On Friday morning, the participants had their first day of scripture and theology classes with Dr. Bradley Nassif (Professor of Biblical & Theological Studies, North Park University) and Dr. George Demacopoulos (Professor of Theology at Fordham University; Fr. John Meyendorff & Patterson Family Chair of Orthodox Christian Studies; Co-Director, Orthodox Christian Studies Center). Following each lecture, the participants broke out into small staff-lead discussion groups to breakdown the lecture material.
In the afternoon, we ventured to Millenium Park near the Jay Pritzker Pavilion where we enjoyed a picnic lunch together. Of course, the CrossRoaders were eager to see the heart of the city, the famous “Bean”! Afterwards, we went on a Chicago Lake & River Tour. This was a highlight for many participants as they could see the entire Chicago skyline on the beautiful sunny day!
After our Chicago sightseeing, we returned to campus for a very special staff-led activity: “Night with the Saints.” In this session, the participants are invited to get to know the lives of the saints and their role in our Orthodox faith. Then, we had the unique opportunity to join the Serbian Orthodox summer camp of the Midwest Diocese at the New Gracanica Church in Libertyville, IL. We joined their 100+ youth and counselors for a meal and fellowship prepared by their staff; we were so grateful for their hospitality!
The most impactful portion of the evening was the tour of their church – which was filled with beautifully written and detailed iconography – and then traveling to St. Sava Monastery for an Akathist to the newly canonized St. Mardarije. The opening of his tomb just two years ago revealed St. Mardarije’s holy relics to be incorrupt. It was a true blessing to be able to venerate the relics of an incorrupt Saint with our brothers and sisters in Christ. This powerful and moving experience left many of our participants and staff overwhelmed with emotions of love and joy. The takeaway of the evening is that the Saints are our friends and we are all called to sanctification.