admissions and Alumni Relations Officer at the seminary.“It's easy for them to succumb to the temptation of setting aside the one thing needful while they focus on other important matters. By recalling our common Christian vocation and the living presence of God with us in all aspects of our lives, Dr. Rossi was able to bring back some much-needed perspective. Participants left feeling spiritually refreshed and centered.”

Retreat participants also enjoyed spending time on the serene campus and having the opportunity to meet with faculty, SVS alumni serving in the Malankara Church, and current seminarians, both of Indian and non-Indian backgrounds. 

SVS Dean The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr expressed his joy at the ability of the seminary to host the event and to contribute to its success. "As a dedicated and outstanding institution of Orthodox theological education, we are very concerned to be of service to our Oriental Orthodox brothers and sisters in the most important task of the education and the formation of our young people,” he noted. “They are our future, and we are committed to doing all that we can to aid their growth in life and faith and spiritual understanding.”