Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) honors CEOYLA Members and Movement at Upcoming Annual Meeting

Source: Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL)

Mark Your Calendar!
OCL 24th Annual Meeting Pittsburgh, PA
OCTOBER 7 and 8, 2011
Theme: Honoring CEOYLA MEMBERS and Movement
Marriott Courtyard…Call in Reservation 412-683-3113
5308 Liberty Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Related article: Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Or, Where Lies CEOYLA?

Program to take place at Holy Assumption of St Mary Church (South Side), 105 South 19th Street, Pittsburgh, PA – Hieromonk Patrick Carpenter, Pastor

The 24th Orthodox Christian Laity OCL Annual Program Meeting will honor the work and memory of the “greatest generation” of Orthodox Christian lay activists who comprised the Council of Eastern Orthodox Youth Leaders of the Americas movement (CEOYLA). CEOYLA was formally established in 1954, and its first chairperson was Ernie Villas of blessed memory.

But the vision began in the mid 1940’s, when the Orthodox faithful who eventually comprised this movement returned from World War II. The unified activism of returning veterans working together and transcending jurisdictional limitations achieved the recognition of Orthodoxy as a major faith in America. These faithful souls got the Armed Services to include the designation of their Orthodox faith (EO) on the dog tags of generations of soldiers that followed them.

They brought Orthodox Bishops of different jurisdictions together to participate in the first Pan Orthodox Great Vespers ever on American soil, on Saturday August 31, 1963 at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena – now the Mellon Center.

Please – help us locate radio and TV archival recordings and TV tapes which document the events of the period. Here is what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, 8/31/1963:

“This speech [homily of Greek Archbishop +Iakovos] and the music of the festival [1,000-voice choir] will be featured tomorrow on the CBS radio program “Church of the Air” and on CBS-TV “Lamp Unto My Feet” on Sept. 8. The Voice of America will pick up and beam a special Festival broadcast to the Iron Curtain countries and to Greece.” [Voice of America recorded and broadcast the event to Europe and “Iron Curtain” countries on August 31, or September 1, 1963].
CBS-TV & Radio recorded this event for national broadcast in a special “Lamp Unto My Feet” program entitled “CEOYLA Eastern Orthodox Religious Cultural Festival.” The 1963 Festival attracted between 12,000-16,000 faithful. This was the high point of the movement.

The Second Festival, also with Great Vespers, was held in 1977, again in Pittsburgh.


We want to digitize the TV tape and make a CD of the radio tape and show and listen to them on OCTOBER 7. We want you to be present to talk about your memory of this event and CEOYLA. Please contact OCL at 877-585-0245 or via email at ocladmin@ocl.org.

Need for Pan Orthodox Unified Archive: Staff and Funding to Save our History

We have been tracking down these documents and primary sources since December 2010. It seems that the dioceses and archdioceses do not have copies of these tapes. How could they disappear?

Let’s look together and find them and preserve them as part of our journey as Orthodox Christians in America, building an Orthodox Church for America. Putting the pieces together for this project makes it clear that the Orthodox Christians need a single/united archive of the history of our journey in the United States and not archives scattered all over the country under difficult conditions where our primary documents are in storage and their care neglected and understaffed.

Further information on CEOYLA

An excerpt from the history of the movement gives an overview of the achievements of CEYOLA. Without a hint of irony, it states:

“While its efforts and accomplishments among the Eastern Orthodox in the Western Hemisphere have remained somewhat unheralded, the occasion of the first Eastern Orthodox Religious-Cultural Festival in Pittsburgh on Saturday, August 31, 1963, points to a gigantic undertaking which has been five years in the making. First discussed in June, 1958, the Festival necessitated the planning and steering of seven national conventions and/or meetings in Pittsburgh during this time; and the planning and effecting of hundreds of details pertinent to the occasion.”
“Although the Festival represents the culmination of much effort, it is but one of the many projects that C.E.O.Y.L.A has successfully undertaken. It has gathered and distributed seven libraries of Eastern Orthodox Sunday School materials. It has helped organize Eastern Orthodox Fellowships on university and college campuses, and Inter-Orthodox Councils in various metropolitan areas. Following exhaustive research, it has prepared a complete directory of Eastern Orthodox Churches. In the area of “recognition” of Eastern Orthodoxy as the Fourth Major Faith in America, C.E.O.Y.L.A. has been active in the passing of legislation toward this goal by over thirty States. Recognizing this fact, it was also instrumental in having the U.S. Armed Forces direct that “E.O.” be accepted as a designation of the Eastern Orthodox Faith on the identification tags of military personnel.”

“Other projects include contact with commercial calendar companies for the inclusion of the Orthodox date of Easter on commercial calendars, and the urging of orphanages to place orphans baptized in the Orthodox Faith in Orthodox foster homes. While the aforementioned projects are those of a “tangible” nature, the “intangible” values brought about by CEOYLA through regular meetings and exchanges of ideas by Eastern Orthodox Leaders perhaps even exceed the values of its more permanent projects.

The opportunity for young men and women of the Orthodox Faith, leaders in their respective organizations, to meet one another through an expression of their common Faith and by an exchange of their diverse cultural backgrounds, has had a far-reaching effect in more fully expressing the unity of Orthodoxy in the Americas.”

It should be noted that many of the laypersons who were part of CEYOLA were the lay Orthodox Church leaders for a generation after 1963. They served the Church in all jurisdictions on parish levels, as choir members, Sunday school teachers, Parish Council Members and members of diocesan and archdiocesan councils and leaders of National Assemblies. They succeeded their immigrant parents who established and built the church buildings…using the parliamentary, legal and educational skills and opportunities available in the USA to build up the Orthodox Church in America. Now we must work together to build up the Orthodox Church for America. Now we must work together to add our hands and voices to our hierarchs.

The next step on THE WAY is to bring to realization our joining all sister local churches, thinking and acting as one – as The American Orthodox Church.
The OCL effort to remember and honor the persons and achievements of the different youth groups that comprised CEOYLA began in December 2010 when members of the Orthodox Brotherhood (Romanian Episcopate OCA) began looking for documentation of the past. Many of the members of CEOYLA were World War II veterans, and they are in the twilight of their years or departed. Some of the names associated with CEOYLA in this era include: Ernest Villas of blessed memory; his wife Vicky is helping to locate the primary sources; Anastasia Tsoutsoura, the wife of the late Soterie, a former President of OCL; Alice Kopan, wife of the late Andrew Kopan, educator and a founding member of OCL; Bishop Basil Essey, Secretary of the Assembly of Bishops, Wichita, KS; Jim Demetrion, OCL Board Member; Chris Xeros, OCL Board Member; Ronald Muresan, Vice President of the Orthodox Brotherhood and informal historian of this era and seeker of the primary sources who helped compile the information for this article; Preoteasa Silvia Yova; Fr. John Badeen; Father Leonte Copacia; Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky; Ambassador Michael Sotirhos; and Katherine Stamatelos to name a few. Help us add your name to this list!

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