ROYA Caroling Winter Camp, December 2022
ROYA held their annual winter camp “Tabăra de colinde'' at St. Dumitru Romanian Orthodox Monastery in Middletown, NY, from December 29th, 2022 to January 1st, 2023. The winter camp is one of the most anticipated events of our organization, partly due to the extended time spent together and the manner in which we pass to the new year. It was a blessing to spend the final days of the year together and to begin the new year in communal prayer with other young people, sharing in spiritual joy and singing carols.
We started the first day of camp with a warm meal and a couple introductory activities, which was followed by a conference via Zoom with Father Petru Neaga from Annunciation Romanian Orthodox Cathedral in Cleveland, OH. Father Petru was recently appointed ROYA’s Spiritual Father, with the blessing of His Eminence, our Metropolitan Nicolae. Throughout the conference, Father Petru encouraged us to unite our lives with Christ and to be courageous in confessing all of our sins and in keeping our bodies and souls clean, in order to achieve our life’s goal of salvation. The conference was followed by Vespers, served by Father Ieremia, the abbot of the monastery, who is a beloved host and spiritual guide of ROYA youth. We ended the night by splitting up into small teams and building gingerbread houses. This activity brought out our creative side. One of the teams derailed from the standard gingerbread house construction and created the city of New York, complete with Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. Another team drew the ROYA logo with frosting on the roof of their gingerbread house.
Our group began the second day of camp by attending Matins and Divine Liturgy, according to the monastery’s liturgical schedule. Right afterwards, we met with Father Hrisostom from Putna Monastery via Zoom. He spoke to us about the joy of the Nativity of the Lord, and the way that well-known Romanian carols relay this message in simple yet theologically rich terms. Father Hrisostom encouraged us to focus on our relationship with our neighbors and that providing joy to others is a path towards salvation. After spending a couple hours outdoors, playing team-building games, we gathered for another conference with Father Simion and His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicolae, on Zoom. Father Simion spoke to us and answered our questions about his experience working with NEPSIS (“Federația Frațiilor Nepsis din Mitropolia Ortodoxă Româna a Europei Occidentale și Meridionale”), an organization of Romanian Orthodox youth in Europe. Following the conference, we joined Father Ieremia and the brotherhood in the church for Vespers. After dinner, we gathered in the chapel and practiced the carols we were preparing to sing after Divine Liturgy on January 1st. Later that evening, our group prepared a tiramisu cake, to have as dessert for the following day. This was another fun team-building activity, as most participants helped in whichever way they could and the kitchen was filled with bustling energy.
We attended Matins and Divine Liturgy again on the third day. Afterwards, Father Ieremia spoke to us about the importance of the heart in our spiritual lives. Father Ieremia emphasized that only through our hearts can we get to know and truly feel our Lord Jesus Christ. We spent the rest of the day in anticipation of the New Year, preparing by practicing carols and confessing with Father Ieremia during free time. We spent the final hours leading up to the New Year through midnight together at Vigil, an Acathist to our Lord Jesus Christ, New Year’s prayers, and forgiveness hugs.
On Sunday, we partook in the Divine Liturgy wearing our “ii”. Divine Liturgy was immediately followed by our group’s caroling performance, “Vin Colindătorii”. Participants gathered in the church and sang a variety of carols together for an audience of monastery goers. After the official end of camp, a considerable number of our group were able to visit the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, located at the Holy Synod of Bishops cathedral in Manhattan. With Metropolitan Nicholas’ - First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia - blessing, Father Ieremia led a few members of our youth group and faithful from the New York city area in prayer to the icon of the Mother of God. It was a beautiful and blessed way to begin the New Year.
ROYA wishes to extend heartfelt gratitude to the people who continuously support our events by volunteering their time and energy!
Teodora Gîrlonța and Diana Vancea
"The Mother of God: in the world, not of the world" – ROYA Camp and the feast of Saint John Jacob at Allegan, Michigan
At the beginning of the Dormition Fast, from 30 July - 2 August, the youth of ROYA (Romanian Orthodox Youth of the Americas) were blessed with the opportunity to meet in person at the Protection of the Mother of God Monastery in Allegan, Michigan. Under the care of Father Petru Neaga from the Annunciation Parish of Cleveland, Ohio, the young people spent unforgettable days, combining the pleasant and the useful. They spent moments together outside, in the fresh air, in the wonderful landscape of the monastery. Likewise, they also participated in discussions and at Divine Liturgies.
On Saturday morning, the youth chanted at the Divine Liturgy, after which they served the lunch that was prepared by Preoteasa Nicole, Sorin and Marcel Motoc from Cleveland. Afterwards, they listened to a spiritual talk with the theme “The Mother of God: in the world, not of the world” delivered by Abbot Ieremia from Saint Dimitrios the New Monastery in Middletown, NY. The father talked about the importance of frequently going in pilgrimages to places where grace plentifully abounds, as is the Russian Cathedral in New York City, where the “Kursk Root” icon is, or the relics of Saint John Maximovitch from San Francisco. Father reminded us that there will always be moments when we need support and spiritual encouragement. These places are there for that very purpose. Only grace can teach us how to live according to the law of God, and not according to the law of the world.
His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae arrived at this meeting on Saturday evening. Immediately afterwards followed the Vigil Service in honor of the Holy Cross and of Saint John Jacob. The beautiful celebration of Saint John Jacob (who is the patron saint of the monastery) continued on Sunday morning. The youth chanted at the kliros, and the church was filled with many families from the local village, as well as from Chicago. Immediately after the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence Nicolae talked about the life of the saint and presented a poetic epigram which the saint had sent to Archimandrite Victorin, who would later become Archbishop of our Metropolia, during the time when the latter was residing and teaching at Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary from South Canaan, PA. Afterwards, a few of the youth recited poems in which Saint John Jacob expressed the desire for the Romanian pure soul. The feast continued at the meal. The youth read a few more of the saint’s poems related to the Mother of God and to the love for the Holy Places, and afterwards, they surprised His Eminence by singing some traditional Romanian hymns.
Towards the end of the day, the young people went outside in the shade with Father Petru. They asked him questions, which was followed by a discussion during which it seemed that time stopped. Father talked about the importance to love Christ, just like we love a friend. He included many stories from the experience of his reverence as a parish priest. The discussion ended with a piece of advice from father, namely, that each of us must become a light in the world. Having Christ, it is impossible to allow darkness and the temptations of the enemy to overcome us.
In the final night, meaning from Sunday until Monday, the final Divine Liturgy was served, preceded by the Midnight Office and Matins. The youth enjoyed the sweetness brought by the grace of the evening prayer, aided by the fact that the entire service was chanted in the Byzantine style.
During these blessed days of Christian camp, the participants enjoyed an atmosphere of peace and communion. We thank God and His Mother for the priceless gift of being able to meet. All of us remained with joy in our soul and with zeal to step firmly on the way of confessing Christ through the authentic living of this joy.
We thank Preoteasa Nicole, Mr Sorin, Mrs Marcela, and all the other volunteers who endeavored to assure us the meals throughout the Camp, and even more than that, for making us feel as if we were at home. We are in debt to Father Petru Neaga, our host, who was like a father to us. We thank Father Ieremia who took it upon himself to fly from New York in order to spend a few precious hours with us. We thank His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae for his presence in our midst. Glory to God for all things!