Thursday, June 7, 2012

OCF launches "The First Forty Days"

Important work here. We lose most (and I do mean most) of our young people after high school. If memory serves it's 60%. Some priests I know make an effort to catch new Orthodox college students in nearby schools (contacting people who mark "Orthodox" on their religious views in school paperwork), but the norm is to be more passive it (take them as they come in the door).

Brookline, MA (OCF) - June 1, 2012. The North American OCF Office has launched an exciting new program to reach out to incoming first-year Orthodox college students at colleges and universities throughout North America, named The First Forty Days. As its name implies, during the first forty days of the 2012 fall semester, local OCF student leaders and chaplains will work to make personal contact with all new incoming students. They will be given information regarding the OCF chapter on campus and nearby Orthodox parishes. The intent of this program is to foster a personal connection with our students so that young college students will stay connected to Christ and His Church during their years in post-secondary education.

To accomplish this, OCF needs the help of all Orthodox Parishes in North America. In the coming weeks, OCF will be gathering the contact information of all incoming college freshman students in all of the Orthodox parishes across the continent. Each parish is asked to provide the North American OCF Office with some basic information concerning their high school graduates who will be attending college in the Fall on a downloadable spreadsheet. Click here (XLS) to download.

It is asked that parishes download the spreadsheet , fill out, and email it back to All parishes are asked to send this information by June 15, 2012 so that OCF can organize the information for all of its chapter leaders well in advance of the fall semester. Parishes are also asked to include in the email their parish name, jurisdiction, address, phone number, and email address so that OCF can stay in touch with them in the future.

All information received by OCF will remain confidential and will only be released to endorsed OCF chaplains assigned to a particular college. When requesting the information from the students, parishes are asked to please make their students and parents aware that this information will be used in this manner.

For further information, please contact Christina Andresen, OCF Chapter Relations Coordinator, at (617) 850-1227.


  1. Sorry, but I've worked with college students pretty consistently for the last 25 or so years. The approach outlined above doesn't work. Either the priest doesn't have the information or (if he does) he doesn't respond. And even if the information is accurate and gets to the chaplain, the fact that it comes from the student's parish priest isn't really a positive thing for most students.

    If you want a viable campus ministry you don't need spreadsheets but priest-chaplains on campus. The university is a mission field and campus ministry is an evangelical work not an extension of the high school youth group.

    We must evangelize college students.

    Finally, if 60% of ORTHODOX college students aren't interested in the Church, then we can also be pretty sure that our high school youth ministry programs aren't particularly successful.

    In Christ,


    1. Boots on the ground. There's no replacement for being present and purposeful in your effort to get the youth into church. As for high school youth ministries... it might help to make them pan-Orthodox instead of jurisdictional and to get active support from parents (above baseball, dance, karate practice).

  2. Amen, Amen, on the ground...not passive

  3. Fr. Gregory -

    What you say makes a great deal of sense! I would add that deacons should also be part of a viable on-campus ministry program. In fact, it may be much more realistic to subsidize Orthodox deacons as Campus Ministers helping to meet the needs of college students, coordinating events, catechizing and ensuring that the priests who will also likely be serving in a parish have time to provide a vital pastoral ministry to the students. Just a thought...

  4. Having discussed this briefly with you before, Father Gregory, I thought I would weigh in.

    Having recently returned from a meeting with the OCF Student Advisory Board and staff, I think it is safe to say that the approach of this new program isn't in expectation that it will be a cure-all for OCF's assorted challanges. Looking past the spreadsheet itself, the way I perceive that information working beyond the passive is thus:

    Given even minimal response to this spreadsheet, the information will be passed through the regional representatives of the Student Advisory Board directly to the leadership (presidents, specifically) of the chapters they are in contact with. They will be guided in welcoming the students immediately into the local OCF family and, through it, the local Orthodox community on the whole. "OCF" is still not a fully recognizable acronym in the Orthodox parishes across North America like IOCC or OCMC, &c., and many Orthodox students who live beyond nominalism will appreciate a welcome before having to merely stumble upon some form of an OCF chapter within months or years of entering school--having already established themselves in other groups, Christian or otherwise. It's disappointing that Orthodox students are rarely seeking out OCF on their own.

    As to the chaplain-priest idea, or the subsidized chaplain idea, that would obviously be a much-needed help, but it just isn't realistic to think that would be possible for every campus or even every chapter right now. Orthodoxy doesn't have the clergy equipped with the time or knowledge for going about such a vocational task, and even the clergy that participate voluntarily often become a hindrance to the groups or merely nominal--non factors. Anyway, there is no reason to abandon the gathering of information that is essentially free and easy to organize in order...just to approach OCF currently as a *mere* evangelism tool. Of course evangelism is wonderful, and serving Liturgies on campus is ideal, but we have to work from where we are--and that includes chapters of one or two students clinging to each other as a spiritual community that exists too far away from any Orthodox parish or chapel to consider "going to Church" possible.

    The model seems to me, best described as a surrogate Orthodox community that holds one over from leaving that home parish and prepares students for parsih life as mature adults. One basic problem, it seems, is that the transition from childhood to college is frequently less than ideal in terms of how kids are participating in the life of the Church--whether liturgically or daily, at home, or with their fellow Orthodox Christians. The fire that Christ's Church can set in young hearts doesn't happen; then, upon entering OCF and participating in a group that is invigorated by local and North American programs while facing the tests of maintaining and growing the local chapter, a void is filled, a void that was formerly not even seen. I invite anyone to talk to an OCF student that has been to College Conference and ask them about how they felt about re-entering their parish community back home. The excitement for God, for serving His people in a multitude of facets dims significantly.

    I would hope that anyone reading or commenting here would be willing to help out the staff at OCF in such a simple way as they are making available with this program. Beyond that, I'm sure they would be happy to hear about how everyone is willing to conribute time and talent--that way, they can guide you by the needs the students have set forth, so as not to allow for more confusion in a ministry that is--whether it is operating perfectly or not--making a positive difference.