The Deacons, deacon candidates, their wives, and various guests of the Eparchy of St. Josaphat came from PA, OH, FL, GA, DE, and NC and gathered for their annual retreat at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Parma, Ohio on November 4 through 6.  The theme of this year’s on-going formation was “On Earth as it is in Heaven: The Pillars of Liturgical Piety”.  Fr. Andrew Summerson, pastor of St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Whiting, Indiana, presented four sessions on the Lord’s Prayer.

To begin the weekend, Fr. Andrew discussed “Our Father, Who Art in Heaven…”  Through these words, God reveals Himself.  Deacons are the Maitre de of the liturgy because they collect everybody and order people to pray to the Lord.  Bishops and priests offer the sacrifice, but deacons coordinate liturgy and worship.  Through the Lord’s Prayer, we receive the mysteries of initiation, and therefore, are united with the saints of the past and present and connected to heaven.

The next words of the Lord’s Prayer, “…hallowed be thy name…,” are the words that bring us into becoming effective witnesses.  Through the Lord’s Prayer, we are morally reminded to become better witnesses.  We are to sanctify God’s name by our words and deeds that manifest our adoption as sons and daughters of Christ.

“Thy kingdom come…” says that the Kingdom comes, not by seeing it, but within ourselves.  He who prays for the kingdom of God prays for the perfecting of the soul within.  Therefore, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Kingdom is at the tip of our tongues.  “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”  We are dependent on God for our very being, and through the Lord’s Prayer, we are “kicking the enemy out of our soul” and making greater space for the Kingdom of heaven.  When we truly humble ourselves, we truly share in Christ’s majesty.  Our salvation is not automatic, nor is it universal, so we must work hard at it and not fidget.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”  Our ‘daily’ bread is more than just that.  It is ‘needed’ or ‘needful’ bread.  This bread is the erasing of the storing up and worrying about the stuff on Earth.  This bread is the Bread of Heaven which nourishes the soul.  Through these words, we are asking the Infinite One to descend from heaven into our daily lives.

“And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  When God reconciles and forgives, healing begins and people are reconciled, reunited, and healed.  In order for forgiveness to happen, our consent is required as well as our will.  When we do what God does, God works through us.  When we forgive others, we give out our daily bread.

“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from ‘the evil one.’”  There are voluntary and involuntary temptations.  Voluntary temptations are those that allow the evil one to influence and dominate us.  Therefore, if we do not forgive others, we are not protected from temptations or delivered from evil.  The second type of temptations are involuntary ones.  These can be an annoying co-worker or someone who cuts you off in traffic to the agony of a child who leaves the true faith.  With our faith and works, we can overcome involuntary trials and tribulations.  “Deliver us from evil.”  This really is deliver us from the evil one.  The Lord’s Prayer begins with The Father and ends with the Evil One.  We affiliate with the Father and disaffiliate with the Evil One.  So, use the Lord’s Prayer to commit to our affiliation with the Father.

The deacons also had a session with Archdeacon Jeff Smolilo.  He led the deacons through the rubrics of orchestrating the hierarchical Divine Liturgy.  His advice was to “anticipate, keep going, take charge, and keep moving.”  As deacons, “you are there to orchestrate the Divine Liturgy, and bring people to prayer, to give good liturgy, and be responsible.”   Deacons are to be mindful and adapt to situations with different clergy.

While the men were in sessions with Fr. Andrew, the wives were meeting with Fr. Andrew’s wife, Laura Ieraci.  Laura talked with the women about Catholic Social Teaching.  Many encyclicals have been written by Popes throughout the years.  The first encyclical in 1889 aided the world in obtaining an eight hour work day, child labor laws, and unions.  Catholic Social Teaching follows each of the encyclicals and discusses how each affected the world morals at the time.  The last encyclical written by Pope Francis was Laudato Si, which is reflecting on our throwaway culture.

Throughout the weekend, the men and women had time to come together to praise God in various services including a Moleben, Matins, Vespers, the Hours, and Divine Liturgy.  The weekend began with a Moleben to the Mother of God following words from Bishop Bohdan to start Friday evening.  The weekend ended with a Ukrainian Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral with Bishop Bohdan.  All deacons served on the altar with Bishop, and ended the Divine Liturgy with the singing of the hymn, “О спомагай нас.”

This weekend allowed the deacons, deacon candidates, and their wives to reconnect with other deacons, deacon candidates, and their wives and learn more about their faith and to be energized by the Holy Spirit for their ministry.  All were uplifted by the sessions and the many services that allowed them to practice their faith in an environment that was free of worldly distractions.  The highlight of the weekend was on Saturday morning when the men and women gathered at the Cathedral of St. Josaphat to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.  For one of the men, this was a time of great joy, for he received his protodeacon orarion from his fellow deacons to celebrate his elevation to protodeacon at St. Anne’s in Austintown on September 25, 2022.  Protodeacon Don Billy was presented with an orarion with the words “Свять, Свять, Свять” on it.  His years of service to the eparchy were recognized with this presentation.  Deacon Don has served the eparchy at St. Anne’s in Austintown and at Holy Trinity in Youngstown for nearly 30 years.   Thank you to Bishop Bohdan for his constant help and presence during this ongoing formation weekend.