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Seven Young Adults From Metropolis of Chicago Chosen to Participate In Pilgrimage of Discovery Pilot Program

With the blessings of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago, the Pilgrimage of Discovery (POD) Pilot Program has made the joyful announcement of the young adults who have been selected to participate in the inaugural Pilgrimage of Discovery, the 2023 pilot program through the Metropolis of Chicago.

The Pilgrimage of Discovery pilot program will grant five young adults from the Metropolis of Chicago (ages 23-28) an all-expenses-paid round-trip journey to Constantinople to meet with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew and travel to ancient holy sites of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

After a very thoughtful selection process, including a comprehensive application, recommendations submitted by their parish priests and upstanding members of the Metropolis of Chicago and a thorough vetting procedure conducted by the Selection Committee headed by Archon Dr. John Fotopoulos and comprised of Archons from other Metropolises, seven young adults, five participants and two alternates, from the Metropolis of Chicago have been chosen to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The five young adults who have been selected to participate in the program are Dr. Demetri Maroutsos of All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Peoria, IL; Deanna Kolas of St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis, MN; Cally Kobza of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa, WI; Christen Massouras of Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago, IL; and George Valcarcel of St. George Greek Orthodox Church, also in Chicago. 

The Pilgrimage of Discovery (POD) Pilot Program was organized by the National Youth Participation Activity (YPA) Engagement Committee of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America and operated through the Metropolis of Chicago as a test program. The mission of the program is to bolster the future of the Orthodox Church by educating and inspiring future leaders through fostering a lifelong connection to the Mother Church of Constantinople.

The Pilgrimage of Discovery committee is extremely excited to have completed the milestone of this initial selection of participants. Its members are continuing to work diligently on the next steps that will ensure the successful execution of the program. They expressed gratitude for all the support that has been provided by the national Archon organization and the confidence that the national Archon Executive Committee has displayed in the Pilgrimage of Discovery committee.

The first Pilgrimage of Discovery will be extensively filmed; then a documentary will be produced featuring the personal experiences of those who participated.

The Pilgrimage of Discovery is just the beginning. Upon return, the five participants will become Archon Ambassadors, participating in Archon outreach and presentations for two years, thereby further supporting Archon youth education regarding the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The alumni of the Pilgrimage of Discovery will also have the opportunity to be part of the Pilgrimage of Discovery Alumni Leadership Network. This network will offer the alumni five tools towards becoming the future leaders of the church: further education about the church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate; training and programming on leadership skills; assigning a mentor to them; placing them in organizations within the church to offer them practical leadership experience; and offering networking opportunities for them to maintain the connection to other alumni and Archons.

A successful Pilot Program offers the possibility that the POD will become a National Archon Program in 2024 and subsequent years, opening up candidacy applications to all Metropolises in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and through the program of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America.

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