(ugcc.org.ua) - From Monday, September 18 through Thursday, September 21, the priests and deacons of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia gathered with Archbishop Stefan Soroka, Bishop John Bura and Bishop Andriy Rabiy at the San Alfonso Retreat House here for their annual spiritual retreat. The retreat director was Rt. Rev. Mitred Msgr. Martin Canavan, a priest incardinated in the Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, who presently is spiritual director at St. Basil’s Seminary in Stamford, Connecticut. Msgr. Canavan, a priest vocation from the first Ukrainian Catholic church in the United States, St. Michael’s parish in Shenandoah, Pa., for many years was incardinated in and served the faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
During the retreat, Msgr. Canavan offered reflections for spiritual renewal with inspirational conferences based upon Scriptural passages from the Old and New Testaments, emphasizing the beauty of the entire creation of Almighty God. He stressed how each individual is a unique creation of God.
The clergy participated in daily liturgical services, including matins, vespers and the Divine Liturgy. Bishop John Bura, Bishop Andriy Rabiy and Archbishop Stefan Soroka were the main celebrants during the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Divine Liturgies respectively.
On Thursday, as is tradition, a panakhyda for all the deceased hierarchs and clergy of the Philadelphia Archeparchy was sung following the Divine Liturgy.
After the panakhyda, Father Robert Hitchens, on behalf of the clergy, thanked Msgr. Canavan for serving as the retreat director and the clergy expressed their gratitude to him with the traditional singing of “God Grant Him Many Years.”
Metropolitan Stefan also expressed his gratitude to Msgr. Canavan and also to all the clergy for their wonderful participation throughout the week and particularly to Father Robert Hitchens and Father Wasyl Kharuk, for coordinating the retreat and for their preparation of all the texts for the liturgical services. He also thanked Father Walter Pasicznyk and Father Roman Sverdan, who served as sacristans during the liturgical services.
Often as priests absent themselves from their parishes for this time of spiritual renewal, well-intentioned parishioners may say “Enjoy your vacation” or upon return inquire “How was your vacation?’
However, a retreat is not a vacation, but a necessary and even obligatory requirement for clergy to withdraw from the daily routine of normal parish life for a time of prayer, reflection and spiritual renewal.
This concept of withdrawal for spiritual renewal can be found in the life of Jesus Christ, where the evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke relate how Jesus, after his baptism by John, withdrew into the desert and fasted for forty days and nights.
In the 1520’s, St. Ignatius of Loyola developed his Spiritual Exercises. These spiritual exercises greatly influenced the development of retreats, especially for clergy, as a way of deepening their spiritual relationship with God.
Rev. John M. Fields, Director of Communications