New England Deanery Hosts High School Advent Retreat

December 1, 2002

DANBURY, CT - The New England Deanery held its first annual Advent Retreat for High School students from Friday, November 22 to Saturday, November 23. Building on the firm foundation of the many friendships that have developed between the young adults of the New England Deanery from their common experience of Camp Nazareth, Fr. Luke Mihaly and Fr. Peter Paproski held a retreat to further cement the spiritual friendships of the New England Deanery youth. The retreat was held at St. Cuthbert's Retreat House in Brewster, New York.

Eleven High School young adults from Holy Trinity Danbury, Connecticut, St. John's, Mill Hill Avenue, Bridgeport, Connecticut and St. John's Broadbridge Avenue Stratford, Connecticut participated. The theme of the Retreat was THE LIGHT OF CHRIST ILLUMINES ALL. The retreat began on Friday evening with registration and a pizza dinner followed by a workshop on Plain Chant. During the Plain Chant workshop, everyone learned to sing the Diocesan Anointing Service to St. Nectarios.

Fr. Luke Mihaly gave the first talk that discussed lighting the fire of faith within ones heart. For many of us who grew up in the Orthodox Faith, our meeting point is the liturgy. Unfortunately, our faith often times doesn't go beyond the four walls of the church. It is essential that you make you Orthodox Christian Faith real. If Christ is real to you, you can make Christ real to other people. What we hope to do in less than 24 hours, is light the fire of ardent love for Jesus Christ in your hearts so that you will be able to carry that flame of Jesus Christ into your homes, your families, your parishes indeed into your schools and where ever you go. But the only way we can light that flame of Christ in us is if we voluntarily enter the flame of faith and love of Jesus Christ. Just as we cannot light a candle unless we place the wick directly in the flame, so too we cannot become Christians aflame with the love of Christ unless we enter into the flame of prayer and spiritual life that Jesus asks us to do." Following Fr. Luke's talk the Small Compline service was held at the small chapel. Again building on the success of Camp Nazareth, a clergy Rap session was held and a lengthy discussion followed regarding our spiritual life. Lights went out at 11:20 PM.

Saturday morning everyone was in Chapel by 8 AM for morning prayers which was followed by breakfast. Soon after breakfast the group was separated into two for a biblical scavenger hunt. Each group was given passages from the Old and New Testament that had references to fire and flame. After this the two groups were brought back together to see how these biblical passages referred to the theme of the retreat. The talks were intensive and the depth of spiritual maturity was evident. The morning discussion culminated by watching a videotape on the missionary work that being done in Calcutta, India. The video tape, produced by the Orthodox Christian Mission center, helped the young adults of the New England Deanery to see that their faith can and should have an impact on the lives of those around them. A discussion ensued afterwards as to what the New England Deanery Youth can do to put their faith to work. Such ideas as helping the St. Nicholas Orphanage in Slovakia, working in local soup kitchens and collecting food and clothing throughout the year instead of only at Thanksgiving were some of the ideas that came from this vibrant and enthusiastic group of Orthodox youth.

The Youth decided to further investigate the possibility - through the office of the Metropolitan - of sending a Youth group to spend time working at St. Nicholas Orphanage in Slovakia and also the possibility of sponsoring some of the orphans to spend a camping Sessions at our own Camp Nazareth.

The whole retreat ended Saturday with the Diocesan St. Nectarios Society service of anointing. All who attended sang the responses with much joy and enthusiasm and all came forward to be anointed with oil from St. Nectarios. The Youth also decided to meet together for a "Lock-in" at St. John's church in Bridgeport and a day of Duckpin bowling in Stratford. By all accounts the overnight retreat was a success and everyone was very much moved by the whole experience.

Many thanks to Christina Adzima who helped to chaperone the event, and to Subdeacons Robert Hubiak and Gregory Justiniano.