On Friday, December 23, the 43rd Annual St. Herman’s Youth Conference opened at Holy Trinity Church in Vineland, NJ. This year, over 120 young people are taking part in the conference from the Eastern American Diocese, as well as some traveling thousands of miles from faraway Canada and Australia.
After Morning Prayers, the chairman of the St. Herman Executive Committee, Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal & Canada, greeted the attendees. In his remarks, he rejoiced over the number of registered participants after pandemic restrictions across the world have been finally relaxed. He noted the life and legacy of His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral; +2022), drawing similarities to how the reposed First Hierarch was involved in Church life from a young age, and the large contingent of youth present also interested in deepening their love for the Church.
The morning’s keynote address was delivered by Matushka Maria Naumenko, entitled "The Church: Our Link to Ultimate Reality," in which she discussed the importance of participating and serving in the Holy Church. Following resounding applause, the young people broke up into smaller discussion groups led by the clergy. Senior clergy were able to give invigorating discussion on Holy Confession and the order of the divine services, while others focused on more specific issues, such as being Orthodox while attending university, or the various paths of young monastics.
Facing the fierce December cold, everyone scurried across the street to Holy Trinity Church, where the sisterhood prepared a sumptuous lunch in the hall. After lunch, the day’s second keynote address was delivered by Subdeacon Eugene Fitzpatrick, during which he described his unique path to Orthodoxy. Additional discussion groups continued throughout the day.
In the evening, a panihida was held in the church for the ever-memorable Metropolitan Hilarion.
After dinner, the traditional talent show was held, where attendees showcased their various talents, ranging from singing and playing instruments to many more.
On Saturday morning, the work of the Youth Conference continued. The morning began with two lectures, entitled "Seek First the Kingdom! How I Heard the Call to Serve," by Hieromonk Theodore (Stanway; cleric of Holy Trinity Monastery; Deputy Dean of Students and instructor of Theology at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY) and "Virtuous Life as a Service to the Church" by Priest Daniel Franzen (cleric of the Mid-American Diocese; instructor of Church History and Dogmatic Theology at Holy Trinity Seminary).
The day continued with additional discussion groups until all gathered in church to read the Canon of Preparation for Holy Communion before the Resurrectional All-Night Vigil, officiated by the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Nicholas of Eastern America & New York.