92nd FOCA National Convention Recap

From July 20-23, 2018, Fellowship members, friends and guests gathered at the historic Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, MO for the 92nd annual national convention. This was the 2nd convention held together with the Orthodox Church in America’s All-American Council which took place from July 23-27. It was sponsored by the national executive board with Carol Deerson as chair and Deacon Peter Ilchuk as CP&O director and AAC coordinator. National President Marge Kovach presided over the sessions and delivered the main banquet address.

A joint program book was published by Michael Schultz, Journal managing editor, and Dr. John Schultz, past national president (just as in Atlanta three years earlier), assisted by Donna Tesar, with the proceeds divided between the OCA and FOCA. Metropolitan Tikhon, FOCA spiritual leader and OCA primate, extended his greetings and noted the council’s theme “For the Life of the World.” “There is no more fitting theme for this annual convention, and for the Fellowship itself, than these words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel of St. John and enshrined in the Divine Liturgy. ‘For the Life of the World’ is not simply the title of Father Alexander Schmemann’s influential book but expresses in concrete terms the raison d’être of our fellowship, as expressed in the following passage from that book: ‘If there are priests in the Church, if there is the priestly vocation in it, it is precisely in order to reveal to each vocation its priestly essence, to make the whole life of all men the Liturgy of the Kingdom.’ (page 93) From its beginnings, FOCA has been a fellowship dedicated to keeping its members, young and old alike, connected to the fullness of the Church and her sacraments and to a vision that looks outward with a sense of mission.”

His Beatitude continued: “Through the work of the Fellowship ... hundreds and hundreds of people not only have remained connected to the Church but, more importantly, have found their own priestly vocations within the Church. Certainly, FOCA has encouraged scores of ordained vocations, but all the greater is the number of Orthodox faithful who have found the priestly essence in their own vocation and have dedicated themselves and their families to transforming every aspect of their lives into the ‘Liturgy of the Kingdom.’ This is the essential work of the Church and the essential work of our Fellowship. We are grateful for the transformational work FOCA accomplishes especially on behalf of our youth and our mission communities. As we gather for this 92nd convention, it is our prayer that each of us will come to an understanding, as Fr. Alexander so eloquently wrote, ‘... that the vocation of all vocations is to follow Christ in the fullness of His priesthood: in His love for man and the word, His love for their ultimate fulfillment in the abundant life of the Kingdom.’”

Bishop Paul of Chicago and the OCA Diocese of the Midwest likewise welcomed both Fellowship conventioneers and council participants as host hierarch. He wrote: “It is my hope to attend the plenary sessions on Saturday July 21st. I look forward to participating in the Sunday activities of the convention, especially concelebrating the Divine Liturgy with the entire Holy Synod on Sunday, July 22nd. I pray that the events of the Convention will draw us all closer together in the bond of friendship, fellowship, and communion with one another founded on the love of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. The theme of this All-American Council is ‘For the Life of the World.’ The theme for the 2015 Council in Atlanta was ‘Expanding the Mission.’ I think both of these themes have great relevance to FOCA when it comes to discerning how to expand the work of FOCA throughout the lower 48 states. Think of new ways you can let other churches know of your work and invite them to get involved.”

In his letter, National Spiritual Advisor Father Theodore Boback penned: “The FOCA is recognized as an integral organization within the OCA, and a vital synergistic and symbiotic relationship has existed between the FOCA and the OCA for many years. In the upcoming decade of our organization, we will observe the centennial celebration of its existence. It was in the year 1927 that Father Vladimir Prislopsky, with others, founded our organization. The FOCA possesses a rich history, legacy and a membership which promotes a vision, mission and motto (Pray, Study, Toil and Be Temperate). It has supported many aspects of Church Life such as religious education, liturgical music, publication of Orthodox literature in English, support of the Diocese of Alaska. Seventyfive years ago, the organization provided the first U.S. Armed Forces Orthodox priest (Fr. Vladimir Borichevsky) with an Orthodox Military Chaplain kit. This support continues today to our seminaries, the annual gifts of love program (currently IOCC disaster relief), scholarships to college/university students and seminarians. ... Metropolitan Tikhon in his letter to clergy in September 2017 wrote that: ‘... the FOCA has established itself as one of the most important fellowships of the OCA ... we invite every member of the OCA to inquire into the good works of the FOCA so that the works might be multiplied across the entirety of the OCA.’”

And National President Kovach stated: “For more than 9 decades, the Fellowship has been assisting in the work of the Church while providing practical means for Orthodox Christians to endure lasting friendships on a local and national level. As an official organization of the OCA, we strive to perpetuate a mutually beneficial relationship amongst our chapters, the national FOCA, parishes and the national Church. The FOCA remains steadfast in our commitment to continue to promote our mission of fellowship and the joining together of Orthodox Christians in service to members of our Orthodox faith as well as other charitable causes. It also affords us, as individuals, the opportunity to strive to be good stewards of the talents and resources with which we have been blessed. Membership in the FOCA provides the network, leadership and resources by which we can accomplish this on a large scale outside of our individual parishes.”

On Friday afternoon, July 20th, registration opened for conventioneers outside the session rooms. The national board of trustees held its preconvention meeting to finalize the agenda. And that evening’s open house, “Meet Me at the Fair,” featured games, trivia, activities, ice scream sundaes and more as Fellowship members got reacquainted. Saturday morning, July 21st, shortly after 9 a.m., the opening procession of the board took place led by Stephen Wasilewski with the American flag, Carol Deerson with the icon of St. Andrew, FOCA patron saint, and your Editor with the icon of North American saints. Father Ted and Deacon Peter then celebrated the molieben and annual panakhida (especially commemorating members who had reposed since the last convention) with responses conducted by Basil Kozak. Clergy present included Archbishop Michael of New York and New Jersey, Bishop David of Alaska, Bishop Paul and Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa; OCA Chancellor Father John Jillions; Fathers Daniel Ressetar and William Evansky, both past national spiritual advisors, and Father Emilian Hutnyan.

President Kovach gavelled open the plenary session and the assembly sang the national and Fellowship anthems. National Recording Secretary Danielle Ilchuk conducted the roll call. Past national presidents present were recognized: Michael Herzak, Dr. Alice Woog, Carol Deerson, John Kruchok, Polly Walker, Michael Steffaro and Dr. John Schultz. Mr. Herzak was appointed parliamentarian and Walter Alesevich was named credentials chair. Mrs. Deerson welcomed all to the convention and hoped everyone enjoyed last night’s fair event. Host Bishop Paul then addressed the group: “I want to welcome everyone to St. Louis which is part of our diocese. It is interesting to hear the FOCA hymn which we just sang. You should know that I grew up in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and Orthodoxy was not very well known in Kokomo, Indiana. My question to you is how do you grow this ministry, this fellowship? We can’t just limit it to our people anymore but we need to draw others, those outside, into it. That is the greatest challenge: attracting new members and chapters. I do recognize several people from St. Vladimir’s Camp which was held just recently. Again, welcome and my thanks to you all!” Dr. Schultz, nominating committee chair, asked members to meet with him for nominations to national office.

Attention turned to the convention report book compiled by Sandy Kapelan, national administrative secretary. Father Ted, after noting that both St. Tikhon’s and St. Vladimir’s Seminaries have new deans, stated that we must take “a hard look at our Fellowship and see where we are going.” He proposed a meeting with past national presidents and spiritual advisors in order to obtain their input. And he said that we must reexamine our relationship with the OCA. IPP Becky Tesar urged everyone to email information for the website and Facebook page: “the best way to reach our members is electronic communication.” Marge personally thanked Becky for all her help.

Ohio District Gov. Melissa Tesar reported on “a great 3 weeks of camp” at St. Vladimir’s. There were 51 campers. Vice President Allison Steffaro commented that Father John Kennerk, Holy Assumption Church, Canton, OH, was the priest for the 1st week and had received FOCA St. Nicholas gifts for 3 years while at St. Tikhon’s Seminary – he couldn’t thank us enough! “He is an amazing young priest.” Melissa said that Father John even returned in the 3rd week of camp as a substitute. “We are getting kids who do 1 week of camp and then Junior Olympics.” They hope to install the new pool in the fall. Junior Olympics next year is July 7-13. Marge remarked that “camp impacts lives forever.”

Your Editor gave a brief update on the Orthodox Christian Journal, specially thanking Michael Schultz for his hard work and the professional “look” of our membership magazine – his new digital printer enables us to have color front and back covers, too. Other reports were reviewed and commented on. Nex, r. Schultz moved to examine our national conventions (dates, format, timing, venue, etc.) by way of a committee; he also suggested that the OCA explore the idea of having a Church-wide gathering together with the FOCA national convention in the years without an AAC. The motion passed with little discussion. Subsequently, Michael Steffaro asked for clarification of the motion because he was not sure all understood the meaning of the motion or the actual vote. This led to considerable discussion. Mr. Herzak then moved that Father Ted’s motion regarding a meeting of past presidents/spiritual advisors be discussed on  the floor later in the convention; motion approved.

Danielle Kovach reported that only three entries were received for the Celebration of Faith arts contest but that all were “awesome.” They will be on display for the rest of the week. [We’ve included them in this issue and indeed each is a striking piece of art!] Kenneth Kidd of FOCUS North America gave a presentation on that charity’s work. “I came into Orthodoxy at an Antiochian parish and am now a member of the OCA parish in Weirton, WV. We are told to remember that God has made all in His image and likeness. What if every person had the icon of Christ on his/her chest? How would we react? Sometimes it is hard to see that icon but we are called to clean and restore that icon in all who are around us, to be the Good Samaritan. FOCUS tries to reach needy people in urban, metropolitan cities and is based in Carnegie, PA, just outside Pittsburgh.  We also have centers in Cleveland, Anaheim and elsewhere. We would love to partner with your parish in the city areas and, in rural areas, we can come to your parish and partner with families who need assistance. Please help us help others!” [The Holy Synod of Bishops visited FOCUS Gateway City Center at St. Michael’s Church (OCA) in St. Louis on Sunday and those in the youth program had a work day there on Thursday of the council week; over $6,000 was contributed to FOCUS from donations received during the services.]

The assembly then engaged in some parliamentary maneuvering not seen in recent years. Mr. Herzak moved to reconsider Dr. John’s motion because he felt it was not clear and “puts the cart before the horse.” Father Ted stated that we must have a plan for our future before we can discuss the convention format, etc. Some debate ensued before the motion carried. And Dr. John then moved to table his own motion which passed.

Mr. Herzak, as chair of St. Tikhon Seminary board of trustees, gave an update on the married student housing project to which the Fellowship contributed $300,000 in 2015. The seminary has finally taken possession of the former orphanage building and construction has started: at least 2 apartments will be ready for the fall semester, 1 is occupied now and will be remodeled after that student leaves, and another 2 apartments will be done later. The seminary is also looking to purchase 2 homes nearby which are adjacent to the property. Mrs. Steffaro stated that the South River (NJ) “R” Club will provide furnishings for those new apartments. Archbishop Michael, seminary rector, next spoke: “I want to thank the Fellowship again for your gift of $300,000 which jump-started this project.  As you think about the future and as you re-envision the Fellowship, think about what you’ve done and can do in the future. I want to personally invite all of you to the seminary’s 80th anniversary – October 11-13. You will know what you’ve done. Father Kennerk [who was at camp] was so grateful. We studied just what to do with the orphanage building. You planted that seed and may that seed grow. Come and see! We will have a slide presentation at the council and you can hear the voices of those whom you’ve helped. Do not minimize your gift. Thank you!” Marge responded that she would love to have a young adults retreat at the seminary to spruce up the apartments.

Longtime national treasurer Michael Bowan presented next year’s budget which was approved. Becky Tesar stated that the OCA has asked the FOCA to sponsor a leadership conference based on Deacon Danilchuk’s book and plans are underway. Dr. Woog lamented that “we don’t have our mission statement [“To witness our Faith by charitable works through Fellowship”] prominently printed and displayed. I’m not sure what our intention is anymore. Our chapter [in Minneapolis] is still healthy, though smaller. I would invite suggestions.” Your Editor noted that the mission statement appears on page 3 of every Journal. Becky Tesar assumed temporary chair for nominations and Dr. Schultz presented this slate: president – Allison Steffaro; vp (none); secretary – Danielle Ilchuk; and treasurer Michael Bowan. No other nominations were received but members were urged to submit others, especially for vice president, by Monday. The opening session then adjourned rather abruptly at 11:15 a.m. with more than one participant left wondering why we didn’t remain for at least another hour or so with so many challenges confronting the Fellowship.

The afternoon was spent sightseeing in St. Louis: the Arch, the old courthouse, Busch Stadium,  Budweiser brewery, Forest Park. Choir rehearsal also was held. Father Ted and Deacon Peter served great vespers in the council chapel with Metropolitan Tikhon and bishops in attendance. Prof. David Drillock directed the mixed choir comprised of FOCA members and others. At the end, His Beatitude spoke briefly about the Fellowship and welcomed everyone to the 92nd national convention as well as the 19th AAC. In the evening, “Dining under the Stars” took place at the St. Louis Science Center’s planetarium with a buffet meal served right on the floor of the planetarium. During the cocktail hour, guests explored exhibits on the ground floor and then took a spaceship-style elevator to the planetarium itself. After dinner we were treated to a 45-minute private show of stars, planets and galaxies on the dome-shaped projection screen. Archbishop Michael and Bishop David were among those at dinner.

Divine Liturgy was concelebrated on Sunday morning, July 22nd, by Metropolitan Tikhon, the Holy Synod and guest hierarchs, Archbishop Seraphim of Zimbabwe and Archbishop Michael of Prague (14 bishops); some 20 priests, including Fathers Boback, Ressetar, Evansky, Hutnyan and Nicholas Wyslutsky (FOCA); and several deacons including Archdeacon Joseph Matusiak and Deacons Ilchuk and Joseph Shaluha. Prof. Drillock again directed the mixed choir in the responses. In his homily on the Gospel reading of the 2 fish(es) and 5 loaves, Bishop Paul stressed that we must deal with the very difficult issues of today just as the Apostles were faced with feeding the multitudes. Christ transformed them in his miracle and they became more than fish and loaves. The Church Fathers see the fish as the Apostles and John the Baptist whereas the loaves are the 5 books of the Law. Their fragmentation, he said, was unified by Christ in this miracle. “We need to hear about the Cross, which is foolishness to this world. St. Jerome taught that the law was broken up in parts but Christ fulfilled the law in His person and this food became for eternal life.” The crowds were satisfied and there was more than enough. “We become divided when we lose our focus on Christ and His Kingdom and His righteousness. The Internet creates much turmoil these days – people scream online but don’t talk faceto-face. As the Orthodox Church we have the wonderful unifying presence of Christ to offer this world, and we must share Christ with others. For His Word is Truth and defines what is right and wrong. Let us celebrate our unity in Christ, let us partake of His One Body and Blood, and let us be filled with the joy of the Risen Lord through the scandal of the Cross – He died for all. And let us come to His Holy Cup with fear and trembling. When I approach the cup,” His Grace concluded, “my knees are sometimes knocking. Are we ready for His Second Coming?”

At the end of liturgy, Bishop Paul welcomed Metropolitan Tikhon and the other clergy and congregants (numbering well over 300). His Beatitude in turn greeted all present for the council, especially the local faithful and those attending the FOCA convention. He also introduced the guest bishops, noting in particular the OCA’s ties to the Orthodox Church of Slovakia and the Czech Lands because many of the original faithful came from that Church such as St. Alexis (Toth). Vladyka Tikhon then awarded the first newly reinstated military cross for retired chaplains to Father Daniel Ressetar (Lt.Col. AF ret.), age 91. Father Boback, dean and executive director of Orthodox military and VA chaplains, had the original cross reproduced in Canada using an original version which was funded by an anonymous donor. [Other chaplains received theirs later in the council and others will be awarded by diocesan bishops]. Many years was then intoned for all.

“Baba’s Auction” concluded in the afternoon with the awarding of prizes. Others continued to tour the sites in St. Louis or simply relaxed at the hotel pool or lobby. That evening featured the “Gateway Banquet and Dance” with a bishop and seminarian at each table once more. After the procession, opening prayer and anthems, Carol Deerson introduced her son-in-law, Michael Steffaro, as toastmaster. After the perfunctory “jokes” and introduction of guests, he called upon Metropolitan Tikhon for his primatial message: “Greetings at this 92nd national convention here in St. Louis – ‘For the Life of the World’ is the theme of this All-American Council and it is a blessing to be here with the Holy Synod at this banquet. I am pleased to be here with the strong leadership of your president, Marge, Father Ted and Becky as past president at this 2nd joint event with the AAC. I also welcome Metropolitan Seraphim and Archbishop Paul who represent churches who are our friends – the FOCA can play a part in solidifying our Faith with them and others. As we gather here, there will be discussions and plans we hope to implement for the future. A useful role can be played by the FOCA – you have always connected with the life of the Church. The work of the FOCA has been dedicated to the life of the Church.” He then quoted from Father Alexander Schmemann on the “priestly vocation.” “For over 9 decades, the Fellowship has provided a venue to hear the call of the Lord. The FOCA has provided a place for priests but all have a ‘priestly vocation.’ This is the essential work of the Church and the Fellowship. Father Alexander challenged us to consider all in the Gospel of Christ. FOCA offers such a transformational work, and we hope for new ways and models to further the work of the Fellowship.” As Father Alexander wrote in For the Life of the World: ‘The meaning, the essence and the end of all vocation is the mystery of Christ and the Church.’ May God bless all of you and may the work of the convention be fruitful and the work of the Council be blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ.”

President Marge Kovach then delivered an inspiring speech, summing up her dedicated 3 years as national president (her words are reproduced elsewhere in this issue.) “Now is my favorite job as president at the convention banquet: awarding the national scholarships!” She then awarded $8,000 to deserving students, several of whom were in attendance at the banquet (they will be profiled in the next issue). Bishop David took the podium next and, on behalf of the Alaskan Church, after thanking the FOCA again for the coloring books (which are still being distributed) and the donations for the St. Nicholas Chapel, presented Marge with a framed drawing of the chapel. As the banquet ended, the dancing began. A surprise was the appearance of about 25 Alaskan youth and their chaperones who had just arrived in St. Louis, many of whom had never left their home state before. Though somewhat shy at first, they soon joined in the dancing and made quick friends with the other youth and young adults.

The final sessions on Monday, July 23rd, started nearly on time at 9:10 a.m. as President Kovach opened the meeting. Archbishop Michael, Bishop David and Bishop Paul were present together with OCA Chancellor Jillions and other clergy, including Father Jason Vansuch. Future national conventions were promoted (Minneapolis in July 2020) and sports tourneys awarded. Marge will present a gift of over $19,000 to IOCC during the council from this year’s Gift of Love project! Father Nick Wyslutsky discussed a national youth rally which is in the idea stage; he is putting together a committee. He asked OCF kids what would bring you to a national conference? speaker, venue, invite a patriarch? It would be sort of a world youth day. Basil Kozak stated they have had problems planning a music conference. He spoke to Prof. Drillock and some at St. Tikhon’s; he is open to ideas. Metropolitan Tikhon then entered the convention room to the singing of “Eis polla eti despota!”

Under new business, Tabitha House – a Kenyan orphanage for some 26 – was proposed as next year’s “Gift of Love” project. Allison Steffaro said that the kids at St. Vladimir’s Camp developed a relationship with a Kenyan school through Skype – they raised funds, learned some Swahili, and a bishop explained what they need: food, clothing, shelter, scholarships. Barbara Freimann of St. Mark, Bethesda, remarked that they have helped a Kenyan diocese with Orthodox study bibles and even a car for a missionary: “Kenyans will know who we are if we support this project!” The project was approved.

Discussion returned to Father Ted’s meeting proposal for past presidents and spiritual advisors. Mr. Herzak stated that the past presidents met on Saturday and have a separate proposal to make. Dr. Woog said that they came up with a statement re: FOCA & OCA on the need for a fulltime youth coordinator. “The youth need us more than ever – this will be a collaborative effort with the OCA.”

“The FOCA will develop and focus its current and future human and fiscal investments in a partnership with the OCA to create, promote, communicate and implement positive direct experiences for youth and seminarian growth and development” read the proposal’s introduction. The youth coordinator would be responsible for all activities of the youth department, be a direct liaison with each diocese and diocesan youth coordinator, and be a direct liaison with the seminaries to provide seminarian assistance. A lengthy discussion ensued. Melanie Clark, national sports director, said that her children sat with Archbishop Michael at the banquet and all thought that a youth director was much needed. “This could carry us to the year 100 of the FOCA!” Bishop Paul stated that it was a great idea but had a

concern as to coordination at the local diocesan level; the relationship has to be well-defined. “To whom is the youth coordinator accountable?” Metropolitan Tikhon commented: “I was with the youth at the council this morning. There is such a sense of being alive with their neon orange shirts. This is a great idea that Alice has proposed. There is strength with the FOCA chapters and districts but you are not present through the entire church. There is a ‘tension’ between various levels. I will address this issue tonight. FOCA is great at coordination but how will it work at the practical level?,” he asked.

Marge pointed to the Western PA diocese which has a single youth department for the diocese and the Pittsburgh District. George Clark, an Ohio State student, expressed the fear that the Fellowship experience won’t be here for us and our children in the future. We need a step-by-step schedule to grow chapters or start new ones. Establish small, makeable goals, say 3 new chapters by the next convention. There was a great youth presence at the Ohio camp. Others noted that we must seek ways to get young families to the convention – cost is a concern. We need a “Journey to 100” – a committee to get us to our centennial anniversary. Todd Walker, St. Mary’s, commented that we both need a long-range plan and to work with the church. He and his family lived all over the country and helped start chapters. He remembered well Father Michael Anderson who served as youth director for both the OCA and FOCA. Becky Tesar asked how do we get the 30- to 45-year olds back with their children? She can sell the idea of a YC to her parish and others: do this in order to see that your kids stay in the church. The same goes for those with grandchildren, too. This is a very interesting meeting, Polly Walker said, but how many will be here at conventions in the future? Adults with children can’t afford and don’t really want to come to a business meeting. Carol Deerson stated we have bright people in our Fellowship – look at what George Clark came up with together with 5 or 6 other young people. “We can do these things now! Let’s get our membership department going again!” Father Ressetar stated that the YC should be an active member of the FOCA. Deacon Shaluha, Capitol City, Columbus, noted that they created their chapter when they moved there – we want our kids to see a bigger group at next year’s national convention in our city. “Natalia” asked who is considered a youth? I’m 26, not young. Where is the transition? “If I don’t know anyone there at camp or a convention, why should I go? Let’s think about young adults.” Mr. Kruchok: we completed the married student housing project successfully. “Let’s challenge the Church” since there is no fulltime YC in the OCA. This would not affect the diocesan level as he doesn’t see the position as being the same that Father Anderson used to hold. Bishop David, responding to an earlier comment, stated that “no one on the Holy Synod doesn’t like the FOCA – some don’t like the way you do things, however.” Our youth department is very underfunded and we’ve had trouble finding the right person. The good news is that there are more youth than ever here in St. Louis, including about 25 from Alaska! The biggest problem is that we must invest in someone to lead the youth – it’s finances.

Concluding the debate, Metropolitan Tikhon stated: “I’m grateful for this conversation. In the OCA we are ‘refreshing’ the chancery and the departments in the process. We need breathing room for new ideas, new initiatives. This also applies to the youth department. I’d be delighted to have FOCA knock on the door and make us an offer – this is our plan and idea to fund it!” Dr. Woog then moved to authorize the executive board to explore the idea of a youth coordinator in collaboration with the FOCA and OCA and report back at next year’s Columbus convention which was approved unanimously. Mr. Herzak stressed that it was imperative to implement this plan. Becky Tesar moved that a task force be empowered to establish a plan; Father Ted asked that spiritual advisors be included. This too passed. A question arose as to our archives which are currently in storage at $75 monthly. Archbishop Michael said St. Tikhon’s Seminary is willing to provide storage at no charge and this would be a good way to showcase the FOCA and its history – this would be a tribute and resource available to others. Your Editor suggested that OCA archivist Alexis Liberovsky be consulted on what items to keep.

Bishop David then introduced Father Vasily Fisher of St. James Church, Napaskiak, AK who said: “I wanted to show our love for the Church. So we decided to start a youth conference and raise funds in order to give the youth ownership of their parishes. There is a big struggle with alcohol & drug abuse and suicide in Alaska. We want to give life and hope for our youth. I pledge to try and establish a new FOCA chapter in my parish!” (Sustained applause). Mr. Herzak urged the executive board to give more time for discussion in our sessions: “We’ve gone from one extreme to the other. We need to add a couple of hours to Saturday’s session.” Laura Johnson suggested that we bring back “break out sessions” (the former committees) where a lot of good ideas get generated. Archbishop Michael proposed that Rebecca make a video about the school in Kenya, the Ohio camp, the Alaskan chapter as a promo for the FOCA – something to show parishes and the AAC. Allison Steffaro said that the theme for Celebration of Faith would be announced earlier; Barbara Freimann asked that we invite a group of students to participate as a church school class in addition to individuals. “Christopher Columbus,” bearing a striking resemblance to George Clark, promoted next year’s 93rd in Ohio! Mrs. Deerson noted that $3,000 was raised for Gifts of Love from the 2018 Ireland cruise – next year we go to the western Mediterranean.

Father Jillions then addressed the assembly, his last convention as chancellor. “How grateful I am to have been introduced to the Fellowship 7 years ago. You still have enthusiasm for your history and the future, especially your focus on youth. The average size of the 700 OCA parishes is only 50! We need to connect the youth and the FOCA is great at that. Keep trying! I’ll be at the Bridgeport, CT parish where I understand that there are 8 independent members. I hope to restart the chapter!” (Much applause). Melissa Tesar announced the stock awards with the grand prize of $300 going to North Pittsburgh, #1. Becky Tesar assumed temporary chair for nominations and the following slate of national officers was approved unanimously: President – Allison Steffaro; VP – Todd Walker; Recording Secretary – Danielle Ilchuk.; Treasurer – Michael Bowan; and Marge Kovach is IPP. As is customary, Becky was “carried off” the stage by the past presidents as she leaves the board! Father Ted led the installation of officers ceremony and each had the opportunity to say a few words with Allison simply saying “Thank you for the privilege to serve the Fellowship as the new national president.” George Clark moved to adjourn the 92nd and Deacon Shaluha seconded. President Steffaro closed the convention at 12:04 p.m. and then led the closing ceremony with the big circle of hands (right over left), recitation of the motto, the “squeeze” and the singing of “Faith of Our Fathers.” And so this national convention goes into the history books and we look forward to our 93rd in Columbus, OH over Labor Day weekend 2019. See you there!


The hotel featured a stunning, high-domed, grand lobby from the former train station with hourly light shows and the longest bar imaginable. It was a sprawling complex with the meeting rooms under the “train yards” which made for lots of walking... adjacent was a large manmade pond surrounded by restaurants and a fire & light show periodically... be careful following your GPS to the planetarium! ... there was plenty of exhibit space for the council which ranged from vestments to books to incense to caskets .. the Fellowship had its own booth for the council ... enjoyed meeting monks from Holy Cross Hermitage in WV (ROCOR) ... choir members sang under the steady direction of Dave Drillock, professor of music emeritus from St. Vlad’s who was told he hasn’t lost his fastball! ... outgoing president Marge Kovach (many thanks for your service and help with the Journal!) presented to the council on Thursday with a slide-show prepared by Rebecca Kozak ... a number of Juniors participated in activities during the convention and many stayed for the council’s youth program ... a special surprise was the 25 or so Alaskan youth and chaperones who appeared at the dance Sunday evening, having just flown in ...good to see Fr. Mike & Mat. Val Hatrak, now retired and living in the Pittsburgh area ... heard that St. Tikhon’s alumni had a special dinner at Lombardo’s nearby followed by an impromptu concert of Russian folk music led by the talented vocalist, Fr. Stephen Meholick ... Conventioneers came from all over: Arizona, Minnesota, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, Michigan and places in between! ... and we missed seeing some regulars such as John & Pat Inhat, Donna Tesar, Nick & Monica Vansuch, Sonia Kraftician, Linda Livosky, Olga & Joe Baldowski, Maryann & Wally Bacsik and others.