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2105 Oratorical Festival News Release

News Release

Contact: Anton C. Vrame Ph.D
Tel: 800 566-1088 FAX 617 850-1489
E-mail: [email protected]

June 15, 2015 


On Friday, June 4th eighteen Direct Archdiocese District and Metropolis finalists and their families arrived in Pasadena, California looking forward to an exciting Oratorical Festival weekend.  After registering at the Westin Pasadena Hotel, they met with the host committee headed by Irene Albeck, Judith Christopoulos and Athena Dallas.  Once they received their welcome bags filled with treats they got a chance to meet their fellow participants who were arriving at the same time.

The first scheduled event of the evening was a Paraklesis held at the Church of St. Anthony and a welcome by the Rev. Fr. Peter Stratos, Proestamenos.  We were then hosted to a welcome reception at the home of John and Diane Vidalakis.  An ice breaker, conducted by Stephanie (Yallourakis) Grant, a cast member of The Goldbergs, helped the finalists relax and get to know each other.  His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco welcomed everyone and talked about how he was looking forward to hearing their speeches on Saturday morning.

Following an early morning breakfast held on the terrace of the Holy Trinity Ballroom, the Oratorical Festival was ready to commence.  Introducing each orator, by topic and the speaking order number they selected, were past National and Metropolis finalists. One of the most popular topics in the junior division was the one on Malala which states: Malala Yousafzai is an inspirational example of fighting fearlessly for a noble cause in spite of threats against her life. Discuss a young saint or person from the Bible who illustrates such courage.  

After a ten minute break, the speakers in the senior division began their orations.  Two of the current topics in the senior division were: The Lord said, “I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25:36). What does this teach us about our attitudes toward those in jails and imprisoned? and Psalm 50 (51) begins, “Have mercy on me, O Lord…” It is considered the psalm of repentance. Discuss how praying this psalm might affect our understanding of repentance, confession, and forgiveness.

At the Awards Luncheon, which immediately followed, we were once again welcomed by Fr. Peter, the President of the Parish Council Philip “Ted” Attalla.  Master of Ceremonies for the luncheon was Archon Mike Emmanuel, Chief Congressional and Senior News Correspondent for FOX News. He also talked about how he participated in his parish’s Oratorical Festival many years ago.  Metropolitan Gerasimos spoke about how he was moved by the boldness of the speeches, challenging the audience, including the leadership of the Church to listen to the voice of our young people, their concerns, and their ideals for the future.

After giving a few remarks about the Oratorical Festival, Presvytera Margaret Orfanakos, invited all nine participants in the junior division up to the front.  Each one was to receive a plaque recognizing their participation at the National Oratorical Festival, a certificate, signed by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and a scholarship from FAITH: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism Award.   The following six individuals were the recipients of Honorable Mention.  In addition to the above mentioned awards they will also receive a $500 monetary award.  Direct Archdiocesan District: Marika Reynolds-Archangel Michael Church, Port Washington, NY; Metropolis of Boston: Alexandra Nichols-Annunciation Church, Cranston, RI; Metropolis of Denver: Anastasia Therianos-Assumption Cathedral, Denver, CO; Metropolis of New Jersey: Kyriaki Melizanis-Ascension Church, Fairview, NJ; Metropolis of Pittsburgh: Alexander Salem-Annunciation Church, Akron, OH; Metropolis of San Francisco: Ruth Hailey-St. John the Baptist Church, Beaverton, OR. 

Third Place and a $1000 college scholarship went to Christian George from St. Nicholas Church, Troy, MI in the Metropolis of Detroit.  Second Place and a $1500 college scholarship was given to Dennis Polite from St. Andrew Church, Chicago, IL in the Metropolis of Chicago.  First Place and a $2000 college scholarship was awarded to Sophia Hagen from Sts. Rafael, Nicholas and Irene Church in Cumming, GA in the Metropolis of Atlanta.

Those receiving Honorable Mention in the senior division were: Direct Archdiocesan District: Pauline Pedas-St. Sophia Cathedral, Washington, DC; Metropolis of Boston: Nickolas Eliadis- Dormition of the Virgin Mary Church, Somerville, MA; Metropolis of Chicago: Maria Kardasis- Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Glenview, IL; Metropolis of Denver: Kalliope Elliott-Annunciation Church, Kansas City, MO; Metropolis of Detroit: Jordan George-St. Nicholas Church, Troy, MI; Metropolis of San Francisco: Timothy Kaelin-St. George Church, Eugene, OR. 

Third Place and a $1000 college scholarship in the senior division was awarded to Dimitri Godur, from St. Sophia Cathedral in Miami, FL in the Metropolis of Atlanta.  Second Place and a $1500 college scholarship went to Alexandra Birbilis from St. Thomas Church in Cherry Hill, NJ in the Metropolis of New Jersey.  The recipient of First Place a $2000 college scholarship was Elena Bilotto from Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church in Aliquippa, PA.

After a quick change at the hotel everyone, along with Metropolitan Gerasimos, Bishop Apostolos of Medeia, Chancellor of the Metropolis of San Francisco and Fr. Peter went to Universal Studios where a tram tour gave the group an insider’s look at the back lots where movies are made.  It was an inspiring and fun day filled with happy memories. 

Sunday morning came way too quickly.  The finalists and their families attended a Hierarchical Liturgy with Metropolitan Gerasimos and Bishop Apostolos as co-celebrants.  His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios was unable to be present for the weekend because Vice President Joe Biden asked him to attend the funeral of his son, which took place on Saturday morning.  At the conclusion of the Liturgy, both Sophia Hagen and Elena Bilotto gave their winning speeches to the entire congregation. 

Once again we assembled in the Holy Trinity Ballroom where a sumptuous lunch was enjoyed by all in attendance.  Serving as Master of Ceremonies was Vice President of the Parish Council, John Vidalakis, who spoke so eloquently and emotionally about the weekend.  Philip “Ted” Attala once again thanked everyone from the Parish of St. Anthony for working so diligently to ensure that the weekend went as beautifully as it did.  Irene Albeck, Judith Christopoulos and Athena Dallas were singled out as the powers who spearheaded the committee. In recognition of their work and dedication they were each given a hand painted icon of St. John Chrysostom.  His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos made final remarks and brought to a close another fantastic and memorable weekend.