Annual college student retreat in the Midwest Diocese (August 3-6, 2017)
The day after St. Elijah, the retreat for college and graduate students started with registration at 2:30 p.m. The first gathering of all the participants was at Vespers in the monastery of the Most Holy Mother of God in Third Lake, Illinois – New Gracanica.
After dinner, and before the first presentation and even the official icebreaker and introduction, everyone had a chance to really get to know each other through the service project at the monastery itself. Much needed to be done around the property, and thanks to these young people much was accomplished in the time they were there. Before bed we were privileged to have Fr. Mile Subotic come and speak on “Faith and Academics” as well as participation in campus Orthodox Christian Fellowship groups.
On Friday morning after breakfast, lesson, and prayers to the Mother of God, everyone went to a ballroom dancing studio for dance lessons. At the end of the session, some of our participants showed their instructors the dances we are used to. Everyone had a lot of fun. In the early evening of the same day, the group visited St. Sava Monastery and venerated the relics of St. Mardarije.
For dinner all went to a Chinese restaurant to enjoy Lenten foods with our own bishop, who spent nearly two hours with the students in all kinds of discussions – from our faith, to politics, to history, and back to our faith and its practical implications. Late at night there was another lesson by Protinica Ann Krosnjar on marriage from the wife’s perspective. Following her presentation it was explained to everyone that in the early hours of the following day (over two decades ago) thousands of people lost their houses and in a way their lives, and many died, when exiled to Serbia from the Serbian Krajina. Everyone accepted (and participated in) an unplanned prayer service in memory of these much suffering people, our brothers and sisters.
Saturday morning after lessons (by the monastery lake) on lives of married saints by our dearest Fr. Nikola Radovancevic, the group took another trip to the Greek monastery in Kenosha, Wisconsin. There all were greeted by the head of the monastery, Mother Melanija, who shared beautiful stories about monastic life and the life of two recent saints, Sts. Nektarije and Porfirije. The sisters provided lunch and then a tour of the monastery grounds. After receiving spiritual joy, everyone was off on another trip to Lake Geneva. There another lesson on marriage life was offered by Protinica Snezana Novakovic. Walks and talks by the lake, visiting different areas of the old town, and watching the sunset followed. Back at the monastery, thanks to our most wonderful mothers and sisters (KSS), more delicious food was waiting for us. After settling back in at the monastery dorm, everyone gathered in the contemplation room to spend some time (as usual) with our dear and much loved Fr. Serafim (Baltic). While in contemplation the students had a surprise visit. Bishop Kiril (Serbian Bishop of South America) came to say “hello” and give thanks to the students for putting together and offering a significant donation for the mission efforts of the Serbian Church in South America. The students had collected this at the registration of the retreat and were hoping to see the bishop during the retreat but were not sure it would work out considering his schedule.
On Sunday morning there was Confession, the reading of the Canon before Holy Communion, and the crown of the weekend: entering the kingdom of heaven through the Divine Liturgy and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. After the retreat many said they are now more aware of what marriage is and how important it is to pick a right person. (We found out that only 1% of the participants came from divorced parents. Compare that to the 60% divorce rate in our country today. May God help and save us, and may we look back at our ancestors and try to learn from them how and why they made sure their marriages were kept intact.)
Glory and thanks be to God for all things.
From the Youth Department of the Midwest Diocese
From Fr. Dragan Petrovic – Director of department for youth and young adults of the Midwest Diocese
With the blessing of our Bishop Longin, I Welcome you to the first and therefore historic college Student retreat of our Midwest Diocese.
We hope and pray that every year between August 3 and August 6 we will have this retreat, and that it will multiply as our winter youth retreat did so far.