News

Orthodox Christian Fellowship formed to fill niche

Courtesy of Mina Ekladios

Courtesy of Mina Ekladios

Sophomore Michael Maragos leans back in his seat inside the University Center at the University of Miami.

“When I tell friends I’m a Greek Orthodox Christian, usually the first response they can think of is, ‘Oh, you pray to Zeus, right?’” he said laughing. “That’s absolutely not the case.”

Maragos is a Greek-American born and was raised in the suburbs of Chicago. He is also an Orthodox Christian.

In a country dominated by Protestantism and Catholicism, the Orthodox branch of Christianity often gets overlooked. Its existence remains unknown to many Americans and to many students at UM.

“That is almost an understatement,” Maragos said.

Having no student organization on campus added to the problem.

In spring 2009 students formed the Orthodox Christian Fellowship to serve the needs of the Orthodox Christians at the university. The new religious organization hopes to create a presence for the faith on campus.

The initiative for an Orthodox student organization began with senior Mina Ekladios, a Coptic Orthodox, which is an Egyptian denomination.

Ekladios, who is the president of OCF, admitted that his original idea was to start a Coptic Christian club. Realizing the low number of Coptic students, his efforts gave way to organizing a “pan-Orthodox” student group.

Finding Orthodox Christian students did not come easily.

Ekladios visited churches in the area. He spoke to local priests, asking if any UM students were part of their congregation. This approach to recruitment was met with little success.

Then Ekladios and others established the club hoping the Orthodox students would come searching for them. Today Antiochion, Greek, Ukrainian and Coptic Orthodox Christians are among its members.

Diversity is intrinsic in the Orthodox Christian Fellowship. The organization brings students from different sects or denominations together them under the same umbrella.

“What divides them is largely culture, and that becomes less important throughout the generations in America,” said Father Frank Corbishley, the head of the Chaplain’s Association. The Chaplain’s Association is the umbrella group for all religious organizations on campus.

The Office of Planning and Institutional Research at UM indicated the number of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim students on campus in their annual report. Protestants and Catholics dominate, making up three-quarters of the student body as of fall 2008.

Yet, there is no way of telling the number of Orthodox Christian students through the survey. They fall under the category of ‘other.’ OCF currently has about 30 members.

The organization plans to hold regular bible study sessions and participate in community service projects.

Ekladios says they will also create a carpool system to get students to church.

“It’s kind of hard to get yourself [there at]9:30 in the morning on a Sunday in a suit to these churches without spending $20 on a cab,” said Maragos, who does not own a car.

Less than three miles away from campus, Father Peter Shportun serves as the priest at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Coral Gables.

“When I was a student it wasn’t easy,” he said, referring to his college days as an Orthodox Christian student. He is happy to see an OCF established at UM.

“[The organization] helps the kids remember that God is still there. The church is still there,” he said. “We get so wrapped up in our college life, and the church is still a part of it. The church can be there for them.”

Sophomore Kristen Khoury attends Father Peter’s Sunday morning service at the cathedral. She serves as treasurer of OCF and is Palestinian by heritage.

Inside the cathedral, paintings of biblical figures cover the wall and dome above. Incense burns as the priest and chanters recite the liturgy. They switch in and out of Arabic and English. Khoury kneels down, clasps her hands and bows her head in a silent prayer.

“Our families might have emigrated from Jerusalem, Greece, Syria; all those areas to come to the U.S.,” she said later. “It’s important to keep that faith they originally started out with… It’s important to keep it alive.”

November 3, 2009

Reporters

Farah Dosani

Contributing Writer


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Hurricanes fans, get out your pencils, calendars and a list of your favorite hotels. The Atlantic Co ...

Three former Miami Hurricanes — defensive lineman Chad Thomas, offensive lineman KC McDermott and de ...

In all technicality, the Orange Bowl is a postseason, neutral-site bowl game that includes a top tea ...

When it comes to recruiting, the scariest sentence for Miami Hurricanes fans is this one: Nesta Silv ...

This time, there was no miracle Miami win over Duke. The fifth-ranked Blue Devils rallied from a 13- ...

Global and local efforts needed to respond to biological threats, UM President Julio Frenk warned at ...

As artificial Intelligence takes hold, tech visionary David Kenny stresses keeping human values in t ...

UM’s First Black Graduates Project committee visits an iconic D.C. museum for inspiration to create ...

The Beaux Arts Festival of Art debuts at a new site with picture-perfect weather and a panoply of or ...

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for a “Beloved Community” has inspired a number of University of ...

Following a promising performance during the fall portion of the 2017-18 campaign, the University of ...

The University of Miami track and field program travels to Texas this week to compete at the Texas T ...

The Miami women's tennis team will begin its 2018 spring season this weekend on its home court. ...

The University of Miami released its 2018 football schedule Wednesday, highlighted by a nationally t ...

Notes from Miami's 2018 Football schedule. ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.