From December 27th, 2018, to January 3rd, 2019, a group of young adults from the Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, led by Fr. Joseph and Katie Matlak, went on pilgrimage and retreat to Holy Transfiguration Monastery (“Mount Tabor”) in Redwood Valley, California. They were joined there by a group of young adults from the Eparchy of Edmonton (Canada), led by Fr. Bohdan Nahachewsky, Sr. Darlene Pelechaty SSMI, and Millie Schietzsch. The pilgrimage and retreat for young adults, centered on deeper prayer and spiritual activities, realized an idea that was originally put forward by English-speaking Ukrainian Catholics at World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The pilgrims were welcomed to the monastery by Fr. (Hegumen) Damian Higgins and the entire monastic community, all of whom showed great charity and hospitality. The pilgrims participated in the daily monastic rhythm of Matins, Divine Liturgy, and silent prayer before breakfast, Sixth Hour before lunch, Vespers and silent prayer before dinner, and Compline after dinner. Besides the regular liturgical services, the pilgrims were given various spiritual talks, including an introduction to monastic life and the Jesus Prayer by Fr. Damian, a personal testimony by Fr. Bohdan on prayer within his vocational journey, a talk on Marian prayer in the Holy Scriptures (with breakout groups for Bible study) by Katie Matlak, and a talk on the importance of the Most Holy Eucharist in our spiritual journey by Fr. Joseph Matlak. The pilgrims had opportunities to seek individual spiritual direction from the monastic brethren, and to go on excursions to the Pacific Coast, the Redwood Forest, and local wineries.

After welcoming the new civil year with evening festivities and a midnight Divine Liturgy, the pilgrims travelled to San Francisco, where they were graciously received at Our Lady Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church by Fr. Joseph Illo, who gave a short presentation on how Western Christianity can be positively influenced by the mystical theology, iconography, and liturgical music of Eastern Christianity. The pilgrims also paid a brief visit to the nearby Holy Virgin Orthodox Cathedral. On the final day, the pilgrims visited the old mission of San Francisco, in order to learn about the pioneering work of St. Junipero Serra (the Franciscan missionary to the Native Americans, recently canonized by Pope Francis in Washington DC), and to sing the Rule of St. Pachomius (Jesus Prayer). The visit to San Francisco was concluded with free time for sightseeing, dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf, and a visit to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory.

We pray that this pilgrimage and retreat will usher in many future opportunities for young adults to gather for prayer, deeper spiritual growth, and fellowship with one another.