Bobby Maddex: Welcome to Ancient Faith Presents. I’m Bobby Maddex, operations manager of Ancient Faith Radio, and today I will be speaking with Carole Buleza, the director of the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education. From November first to the fourth, the Department will be hosting its Orthodox Institute at Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Carole is here to tell us a little bit about that. Welcome to the program, Carole.
Carole Buleza: Thank you, Bobby.
Mr. Maddex: What exactly is the Orthodox Institute? Why was it started, and what happens there?
Ms. Buleza: The Orthodox Institute began in 2001 as a yearly conference offering a variety of courses for continuing education in the faith and also training for those involved in church school ministry, which would be, of course, your teachers and your church school directors. Some people may have heard of the Orthodox Institute occurring near where they live, and that’s because the OCEC also sponsors regional Orthodox Institutes, which we call “mini OIs.” They also have a theme and training for those involved in the church school.
Mr. Maddex: What is the theme of this year’s conference, and why did you choose this particular theme?
Ms. Buleza: The theme is “Culture, Morality, Spirituality,” and I chose that with the concurrence of those who work with me, because we’ve had requests in the past to have an entire conference dedicated to understanding moral issues, especially today with the issues pervading our culture and seemingly not keeping with the Orthodox faith. In order to do morality properly, I believe you have to understand this culture that we live in, hence the word “culture.” Then, of course, you have “morality,” and then you can’t really appreciate the Orthodox position on these issues without a real grasp and adherence to our spirituality. Therefore, all three got put together in the title, and it’s “Culture, Morality, Spirituality,” and it’s a conference to survey current cultural viewpoints, beliefs of the Church, and the moral challenges that are especially facing our youth, but they actually are facing all of us.
Mr. Maddex: Carole, who will be speaking at the conference, and on what specific topics?
Ms. Buleza: We’re very pleased to have very qualified people speaking on all of our topics. The first is Dr. Peter Bouteneff; he’s our keynote speaker. He’s an associate professor of theology at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and has written numerous articles and books. He’s got a very good grasp of all three of the topics that are in our title. He is somebody who goes to the movies, who appreciates the current cultural scene. He definitely appreciates morality, and he appreciates it within the context of Orthodox spirituality. In addition, he has two teenagers—as do I—so he is well aware of the viewpoints that they have to face in school and the questions that they have.
In addition, we have Dr. Vigen Guroian. He’s a well-known Orthodox moral theologian, and he teaches at the University of Virginia. He’s written a book called Tending the Heart of Virtue, and that is what he will be speaking on in a course called “The Child’s Moral Imagination.”
Our third featured speaker is Dr. Philip Mamalakis who is a professor at Hellenic College / Holy Cross Seminary. He’s a clinical psychologist, has a practice, and his topic is going to be “Homosexuality and Transgender Issues.” He has done a lot of research in this area, and, quite frankly, this is an area that a lot of our people and a lot of our kids have questions about, and I know I’m very anxious to hear his presentation. In addition, he’ll be teaching a course called “Orthodox Parenting” which he has taught before and is well-qualified to present on account of he does have seven children of his own.
Those are our three featured presenters. In addition, we have a course called “Issues Involving Sexuality,” and Fr. David Subu, who is from Virginia, will be presenting that. He wrote the Orthodox book called What’s Love Got to do with It? which I think was designed for vacation church school, but he’ll be covering a wide, wide range of sexual issues that are confronting everybody today, including those that are blatantly with us on the internet.
We also have on the topic of sexuality Mrs. Irene Cassis, and she is the director of religious education for the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver. She has been providing a four-week program for parents and youth on the topic of sexuality for several years, and it’s been very successful. She’ll be presenting with Miss Julia Shaheen, who also developed a program on sexuality for our youth.
So as you can see, we’re doing a thorough job on the most important issues. There are other presenters as well: Mr. Niko Tzetzis is a seminarian at Holy Cross, and he is involved with their CrossRoad program which helps youth discern their vocation. He gave a wonderful speech or discussion at the college conference recently. My daughter came home and said, “Mom, you really have to have some of these people at your conference.” He’ll be discussing “Spirituality and Social Media.” This is a burgeoning area that is not seen perhaps as a direct threat to the faith of our kids, but can be insidious in the ways that it works. He’s going to tackle all of that. I have other presenters as well. I’m not sure how many you want me to mention.
Mr. Maddex: It sounds like it’s going to be an incredibly packed weekend there. If listeners do want to know who some of those other speakers are, where should they go to find out that information?
Mr. Maddex: In addition to the lectures, Carole, what other things happen at the Instutite?
Ms. Buleza: This year in particular, I am very pleased that our second evening, which is also a keynote speaker evening—we begin on a Thursday, by the way, so Thursday evening is Dr. Peter Bouteneff—Friday evening we will have a panel discussion with the three featured presenters on the panel and the other presenters in the first row, and we will be taking questions from the participants, and hopefully finding some valuable information with the combined expertise and viewpoints of Dr. Bouteneff, Dr. Guroian, and Dr. Mamalakis. We’ve never had a panel discussion before, and I’m very, very pleased to see that this year everybody agreed to do that.
On Thursday evening, and also on Friday, we will have book signings. We do have Dr. Bouteneff who’s an author, Dr. Guroian. We also have Fr. Daniel Rogich, who has written the book Becoming Uncreated, and he’s doing the course “Spiritual But Not Religious” for us, and he’ll be having a book signing.
We also have wine and cheese receptions. The first will be on that Thursday evening during the book signings, and the second will be on Saturday evening. This is a lovely way for people to socialize and enjoy the company of all the presenters, who are very much there to be with the participants. It’s a great time to ask one-on-one kinds of questions as well.
In addition, we have the sharing of new resources for those in the church school ministry. We have a service at the tomb of St. Raphael, which is at the Antiochian Village camp. There are hiking trails if the weather permits, and we do have three gifts throughout the weekend. A friend of mine said, “You know, Carole, you really don’t need to do that, but, boy, was that fun!” So we do have a basket full of gifts for people to win, as it were, during the weekend. It’s a wonderful time, and people come because they love the fellowship, as much as they love all the knowledge that they gain, and especially the boost to their own spirituality.
Mr. Maddex: Who all is invited to attend? Is it just all Orthodox Christians? What’s the situation there?
Ms. Buleza: Yes, it is. We are definitely pan-Orthodox. I am working with the Orthodox Christian Education Commission, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the Orthodox Church in America, and, of course, my own jurisdiction, the Antiochian Orthodox. We are co-sponsors of this event, so absolutely everybody who wants a better understanding of what is going on in our culture and wants to be equipped to respond to somebody who has a different viewpoint is more than welcome to attend. That goes not just for this year but every year. It is open to absolutely everyone.
Mr. Maddex: I know that registration has been open for quite some time now. What has the response been like so far? [Are] a lot of people planning to attend?
Ms. Buleza: Yes, registration—I think people were waiting for us to say, “It’s open.” Just this past week we put: “It’s open.” Typically, we don’t do anything the week before the conference, because the registrations seem to pour in at the end. So our due date for registrations is October 14, which means this is the week to get the registration filled out and sent in. Please don’t wait till the end; please don’t be so Orthodox that you’re waiting till the last minute, because it just makes it so difficult for us. Find out now whether you’ll be available to attend.
I’d like to say also that it is very reasonable for a triple-occupancy at Antiochian Village, which includes the gourmet meals that I’m sure that you’ve enjoyed also, Bobby, plus all the wine and cheese receptions, all the snacks we have. If you are willing to do a triple-occupancy, the cost is $254, starting on Thursday for dinner and ending Sunday after brunch. It’s really very, very reasonable; we’re very pleased that the Village can make it so. The cost for the program, the money that comes to me to do the program is $65, so 65 plus 254, and you have a weekend that you’ll definitely value for years to come.
An Orthodox conference on moral issues doesn’t happen often, and in fact I can’t remember the last time I even heard of one, so we’ve put together such a packed weekend that I think you can justify asking your parish council, even, for assistance in helping you to attend. It’s going to be a terrific weekend.
Mr. Maddex: Carole, why don’t you give those web addresses again? As you said, this is the last week to register for the conference, and I’m sure that many of our listeners will want to do that, so what are those web addresses once again?
Mr. Maddex: Carole, is there anything else you would like to add about the Institute before I let you go today?
Ms. Buleza: Let me just say: if you’ve never been to Antiochian Village, that in itself is an experience. It’s outside of Pittsburgh; it’s going to take you an hour or so from the airport, maybe an hour and a half, depending on what time of day you come in. It’s a beautiful place, nestled in the Laurel Highlands, and we have a gorgeous chapel and wonderful food and just the greatest group of people. Year after year, people come back because they make friends at the Institute, and they come because every year they get new ideas and they get re-energized for their ministry. I just want to extend an invitation to all who are listening on behalf of myself, Carole Buleza, on behalf of Dr. Anton Vrame of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and on behalf of Valerie Zahirsky who is the head or director of Christian Education for the OCA, to come on out and let’s learn together, let’s understand together.
One more thing, and I believe this is very, very important. The participants will go home with a CD that contains papers from all of the presenters about their presentation, about their topic, and all of their handouts. We are doing this so that it is extremely valuable for each parish to send a person. That person then can take home that CD and either they themselves or perhaps their parish priest can download the handouts, download the presentation notes, and speak to the congregation about any of these topics which are very, very current and need addressing on behalf of the Orthodox viewpoint. Again, this CD is just another wonderful reason to come to the Institute.
Mr. Maddex: Carole, it does sound like it’s going to be a truly exciting and memorable time, and I really just thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
Ms. Buleza: You’re very welcome, Bobby.
Mr. Maddex: Again, I have been speaking with Carole Buleza, the director of the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education. I’m Bobby Maddex, and this has been a listener-supported presentation of Ancient Faith Radio, on the web at ancientfaith.com.