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Lenten Family Retreat
By Aristea Zekios

Due to the space constraints over the past few years, it's been quite awhile since we've been able to host a family retreat. So it was with great joy that 60 of our parishioners participated in the Lenten Family Retreat held on Sunday, April 6th - in our new building!

At a planning meeting in early March, our educational staff decided to focus on the Sundays of Great Lent as a theme. Registration forms were distributed to the parish and a final planning meeting was held on March 23rd to fine tune the schedule. The retreat was divided as follows:

9:30 am to 11:15 am - Divine Liturgy

11:15 to 12 noon.

Everyone in the parish was invited to a Lenten meal in the fellowship hall. While listening to readings from the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov, the hungry stomachs were filled with pasta, salad, bread sticks, dessert, and beverages.

After the meal, Maria Kopulos set up the "handprinting station." Young and old alike dipped their hands into paints and placed them on a huge mural letter "Your Hands Have Made and Fashioned Me". (Psalm 119:73 & Job 10:8) This colorful masterpiece is now displayed in the fellowship hall.

12 noon to 1 pm

The next event was Altar bread (Prosphoro) making. Father Andrew initiated the activity with a prayer and explanation of the various types of seals that are used. Parents teamed up with their children and produced some fine bread! Mic Sloan, Maria Vrame and Aristea Zekios helped all the neophyte bakers with commands to "add a little water", "keep kneading until pliable", and " add a little flour."

The breads were collected and placed in the kitchen to rise. Later they were baked under the watchful eyes of Maria.

1 to 3 pm

Teachers gathered the students and reported to their respective classrooms to discuss the theme selected for each grade level.

Meanwhile, Father Andrew met with the adults in the church nave from 1:00 to 1:30 pm. He walked them through the service of preparation (proskomedia) and answered all their questions. Upon completion of this segment, Father Howard Sloan and Father Deacon Andrew Werbiansky divided the adults into two discussion groups.

Meanwhile, Father Andrew reported to the primary grade classroom where he met with the First Confession candidates.

3:00 - 4:00 PM

All participants reported to the church where each group made a presentation about their respective topic. They were

  • ¨Kindergarten - Sunday of the Cross. Teacher: Elizabeth Wassilkowsky - The students had viewed a video on the Crucifixion and Resurrection. During the retreat Father Andrew had visited them and taught them how to do prostrations. So these youngsters demonstrated what Father had taught them.
  • ¨Primary - Orthodoxy Sunday - Teachers: Lynn Betsanes & Pat Ketchamrk- The students held the icons they had made and presented a basic explantion of icon. Then Father Andrew blessed each icon.
  • ¨Intermediate - Palm Sunday - Teacher: Luke Kopulos - These students presented a skit on the raising of Lazarus to show why the crowds gathered to see Jesus on Palm Sunday. The backdrop consisted of the kindergarten students dressed as Israelite children.
  • ¨Young Adults - St. Mary of Egypt - Teacher: Maria Koulos - This class displayed a chart about the virtues achieved by St. Mary. They explained the steps to her Sainthood.
  • ¨Adults - St. Gregory Palamas - Father Deacon Andrew explained the Jesus Prayer and talked about hesychism. The topic may sound a bit advanced, but he presented the recap in a very understandable level for all our students. He even explained and displayed an Orthodox prayer rope.
  • ¨Adults - St. John Climacus of the Ladder- Father Howard Sloan spoke about the Ladder of Divine Ascent and how we can apply it to our lives - even if we are not monastics.

    Father Andrew closed the retreat by thanking everyone for sacrificing their entire afternoon to participate. Everyone sang Saint Simeon's Prayer as a dismissal. Afterwards, all the bakers reported to the kitchen to pick up their baked prosphora to take them home as a reminder of this sacred art. Hopefully each family will continue with this beautiful tradition and offer prosphora on a regular basis.

    The educational staff sincerely thanks everyone who participated. With the decision to make the Lenten Family Retreat an annual event, Michaelyn Sloan, Linda Kopulos, and I are already making plans for 2004. We would like to hear from each of you. So please don't forget to submit your evaluation forms.