D.A.D. Seminarian Retreat

In early March, the first ever D.A.D Seminarian Retreat took place in eastern Long Island during Holy Cross' Spring Break. It ran from Sunday evening until Tuesday morning (3/9 - 3/11), of which the entire day Monday was hosted by All Saints Monastery. The retreat allowed the ten District seminarians, our sister M-Div student and His Grace Bishop Andonios of Phasiane to meet in a peaceful environment, to enjoy a full day of fellowship and deepen our relationships. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios was unable to attend, as his presence was required at the Ecumenical Patriarchate. While His absence was unfortunate, our time with His Grace was spiritually enriching and thoroughly enjoyable.

On Sunday evening, the seminarians convened for an informal dinner to kick off the retreat. There was no shortage of oriental noodles or story-telling to be had. The evening’s fellowship continued at the Gounardes family summer home, where we lodged both nights. A discussion about our future lives in ministry and the concerns therein ran late into the evening. Times such as these are invaluable in strengthening our brotherhood. Only by spending time in this way did this realization truly sink in.

Monday morning was cloudy and cold, as we arrived at All Saints. For most of us this was our first experience at the rural Long Island monastery. After warm introductions with the sisters, breakfast, and quick tour of the chapel, we proceeded outdoors to begin some diakonia. The day’s task was a rigorous one: level out 5,000 square feet of uneven ground along the property’s road side. This was all part of the new fencing project already in progress at the monastery. With shovels and pick axes in hand, we re-distributed massive amounts of soil around newly installed cement posts, and fully prepared the ground for the actual fencing. Naturally, this is a sort of diakonia we are not accustomed to at the seminary; this is precisely why we enjoyed it so. His Grace joined us before midday and we broke for 9th hour prayers and lunch at the trapeza. Before finishing the project by mid-afternoon, even His Grace could not resist the satisfaction of working the land. His direct participation was one of the highlights of the day. It was a clear example of servant leadership that will not be forgotten by us seminarians or the sisters of All Saints.

We provided 3 hours of physical labor in service to the nuns that Monday. The sisters lead by Gerontissa Fotini provided and served us three delicious Lenten meals (eating but one themselves). Thrice together, we prayed and chanted hymns to God in the chapel, led by our spiritual Father, Bishop Andonios. It was this God pleasing and soul satisfying service to each other that beautified our Lenten retreat.

Vespers was especially uplifting that evening. The chanting was exceptional. But it was His Grace’s address and our subsequent discussion that proved to be the highlight of the day, and of the entire retreat. His Grace offered pastoral advice about seminary life and for the future, while not avoiding the difficult realities of priestly ministry. He shared experiences from his own ministry and life which were endearing and perhaps the most impactful for us. Our questions about ordination, post-seminary plans, finding personal support in ministry, the Greek language, and others were addressed. The willingness to listen and the willingness to share allowed for this fruitful engagement. In the evening, after a warm round of thanks to the sisters, we departed the monastery tired but satisfied; and of course, we could not help but purchase some sweet-smelling soaps and candles on our way out.

On Tuesday morning, the seminarians closed the retreat with a visit to Kimisis parish in the Hamptons. Fr. Constantine Lazarakis gave us a tour of their beautiful new church building and facilities.  He inspired us with stories about the generosity of donors and of his ministry at the parish. It was a great way to conclude the 3 day event.

This was the first ever seminarian retreat the District has ever held. The bonds of brotherhood were more firmly established; a familial bond with the sisters of the monastery was forged; we were edified through prayer and hymnody; we served each other in love. Our experience was an invaluable and one that has been mutually recognized as worthy of repeating. May God grant our Hierarchs, our clergy, lay leaders, and all of the brothers and sisters in the District a blessed and transformative Holy Week and Pascha.

The students who participated were: Nicholas Delaveris, Borislav Dinkov, Gregory Gounardes, Sotirios Michalatos, Dn. Chrysostom Panos, Fotios Papiris, Joshua Pappas, Peter Romanovsky, Steven Sarigianis, Christian Siskos, and Danielle Xanthos. Please visit this link for pictures of the day at Calverton.
Article by Steven Sarigianis