Christ the Saviour Seminary Hosts Well Attended Readers & Deacons Retreat
December 27, 2002
JOHNSTOWN, PA - The weekend of December 13-15, 2002 was an
especially memorable one for a large number of our diocesan deacons, sub-deacons
and readers. This year, 23 men gathered for the annual deacons, sub-deacons and
readers retreat which was hosted by Christ the Saviour Seminary. Recognizing the
continual need for vocations to holy orders, several years ago His Eminence,
Metropolitan Nicholas, initiated this annual retreat in conjunction with the
Diocesan Readers and Deacons Formation Program. Over the years, many vocations
to the deaconate and the Holy Priesthood have been fostered through the paternal
care and interest of His Eminence. As always, the retreat participants were
humbled by the genuine concern and interest of Metropolitan Nicholas who made
the spiritually uplifting weekend possible.
The retreat opened with the 4:00 pm celebration of Daily Vespers in the
seminary chapel on Friday afternoon by Father Peter Paproski of St. John the
Baptist Church , Stratford, CT (Broadbridge Avenue) who served as Retreat Master
for the weekend encounter. The responses were beautifully rendered in the
traditional Plain Chant by the seminarians and retreat participants. Following
Vespers, the retreatants had the opportunity to avail themselves of the Holy
Mystery of Confession from Father David Moriak of St. Michael's Church, St.
Clair, PA, who served as Retreat Confessor. Following Vespers and welcoming
remarks on behalf of Metropolitan Nicholas by Father Robert Prepelka, seminary
prefect, a light buffet dinner was served. The next few hours saw the arrival of
the remaining participants who traveled great distances through a developing
Later in the evening , prior to the chanting of evening prayers, the retreat
participants gathered in the seminary conference room to hear the first of three
presentations by the retreat master on the theme The Sanctification of Time - An
Essential Diakonia. Greeting the retreat participants, Father Peter reminded
them that they had been summoned by His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas to Mount
Christ the Saviour. The purpose of the weekend encounter was to retreat from the
world and heed the heed the words of the Psalmist David, Be still and know
that I am God (Psalm 46:10). By encountering the Lord in the quietness of
ones heart and stepping outside of time, they were reminded, true spiritual
peace and rest would be achieved.
Relating personal anecdotes and insight from his priestly ministry, Father
Peter explained that one of the greatest struggles the ordained clergyman and
the faithful parishioner faces is a crisis of time. This crisis, he stressed, is
not the lack of time, but rather the failure to properly use the time God gives
us. This is the root cause of stress and the lamentable lack of participation by
many in the liturgical life and educational and social programs of our parishes.
The true vocation of the reader, sub-deacon and deacon, is to teach the faithful
by one's example how to reclaim time and use it in a godly manner.
Awakening early Saturday morning to a blanket of snow, the retreatants
proceeded to Christ the Saviour Cathedral for the 8:00 am Hierarchical Liturgy.
Despite the cold wintry darkness outside, the newly renovated cathedral church,
beautifully adorned with gold altar linens, set the tone for a truly radiant
Liturgy. Concelebrating the Divine Liturgy with His Eminence were the Very Rev.
Protopresbyter Frank Miloro, Diocesan Chancellor, the Very Rev. David Moriak;
The Rev. Fathers Robert Prepelka, Mark Tyson and Peter Paproski, and Arch-deacon
Robert Buczak. Responses to the Liturgy were sung in the traditional Plain Chant
by the cathedral cantors and the retreat participants.
During the Little Entrance, Reader Matthew Moriak of Christ The Saviour
Cathedral and Reader Edward Brisbine of St. Nicholas Church, Warren, Ohio, were
ordained to the sub-deaconate. Upon their ordination, the faithful in attendance
enthusiastically joined in the singing of AXIOS! They are
The high point of the Liturgy was the ordination to the Diaconate of
Sub-deacon Robert Hubiak of Holy Trinity Church, Danbury, Connecticut.
Sub-deacon Robert, a 2002 graduate of the New England Deanery Deaconate Program,
was led to the altar for ordination by Arch- Deacon Robert following the singing
of the Hymn to the Virgin. Circling the altar three times during the singing of
the familiar hymns O Holy Martyrs and Rejoice O Isaiah, the
teary-eyed sub-deacon knelt before the altar table where through the
Laying-On-Of- Hands by His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas, he joined the
growing ranks of diocesan deacons.
Deacon Robert, one of six vocations fostered by the small but spiritually
dynamic Holy Trinity Parish, was then led before the faithful by His Eminence
for the proclaimation of AXIOS! He Is Worthy! In attendance were more
than thirty members of Deacon Robert's family and parishioners of Holy Trinity
who made the long trip from Danbury to be present at the ordination.
Following Liturgy, a continental breakfast in honor of the newly-ordained was
held in the basement fellowship hall of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral. After
breaking the fast together and congratulating the newly-ordained, the retreat
participants returned to the Seminary for two additional talks about the
Sanctification of Time.
The first talk related to the nature and origin of chronological and
liturgical time. In commenting on the origin and nature of time, Father Peter
stated that God created time to bring order out of chaos and help his creatures
order their lives. Time properly used leads to peace, tranquility and godliness.
Conversely, its misuse leads to stress, tension and evil. The first misuse of
time recorded in sacred scripture is that of the Fall of Adam and Eve. Upon his
Saving Death and Resurrection and His Ascension into Heaven, Our Lord
established His Church to be an agent of renewal and re-creation through the
operation of the Holy Spirit. The cycle of services of the Orthodox Church,
which encompass both the solar and lunar calendars and mirrors the movement of
the cosmos, helps bring us back into harmony with God. By stepping aside from
the world and entering into liturgical time, we transcend time and place and
truly enter into the Kingdom of God. By stepping outside of time into the
Kingdom of God we become sanctified. When we then re-enter time we help to
sanctify the world and those we come into contact with by our peacefulness.
Therefore, it is essential that deacons, sub-deacons and readers be proficient
in serving, chanting and reading in a pious manner, so that they can move beyond
the mechanics of worship to worshiping in spirit and truth. It is only in
experiencing and participating in true worship, that the ordained cleric and the
faithful will be able to redeem time.
The final session, which was held prior to the Saturday Evening Vespers,
offered the participants the opportunity to reflect upon their personal
struggles in time management.
Discussing the Orthopraxis of the Sanctification of Time, the participants,
many of whom have families and secular jobs, spoke about the challenges of
balancing parish, family and work responsibilities. The participants were
reminded of the Lord's admonition to Seek first the Kingdom of God and all else
will be added. Fr. Peter concluded by saying:
As ordained clerics, one of our responsibilities, with the blessing of the
Bishop is to preach sermons. However, the most effective sermon is the unspoken
sermon of ones' conduct. If we wish for our faithful to put God first in their
lives, we must model this conviction in the context of our own lives. Simply
put, we together with all of the members of our families, need to faithfully
participate in the spiritual life of the Church. We need to demonstrate how we
choose Church over soccer, vespers over movies and pilgrimages over trips to
casinos. Therefore, as readers, deacons, sub-deacons and priests we are called
to sacrifice our very lives for the Church, yet in so doing, we find the
greatest joys known to man on earth.
Great Vespers with Litya in preparation for Sunday's Liturgy and in
anticipation of the Feast of St. Nicholas were celebrated in Christ the Saviour
Cathedral at 4:00 pm. A highlight of the Vespers Service was the Tonsure as
Reader and Ordination to the Sub-deaconate of Richard Howrilka of St. Gregory of
Nyssa Church, Seaford, NY and Seminarian Michael Ellis of Christ the Saviour
Seminary. The melodic voices of the cathedral cantors and assembled retreatants
added to the festal joy of the vespers service. Following Vespers, the retreat
participants were hosted for dinner in the Diocesan Chancery by His Eminence,
Metropolitan Nicholas. During the dinner, His Eminence offered words of
encouragement to the readers, sub-deacons and deacons. He challenged them to
consider preparing for ordination to a higher office through enrollment in
seminary courses. He also expressed his gratitude to those gathered for their
unselfish service to the Church. Those who were in attendance were humbled by
the kindness, concern and generosity of His Eminence , which truly mirrors that
of his heavenly patron, St. Nicholas.
Saturday ended with clearing skies and the chanting of the prescribed
pre-communion prayers in the seminary chapel. The day's events concluded with a
very well received spiritual talk about repentance. In his talk, Fr. David
Moriak reminded those present of the continual need for repentance and the
importance of frequent confession.
Sunday morning, with the rays of sunshine gleaming through the stained glass
windows of the beautiful Christ Saviour Cathedral, a most joyful Hierarchical
Liturgy was celebrated by His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas. His Eminence was
assisted at the altar by the Very Rev. Protopresbyter Frank Miloro, Very Rev.
David Smoley, and the Reverend Fathers, William Conjelko, Robert Prepelka and
Peter Paproski. Also assisting at the Liturgy were the newly ordained Deacon
Robert Alexander Hubiak and other deacons present under the direction of
Archdeacon Robert Buczak and Deacon David Zuder, and newly-ordained sub-deacons,
Matthew Moriak, Edward Brisbine, Michael Ellis and Richard Howrilka. The choir
of St. John's Church, Perth Amboy, NJ, under the direction of Mr. George Hanas,
very beautifully and prayerfully sang the choral responses to the Liturgy. A
highlight of the Liturgy was the elevation to Protopresbyter of the Very Rev.
David Smoley, of Sts Peter and Paul Church, Windber, PA and the Very Rev.
Putting into words the feelings of those who gathered at the very moving and
joyful Liturgy in honor of St. Nicholas, during his homily Metropolitan Nicholas
reminded the faithful of the reason why the Church celebrates the feast of our
beloved St. Nicholas with such great joy in saying:
We lift our voices this day in praise of that wondrous Wonder-worker, that
height of humility, and treasury of poverty, Nicholas - the victory and Triumph
of the People of God: father of fathers of the Church of Christ, Chief Shepherd
of the shepherds of the Flock of Christ, Model of the Faith of Christ - the very
essence of what it means to be a faithful Orthodox Christian. As we sing in the
Kondak of the Saint: 'You were truly a priestly worker in Myra, O Holy Nicholas,
for zealously living the Gospel of Christ you dedicated your life to your
What more can sum up the essence of an Orthodox Christian life? To
zealously - and that means eagerly, enthusiastically - not fanatically or with a
narrow mind, which St. Paul warns about in this Epistle to the Romans - to
zealously live the Gospel of Christ each and every day with every fiber of our
being. This is the beauty and simplicity of the example of St. Nicholas -
because the essence of his Christian walk - the conduct of his life - was his
dedication, his love, his devotion to his people and to all people. Absent from
St. Nicholas was fear of what anyone might do or say about him, hate, gossip, or
envy. In his life as we know it, he was a near-as-possible perfect example of
what it means - not just to be a Bishop or a priest, but to be a Christian, a
Christian of true worship- an Orthodox Christian. He is as we chant in his
tropar, a Model of Faith.
As we continue our celebrations through the day and throughout our lives,
may we always find in St. Nicholas a model, a guide, a rule and measure, who
will lift us up and inspire us to offer our best to God and to His
In emulating the model of St. Nicholas, nearly all of the more than 400 in
attendance came forward in the fear of God and with Faith and Love to receive
the Body and Blood of Our Lord.
At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas
bestowed medallions of St. Nicholas upon Rusyn carpenters Josef and Tibor Bilek
of the Village of Tichy Potok, Slovakia, who were instrumental in creating the
wooden shingles for the New Sts. Cyril & Methodius Church.
The spiritually uplifting weekend concluded with the Cathedral's Annual St.
Nicholas Banquet, held for the benefit of Christ The Saviour Seminary at the
Christ The Saviour Educational Center. All enjoyed the opportunity to break
bread together and enjoy Christian fellowship. A highlight of the banquet was a
delightful skit by the cathedral church school children about the life of St.
Nicholas. In response to His Eminence's bestowal of the St. Nicholas award,
Josef and Tibor Bilek presented Metropolitan Nicholas with a hand carved wall
hanging of a scene from the Village of Tichy Potok.
The diocesan readers, sub-deacons and deacons in attendance at this year's
retreat enjoyed a spiritually uplifting and refreshing weekend in the company of
His Eminence and one-another. Appreciative of the gracious hospitality and
kindness of His Eminence, these men of God left Johnstown strengthened in their
vocations, recommitted, in the words of St. Paul to
make the most of
the time...being filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and
hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all
(their) hearts. (Ephesians 5: 16-20)