An Excellent Experience
2015 Winter Youth Retreat – Midwest Diocese
Over 110 high school and college students came together for spirituality, fellowship, and healing.
It all started on Monday evening December 28, 2015, when a harsh winter storm hit the Chicago area.
It seemed that most of the participants would not be able to make it. By the grace of God and the prayers of His most holy Mother, almost everyone arrived – and all arrived safely.
That night we first went into the church to read the Akathist- prayers to the Mother of God to ask for her blessing and protection. The following day, water was blessed and all the participants were soaked (sprinkled) with holy water. In the evening everyone partook of the sacrament of Holy Unction – for the healing of soul and body. For many of the retreaters, this was their first time partaking in the sacrament of Holy Unction, and all said that it was a healing, beautiful and blessed experience!
On Wednesday everyone had Confession and then on Thursday during Divine Liturgy all received Communion – the holy body and blood of Christ. During the Liturgy one of the helpers Nikola Cvijanovic was Tonsured a Reader by His Grace Bishop Longin.
On Thursday Night we had a Moleban – a candlelight vigil thanking God for the past year and asking for blessings in the upcoming year. The retreat concluded with a traditional group hug.
We were blessed with excellent presentations by Fr. Aleksej, Fr. Serafim, Fr. Nikola Radovancevich, Protinica Ann Krosnjar, and Protinica Snezana Novakovic. The presentations were Christ-centered and relating to things young people deal with in their everyday life. Following were the themes of the presentations: Dear lost in paradise, His (Chris’s) Body, College – heaven and or hell, Rejection.
As the crown to the presentations and many smaller group discussions, the youth was blessed with the presence of our Bishop Longin who answered questions for over an hour and a half. Four priests present at all time gave each of the participants an opportunity to talk and counsel.
From the spiritual readings at meals to small group discussions, much was covered. The meals were gourmet as well as healthy (Lenten soup, fruit and vegetables daily) and the 3,000 square-foot game room was a nice addition. The Poetry/ Comedy/ Share a Gift Night was a big hit again – once again we discovered some awesome talent. Serbian Anti-Yoga (which are walks through the Monastery grounds) were also as popular. Learning to chant, serve, and read for church services was a success.
We were even blessed to celebrate the new calendar New Year’s Eve in a Lenten fashion. So, after the candlelight vigil in church, everyone came together for a fun evening at the Camp building with awesome Lenten food and appropriate music. Most of all, this was blessed because all of these young people decided to come to the retreat, joining together in faith and fellowship, over going out to some party.
During the retreat each of us contributed $10 and collected over a $1,000 for a needy family. On Friday, after saying a prayer to the Holy Spirit, one of the participants pulled the name from a box (which was filled with names of needy people from different parishes) placed there by the retreaters. We learned very quickly that the family this money is going to for Christmas, is a family of two little children whose parents became very sick – and not working lately, have lost a lot.
Each of the participants received the following gifts to take home: a small bottle of holy water, a small cross from Greece, and an icon of Christ or of the Mother of God from Mount Athos, an icon of Saint Matrona brought from Russia, and a keychain brought from Africa.
At last, we must say – nothing without our mothers and sisters!!! We take this opportunity to thank the Circle of Serbian Sisters headed by Mira Andjelkovic for all of their support and encouragement, but most of all for their love!
We also thank our choir director Dragan Arsic – our focus was learning to sing the Divine Liturgy in English and learning a song about Kosovo. We thank our on-call doctor Chris Karas and the security personnel. Especially we thank the Monastery community for their patience, love, and understanding.
We were blessed with more teachers and assistants: Fr. Mile Subotic – Old Holy Resurrection, Fr. Nikolai Kostur – Joliet, photographer Kosovka Spreco, Tatiana Vukotic – Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student, seminary students, Youth Department members, especially: Katarina Ivancevic, Ana Mihailovic, Jovan Sinik, Sandra Glisic, Marija Petrovic, Tanja Samardzija, Dusan Markovic, Milica Vuksanovic, Danijela Jevdosic and Kristina Petrovic.
Special thanks to all the donors, especially: City Fresh Market and Lewis Fruit Market. A few of the parishes of our diocese also made significant donations. More and more of our people are investing in the future of our church – the youth. May God thank you.
By priest Dragan Petrovic – Director of the Youth Department of the Midwest Diocese
P. S. The following is a message which I received a few hours after the retreat:
“Hello father, today after the retreat I wanted to thank you… I didn’t want the retreat to end because I feel a great connection with God. I’m scared to lose that connection…
But anyway, again thank you for making this retreat – I would have been lost without it.”