Greetings from the campus of North Park University!
We are excited to send you this update from the opening day of CrossRoad as participants arrived excited and ready to “take the challenge” of CrossRoad! They come from 19 states across the US– from California to Pennsylvania, Colorado to North Carolina.
While half of our staff greeted participants at the O’Hare Airport, the other half of the team stayed on campus to welcome the participants into the dorms and show them around campus.
Later in the evening attended Vespers in our make-shift chapel and then after dinner began icebreaker activities. With lots of laughter, the group began to build joyful friendships!
We are so excited for the next 10 days together. There is so much to learn and so many relationships to be formed!
The end of our time together has finally come. The participants have returned home with all the wonderful memories we’ve made here together at CrossRoad Chicago!
Closing our final day of Session 3, we participated in one last Orthros led by Fr. Kosmas Kallis. He left us with encouraging words to hold onto our experience and to go back home and be a light in our parishes and communities. The past 10 days were transformative for all the CrossRoaders, clergy, and staff! We pray the participants will hold onto all that they learned and continue to explore their unique and ongoing vocation.
A big THANK YOU to the donors, clergy and, of course, our incredible staff for working tirelessly to make not only the inaugural Chicago session a huge success, but the whole summer as well. Thank you for your love and dedication to the program and for helping bring our participants closer to Christ and the Church. May God bless and protect you always, and may you finally get some much-deserved sleep!
We are so grateful for another beautiful and fulfilling summer together. Looking forward to another transformative experience at CrossRoad 2019!
After our last full day of Session 3, it’s time to say goodbye to what we’ve called “home” for a beautiful 10 days together. We enjoyed our remaining activities and couldn’t help but reflect on all we’ve gained this week at CrossRoad.
The morning began with our usual routine of Othros and breakfast. Our morning session was led by staff member Alexandra on “Gratitude”. We discussed the importance of displaying gratitude and had the opportunity to write hand-written thank you notes to the many supporters of CrossRoad that helped make this summer, specifically the Chicago session, possible.
Afterwards, we headed to Forest Beach in Lake Forest, IL where we had nothing but sunny skies and blue water! The participants enjoyed a cookout lunch, throwing the football around, building sandcastles and braving the cold water. We surprised everyone by taking a quick detour to a local ice cream shop and then headed back to campus with full stomachs and hearts!
Last evening, the participants were then given an opportunity to reflect on all they learned in Stage 3. It was truly inspiring to hear how their definition and view of their ‘neighbor’ had changed over the course of a few days. Additionally, last night was made even more special, as we were joined by many of our local CrossRoad Alumni. They shared their own vocation stories and how CrossRoad impacted them. They also offered their involvement in different Orthodox resources that could be useful to the CrossRoaders during their time in college and into their young adult lives. It was wonderful to hear how even 10+ years later, the lessons they learned in the Reading Room were still relevant, important and keeping them involved in the Church.
After, we surprised the room with a Chicago classic-deep dish pizza!! The group was able to grab some food before heading over to our stage to share their talents with one another in a group talent show! Wow, you have some talented children!! The room was filled with laughter, love and happy tears.
Participants are packing up their belongings, so they are ready to go before Orthros in the morning. May God watch over us all, as we spend our last night together before departure tomorrow.
Our time at CrossRoad is quickly coming to a close, but there is still so much to learn!
Yesterday, after celebrating Divine Liturgy at Saints Peter & Paul in Glenview, IL, the CrossRoaders enjoyed a delicious lunch and heard part 2 of Dr. Rossi’s talk on “Prayer”. He expressed the power of prayer and showed the participants a version of the Jesus Prayer that can be sung.
Shortly after, staff member Elias led a session on the importance of engaging with the elderly community; another neighbor that is often marginalized, and further unpacking who our neighbor is. In the afternoon, they were given an opportunity to serve their elderly neighbor. The group ventured to the Greek-American Nursing Home in Wheeling, IL and spent time talking and engaging in activities with the elderly. It brought the residents much joy to have so many loving visitors!Upon our return to campus, we enjoyed a delicious surprise meal- hot out of the oven, from St. Demetrius Chicago’s Greek Fest. A big thank you to our generous donors for keeping the CrossRoaders and staff well-fed! From there, we went back to the Reading Room to begin our session on Vocation & Monasticism. We had the opportunity to skype with Sister Theonymphi from All Saints Monastery in Calverton, NY. She told us about their very own ministry, White Field Farm, which is an all – natural home + body product company that offers employment + job training to women survivors of human trafficking and is run by a small community of Greek Orthodox nuns.
The participants were able to ask questions about the program as well as any questions they had regarding the monastic life. We are so grateful to Sister Theonymphi and to the nuns of All Saints Monastery for taking the time to talk to the CrossRoaders and sharing their work this evening!
What a beautiful day filled with so many of God’s blessings! We look forward to our final full day together tomorrow.
We’re winding down the week, but there’s no slowing down! Today was full of new adventures and fun memories.
Yesterday, the CrossRoaders had their last day of Theology classes, which included some time for Q&A with the professors. A big heartfelt thank you to Fr. Simeon and Dr. Legaspi for such engaging and enlightening lectures! The participants gained a greater understanding of the depth of their Orthodox faith.
Following the lectures, the participants had an opportunity to participate in a variety of activities during structured free time. In the music room, the participants sang along while staff member Adam played guitar and also had the option to play the piano. We have very talented musicians in this group!
We ended the evening by visiting St. Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church. Fr. Konstandin was honored to welcome our group to their parish and we participated in a beautiful Vespers service together. Members from their community joined us to share the story of their Miracle Icon which has streamed myrrh on three separate occasions. It was truly humbling to listen to the miracles that occurred and to be able to see the icon itself.
Upon returning to campus, we were greeted by a very special guest! Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago visited the CrossRoaders and spoke to them about how special and important it is that they are investing in their faith. “That is the beauty of our faith. That love is never exhausted.” Thank you, Metropolitan, for inspiring our Orthodox youth!
The participants were again given the chance to journal and reflect on all they learned during Stage 2, “Vocation and Christ”. Many of the CrossRoaders got up in front of their peers and shared. We closed the night by preparing for Stage 3, “Vocation and Christ in the Face of the Other”. They were challenged to answer the question, “who is my neighbor” and explored what it means to serve our neighbor.
All the participants are off to sleep, as silence fills the campgrounds. Looking forward to growing in our friendships and faith yet again tomorrow!
Yesterday, the participants engaged in their third day of Theology and Scripture courses! Fr. Simeon discussed the Ecumenical Councils in depth and Dr. Legaspi has been unpacking passages from Genesis. They are learning so much and are asking many wonderful questions. The staff has been really impressed with their participation in discussion groups.
After our classes, we ventured downtown for the second time! CrossRoad spent the afternoon at Navy Pier, which encompasses more than fifty acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, family attractions and exhibition facilities! The participants were able to walk around, choose from a variety of Chicago classics for lunch, explore shops and go on the ferris wheel!
Last evening, we visited St. George Cicero Antiochian Orthodox Church. We were warmly welcomed by Fr. Antony and participated in a beautiful Vespers service together. It was humbling for the participants to not only hear the story of their Miraculous Icon of Our Lady of Cicero, but to be able to witness and venerate the icon as well.
We are so blessed to be experiencing our faith in such a rich and impactful way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers!
We can’t believe we are already half way done with Session Three of CrossRoad!
Our day began with Orthros led by Fr. Simeon and was followed by Be Still Time. A beautiful way to fill our hearts and souls with peace. We then had our second day of Theology and Scripture classes. These lectures and sessions have sparked thoughtful and insightful questions and comments from the participants!
After lunch we were joined by Vanessa Constantinides from the Hellenic College Holy Cross Admissions Office. She spoke to us about how college can play a part in our vocation and encouraged us to apply to our school. Staff-member Devon then led a session on “Faith and Science” and discussed the relationship between the two with the CrossRoaders.
Tonight, we had a very special staff-led activity: “Night with the Saints.” In this session, the participants were divided into small groups to “meet” different Saints and learn what sainthood means. We then had the very unique opportunity to join the Serbian Orthodox summer camp of the Midwest Diocese at the New Gracanica Church in Libertyville, IL. We joined their 100+ youth and counselors for a meal and fellowship prepared by their staff; we were so grateful for their hospitality! Fr. Dragan Petrou-a Director of the program- invited our participants to stand up and share some words about their CrossRoad experience so far. They all had such insightful and inspiring things to say- it has been a privilege to watch them learn and grow so much over these past few days.
The most impactful portion of the evening was getting a tour of their church-which was painted from floor to ceiling in vibrant icons- and then traveling to St. Sava Monastery with the Midwest Diocese program to participate in an Akathist to the newly canonized St. Mardarije. The opening of his tomb just last year revealed St. Mardarije’s holy relics to be incorrupt. Hundreds of voices echoed throughout the church lifting up our prayers. It was a true blessing to be able to venerate the relics of a Saint with our new friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. A powerful and moving experience, it left many of our participants and staff in tears; overwhelmed with emotions of love and joy.
The takeaway of the evening was that every person has the opportunity and calling to be a Saint. We are so grateful to be together and learning so much in this wonderful community.
Our apologies for the delay. A few technical difficulties but we appreciate your patience-Day 4 photos are finally up!
It was a day for the books….new experiences, friendships blossoming and perfect weather!
Today marked our first day of classes by guest lecturers. The participants reflected on Scripture and Theology as Fr. Simeon Johnson-a North Park University professor and Orthodox priest- and Dr. Michael Legaspi- an Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Jewish Studies- presented their class discussions. They will be teaching classes for the next four days, allowing the participants to unpack all that they are learning and ask challenging questions!
Following the sessions, we headed downtown to explore Chicago! We ate our lunch at Millennium Park near the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and were able to enjoy one another’s company. Of course, the CrossRoaders were eager to see the heart of the city, the famous “Bean”! It was impossible to miss our group in bright, purple t-shirts, cheering and laughing for the camera! Afterwards, we went on a Chicago Lake & River Tour. This was a highlight for many participants as they could see the entire Chicago skyline and soak up the sun and perfectly blue skies.
Tonight’s parish visit took us to St. George Chicago where we held a Vespers service. We were greeted warmly by Fr. Chrysanthos Kerkeres, CrossRoad Alumni, and Telos team members. A big thank you to their community for hosting us for dinner and providing a Chicago favorite- Portillo’s!
Unique to Session Three of CrossRoad, our group has a Scholar in Residence- Dr. Chrysostomos Stamoulis- to serve as a resource for both the Staff and participants. We were fortunate to learn more about his studies as a Theologian and ask him some questions through a Q&A led by Kyra. We are so grateful to our professors for providing so much knowledge and wisdom to the CrossRoaders!
Participants will surely sleep well tonight, as we were all blessed with another full and beautiful day at CrossRoad.
Following our morning Orthros, led by Fr. Kosmas Kallis from SS Peter & Paul Chicago, CrossRoaders were introduced to “Be Still Time”–a time that the participants take for their own personal prayer and reflection to clear their minds and focus on the day to come.
We then headed to breakfast and fueled up for a full day of sessions and learning about our vocations and unpacking the question “Who Am I?”. We learned about the Sanctification of Creation and how there is love and life in God’s creation. North Park’s beautiful campus gave us the perfect space to discuss that idea. This was a closely connected lead-in to our lecture on Orthodox Anthropology. We reflected on our identities and the pressures from society to live up to certain expectations. The CrossRoaders ultimately saw that their most important identity is that we are all made in the image and likeness of Christ. Succeeding the the lectures, we took a tour and heard a talk at St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church.
Yesterday evening Dn. Perry Hamalis from Holy Apostles Church in Westchester, IL, spoke to us about Vocation and Missions and his calling to engage in this type of work. He described short-term and long-term missions, including his own experience by working closely with the Orthodox Church and communities in Korea.
The participants are engaged with the content as well as growing closer as a group. The laughter in the cafeteria and on the bus is such a joyful sound to hear! Please continue to keep us all in your prayers.
Our first full day of CrossRoad began by attending the Divine Liturgy together at Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church in Westchester, IL. We shared brunch and were able to engage with the many CrossRoad alumni from their community!
Then we made our way to the Challenge Course at the Lincoln Marsh where we participated in some great team-building activities through challenging high and low ropes courses. We joined in activities that allowed us to become comfortable with new ideas and surroundings as well as open up and put trust in our new friendships.
We ended our evening by unpacking the meaning of vocation in a session lead by one of directors, Anna Kallis! The CrossRoaders are invited to consider vocation as “your unique and ongoing response to Christ’s call to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” The participants were then asked to reflect on this perspective and ask themselves the question, “Who am I?”
All is quiet at North Park, as our first full day comes to an end. We pray for continued blessings for the remainder of our week together!