On Wednesday, March 17/30, 2022 the diocesan clergy gathered in Houston for the most important part of their assembly: to serve the Divine Liturgy and to partake of the Holy Gifts together with their spiritual leader, Archbishop Peter.
The Great Lenten Hours began at 7:00 a.m., after which Vladyka Peter led the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. At the small entrance several ecclesiastical awards were given for sincere service to the Holy Church: Priest Cassian Sibley was raised to the dignity of Archpriest.
Priest David Carder, Priest David Companik, Priest Nicholas Park, and Priest Thomas Sprunger were awarded the right to wear the Nabedrinik.
The parish church was full of the faithful, this being a weekday mostly mothers with young children, almost all of whom partook of Holy Communion.
Following the Divine Liturgy and a lenten meal in the parish hall, the final work of the Pastoral Retreat took place. Archpriest Cassian Sibley shared his thoughts on the contemporary situation in the Orthodox Church in Africa with the clergy and the laity present at the meal. Fr. Cassian grew up in Africa as the son of American missionaries, and he has many times returned to Africa to do missionary work there himself. After his presentation there was a short question and answer period. The editing committee then presented the final draft of the Retreat Resolution, which was accepted unanimously by the gathered clergy. The full text of the resolution can be found below. His Eminence then closed the retreat with a pastoral word and prayer, thanking all for taking the time to be present, and stressing that our strength as a diocesan clergy brotherhood is in our unity, expressed most importantly by our serving the Divine Liturgy together and communing together of the Holy Gifts. Vladyka also thanked those that labored so diligently for the success of this first gathering of clergy since the pandemic began, especially Archpriest John Whiteford and his parish family for being such gracious hosts.
After the meal the clergymen began to depart for their home parishes with thanks to God for the opportunity to again gather for mutual spiritual support during this most spiritually intense time of the liturgical year.
Resolution of the Great Lenten Clergy Retreat of the Diocese of Chicago & Mid-America 2022
Having gathered together in the God-protected city of Houston, Texas at St. Jonah of Manchuria Orthodox Church, we give thanks to God for the resumption of our clergy retreats in the wake of the fading pandemic, from which we have been delivered by God! In our midst shone the Precious and Life-giving Cross, set forth in our parish churches last Sunday. This Cross, which we venerated with hope in Christ and prayers for the suffering world, is the emblem of our salvation. Archbishop Peter reminded the fathers and brethren that those who meekly accept and faithfully bear their cross find it easy and light, a source of strength and consolation; while those who revolt against it and do not accept God’s will in difficult circumstances find their cross torturous and burdensome.
With pain of heart and love for our suffering brothers and sisters in Ukraine, we encourage the faithful to continue in heartfelt prayer and generous Christian charity to alleviate their suffering. Archbishop Peter thanks his flock for their zealous and sympathetic response to his call for donations, which has raised over $50,000 that is now in the hands of His Beatitude Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine, for immediate distribution to those hungry, homeless, and displaced by war. Following the example of the Good Samaritan, we must not passively observe the suffering souls afflicted by war, but stop to comfort and aid them in this hour of grievous need. We will continue to take collections for their sakes throughout this Lenten season.
We encourage the faithful to keep a good Lenten fast pleasing to God, by renewed repentance, attendance of divine services, increased prayer, struggle for virtue, and open-hearted concern for others who are lonely, suffering, and in need. We remind the faithful that the two wings of prayer are fasting and almsgiving, and on these wings our prayers for the Church and the world rise to God and are mercifully received.
The gathered clergy were addressed by our brother Priest Antony Alekseyenko, now enrolled at Sretensky Theological Academy and completing his master’s thesis on “Pastorship in ROCOR”. In his presentation on this subject, Fr. Antony drew attention to the challenges faced by, and necessary qualities required of, an immigrant priest in the Church Abroad. We thank Fr. Antony for his efforts in raising these important questions and contributing his insights and suggestions.
With fraternal love, we also thank Archpriest Joseph Honeycutt of St. Joseph Antiochian Orthodox Church of Houston, who gave a presentation to the assembled clergy entitled “The Great Reset and the Resurrection”. This included Fr. Joseph’s reflections on the pandemic and the church’s response, with emphasis on the counsels of contemporary elders on patient endurance and humble acceptance of trials sent by God for our salvation. It was well-received and of benefit to all.
We also thank all those volunteer members of our diocese who serve on various diocesan committees and who provided informative reports outlining important activities and developments within the diocese. Gratitude was also expressed to the rector Archpriest John Whiteford, the parish family, and especially the Sisterhood members of St. Jonah Orthodox Church who hosted this gathering in a comfortable and accommodating atmosphere.
May God grant us all to worthily complete the course of the Fast and celebrate a radiant and joyous Pascha!