Connecting Youth and Church – Prsv. Maria Constantinides

It is such an honor to be able to interview Prsv. Maria Constantinides.  She is a wife, Presvytera, talented and creative artist, photographer, a warm and loving person, hard worker, and a great friend (as is Fr. Evagoras).  She is also an Ionian Village staff member, and has been both a camper and counselor of the camp.  Her excitement for our faith and love of IV has translated into one of the most unforgettable camping programs available to our youth.

When she is not spending time teaching our youth in Greece and photographing the experience, she is working hard to promote and talk about the ministry.  She shares her time and energy, as well as her talents as an artist and graphic designer, for our youth and faith.  Through this, she has created some of the most charismatic and memorable images representing the program.  It is truly a blessing to have her contagious excitement and energy promoting our faith to the youth!

Hello my Name is… Maria Madonna Constantinides. Fun fact: My middle name is from my mom, who was named Madonna BEFORE Madonna was famous!

My patron saint is the Theotokos.

As a child, my favorite children’s book was definitely “The Big Hungry Bear.” I think the full name is “The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear.” I can still remember how my dad’s voice would get really deep whenever he would say “THE BIG HUNGRY BEAR” when he was reading to me. At one point, I think I knew the entire book by heart!

I am very fortunate to not have a “typical” job. My husband, Fr. Evagoras, and I travel to Greece every summer for Ionian Village. I get to spend June, July and August traveling around Greece with teenagers and September to May helping my husband get ready for the coming summer. I have a background in art history and visual art, so I am constantly testing out new arts and crafts projects, using my graphic design skills to promote the Ionian Village programs, and cataloging the thousands of pictures I take every summer while we are in Greece. Getting ready for a summer at Ionian Village also includes dozens of schedules, lots of projects, and constant creativity. (I was almost a physics major back in college, and secretly love math, so logistics and schedules are super fun for me also!) Of course, much to my husband’s dismay, there is also the occasional day spent playing with our dog, Elli, or rearranging all the furniture in our apartment.

I love Greece and Ionian Village, and I feel so blessed that we are a part of this important ministry that brings our youth so close to our Greek Orthodoxy and our Greek culture. I love the excitement that every summer brings as a new group of campers arrives in Athens, ready for us to change their lives!

If I could tell our youth one thing it would be to be confident in themselves and to always look for the positive. I feel like our youth today have so many more challenges than I had, and I was a teenager only 10 years ago! I always tell kids to be confident in who they are – there will always be negativity surrounding them, but they have to be confident in themselves. Confidence isn’t always an easy thing, but if you remember and recognize your strengths, and surround yourself with people who are positive, who support you, and who love you for who you are, you will be able to get there. I think this is how you find happiness in life – through great friendships based in love and respect.

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