2012 Lenten Lectures Speakers

Xenophon Theophall was born on March 10, 1947 in New York City to Dorothy and George Theophall. Along with his older brother, Peter, his family lived in “Hell’s Kitchen,” a great place to grow up if you want to know about battling “the adversary” from a young age. From a very young age, Xen was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma. Xen underwent two major procedures--the first at only 4 months and the second when he was 2 years old--to try to slow the loss of his vision. He now has functional vision in the right eye and is blind in the left.

His mother's love for Xen and her steadfastness not only helped preserve some of his vision, but made a lasting impression on him. He vividly recalls the moments when his mother would pick him up, helping him light a candle in the chapel of the Manhattan Eye and Ear Hospital, during his medical examinations, and praying that the Holy Mother of God would help him.

While there are numerous points in his life that stand as the achievement of educational and professional milestones, none could have been possible without the love of his mother, his father, and his extended family. They not only respected Xen, but they taught him how to respect himself and others. Most of all, through their own example, they helped Xen learn how to love and how to forgive. They instilled in him all the qualities he would need to become a teacher. With this as his foundation, he sought to obtain the credentials and experience necessary for one to become an educator. Much of what he learned also came through learning from his own mistakes in the classroom. In March of 1969 he was given the opportunity to become a teacher of a 6th grade class at P.S. 132, in Washington Heights. With the critical support and encouragement from Mr. Herbert Laden, the assistant principal, he was able to take on his calling head-on, thus beginning his career as an educator.

This career was abruptly interrupted in March of 1986 when a detached retina in his right eye left him virtually totally blind. Once again he was fortunate to have the steadfast and undaunted love and support of a wonderful woman, Christina Kallas. While Christina and Xen were not married at the time, she unfailingly helped him through 5 eye surgeries and recoveries. He is grateful that Christina was in his life at the time and that they are able to share their lives together as a married couple. A year and a half after the retinal detachment he was able to return to teaching.

The Orthodox faith teaches us that God is love. In his own case, Xen has experienced God profoundly, again and again, in countless ways. God's love and presence has been especially felt in his life as a teacher, where Xen has the fortune to share with others what has so freely been given to him.

Maria Kratsios, LMSW, is a social worker in clinical private practice in New York City, helping adults and adolescents navigate the emotional and practical challenges of life-stage transitions. She offers motivational and therapeutic workshops at both public and private organizations and facilitates experiential therapeutic groups at Freedom Institute for men and women in recovery from drug and alcohol dependence. Ms. Kratsios occasionally writes and speaks on topics close to her heart, such as the challenges of raising children of faith in a secular society and the healthy inter-relationship between self-discipline and self-care. As a former investment banker, and the mother of three boys, she has been navigating life-stage transitions more or less successfully for decades. Ms. Kratsios has a Masters in Social Work from Hunter College and a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. She can be contacted at maria.kratsios@thegentlejourney.com.

Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou is Asst. Professor in the Department of International Relations at Boston University, where she directs the M.A. degree program in International Relations and Religion. She is also now serving her fourth term as Commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) since her appointment in 2004 by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi; Prodromou is Vice Chair of the USCIRF.

Dr. Prodromou has published on issues of religion and security, religious freedom and democracy. Her publications have appeared in scholarly and policy journals, such as European Journal of Political Research, Social Compass, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Journal of Democracy, Orbis, Survival, and Journal of Faith & International Affairs, as well as in numerous edited volumes dealing with the comparative issues of human rights and religious freedom, religion and US foreign policy, and politics and culture in Southeastern Europe. She has published an edited volume on topics in religion and modernity, entitled Thinking through Faith: Perspectives from Orthodox Christian Scholars. Her work has also appeared in numerous media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, the Voice of America, and The Hill: The Hill’s Congress Blog, and she has appeared frequently as a television and radio guest in U.S. and global media, including New England Cable News Network, Voice of America, IR-RN USA Radio Network, and Orthodox Christian Network.

A regional expert on Southeastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, she has been an invited policy consultant to many US government agencies in the diplomatic, defense, and intelligence communities, as well as to international organization, such as NATO and the United Nations, and to governmental and non-governmental organizations in various EU member-states.

Stephanie Astic, Founder and President, started the event production and fundraising company Astic Productions in 1992 in New York City. She is the leadership behind all production and management needs for the company's client base. In conjunction with her clients, Stephanie develops and creates a process that ensures the event is both exciting and successful. Stephanie has sat on a number of foundation boards, which has greatly impacted the success of the company. "Understanding a fundraiser and all of its parts is key to producing these types of events," explains Stephanie, "it's all about strong relationships." Stephanie's background in events began after graduating from FIT and having a short stint in the field of publishing. Ever since she has been working in event production and fundraising. Stephanie is currently quoted in the book by author, journalist and financial educator Barbara Stanny, The Secrets of Six Figure Women, published by Harper & Collins. And also quoted throughout the New York Times article, “Charities Seek Donors to Replace Wall Street.

Astic Productions, an event production and fundraising company, has been producing and creating events for 20 years. Based in New York City, the firm has produced a wide variety of events all over the country. Specializing in large, innovative, "out-of-the-box" productions, clients include Alzheimer’s Association of New York, Autism Speaks, Brennan Center for Justice, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Center for Reproductive Rights, Dress for Success, The Gateway Schools, Institute of International Education, National Kidney Foundation, New Yorkers for Children, Room to Grow and The Vera Institute for Justice. Full client list attached.