On March 23-24, 2019, St. Anne Ukrainian Catholic Church in Austintown, Ohio of the Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma (USA) hosted an annual Lenten Lock-In Retreat for the eparchial youth. This year’s theme of spiritual renewal was “He, who has ears to hear, let him hear” taken from the Gospel of Saint Matthew (13:19).
Almost 40 youth, young adults, youth leaders, chaperones, clergy and consecrated persons from the Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma and beyond gathered together under the headship of its shepherd, Bishop Bohdan Danylo, at St. Anne Ukrainian Catholic Church in Austintown, OH for the annual youth “Lock-In” Retreat with the theme “He, who has ears to hear, let him hear” taken from the Gospel of Saint Matthew (13:19). The retreat, planned by the Eparchial Youth Committee under the leadership of Fr. Lubomyr Zhybak, pastor of St. Anne Ukrainian Catholic Church in Austintown, OH and Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church in Youngstown, OH and coordinated by Deacon Myron Spak from Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church in Carnegie, PA was an opportunity for the eparchy’s young people to pray, reflect, meet others, and take time to focus on their spiritual journey to Pascha with a particular emphasis this year on the Word of God and catechesis.
The retreat began with a service project at a branch of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church in Youngstown, OH. The society is an international Catholic voluntary organization, founded in 1833 by Blessed Frederic Ozanam in Paris (France) and named after St. Vincent de Paul – XVI-XVII century French Roman Catholic priest renowned for his service to the poor – with the aim of sanctification of its members by individual service to the needy. Ms. Jessica Robinson, the society’s Executive Administrator of Northeast Ohio District, together Deacon Myron Spak, helped to coordinate the morning’s service project. The youth and adults ‘rolled up their sleeves’ and assisted the staff to prepare and serve breakfast on that day to the poor as well as to clean up the cafeteria afterwards. The visit to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul proved to be a great opportunity for the youth to witness faith in action.
The theme of this year’s retreat was focused on the Word of God and catechesis – an overarching theme that the Ukrainian Catholic Church has chosen to focus on in 2019. Thus, after the service project and lunch, Mother Iliana of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, told the retreatants that God speaks to us through the Sacred Scripture, the sacraments, other people, and in moments of silence. The word “hear,” she said, appears in the Sacred Scripture more than 1,000 times. “He keeps telling us to hear,” she said.
Mother Iliana’s presentation was followed by an insightful and engaging Quiz Bowl, put together by Deacon Anthony Dragani from the Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Revloc, PA and Mr. Michael Levy from St. Andrew Ukrainian Catholic Church in Parma, OH and facilitated this year by two seminarians from Sts. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA: Michael Kunitz and Kyprian Wojciechowski. The game challenge provided a learning, insightful, fun, and engaging opportunity for the young people to test the knowledge of their faith with a particular emphasis on the “Christ Our Pascha” Catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. All retreatants were given a copy of the catechism book to take home as a gift, courtesy of the Eparchial Youth Committee.
On Saturday evening – the eve of Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross – the youth participated in a moving Great Vespers, presided over by Bishop Bohdan Danylo and concelebrated by Fr. Lubomyr Zhybak and Deacon Trevor Fernandes from St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in Rossford, OH with the responses sung by the youth and led by Mr. Michael Spak (Deacon Myron Spak’s son) from Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church in Carnegie, PA. The youth were also given an opportunity to participate in the Mystery of Repentance. Deacon Kevin Bezner from St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Mission in Raleigh, NC, who is also completing his studies at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA provided an Examination of Conscience, helping the retreatants to focus and prepare for their confession. Several clergymen were present and accessible for the Mystery of Repentance, including Bishop Bohdan Danylo, Fr. Lubomyr Zhybak, Fr. Dennis Arambasic, OFM from Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Shrine in Youngstown, OH, and Fr. David Misbrener, Pastor of St. Peter of the Fields Roman Catholic Church in Rootstown, OH.
Following the confession, a clergy “Question and Answer” session took place that was met with humor, candor, and catechetical lessons after which the retreatants made a video in English and Ukrainian inviting their peers throughout the Metropolitan Ukrainian Catholic Church in America to attend a special youth event to be held on June 8, 2019 in Philadelphia, PA as part of the enthronement of the new Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop and Metropolitan of Philadelphia, Borys Gudziak.
On Sunday morning, before the Divine Liturgy, Fr. Alex Wroblicky delivered an inspiring and engaging talk to the youth on the practice of lectio divina (divine reading), namely on the practice of scriptural reading, meditation, and prayer, intended to promote communion with the Lord and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word, namely the Sacred Scripture. After the talk, the youth participated in the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, presided over by Bishop Bohdan Danylo, and concelebrated by Fr. Lubomyr Zhybak, Fr. Alex Wroblicky, Deacon Myron Spak, Deacon Kevin Bezner, and Deacon Trevor Fernandes. Divine Liturgy responses were provided by the youth. In addition to the retreat participants, the Liturgy was also attended by the parishioners of St. Anne Church and Holy Trinity Church from Youngstown.
In his homily during the Divine Liturgy, Bishop Bohdan asked the retreatants, along with all in attendance, to consider the question St. John of Damascus asked the faithful during his times: “When you come to kiss the Cross, how do you do it?” Is your kiss, Bishop Bohdan asked, just a kiss? Do you kiss the Cross only because it is part of your family tradition? Do you kiss the Cross the way Judas kissed our Lord? “The kiss of Judas led to the crucifixion,” Bishop Bohdan said. When you kiss the Cross, kiss it with the understanding that the Cross is a sign of your salvation, he added. When we do this, those in the world will see in our gestures that we are disciples of Jesus Christ and that Jesus Christ is in our hearts. Bishop Bohdan likewise thanked everyone, who planned, ran, and took part in the youth retreat.
Many helped to make the youth retreat a success. St. Anne Church’s Fr. Lubomyr Zhybak, Mr. Paul Nachim (a sacristan), and the parishioners provided a warm welcome for all of the retreatants and volunteers. Deacon Myron Spak coordinated the event. Michael Jordon from the local Knights of Columbus Council 3813 and his wife Diane helped to organize all of the meals for the retreat’s participants. Some youth and the two present seminarians served during the Divine Liturgy. Michael Levy and his brother Joseph Levy provided audio/visual support during the retreat. Sr. Ann Laszok, OSBM from Ambridge, PA and Mrs. Barbara Spak (Deacon Myron Spak’s wife) helped with the registrations.
The 2019 “Lock-In” Retreat was a wonderful, prayerful, and engaging event for our youth whereby everyone could feel the love of Christ and could share this Christian love with others. The next eparchial youth Lock-In Retreat is planned for March 14-15, 2020 at St. Anne Ukrainian Catholic Church in Austintown, OH.
Department of Information of the UGCC