The day after Saint Elijah the retreat for college and graduate students started with registration at 2:30 PM.
The first gathering of all the participants was at Vespers in the monastery of the most holy mother of God in third Lake Illinois – New Gracanica.
After dinner and before the first presentation and even the official icebreaker and introduction, everyone had a chance to really get to know each other through the service project at the Monastery itself, much to be done around the property and thanks to these young people much was accomplished in the time they were there.
Before bed we were privileged to have Fr. Mile Subotic come and speak on “Faith and Academics” as well as the participation in the Orthotist Christian Fellowship on campus.
On Friday morning after breakfast, lesson and prayers to the mother of God, everyone went to a ballroom dancing studio for dance lessons. At the end of the session some of our participants showed their instructors the dances we are used to. Everyone had a lot of fun.
In the early evening of the same day, the group visited St Sava monastery and venerated the relics of Saint Mardarije.
For dinner all went to a Chinese restaurant to enjoy Lenten foods with our own Bishop, who spent nearly 2 hours with the students in all kind of discussions – from our faith, to politics, to history, to back to our faith and its practical implications.
Late at night there was another lesson by Protinica Ann Krosnjar on marriage from the wife’s perspective.
Following her presentation it was explain to everyone that in the early hours of the following Day thousands of people (over two decades ago) lost their houses and in a way their lives, and many died, when exiled to Serbia from the Serbian Krajina. Everyone accepted (and participated in) an unplanned prayer service in memory of these much suffering people – our brothers and sisters.
Saturday morning after lessons (by The Monastery lake) on lives of married Saints, another trip – to the Greek monastery in Kenosha Wisconsin. There we were greeted by the head of the Monastery mother Melanija who shared beautiful stories about monastic life and the life of to recent Saints: St. Nektarije and Porfirije. They offered lunch to us and we toured the Monastery grounds.
After receiving spiritual joy, off to (another trip) Lake Geneva. There another lesson on marriage life was offered by Protinica Snezana Novakovic. Walks and talks by the lake, visiting different areas of the old town and watching the sunset followed.
Back at the monastery, thanks to our most wonderful mothers and sisters (KSS), more delicious food was waiting for us.
After settling back in to the Monastery dorm, everyone gathered in the contemplation room to spend some time (as usual) with our dear and much loved Fr Serafim (Baltic). While in contemplation the students had a surprise visit. Bishop Kiril (Serbian Bishop of South America) came to say hello and give thanks to the students for putting together and offering a significant donation for the mission efforts of the Serbian Church in South America. They collected this at the registration of the retreat and were hoping to see him during the retreat but were not sure if it would work out considering the bishops schedule.
On Sunday morning the confession, reading of the Canon before holy Communion, and the crown of the weekend was in entering the kingdom of heaven through the divine liturgy and receiving the body and blood of Christ – Holy Communion.
After the retreat many said they are now more aware of what marriage is and how important it is to pick right person.
Glory and thanks be to God for all things.
From the Youth Department of the Midwest Diocese
PS we found out that only 1% of the participants came from divorced parents. Compare that to the 60% divorce rate in our country today. May God help and save us and may we look back at our ancestors and try to learn from them – how and why did they make sure their marriages were kept intact.