The Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma (USA) held a Lenten lock-in retreat for its youth

Wednesday, 11 March 2015, 14:39
March 7-8, 2015 St. Anne’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Austintown, Ohio (U.S.A.) of the Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, whose new pastor is Father Lubomyr Zhybak, hosted an annual Lenten lock-in retreat for the eparchial youth. This year's theme of spiritual renewal was “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”

The Great Fast (Lent) is a liturgical period in which we begin a journey, a pilgrimage towards the unique joy and light of the Pascha of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We enter a time of preparation—working to acquire a spirit of repentance, humility, patience, and love through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is a movement from the darkness of our sins and failings to the brightness and splendor of new life in Christ’s Resurrection. In the spirit of the Great Fast, over 50 youth, young adults, youth leaders, and chaperones from The Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma gathered together at St. Anne’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Austintown, OH on March 7-8, 2015 for the 6th annual “Lock-In” Youth Retreat. The theme of the event, “Rejoice and Be Exceedingly Glad for Great Is Your Reward in Heaven” emphasized the underlying atmosphere of The Great Fast — joyful anticipation of Pascha in a time of spiritual and physical preparation. The retreat, planned by Deacon Myron Spak, members of the Eparchial Youth Committee, and by various youth leaders, was an opportunity for the young people of our eparchy to pray, reflect, meet others and take time to focus on their spiritual journey to Pascha. The retreat began with a service project at the Pregnancy Help Center in Youngstown, OH. The Pregnancy Help Center is a faith based, privately funded organization that provides ultrasound services, screenings, and information about abortion, adoption and parenting for women with unplanned pregnancies. Women with limited resources have access to a ‘free’ store maintained by the center that has supplies, clothing, toys, and diapers for infants and toddlers. The center also runs a Bible study for men and women to address the questions, concerns and hesitations that they might have about pregnancy. It is the goal of the Pregnancy Help Center that women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy can be presented with information and be provided with resources in a safe, confidential, and ‘judgement-free’ environment before considering abortion. The youth, young adults and chaperones met the Executive Director, Sally Dubinsky, and the Development Director, Raelyn Kish of the Pregnancy Help Center. Sally and Raelyn explained the mission statement of the center and provided a short video of testimonials of women, who decided to choose life. Many of the young people were moved by the testimonials. One of the youth leaders, Bohdan (Bo) Michaels commented that “it was inspiring to witness the power of the Holy Spirit working through the good people of the Pregnancy Help Center. Women faced with the struggles of unplanned pregnancies know that they have options, that they have support and that they have access to resources to help them choose life. The people working at the Pregnancy Help Center are living the Gospel on a daily basis. Charity and love have made this happen. It brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart!” The youth and young adults ‘rolled up’ their sleeves and helped Sally and Raelyn sort boxes of toys, clothing and supplies. The young people worked together in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity. Michael Spak, a young adult and chaperone, mentioned that “missionary spirit is essential to our Christianity. Many hands make light work. O, what a joyful noise. A joyful noise, indeed!” As the group began to depart the pregnancy center, Sally Dubinksy surprised the group with pictures and anecdotes from a ‘sister’ pregnancy center in Kharkiv, Ukraine. The pregnancy center in Ukraine does not have the resources, vitamins, medical equipment and/or staff and is supported by the Pregnancy Help Center in Youngstown, OH. This connection resonated with group! Vasyl Zhurybida was “blown away” by the visit. He commented that “Man, I am standing on the shoulders of giants.” Upon completion of the service project at the pregnancy center, the youth went to St. Anne’s Church facilities, where they experienced dynamic and engaging presentations. The Very Rev. Dr. James Barkett, Pastor of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church (Youngstown, OH) spoke to the youth with a very direct and unapologetic presentation geared to the “do’s and don’ts” of living an Eastern Christian life as a young person. Julian Hayda, an actively involved youth lay leader from the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago, IL, provided a presentation focused on the joy of The Great Fast from an Eastern Christian perspective, and Fr. Andrew Deskevich, Pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church in Warren, OH and the Chancellor of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh addressed the youth on the subject of sin and repentance. Christine Patoray, a lay leader from St. Anne’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Austintown, OH shared a personal testimony on the subject of chastity and morality. A clergy and religious “Question and Answer” session was also provided and was met with humor, candid questions and catechetical lessons. Much of the retreat was centered on prayer. On Saturday night, the youth participated in a moving Great Vespers service led by Fr. Lubomyr Zhybak, pastor of the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church in Youngstown, OH & Saint Anne’s UC Church in Austintown, OH. The youth were also given an opportunity to participate in The Mystery of Repentance. Fr. Michael Polosky, Pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic in Ambridge, PA and Sts. Peter and Paul UC Church in Aliquippa, PA, provided a poignant and stirring Examination of Conscience, helping the retreatants to focus and prepare for confession. Several priests from various parishes were present and accessible for The Mystery of Repentance, including Fr. Lubomyr Zhybak; Fr. Jason Charron from the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church in Carnegie, PA; Fr. Philip Bumbar, an Assistant Pastor from Saints Peter and Paul UC Church in Aliquippa, PA plus Fr. Andrew Deskevich and Fr. Mike Polosky. On Sunday, March 8, the youth participated in the Divine Liturgy with the faithful of St. Anne’s Church, presided over by His Excellency Bishop Bohdan Danylo. Bishop Bohdan addressed the youth and thanked all of the volunteers that helped to plan the retreat. Deacon Alex Wroblicky, Michael Spak, Julian Hayda, Christine Hlutkowsky, Joseph Levy, Bohdan (Bo) Mykhailiv and Michael Levy helped to sing the responses. Many volunteers helped to make the event a tremendous success. Dave and Debbie Patoray from the Holy Trinity UC Church in Youngstown, OH worked tirelessly to prepare all the meals for the attendants; Michael Migielicz, Bohdan Mykhailiv and Vasyl Zhurebida handled all aspects of registrations; Christina Hlutkowsky served as Mistress of Ceremonies, Michael Migielicz provided a powerful presentation on reflection and introspection, Joseph Levy provided audio/visual assistance, Alex Lischak prepared a video recording of the event and several others provided chaperone services and assisted with event operations. The 2015 “Lock-In” Retreat was a wonderful, prayerful, and engaging event for our youth. We pray for God’s continual blessings on the youth and the volunteers of the Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, OH! Till the next year!

Reported by Michael J. Levy



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