SOYO in My Life
Developing Leaders for Today and Tomorrow
Teen SOYO (The youth movement of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America) founded by his Eminence Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory in 1968, as a regional and in 1969 as an Archdiocese Youth Movement, has developed many Leaders across the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. For decades Teen SOYO has inspired Youth to Love Christ, His Church, and to seek His Truth and Life. Teens can be found across the Antiochian Archdiocese seeking to live a righteous life, seeking to discover that which God has graven in their hearts and minds. Teens can be seen serving those in the Church, as well as their neighbors both near and far that are in need of Christ’s love and mercy.
Metropolitan Joseph recently wrote concerning our youth:
A priority dear to my heart is our youth. I want to keep them in the faith and sustain their spiritual lives. They need out attention and prayers, as well as our sacrifices for this task. We need to improve our camps and further develop youth programs. I will need the help of our hierarchs, clergy and faithful to accomplish these goals.
In the future, our investment in our youth will bring forth spiritual leaders, good fathers and mothers, good citizens and Orthodox Christians able to share our faith with America and our children. I know that it is not easy and this looks crazy and impossible, but with God all things are possible. Remember that St. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me" (4:13).
To understand the immense impact that Teen SOYO has on the life of this Archdiocese one only has to read the comments of some present and past Teen SOYO members:
“With Teen SOYO members you share the same faith, beliefs, and you are not afraid to express it. I learned that being an Orthodox Christian is more than just a Sunday event, that it requires being an Orthodox Christian all throughout the week. Christianity is Life!”
--Dolly Bahbah, ST. George in Houston TX,
Teen SOYO member for the past 6 years
Parish Teen SOYO Historian and Recording Secretary
Regional Treasurer and Present of Southwest Region Teen SOYO
North American Council (NAC) Teen SOYO Secretary
“Without the influence of SOYO in my life, I would not be as active as I am today in the Church and in the community. SOYO strengthens the foundation of a Christian and it shows us how to be Christ-like people. If a young person has a chance to join SOYO, they should not pass it up. What they will learn and what they will get from it will last a lifetime.”
--Michael Haddad, St. George, Phoenix, Arizona
President and Treasurer of Parish Teen SOYO Chapter
Western Region Teen SOYO Treasurer and Vice President
Currently a member of the Fellowship of St John the Divine on the parish and Regional Levels, Parish Sunday School Teacher, Choir Member, Chanter, and Teen SOYO Advisor
“I have had so many opportunities to grow spiritually with Teen SOYO. I have prayed, played and learnt so much about my faith and my role as a Christian in today's society. Teen SOYO was where I really opened up and got comfortable with myself and speaking. I was so shy and reserved until I was given a chance in Teen SOYO and from then on it has allowed me to be the young adult I am today.”
--Nadia Lawand, St. Nicholas Montreal, Quebec
Parish Teen SOYO Secretary, Vice-President, President and Teen SOYO Advisor
Can-AM Region: Secretary and President
NAC Teen SOYO President
Currently Choir member, Parish Council Member, Antiochian Women Member, Fellowship Member, Church School Teacher and NAC Teen SOYO Presidential Advisor
“Teen SOYO brought so many new and exciting times to my teen years that they framed my views, my life and how I live everyday now. Because I saw these friends in Teen SOYO several times a month, these people became my best friends, and we would hang out even when it wasn't Teen SOYO activities. This bond and atmosphere that was created has lasted to this day.
"Teen SOYO taught me to be a leader and to be organized. I learned to communicate with others and to know how to make things happen. Teen SOYO was my safe haven, where nothing could go wrong, and even though there were politics and days that didn't run as smoothly, you knew you were going to be alright at Teen SOYO.
"Teen SOYO was the best 9 years of my life. High school is a hard time to grow up and it's much different then when I was there, but Teen SOYO made it much easier knowing that if school wasn't going right, I had Teen SOYO to look forward to that weekend. Without Teen SOYO, I don't think I would be as active as I am now. Teen SOYO is not only a chance to grow spiritually and have fun; it's a life impacting experience."
--Kyra Pelachik, St. Luke's Garden Grove, CA
Parish Teen SOYO member for 9 years, Teen SOYO Historian (photographic historian) for 6 years, Teen SOYO President for 2 years (won "Most Active Chapter" in 1997)
Regionally- Co-Founder of the Western Region Teen SOYO T-shirt (2002)
Currently member of Fellowship of St. John the Divine, Co-Founded the Orange County Orthodox Christian Fellowship, Camp St. Nicholas Camp Counselor and Staff member for 4 years and currently the Western Region Representative for the Department of College Ministry.
"SOYO has not only changed my life religiously but it also helps me make decisions in how to conduct my life. Most people go out on Friday nights and hang with their friends, but my place to be is with my SOYO having just as much fun. I am now fifteen and in these past 3 years I feel I have grown closer to God and have learned So much about the Orthodox faith. I love going to church, summer camp and being in SOYO and I can truly say if I never was in SOYO or never went to church I would be a completely different person and just to think about that just doesn't seem right to me so I can truly say that SOYO has changed my life and I would never change what it has done for me, ever."
--Amanda Haddad, St. George, Phoenix, AZ
Parish Teen SOYO Secretary and Historian
Western Region Teen SOYO Treasurer
Representative to NAC Teen SOYO
“Teen SOYO has introduced me to people, people from my parish and from other parishes throughout the region. It is nice to partake of the Fellowship that Teen SOYO allows us to enjoy. Most of the people that I know are part of my spiritual family. During a recent illness my feelings were lifted by calls from my spiritual family which I met beginning with Teen SOYO. You never know how and when Teen SOYO will benefit you."
--Charles A Girardi, St. George Lawrence MA
Past Parish Teen SOYO Member, Fellowship of St John the Divine President, Parish Council Member, Treasurer, Membership Secretary, and Vice-President
Currently, Church Usher, Mareeda duties, Collection trays, etc.
“My involvement with Teen SOYO led to several friendships which I still have to this day. This involvement led me to get involved in Western Region SOYO (now the fellowship of St. John). I have never forgotten my fond memories of Teen SOYO and especially my friendships that I have made as a teen.”
--Michael C. Srour, St Michael Van Nuys, CA
Past NAC Teen SOYO Special Olympics Coach
Western Region Teen SOYO Vice President and Treasurer
Currently NAC Fellowship of St. John the Divine Treasurer,
Life Member of the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch
"Teen SOYO played a pivotal role in my spiritual life. As a teenager, I was searching for deeper truths and a better understanding of life and faith. For a short time I thought I might find the answers in some friends' church, even though it wasn't Orthodox, but that search soon became obviously pointless. When I got back involved in my home parish, it was through Teen SOYO that I made the friendships that kept me involved in the Church. Through retreats and other activities, and through my participation at the NAC Teen SOYO Special Olympics Sports Camp, I found the answers I was looking for, and finally felt at home in the Church. I'll never forget all that Teen SOYO gave me at such a critical time in my life."
--Fr. Michael Nasser, Antiochian Village Camp, Bolivar, PA
Teen SOYO President, St. Luke, Garden Grove, Western Region and NAC
Currently, Orthodox Christian Priest, Antiochian Village Camp Director, Director of the Department of Campus Ministry
“Well, one thing that the Teen SOYO has changed so far of my 3 years being in it was how to cope with every day problems and how to maintain being a good Orthodox Christian. If Teen SOYO had not been a part of my life I would probably be like the average teenager, and I for one would not like that at all. It has also taught me how coming to church and being active in what we do at church and in the Teen SOYO are important. Without all the retreats and Lock-Ins we have I would not know half the things about Orthodoxy as I know now. Teen SOYO helped me make so many new friends in my city and around the nation.”
--14 Year Old Nathalie Stevens, St. Mary's, Wichita, KS
Currently, Parish Teen SOYO Secretary
"Teen SOYO has changed my life drastically. I met the greatest people in the world through Teen SOYO. My best friends are members of my church, whenever we go out; our whole teen SOYO goes together. They have become my life, and I love every bit of it. I couldn’t imagine being happier, I love my whole church group from the bottom of my heart."
--Randa Hakim, St. Mary, Mississauga, Ontario Canada
Parish Teen SOYO President
Can-Am Teen SOYO Secretary
Currently Teen SOYO Member and Sunday School Teacher
“Though I never was in Teen SOYO, Just seeing Teen SOYO members and participating in it, cause me to be more active in Church. It is rare to see young people involved in any church these days. It is actually inspiring.”
--Cynthia Paloma Garcia, Convert to Orthodoxy 2002, St George Houston, TX
Currently OCF Member
“I never truly realized the benefits of being an active Teen SOYO member until a few years ago when I recommitted myself to God and His church. I did what so many 20 somethings do and stray away from church and inevitably God. I thought that what was important to me was the money I was making and my 'status" at work. I one day realized that this was totally wrong and I was nothing without Christ and His teachings. I re-evaluated my life and thought back to when I was in Teen SOYO. I had great friends and role models to look up to. We always had great times, shared our love for Christ and the church with each other. I feel that I stayed away from many disastrous mistakes because of the involvement with the others in our group. We never had to prove anything to each other. Never worried about what wore or gossiped about each other. You could always find us at Divine Liturgy, special services and at the many fellowship gatherings that the church sponsored. Now that we are thirty-something, our friendship have grown though Christ throughout these years. I am eternally thankful for Teen SOYO and my wonderful friends."
--Todd J. Mokhiber, St. George Niagara Falls NY
Past Parish Teen SOYO President
Currently Parish Fellowship of St John the Divine Corresponding Secretary,
Can-AM Region Fellowship of St John the Divine Vice President
Parish Youth Leader
”Teen SOYO was such an integral part of my church and spiritual life. Through Teen SOYO I met my best friends. It was a great way to get involved in my church and work with people from all of the country. Teen SOYO helped me become a leader and helped me become the person I am today. Teen SOYO kept me involved in the church and taught me to have a great appreciation for my faith. I stayed involved in the church because of Teen SOYO and the experience that I had while I was a member.”
--Kristen Abraham, St. Nicholas Grand Rapids, MI
Past Parish level held all Teen SOYO offices
Midwest Regional: President, Vice-President, and Secretary.
Currently Fellowship of St John the Divine Member
Chair of the Department of College Ministry, Antiochian Archdiocese
Many past Teen SOYO members are now serving the Orthodox Church as Priests, Deacons, Khouriyies, Youth Workers, Church School Teachers, Choir Members, Parish Council Members, as Archdiocese Board Members and Members of the Order of St Ignatius.
Across this continent we see our young people serving their church, their neighbors and those less fortunate than they. Our Young people have been inspired to serve. They have been taught in very real and concrete ways that it is better to give than receive – and they have done so through:
- Special Olympics
- Project Mexico
- in their local communities
- in homeless shelters
- the new Orthodox Youth Outreach Programs (OYO)
- and countless other ways
Teen SOYO is a Ministry that is responsive to the needs of our young people and one that has allowed them “to plunge into the depths of the Orthodox Faith”.
During his Consecration to the Holy Episcopacy, Metropolitan PHILIP stated that “the faithful youth are the heartbeat of the Church” as he promised the Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch that he would see to the needs of the youth in North America, which he has so faithfully done through Teen SOYO.
If you are interested in starting or enhancing your Parish Teen SOYO Movement contact your regional Teen SOYO President, Youth Director or Spiritual Director. You may also find resources for Youth Ministry on the Archdiocese web site at www.antiochian.org/youth.
You may also contact the Archdiocese Department of Youth Ministry:
Department of Youth Ministry
PO Box 389
Westwood, MA 02090-0389