With the blessing of His Grace Siluan, Bishop of the Metropolitanate of Australia & New Zealand, the Metropolitanate’s youth were invited to attend a 3-day assembly at the Monastery of Saint Sava (Hall, NSW) from Friday the 29th of March through to the 3rd Sunday of Great Lent: Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross.
 
The objective was to restart and restructure the existing platform for the Serbian youth – the Serbian Orthodox Youth Association with clearer goals, direction and applicability at a parish level.
 
Friday 29th March 2019
 
Joining the monastery complex immediately after the seminar of the brotherhood, the youth assembly began with the evening Akathist to the Holy Protection of the Mother of God. The youth which had been arriving throughout the day, prayerfully gathered in the church to ask the Holy Mother of God for Her protection together with our dear Bishop Siluan and Fr. Archimandrite Petar (Radulovic), concluding with a short welcoming word from His Grace who expressed the importance of this gathering for the future of our Metropolitanate. 
 
The tireless Federation of circle of Serbian (FCSS) sisters had prepared a dinner, enabling all present to quickly fill the hall with chatter as they got to know each other from all over Australia. These young, like-minded people, were representing their respective parishes. They quickly established that their local issues are common across the nation and that the coming days would be preparing them for the more active engagement in the life of their parishes, deaneries and the Metropolitanate as a whole. 
 
Following dinner, those present completed their registrations with Milica Kozlina, president of the FCSS and retreated for the night to their respective accommodation arrangements.
 
Saturday 30th March 2019
 
Due to the repose of His Eminence, Stylianos, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Sydney, His Grace was not present, nevertheless the day started with matins at 8am. The fruits of the previous reader seminars were evident as many of the youth joined the cantors stand with the present clergy, who are the spiritual advisors to the youth at both deanery levels and Metropolitanate level. Once again, the sisters had prepared breakfast and the youth were nourished both body and soul.
 
Due to the poor weather, plans had changed and Fr. Milan hosted a spiritual talk and Q&A in the church of Saint Sava. The topic was both intriguing and captivating touching on the spiritual journey of each of us and understanding where we are on our journey – forcing each person to considering their own spiritual maturity. Fr Milan also spoke about symbolism within our Church and the need for each of us in the Church to question more and through questioning reach a deeper understanding.
 
To re-activate the bodies, some free time ensued where the table tennis table was utilised as well as basketballs & footballs and in continuation young people engaged with the clergy present and with one another. That afternoon Fr. Goran had discussed the important points regarding fasting and touched on some common misconceptions that arise during various fasting periods. Dcn. Nenad summarised the main points of both Frs. Milan and Goran, touching on the various temptations and dangers of the secular world.
 
Finishing out a very busy day, vespers was served in the Church with the veneration of the Holy Cross led by His Grace Bishop Siluan, who had returned from Sydney, followed by dinner, and a close of activities.
 
Sunday 31st March 2019
 
The 3rd Sunday of Great Lent: Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross began with the welcoming of His Grace and the faithful into the church for the Holy Hierarchical Liturgy. The local choir from Farrer was in attendance led by Presbytera Elena Cecez. They always elevate the faithful with their choice of Liturgical sacred pieces.
 
At the conclusion of the Holy Liturgy His Grace blessed the feast cake and wheat for the feast day of the Serbian Orthodox Youth Association, Saint Nicholai of Zhicha & Ochrid, to whom SOYA owes a great thanks for heavenly protection. 
 
In the small monastery hall the FCSS took out all the stops and put on a feast. Everyone present was invited and no one was left wanting more.
 
Just after 2:30pm the climax of the weekend, SOYA’s Special General Meeting, began with a prayer and a short outline of our Bishops vision of SOYA, highlighting some key areas he hoped the organisation would strengthen – deeper liturgical involvement and youth missionary work, charitable work and a continuation of the cultural work exemplified by the Serbian Festival Sydney. In order to engage the youth present, they broke off into groups and brainstormed ideas that can be implemented relatively easily at the parish level in conjunction with the respective parish priest. It quickly became apparent as one group stated that there is a multitude of activities that can be implemented and it largely depends on the interests of each parish & youth present. An important point was raised about the fact that the main objective of SOYA as an organisation of our Metropolitanate, is the same as the mission of the Church as a whole. 
 
After nominations, the following now constitutes the new National Executive Board of SOYA Inc. resulting from unanimous elections of individual nominees to each position: President – Reader Vedran Gagic (Gold Coast), Vice-President – Reader Justin Nikolic (Brisbane), Secretary – Tara Ivanisevic (Perth) and Treasurer – Jovan Jeremic (Melbourne). 
 
Following conclusion of the Special General Meeting, the new board made their way to the church, where they were sworn in.
 
The Serbian Orthodox Youth present would like to wholeheartedly thank His Grace, Bishop Siluan and all the reverend fathers present for their contribution and support throughout the weekend, for leaving their duties as parish priest to be with the youth of the Metropolitanate, the sisters led by Milica Kozlina, and everyone in the background who made the weekend possible. We wish the new board a blessed reign at the helm of an important pillar of our Metropolitanate, one that everyone should get behind and support.
 
Ilija Perac
 
 
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