It is a great joy to introduce to you Ioan Gheorghiu, who will, by God’s grace, become our Director of Youth & Family Ministries. Our loving Lord has responded to our prayers of entreaty—prayers we offered to Him, to His Mother, to His beloved kinsman St. John the Baptist, and to that friend of Christ is recent times, St. John Maximovich. It is fitting that his name is Ioan, which is “John” in Romanian. (His patron saint is St. John Chrysostom.)
Ioan is completing his final year in the Master of Divinity program (as a seminarian) at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, the son of Romanian immigrants. He grew up in the Church, attending St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Redondo Beach, serving in the altar and participating in Sunday school.
He attended UC Santa Cruz, where he studied cultural anthropology. (There he worked as a rock-climbing instructor, teaching basic skills and team building to teenagers.) During this time, he had a deeper awakening of his faith: “In my second year of college, I discovered The Hidden Man of the Heart: The Cultivation of the Heart in Orthodox Christian Anthropology by Archimandrite Zacharias and found answers to the questions I had been posing in my secular anthropology classes. At that time, I also met Fr. Milutin Janjic, who helped me understand the Faith not only through worship and social ministry but also through intellectual study. In 2018, I transferred to Hellenic College.” (This is an excerpt from the cover letter he submitted when he applied for the position at St. John.)
During his tenure at HC/HC, Ioan worked as a counselor at St. Nicholas Ranch, our metropolis summer camp, as well as at St. Sophia Camp. This past summer he worked as a counselor in the CrossRoad program—which many of our St. John teens have experienced—and had nine months of training leading up to the summer program.
“I gained many valuable insights into working with youth and teaching the Faith; yet I also saw that a youth worker cannot remain at the psychological level when engaging young people—he must go deeper and help them find Christ in the midst of their difficulties, pain, and confusion, as well as their joys. … [During Crossroad, I focused on] listening attentively to the participants. I sought to not be sentimental, but truly present and attentive; to not say much, but to rather let the Holy Spirit work. Many moments—with the young men especially—showed me the power of presence and prayer.”
Ioan will finish seminary in May and then will participate in a month-long pilgrimage with his classmates to the Holy Land, Mt. Athos, and Turkey. God willing, on July 1 he will begin his work here at St. John. Ioan is looking forward to serving our youth and families in a pastoral and spiritually-focused way.
“I believe all youth and family ministry programs and activities should be centered on the acquisition of the Holy Spirit as a community. I wish to help people discover their gifts so that they can share them with others and help them live the life of the Church at home, at school, and everywhere in between. I hope to invite people to ‘be still and know’ Christ within themselves. The only way I can inspire such an encounter is if I live this myself. As Hieromonk Arsenie Muscalu, a priest in Romania, says: ‘He who is lit by the fire of Christ’s love heats and warms all around him. If we are cold as ice, like an icicle, if we do not have the warmth of divine Grace in our hearts, we will never be able to warm anyone else’s heart.’”
I clearly see God’s providential Hand in this entire process, as does Ioan, who received the blessing and encouragement of His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos when he applied. One example of God’s providence is in the number of people who already know him well. Alex Davis worked with him during CrossRoad this past summer. Makarios Daniels and Judah Dale had him as their CrossRoad counselor. (See the photo of Ioan, Makarios, & Judah on Page 19.) This past semester, Pavlos Blankenstein, a freshman at Hellenic College, has served in the seminary chapel with him. All of these young men speak highly of Ioan. (You can ask them too!) Even former St. John parishioners, Ronnie & Elaine Wade, called me to enthusiastically recommend him to our community. (As parishioners now at St. Katherine in Redondo Beach, they watched Ioan grow and mature over the last decade.)
On January 5-8, Ioan will visit St. John to celebrate our parish feast day and meet our community. May God guide us and bless us in this new chapter of our community!