April- May 2015
On April 18, the annual One Day Conference for G.R.O.W. (God Renewing Orthodox Women) Ministry convened on the campus of St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Yonkers, NY. This was the fourth diocesan conference hosted by G.R.O.W., the young women’s ministry of the Northeast American Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Women from Virginia to Boston attended the gathering.
The theme of the conference was “In God We Trust,” based on Psalm 62:5: “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him.” As in previous years, we were once again extremely honored to have the Diocesan Metropolitan, His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos, bless us with his presence and his words. His Grace, who formally established the young women’s ministry and is an appointed member of the St. Vladimir’s Board of Trustees, expressed his joy in the growth of the ministry and in the work God is doing through it. His Grace also encouraged the attendees to take an active role in the ministry.
The main speaker for this year was Ms. Katrina Bitar, a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and the Director of the Yes! Program of FOCUS North America. Katrina talked about how humans are motivated by fear and love, and said that our relationships grow through our struggles. She emphasized that trusting is more about self-forgetfulness, and that God uses pain to help us meet with Him.
In addition to the main speaker, two workshops were conducted. One workshop was titled “Christian Meditation” and was led by the Reverend Fr. M. K. Kuriakose, the vicar of St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church, Unruh Avenue, Philadelphia. Father Kuriakose taught participants how proper meditation time can not only strengthen one’s mind, but also the soul and body. Women learned how even in silence, God works in us. The other workshop was led by Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak, director of Admissions, Financial Aid, and Alumni Relations at St. Vladimir’s. Using the iconography of the Three Hierarchs Chapel at seminary, Pdn. Joseph led the participants in a discussion designed to help them engage with the iconography and sacred space of the Orthodox Church.
Discussions were held in small groups where women met with other women of similar age and had real lively discussions. There was also an open forum where the women had an opportunity to ask the Metropolitan and the guest speaker any questions that they had. In addition, there was a digital scavenger hunt for all the women and an activity for high school, college, and the singles/professional groups.
One of the main highlights of the conference was a campus tour that included a visit to the bookstore, where the women were given some time to browse and purchase books, prayer ropes, CDs, seminary t-shirts, and other items. It was also a beautiful experience to conduct the noon prayers in the Three Hierarchs Chapel, adorned with paschal flowers after the Feast of Resurrection. Women enjoyed the fellowship during lunch time, and were especially blessed with a beautiful sunny day. All women were given journals that highlighted the theme, and there were theme-based t-shirts available on sale.
The conference came to a close as the women spent time in spiritual reflection. During this time, the participants were encouraged to think about the power of the God in whom we trust — the God who has the power to part the Red Sea. They were reminded that like the people of Israel, they were chosen and that each one of them is precious in the sight of God. The participants were given time to write down their own “Red Sea,” i.e., their own obstacles in trusting God and the struggles they face in their lives. As they watched a video of the parting of the Red Sea, they were reminded that they can cast their burdens on the Lord. Each woman individually came up before the icon of Christ and was given an affirmation card with the theme verse and a prayer, as well as a prayer card based on this year’s conference theme. The spiritual reflection ended with the women reading these prayers together.
Through the support of the clergy and seminarians present, the volunteers from various churches, and the prayerful support from all the various spiritual organizations and friends, the conference was fruitful and uplifting. We acknowledge the cooperation and support of St. Vladimir’s Seminary in hosting this conference.
The mission of G.R.O.W. Ministry is to help women be active in their Orthodox faith and to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ, and to help them in their daily lives with the support and prayers of their sisters in the Church. Glory to God for a beautiful and blessed day!