Our Humble Beginnings
In 2004, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America had a vision to create an Orthodox camping ministry for the youth of the Direct Archdiocesan District. Although several camping programs were available to our youth, they were shared with other metropolises. His Eminence recognized that the children of the Direct Archdiocesan District needed a program exclusively for them to grow in their Orthodox faith and fellowship with each other.
His Eminence shared his vision with then DAD Youth Director and Director of Ionian Village, Fr. Constantine Lazarakis, who had extensive experience in both camping ministry and youth work. In late 2004, His Eminence established Camp Saint Paul, naming it after the "Apostle to the Gentiles," and appointed Fr. Elias Villis of Rye, New York as the Director.
Working together, Fr. Constantine and Fr. Elias identified a camping site called "Camp Hope" to host the new Camp Saint Paul. Located on the shore of beautiful Bantam Lake in Litchfield, Connecticut, the site offered not only the peacefulness and tranquility of nature, but also a full service facility equipped with everything from a vibrant waterfront and a ropes course to high quality family style meals and a warm sense of hospitality. With the help of the DAD Youth Office and a team of devoted and passionate individuals, Fr. Elias kicked off Camp Saint Paul in the summer of 2005. The program was one week and had 45 registered campers. Over the next several years, the camp continued to grow as the youth of the Direct Archdiocesan District benefited from the spiritual guidance of Fr. Elias, local clergy, and their capable counselors. Many dedicated young adults gave up part of their summer to contribute to this important ministry.
As the program continued to grow, a committee was established in 2008 by His Eminence in order to oversee the progress and enhancement of the ministry. The committee is chaired by His Grace Bishop Andonios of Phasiane and includes Fr. Elias Villis, Camp Director, Fr. Evagoras Constantinides, DAD Youth Director, Fr. Nicholas Anctil, and Mr. Ely Papadeas.
In 2009, Camp Saint Paul celebrated its fifth year and grew to an unprecedented three consecutive one-week sessions. The success was celebrated with a visit by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios to witness the camping program he had envisioned come fully to life in Camp Saint Paul.
In 2011, over 325 campers experienced the fun, friendships, and Orthodox lifestyle that are uniquely Camp Saint Paul. We were again fortunate enough to be visited by His Eminence, who was greeted enthusiastically by the entire camp with Greek dancing and songs.
Camp Saint Paul continues to be the crown jewel of the Youth Office of the Direct Archdiocesan District. It is a wonderful and unique opportunity for our youth to experience Christ and our Orthodox faith alongside their friends, peers, and mentors.
In 2014 we had our greatest year yet, over 620 campers registered for four weeks of camp. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and the team are very much looking forward to 2015 and beyond that by the Grace of God this flourishing ministry of our Direct Archdiocesan District will continue to grow.
Camp Saint Paul is overseen by The Direct Archdiocesan District Youth Office and is led by its Director, Fr. Elias Villis.