Clergy Retreat Held in Texas
Lake Dallas, Texas – The priests and deacons of St Nicholas Eparchy made their annual retreat this year at Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Dallas, Texas. From time to time the yearly spiritual exercise has taken place away from Chicago, moved to various environs of our widespread eparchy. This trip to the northern part of the Lone Star State provided a chance for new experiences.
The site, on the shores of Lewisville Lake—a man-made flood control and recreational reservoir facility built on the waters of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1927—offered our clergy a serene and secluded spot not far from St Sophia Parish in The Colony, Texas, where Fr Pavlo Popov is pastor.
All day Monday, planes landing at Dallas’ two airports brought clerics from Michigan, California or Oregon, North Dakota, Kansas, Arizona, and Houston—and ten from the Chicago area!—for the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday schedule of prayers, conferences, camaraderie and relaxed opportunities to reacquaint friends through shared news of life’s events since our last gathering.
Leading the liturgical services and inspirational talks to foster reflection was His Grace, Bishop Ken (Nowakowski), eparch of New Westminster, British Columbia (Can-ada). There were no earth-shattering or groundbreaking messages, merely reminders to help the hearers reaffirm their focus as ministers of the Gospel to the people entrusted to their spiritual care. The timeless subject matter served as a refresher course in evaluating the role of the ordained minister to benefit the faithful—and himself. Emphasis was placed on the premise “the priesthood is not a ‘career’ but a ‘vocation’” echoing the underlying aspect of being “called” to serve. The purpose of a retreat is to renew the spirit and find the means to enhance the effectiveness of the vocation to bring God to the people, and the people to God.
The surroundings provided a change of vista, a glimpse of different flora and fauna, and change extended even into the dining room: some seemed unfamiliar with salsa, shredded cheese and jalepeños as condiments on the serving table; and the kitchen staff dishing up chiles rellenos or grits were greeted more than once with a “what’s this?” question!
Following the Divine Liturgy on the last day, a Panakhyda was sung for the deceased bishops, priests and deacons who had served in various parishes over the years. Following the final presentation of Bishop Ken, the clerics headed to one of the airports, to catch a flight home, renewed in their sense of purpose.
“Retreat” as a word often has an almost negative connotation—implying stepping back, advancing away from an obstacle. Yet, a positive meaning may be found by seeing a chance to experience again the pleasant treat of learning of God’s care and love—rekindled in the process of the re“treat”.