Meet Mike Emmanuel: An Oratorical Teen turned Political Correspondent


In the fall of 1983 -- the very first year of the Oratorical Festival -- Mike Emmanuel’s parish priest, Father Alexander Leondis encouraged all the GOYAns to participate in the Oratorical Festival. Mike, who was very involved in GOYA, began writing his speech with nervous anticipation of getting up in front of an audience.


As he was a shy child, Mike credits the Oratorical Festival (and the Sights and Sounds arts, literary, music and theater competition hosted by his home parish) with helping him get out of his shell. Speaking in front of people about our faith was a critical step to pushing him outside of his comfort zone.


Mike noted that at Holy Trinity in Westfield, NJ, his home parish at the time, his dear friend Father Nicholas Verdaris was (and still is) a fantastic speaker. He joked that he would try to figure out whether he had a better chance of winning if he spoke before or after his friend -- but in the end, it didn’t matter because Nick always moved on to the next level.


Mike’s first taste of public speaking and his participation in the program started him on a journey towards a very prestigious career in journalism. Mike now lives in Washington D.C., and is the Chief Congressional/Senior Political Correspondent of Fox News, after previously serving as a White House Correspondent at Fox News.


Mike’s son is now in seventh grade and is “all fired up” to participate in the Oratorical Festival for the first time this year. Mike is also working on starting a Sights and Sounds program in Washington DC -- inspiring the next generation of Orthodox youth to discover and showcase their artistic, literary and musical talents.


He has continued to stay involved with the Oratorical Festival as an adult and has been a Master of Ceremonies at several of the national festivals. He says, “Listening to our young people express their faith inspires me and touches my heart.”

Want to become an Oratorical Teen? Learn more by reading the Participant Packet. Were you an Oratorical Teen? Share your story with us by emailing [email protected] for more info. Follow the Oratorical_Festival account on Instagram and like the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival community page on Facebook to read more updates and tips.

Free "Live the Word" Bible Study Guide for the Triodion

Great Lent is our time to prepare for the great feast of Pascha.

And we want to help you make the most of it.

The Sunday of the Publican & Pharisee is the first day of the Triodion period, which runs all the way through to Holy and Great Saturday.

That's 10 Sundays of incredibly moving Gospel and Epistle readings; passages that will help open our hearts as we prepare ourselves for Pascha.

But we all know that understanding the Scripture isn’t easy...

That’s why we’ve created a new Live the Word Bible Study Guide.

It has over 100 pages of explanations, quotes from the Fathers, and study questions to help you learn from the readings for the next 10 Sundays.

It builds on some of the great work we did with our groundbreaking Bible Study video series, Live the Word.

And the best part?

We want you to have this comprehensive Bible Study guide absolutely FREE.

It’s our gift to you, to help you make the most of Great Lent.

Whether you use the guide for your own private Bible Study, or use it as part of your parish Bible Study, I hope you’ll share this resource with your family, friends, and fellow parishioners.

More importantly, I hope the entire Triodion period bears a lot of spiritual fruit in your heart.

Get your free Bible study guide now.


P.S. This Live the Word Bible Study Guide is just one of the many projects we’re working on here at Y2AM. It’s important to us that we’re completely transparent and accountable, and that you know exactly what we’re working on (and what exactly it costs).

That’s why, for the 3rd year in a row, we’ve published an Annual Report.

Get your free copy of our 2018 Annual Report here.

And let us know how we can better serve you in 2019.


Steven Christoforou is the Director of Y2AM. He and his Team are working on a new ministry training course, Effective Christian Ministry, which will help Church workers develop a Christ-centered vision for ministry and implement it with the core practices of formative and transformational ministry. 

5 Tips on Preparing Your Speech


So, your Sunday School teacher, parent, Godparent, or friend told you about the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival. After some consideration, you are leaning towards trying it. Besides getting up in front of an audience to present your speech, one other thing is holding you back...actually writing a speech. While this might be your first time writing a speech, this skill is something that you’ll use throughout your life. Learning it now will help you in the future.


Whether you are preparing your first (or fourth) speech for the Oratorical Festival, these tips can help you organize your thoughts and write something you will be proud and excited to present.

  1. Read through and select your topic. Each year, the Oratorical Festival releases new topics for the Junior and Senior Divisions. The topics for the 2019 festival can be found here. While you are reading through the topics, think about which ones you are immediately drawn to, either because you can relate to it or have an immediate point of view. Remember that you will need to speak on the topic for a minimum of three minutes and maximum of four if you are in the Junior division, and a minimum of four minutes and maximum of five if you are in the Senior division. You’ll want to choose a topic that you will feel comfortable expanding upon in a few different ways.
  2. Remember the goal. Any writer will tell you that before they write a piece of content, they have a goal in mind. Whether it be to explain, persuade, tell a story, or sell something. Typically, in school, you are used to writing research papers. The goal for your Oratorical Festival speech is to persuade and tell a story, which is a bit different than your standard research paper. You need to showcase your understanding of the topic and present it in a manner that captivates the audience. If this is your first time writing a speech, it might be helpful to study other presenters. Watch TED talks, listen to former presidents speak, pay close attention to your priest in his weekly sermons, and jot down what you notice about the structure, tone, length, etc. of various speeches.
  3. Decide on your point of view. The topics are intentionally developed so that they can be expanded upon in many different ways. Determine the direction you want to take your speech and then break the topic out into smaller chunks that you can address in a speech via an outline. The beauty of the Oratorical Festival is that although someone may speak on the same topic as you, the speeches will still be completely different. No one has the same life experiences and thoughts as you, so use what you know to help craft your speech.
  4. Consult outside sources. Now that you have an outline written, you will be able to see very clearly what areas you’ll need to research. The Oratorical Festival provides a participant packet complete with recommended resources and readings. Utilize that as your starting point and consider reaching out to your priest or Sunday School teacher for additional resources. Take notes and highlight key messages that you want to tie into your speech.
  5. Start writing. Before you open up a Word document, do your cross and say a prayer to God to help you share His word. Another wonderful aspect of the Oratorical Festival is that you get to share your faith and God’s word with a congregation. Use your research, outline, and point of view to write your speech. You’ve got this!

Best of luck writing your speech, we have faith in you! The process should be fun and you will learn a valuable skill that can be carried with you throughout life. Don’t forget to consult this year’s participant packet for more guidance.

Stay in touch with the Oratorical Festival by liking our Facebook page and following the oratorical_festival account on Instagram. If you are a previous participant and would like to share your story, or you are a passionate advocate for the program and would like to write a blog with advice for students, parents or chairpersons, please contact Stephanie Orfanakos.

Meet George Psomas: An Oratorical Teen turned Professional Actor



In 1996, George Psomas stepped up to the podium for the first time as a Junior Division participant at the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival. Now, he is a professional actor in New York City who was in the 2015 Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, and the 2008 Broadway production of South Pacific. George took part in the Tony Awards and the NBC Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He recently won Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Fidel Castro in the new musical Errol and Fidel with the New York Musical Theatre Festival.


George recently made his Carnegie Hall debut singing “Somewhere” from West Side Story to honor Academy Award Winner, George Chakiris. Film credits include Jersey Shore Massacre, Family on Board and Bittersweet Sixteen. Voiceover work includes a Pizza Hut commercial and a lead role for an animated pilot for the Cartoon Network. George appeared in Vogue in “Romeo & Juliet” by photographer Annie Leibovitz, was the 2016 and 2017 Host for Broadway Under the Stars, and was the winner of “Broadway Idol” Season 2 in New York City.


Participating in the Oratorical Festival as a teen, George learned many valuable lessons and experiences that carried over into his love of theatre, and remain with him in his career as a professional actor today. He credits the festival for providing him with a further understanding of our faith and teaching him how to take a simple idea and turn it into something special.


“Our words are powerful, and the Oratorical Festival fosters creative thought and celebrates what our youth has to say. But perhaps its greatest gift is its greatest take those words and express them out loud,” George states, “To craft a speech with care and to make the audience think and feel something through your delivery. Sometimes those words are awarded, and sometimes they aren’t, but they are never wasted.”


George reflected on his experience as an Oratorical Teen (OT) and noted a standout moment for us. It was 1997, his second year participating in the festival. He was in 8th grade and in the middle of his speech at the District level. All of a sudden, an ice machine started making very loud noises in the room next door. Naturally, the entire audience shifted to see what was going on. George could feel the audience’s attention drifting.


“I remember thinking in that moment that I needed to get the focus back on me, so I began to speak louder, and decided to not let it distract me. I allowed the noise to fuel what I was saying and began to speak with the natural rhythm of the machine, as almost a soundtrack to my speech.”


The noise went on for almost a minute before someone was able to unplug it. When George’s speech was finished, the audience gave an overwhelming applause. He ended up winning that day and ultimately became a national finalist that year. He learned a valuable lesson through that experience.


“I learned that no matter what distractions life throws at you, there is always a way to stay focused and move forward.”


George participated in the Junior Division of the Oratorical Festival from 1996 through 1998 for St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Wyckoff, New Jersey. He was a National Finalist at the 1997 Festival in New Rochelle, New York, and the 1998 Festival in North Ridge, California. He currently lives in New York City and works as a professional actor. You can connect with George on Instagram, his handle is @george_psomas.

Want to become an Oratorical Teen? Learn more by reading the Participant Packet. Were you an Oratorical Teen? Share your story with us by emailing [email protected] for more info.



Report from a Home Mission Parish 

A Recipient of the Leadership 100 Home Mission Parish Grant

It’s our privilege to apply for and administer a generous grant provided by Leadership 100. For more than two decades, the grant has been supporting priests that serve new parishes and parishes that are in a period of turnaround or renewal.  In carrying out our responsibilities, we receive reports from the priests of these parishes on their progress and their efforts in ministry. What follows is the most exceptional report we have ever received. It is shared here to inspire all parishes of every size to re-imagine ministry and all the possibilities.



Good morning Fr. Jim,

Please find a short update below. If you have any questions, or want a more detailed one, just let me know.

We currently have 9 catechumens--one family of 2 adults, one family with 2 adults and 4 kids, and one college gentleman. We also have 2 inquirers who have started coming fairly regularly. I've had the catechumens watch Fr. Barnabas Powell's "Journey to Fullness" video series during coffee hour on Sundays. In fact, the most of the parish watched them with us, and they were very well received. This fall, I'm planning on doing some classes with the catechumens to explore the topics in the videos more in-depth, and to go over public prayer (i.e., the services), private prayer, and other theological topics. All of these catechumens have jumped in the life of the church, and I'm very excited.

We are continuing our "mugging" ministry. Every visiting family gets a "St. Elias" mug to take home and they are invited to fill it with coffee at fellowship. This has been a great way to bring them into the community to get to know people. I also have them fill out a "guest book" that captures contact information. I then follow up with a "thank you" (phone call, e-mail, or letter) later that week.

We hold a "Gyro Day" about once a month. In general, this is a good fundraiser for us. However, we also use it to introduce people to the Orthodox Church. Tours are available of the sanctuary, and we put fliers, brochures, or business cards in every customer's bag. 

The parish works hard to extend a welcome to "disenfranchised" cradle Orthodox when they come for special feasts (e.g., Pascha), memorials, or name-days. They are always invited to start attending regularly. 

The Evangelism committee is also looking to purchase an "icon banner" to hang outside.

I continue to have a monthly article in the local newspaper, the Telegraph Herald. This is a religious article that allows me to introduce Orthodoxy to a larger audience. I regularly get good comments from it.

I also have a weekly e-newsletter that goes out to all parishioners, and I regularly keep our Facebook and Twitter page updated. 

I am also still very involved in the community: president of the local soup kitchen/homeless shelter (Dubuque Rescue Mission), co-chair of the CROP Walk, and on the board of our local inter-faith group (Children of Abraham).

Let me know if you have any questions.

In Christ,

Fr. Dustin

Saint Elias the Prophet Church








Stephanie Orfanakos
Posts: 5
Stars: 0
Date: 2/22/19
Steven Christoforou
Posts: 36
Stars: 0
Date: 2/17/19
Stewardship & Outreach
Posts: 4
Stars: 0
Date: 2/7/19
Rev. Dr. Nicolas Kazarian
Posts: 2
Stars: 0
Date: 1/31/19
Fr. Alexander Goussetis
Posts: 3
Stars: 0
Date: 1/28/19
Family Care
Posts: 9
Stars: 0
Date: 10/31/18
Rev. Dr. Tony Vrame
Posts: 29
Stars: 1
Date: 10/12/18
Jamil Samara
Posts: 13
Stars: 0
Date: 10/3/18
Angeliki Constantine
Posts: 1
Stars: 0
Date: 9/19/18
Meredyth Houpos
Posts: 2
Stars: 1
Date: 9/12/18