2015 Lenten Teen Retreat.
With the blessing Archbishop Michael nearly twenty teenagers (grades 7-12) gathered on 20-22 March 2015 for the Annual Lenten Youth Retreat at Saint Basil Academy in Garrison NY. Father Jason Vansuch (Chairman, Department of Youth Ministry) coordinated the event together with youth workers Janine Alpaugh, Juliana Federoff, Danielle Geeza, and Tania Metz. The theme was "Let My Prayer Arise: The Mystery of Prayer" with guest speaker Father Timothy Hojnicki (Holy Apostles Mission, Mechanicsburg PA).
Participants arrived late into Friday evening, braving the snow for the opportunity to enjoy fellowship with old acquaintances and to make new friends. Following a pizza dinner and several ice-breaker activities, the group headed to the chapel for Father Timothy’s first talk on the basics of why we pray. He then explained “The Lord's Prayer” using simple terminology. He also touched on how participants should develop their own personal prayer rule, recalling his own teenage years and how his prayer life grew with age. After a short question and answer period, the night closed with evening prayers with several participants chanting the prayers in rotation. Saturday morning started bright and early at 8:00 a.m. with the Memorial Saturday Divine Liturgy. Evan Levitsky (Holy Resurrection Church, Wayne NJ) and Simeon Brasowski (Christ the Savior Church, Paramus NJ) greeted Archbishop Michael with the traditional bread and salt. Concelebrating with His Eminence were: Archimandrite Anthony (Director, Saint Basil Academy), Father Jason, and Father Timothy. They were assisted by Sub-deacon Mark Federoff and three altar servers; Father Stephen Evanina (Holy Assumption Church, Clifton NJ) directed the choir of participants the entire weekend. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, Archimandrite Anthony blessed the traditional Koliva (boiled wheat cooked with honey and mixed fruits, cinnamon, etc.) lovingly prepared by Juliana Federoff the night before in remembrance of her departed loved ones.
A delicious brunch was served by the Academy staff, and then it was time for Father Tim’s final learning session and closing remarks by Archbishop Michael. After receiving His Eminence’s blessing and a gift, free-time and fellowship commenced! Participants enjoyed exploring the grounds, playing basketball in the gym, and hanging-out together in the dorms. Later in the afternoon, organized games were played in the gym: “Orthodox Olympics” (always a favorite of attendees) and a relay race, both organized by Danielle Geeza with help from chaperones. After Vespers the evening wrapped-up with dinner, a viewing of the classic movie “Hoosiers,” and a group discussion on how prayer played a part in the movie. Then, it was time to return to the dorms for the night.
The weekend concluded with the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning celebrated by Father Jason and Archimandrite Anthony with responses sung by participants. Prior to Liturgy, the Service of Preparation-Proskomedia- was served in the center of the chapel; over the course of the weekend the teens had the opportunity to fill out commemoration sheets allowing them to offer prayers for their living and departed family members, and the priests commemorated each and every name by placing a particle of bread on the diskos, or paten. Everyone received their own personal prosphora (church bread) in remembrance of the offering.
“On behalf of the youth of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey,” said Father Jason, “special thanks are extended to His Eminence, Archbishop Michael; Father Timothy Hojnicki; Father Stephen Evanina; all of the youth workers and chaperones; and the entire staff of Saint Basil Academy who lovingly opened their welcoming arms to all participants.”