[ARCHIVED NEWS] Monday, December 27, 2004


St. Petersburg, FL - With the blessings of His Grace Bishop Dr. Mitrophan, the St. Petersburg Deanery held its second annual winter camp at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in St. Petersburg from December 23-26, 2004. A total of 43 wonderful campers, between thte ages of 4-16, from the St. Basil parish in Kearnersville, NC, St. Simeon parish in Charlotte, NC, St. Petka in Orlando, FL as well as the St. Sava parish in St. Petersburg attended.

The camp began with arrival, dinner and registration on Thursday evening. We then retired to the Bucaneer Beach Resort on Treasure Island for the night.

On Friday morning we went to Church. After morning prayers and breakfast we broke up into groups and held our first session on talents. The younger group was led by Fr. Ljubisa and Popadija Natasa Brnjos, newly arrived in Orlando, FL. The middle group was led by Fr. Dragan Zaric, the new administrator of the mission parishes in Charlotte and Kearnersville, NC. The older group was led by Fr. Stephen Zaremba, host. We discussed the Lord's parable and explored what type of talents God gives us in our lives, how to recognize them and how we are responsible to use them

After the lunch break we went to the park, held a competitive quiz on Orthodoxy - and won by the campers from Orlando - and then served Vespers. After Vespers we had free time for music and fellowship and then retired to our hotel for the evening.

Saturday was much like Friday, except Saturday's theme was on the Good Samaritan. We talked about how we are to love God, ourselves (our own soul) and our neighbor. This tied in nicely with the theme on talents. We also had a wonderful opportunity to sit with Bishop Mitrophan who discussed our themes in greater detail, clearly established their close relationship and answered all other questions that our campers posed.

After lunch was watched the Battle of Kosovo, the Shadeland tape and then we had free time. We celebrated Vespers that evening, during which Bishop Longin arrived and gave us his blessing. After Vespers, our small children performed the songs they had learned and we had dinner. After dinner we went bowling and retired to our hotel to prepare for Liturgy.

On Sunday morning Bishop Mitrophan celebrated the Divine Liturgy, after which he had lunch and went to Busch Gardens,and then each to his own home.

The only unfortunate aspect of the camp was the weather. It was so unflorida-like! Overcast, windy, rainy and - cold. This greatly limited our options for outdoor activities and impeeded us in our desire to see more of beautiful St. Petersburg. Nontheless, at the conclusion of our camp in the parking lot of Busch Gardens, there were plenty of tears and sad goodbyes customary to any of our camp sessions. The children from our Deanery met other Serbian Orthodox children, one of our important objectives, and new friendships have been formed. We were already being asked about the next camp before we got home!

Any camp or retreat is no small endeavor and requires the help and cooperation of many.

First of all we would like to thank Bishop Mitrophan, under whose guidance and with whose blessing, pastoral love and concern for the Serbian Orthodox youth of our Diocese and Deanery the first camp in Orlando last year, as well as this year's camp, were held.

We must also express our appreciation and admiration for Fr. Dragan Zaric who, with the help of Vladan Gluvacevic, drove over 12 hours to bring a van full of campers to be with us. Fr. Ljubisa and Popadija Natasa Brnjos were also most helpful in the work with our youngest campers and ensuring the participation of the campers from Orlando, no small achievement for a priest newly arrived in his parish.

We would also like to thank all those who helped. Our teachers who helped plan and organize our camp as well as, with the help of the Circle of Serbian Sisters and mother volunteers, helped prepare our meals and offered hospitality. We would be remiss if we did not thank the men who helped serve, run errands and drive.

Thanks to God and St. Sava, our camp was a success. It is our prayer and desire for our winter camp to grow and include more children from our Deanery and Diocese.

Protonamesnik Fr. Stephen Zaremba