St Luke Women's Retreat: Healing of the Soul
By Caye Caswick
"We are all on a journey to heal our souls, and we need to value our own
personal journey." This was the focus of the Third Annual St. Luke Women's Retreat. Dr.
Joan Heifner, a licensed social worker, and also an Antiochian Orthodox priest's wife, led
the retreat, which was organized by Michaelyn Sloan and Linda Kopulos.
Twenty-five women attended the retreat at St. Luke's new educational
center to hear Joan's topic: Healing of the Soul: From Image to Likeness or From Paradise
to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Joan began with her biography. She spoke of her early life, including
her special "sunbeam experience" as a young child, as well as her spiritually enlightening
trips to Russia and Romania. She also described her migration with her husband from the
Lutheran church to Orthodoxy.
In her presentation, Joan stated that becoming Orthodox is a journey of
the heart, something that is true for both cradle Orthodox and converts. "It is both real
and radical," she said. This journey is life-long and involves each person's special
relationship with God.
Joan frequently mentioned the Fathers of the Church and their
instructions for healing of the soul and spiritual growth. She passed out a reference list
of spiritual literature that had touched her, and she referred to some of her favorite
writings on Orthodox spirituality.
Joan emphasized, "People today are truly spiritually hungry." People
inherently know they "can't make things better by themselves." They need God. "As long as
we are on Earth," she said, "life [is] all a matter of continuing to change from our
earthly nature to Godliness. By saving ourselves we will save the world."
The Retreat was broken into two sessions, with lunch in between. The
food for the Retreat came from Panera Bread, and participants were impressed by Panera's
culinary flair. The lunch period provided opportunity for informal discussion of the
Retreat's subject matter and a chance to speak to Joan personally. Once again the women
of St. Luke enjoyed a successful retreat.
Note: On the following Sunday Fr. Andrew mentioned that the men of the
parish were going to form a group. I guess the women's "score," if you will, is not to be