The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Assyrian Church of the East Youth Association of the United States of America met from Friday, January 14 to Sunday, January 16, 2022, at the Cathedral Church of Saint George the Martyr in Chicago, Illinois.
The NEC is a joint ministry between the three episcopal sees of the United States commissioned by their respective hierarchs to be a governing body of the Youth Association in the United States. The committee oversees the planning of the annual national youth conference and works towards the advancement of youth ministry within the country in various capacities.
The NEC consists of four executives and three representatives from each United States diocese, the membership of the committee is as follows:
- Very Rev. Fr. and Chorbishop Gewargis-Bet Rasho of Tarzana, CA – President;
- Rev. Fr. Genard Lazar of Turlock, CA – Vice President;
- Rev. Dcn. Andrew Aziz of Gilbert, AZ – Secretary;
- Mr. Wilson Yonan of Chicago, IL – Treasurer;
- Rev. Dcn. Allen Youssefi of San Jose, CA – California Diocesan Representative;
- Rev. Dcn. Elbron Odisho of Glenview, IL – Eastern USA Diocesan Representative;
- Rev. Dcn. Peter Azzo of Chicago, IL – Eastern USA Diocesan Representative;
- Rev. Dcn. Zaya Aziz of Tarzana, CA – Western USA Diocesan Representative;
- Mr. George Yousif of Warren, MI – Eastern USA Diocesan Representative;
- Mr. Paul Kando of Glendale, AZ – Western USA Diocesan Representative;
- Miss Kristin Mar-Elia of Turlock, CA – California Diocesan Representative;
- Mr. David Elkhoury of Orange County, CA – Western USA Diocesan Representative; and,
- Mr. Joseph Hermiz of Modesto, CA – California Diocesan Representative.
The first meeting began on Friday evening with the members of the NEC with His Grace Bishop Mar Paulus Benjamin and the parish priests of the Diocese of the Eastern United States for an open discussion on the status of the youth ministry in their respective diocese. The NEC and the diocesan clergy spoke at length at the requests of the parish priests for a unified and structured curriculum to better form and catechize the future of our Holy Church. Additionally, the NEC and clergy of the Eastern United States collectively emphasized the role of the local pastors in the advancement of youth ministry. After the meeting was adjourned, the NEC joined the youth of the Chicagoland parishes for a joint Bible study and fellowship hosted by Mar Gewargis Cathedral Youth.
On Saturday, January 15, 2022, at 9:30 am, the NEC met with the organizing committee for the 34th annual National Youth Conference hosted by the youth groups of the Chicagoland area. The organizing committee presented the working draft of the schedule and registration packet to the NEC and both groups discussed additional opportunities to make the youth conference a time full of spiritual growth and genuine Christian fellowship.
After a productive meeting with the conference organizing committee, the members of the NEC proceeded in a formal meeting to discuss current and future projects of the national board. In this meeting, the NEC discussed various aspects of the youth ministry across the United States, and motioned to:-
- Assign Rev. Fr. Genard Lazar of Turlock, CA, as ‘Coordinator of Religious Studies.’ Within this role, Fr. Genard will formally appoint a sub-committee to build a curriculum, set future themes for conferences, and aid in assisting youth groups in religious education;
- Approve an addition to the articles of the constitution of the ACEYA-USA, pending the approval of the bishops of the USA, to clearly define the ecclesiastical authority of the association within the current constitution;
- Reaffirm the letter from (then) Bishop Mar Awa Royel, as the former President of the NEC, that states the requirements for eligibility to attend the national youth conference;
- Form a media sub-committee of the NEC that will work specifically to engage our members on various social media platforms;
- Define chapter membership within ACEYA-USA between established parishes and diocesan missions;
- Select the theme for the 34th Annual Youth Conference; and,
- Accept the budget and registration fee for the 2022 National Youth Conference.
The NEC adjourned the official meeting at 4:00 pm and members partook in a dinner hosted by the local diocese in honor of the visit of His Grace Mar Aprem Athniel, Bishop of Syria.
On Sunday, January 16, 2022, the NEC attended the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, and then members of the committee held a brief memorial service at the shrine of the late Catholicos-Patriarch, Mar +Dinkha IV, of thrice-blessed memory, at Montrose Cemetery. President, Chorbishop Gewargis Bet-Rasho, led the prayer service and gave a short reflection on the work of the late patriarch for the advancement of youth ministry in the universal church, especially in the United States.
The NEC also visited the shrine erected in honor of ACEYA-USA’s patron saint, St. Mar Benyamin Shimun XXI and requested his blessed intercession for the entirety of the youth association.
The President, Chorbishop Gewargis-Bet Rasho, and the Vice President, Fr. Genard Lazar, then, on behalf of the entire NEC were received by His Holiness Mar Gewargis III Sliwa, in an audience in respect of the Patriarch Emeritus.
Finally, the leadership of the NEC also met with His Grace Mar Paulus Benjamin, Bishop of the Eastern United States, at his Bishopric in Morton Grove, Illinois to thank him for allowing us to meet in the diocese.
The NEC will continue to meet virtually over the next few months and will convene again, in person, at the 34th annual National Youth Conference in Chicago, Illinois in July 2022.