ACYOA Leadership Conference

20 November 2014

By: Sarine Atamian

Young people across the Eastern Diocese gathered for the annual Leadership Conference hosted by the ACYOA Central Council at the Don Bosco Retreat Center in Stony Point, NY, from November 14 to 16.

The conference opened on Friday evening with introductory activities to help the participants get acquainted with each other. The Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, the chaplain of this year's conference, led the group in a vespers service.

Themed "Know Thyself: Responding to Life's Challenges," the conference program was prepared by the ACYOA Central Council to help ACYOA members learn more about themselves as individuals and as members of the Armenian community, and to encourage them to take up leadership roles in their parishes.

On Saturday morning, Fr. Findikyan gave a talk on "How to be an Armenian Christian in a Multicultural World." He stressed the importance of remaining firm in one's love for God, love for each other, and love for oneself.

Tom and Carol Ashbahian, longtime parishioners of St. Leon Church of Fair Lawn, NJ, spoke to the group about family dynamics. Using examples from the Bible, they spoke about the bond between parents and children and husband and wife. They also noted that it is essential to develop as an individual before embarking on the journey of starting a family.

The afternoon continued with a presentation by Ed Craviolo on love and forgiveness. He explained that forgiving is an important step in opening oneself to receive love and to rebuild. At the end of his presentation, he asked each participant to come forward and pray about overcoming a personal hurdle.

In the evening, the group was joined by Dn. Yervant Kutchukian of St. Peter Church of Watervliet, NY, who led a Bible study. Eric Vozzy, an assistant in the Diocese's Department of Christian Education, spoke about setting "God-centered" goals.

ACYOA member Nora Dulkadir of St. Gregory the Illuminator Church of Chicago, IL, gave a presentation on her pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and Melissa Mardoian of Sts. Joachim and Anne Church of Palos Heights, IL, spoke about her experience volunteering in Armenia with the ACYOA Armenia Service Program.

On Sunday, Fr. Findikyan celebrated the Divine Liturgy, with ACYOA members assisting on the altar and singing in the choir.

Conference participants then shared what they learned during the weekend, and what lessons they looked forward to bringing home to their parishes. This year's weekend drew ACYOA members from 17 parishes, as well as seminarians from St. Nersess and local clergy.

"Leadership Conference gives me a chance to escape from the worries of everyday life and to learn more about my faith as an Armenian Christian living in a secular world," said Arsen Yelegen of St. Gregory the Enlightener Church of White Plains, NY.