The 40th Annual Youth Conference is Held in Canberra

"Shelter us with Thy most precious Protection. Most holy Theotokos, help us."

Between December 19th and December 25th, approximately 100 young people gathered in Canberra, Australia's capital, for the 40th Annual Youth Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Diocese. In attendance were His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion, guest speaker Priest David Moser, rector of the church

of Saint Seraphim in Boise, Idaho (USA), a number of the clergy of the Diocese, and some matushkas, bringing the total number of participants to over 120. Present throughout the conference was one of the spiritual treasures of the Diocese, the wonderworking "Akhtyrskaya" Icon of the Mother of God.

Registration commenced on Sunday, December 19, following which the Canberra clergy served a moleben at the parish church. After a settling-in period at the Conference venue, Sundown Village, the first dinner of many was served. Participants then watched the film "The Passion of the Christ". Archbishop Hilarion, Archpriest Gabriel Makarov and some young participants arrived from Brisbane during the evening, and Father David Moser, the Conference guest speaker, arrived from Sydney.

The next day the Conference schedule (see at was followed with some rigor. His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion greeted all participants and in officially opening the conference expressed the hope that it would be of spiritual benefit to all in attendance. Protodeacon Basil Yakimov then took the chair, introducing the speaker before each lecture.

In the course of the week, Father David Moser gave three excellent lectures on the topics: the missionary witness of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, "Identity and Intimacy", and "The Nature of the Soul" (these talks and others will be posted on the Conference site). In each of his talks, Father David stressed the importance of a healthy relationship with God as the basis for all other relationships. Father David's talks were well received by the youth, and his warm and open manner, together with his evident pastoral and professional experience, were much appreciated by all.

The theme of the conference was "Shelter us with thy most precious protection. Most Holy Theotokos, Save Us!" Speaking to this theme on the first day of the conference, Priest James Carles surveyed historical

instances of the intercession of the Mother of God in Byzantium, Russia, and the Diaspora, encouraging the young people to take confidence in her help now. Priest Boris Ignatievsky spoke about a number of miraculous icons of the Mother of God. Also on the first day, Reader Alexander Paramonov, a recent graduate of the Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, gave a lecture on the life and influence of the late ever-memorable Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose).

On the second day of the conference, Priest George Robinson gave an interesting talk on his path to Orthodoxy and his missionary work. Formerly a protestant missionary in Russia, Father George was, while in Russia, himself led to embrace Orthodoxy. A lively discussion ensued, with Fathers George and David later leading a workshop on the topic of missionary work. Protodeacon Basil read a lecture entitled "Orthodox Latvia: St John of Riga". The life of Saint John of Riga was an inspiration to all in these unsettled and confused times.

On the third day of the conference, Canberra resident, Kyrill Georgievitch Zviagintsev (Brent) gave a fascinating lecture on Russian culture and literature. Kyrill Georgievitch surveyed the historical experience of the Russian people, and encouraged the youth of the Diocese to value and draw strength from their heritage. The same message was given later that day when his Excellency the Russian Ambassador to Australia, Leonid Petrovich Moiseev, received the participants of the conference. Welcoming the clergy and young people to lunch at his private residence, Leonid Petrovich explained to all present his work as ambassador and expressed his hope that Russian-Australians would always value their heritage. Leonid Petrovich answered a number of questions from the young people. All appreciated the tasty Russian Lenten food that he and his wife, Leonida Petrovna, generously provided. That same day, participants in the conference visited the Australian War Memorial, the National Museum of Australia, and both the old and new Parliament House.

On the evening of the third day, all journeyed to Canberra's beautiful church dedicated to the Nativity of Saint John the Forerunner. Built in traditional Russian style, this church was built as a memorial of the 1000-year anniversary of the Baptism of Rus'. Of great interest to all was the newly-frescoed church ceiling, the work of Archimandrite Alexis (Rosentool) and Mrs T Ganina and their assistants, work that is to be continued in the coming year. There, Archbishop Hilarion, together with 9 priests and the Canberra protodeacon, served an akathist before the "Akhtyrskaya" Icon of the Mother of God. Praying in church on the right kliros were the Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Australia and New Zealand, Milutin, together with a number of the clergy of his diocese. Vladyka Hilarion warmly welcomed Bishop Milutin, recalling the recent visit to Australia of His Holiness Patriarch Paul of Serbia. Bishop Milutin then addressed all present, speaking of his love for the Russian Church. This fraternal gathering was uplifting for all.

Other talks given in the course of the week included Archpriest Nicholas Dalinkiewicz on the book, "The Da Vinci Code"; Archpriests George Lapardin and Gabriel Makarov on liturgical themes; and Professor Dimitri Conomos, Oxford Professor of Byzantine Studies, on education and on the Mother of God. Professor Conomos' role as adviser to Buckingham Palace on matters relating to the Orthodox Churches was of great interest to the participants, and a number of questions were asked about Prince Charles and Prince Phillip and their relationship to Orthodoxy. An inspiring talk was given by, an young man from the Gosford parish, George Karmadonoff, on God's help to him in overcoming struggles with alcohol and gambling. This talk made a particular impression on the youth, reinforcing to them the importance of making wise choices.

A quiz on Tuesday night was a great success, as was a talent night on Thursday. Abbess Anna of the Presentation Skete led a well-attended workshop on death and other topics, and so contributed to the success of the Conference. Also present for part of the week were Archpriest Nikita Chemodakov and Hieromonk John (MacPherson), both of whom participated in question and answer sessions.

Two talks were given that recalled ever-memorable clergymen of the Australia and New Zealand Diocese. The rector of the Canberra church, Archpriest Alexander Morozov, gave an overview of the life of Archbishop Theodosy (Putilin), ruling bishop of the diocese from 1970 until 1980.

Father Alexander warmly recalled Vladyka Theodosy's time as Bishop of Melbourne. Father Alexander's portrait of Vladyka Theodosy was added to by the recollections of two Conference participants. Matushka Elizabeth Dalinkiewicz warmly recalled Vladika from the time when he, as Father Sergei Putilin, was the rector of the Sts Peter and Paul Church in Perth, Western Australia (1951-69), as did Protodeacon Basil Yakimov, who in 1976 was cell attendant to Vladyka and acting Diocesan Secretary.

Deacon Alexander Abramoff, of the Holy Protection Cathedral in Melbourne, later spoke of the life of Priest Vladimir Evsukoff, tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident in 1981. Father Alexander recalled Father Vladimir's contributions in both the Melbourne and Geelong parishes, particularly his zeal and his love for the youth. Father Vladimir indeed left a wonderful legacy. A number of the clergy present at the Conference were the spiritual children of Father Vladimir, or influenced by him to serve the Church. It was furthermore noted that Father Vladimir was perhaps one of the first clergymen in the Diocese to take advantage of fluency in English when reaching out to those around him.

On the final evening of the conference, vigil was served at the Canberra church by Archpriest Gabriel Makarov, Protodeacon Basil Yakimov, and Deacon Alexander Abramoff. Archbishop Hilarion and all the clergy present emerged from the altar during the polyeleos to sing the magnification of the Theotokos and Saint Herman of Alaska and for the reading of the Holy Gospel.

The next day, Archbishop Hilarion presided at Divine Liturgy, concelebrating with Archpriests Alexander Morozov, Gabriel Makarov, and Nicholas Dalinckiewicz, Priests David Moser, Simon Kichakov, and George Robinson, Protodeacon Basil Yakimov, and Deacons Alexander Abramoff and Vadim Gan. An inspiring sermon was given by Priest David Moser on Saint Herman's words: "From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us strive to love God above all and to fulfill His holy will". The youth choir was at all services lead by the talented choir leader from Saint Vladimir's Church in Sydney, Elizabeth Lescheva. The choir of the youth and in the altar the voices of the clergy made the services very moving and spiritually uplifting. At these final services, many of the Conference participants took the opportunity to confess their sins and receive the Holy Mysteries.

Following the Divine Liturgy, a festive Lenten meal was served by the parish sisterhood and visiting helpers under the able direction of Mrs Alevtina G Kargin. For many, this was the first opportunity to see the new parish hall, a well-designed and spacious building. At the farewell luncheon many of the clergy (including Stavrophore Archpriest Ilya Dragosavljevic of the Serbian Orthodox Church of Saint Savva) gave a brief speech, and gifts were given to lecturers and helpers alike. It was mentioned that the meals were excellent at all times and that the accommodation at this Conference had been second to none. On behalf of the organizing committee, Protodeacon Basil Yakimov thanked all who had made the first Conference in Canberra possible and a great success. The President of the Canberra Russian Youth Committee, Adrian Windle, the Secretary, Monica Yakimov, together with members Victor Rodionov and Dionisy Kargin joined Father Protodeacon in thanking the guests and workers.

Now an important event in the life of the Australia and New Zealand Diocese, the annual youth conferences were first convened with the blessing of the ever-memorable Archbishop Savva (Raevsky) in 1964. The initiative for the first conference came from the late Anatole Zakroczymski, an energetic participant in many community organizations over the years. It was he who founded the Saint Vladimir's Youth Organization in 1955 and the Vitiaz Organization in 1960, leading the latter until his death in 1999. Held in a different location each year, the conferences are a source of spiritual strength for the youth, providing in addition the opportunity for young people to meet and enjoy a range of social activities together. God willing, the 2005 (Conference) Conference will be held in Geelong, Victoria, under the auspices of the "Joy of All Who Sorrow" parish.

The Conference organizing committee plans to produce two videos of the 40th Jubilee Conference and, at some time in 2005, a "Conference Pamyatka" book. It is hoped that such worthy endeavors will be supported.

Priest James Carles
29 December 2004