Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church of Orange CT sponsored its annual Oratorical Festival for teenagers. Officially called the “St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival”, the event is sponsored by the Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and includes a speech, poetry and essay competition.
The most popular part of the festival is the speech competition program. Greek Orthodox youth in middle and senior high school are invited to speak about their faith, their Church and their heritage. A list of topics is given to the participants from which they may choose one on which they will deliver a 3–5-minute speech. Speeches are judged 50% on content and 50% on presentation, with very specific criteria.
Participants compete at the parish, district, diocese/metropolis and national level. For the past several years, St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church has sent finalists to the diocese/metropolis level (akin to a national semi-final) and also sent Orange resident Paul DeBassio to the 2014 national competition in Ohio, where he placed third overall. This year, Tennyson Delos of Derby and Ephemia Nicolakis of Woodbridge, progressed to the metropolis level or “Direct Archdiocesan District” competition held in Hartford, CT on Saturday May 4. Tennyson, speaking about what it means to be an athlete for Christ, received 2nd place in the Junior Division and Ephemia speaking about the personal significance of a Lenten hymn, received 2nd place in the Senior Division. This is the second time that these strong orators have progressed to the semifinal competitions.
This national event is called the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival in honor of the Church Father, Patriarch and Saint of the Church, John Chrysostom. His sermons, often on behalf of social justice and moral reform, were so eloquent and forceful that he was named “Chrysostom” or “The Golden Mouthed.” The Festival was founded in 1983 by Fr. John and Presvyetera Margaret Orfanakos, both of blessed memory, and parents of Fr. Peter J. Orfanakos, the parish priest of St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church for over twenty years. Parishioner Steven Yates, “Mr. Oratorical” as the children love to call him, has directed the parish program for many years and recruits participants as young as 5 years old in the non-competitive division to help them prepare for their future roles as official competitors.
Saint Barbara Parish can be justifiably proud of its young writers and orators. They displayed a true fervor for, and knowledge of, their faith. It is an inspiration to us all.
Participants in the St. Barbara Church festival included:
Senior Division (Grades 10-12): Ellie Maniatis of Orange, Andreas Lolis of Westport, Ephemia Nicolakis of Woodbridge, Luke Berner of Branford; and
Junior Division (Grades 7-9): Tennyson Delos of Derby, Nicholas Lolis of Westport, Ana DeBassio of Orange, Kathryn & Mary Sakoulas of Cromwell.
- L to R: Nicholas Lolis, Kassiani Nicolakis, Mary Sakoulas, Kathryn Sakoulas, Tennyson Delos and Ana DeBassio (of Orange)
- L to R: Ellie Maniatis (of Orange), Luke Berner, Andreas Lolis and Ephemia Nicolakis (of Woodbridge)
Written by Steven Yates & Clio Nicolakis