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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 ignored.

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