Ongoing Clergy formation is a life-long process, which involves every aspect of life and ministry.    The Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma held an Annual Deacon Retreat for that purpose.

“And one of the seraphims flew to me, and in his hand was a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs off the altar.” – Isaiah 6:6

On November 2-4, St. Josaphat Eparchy hosted nine deacons and deacon candidates with their wives in the Jesuit Retreat Center in Parma, Ohio for the Annual Deacon Retreat. This event was part of the ongoing diaconal formation guided by His Grace Bishop Bohdan (Danylo) of St. Josaphat Eparchy, and was planned by Fr Deacon Myron Spak (Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church, Carnegie) and Fr Deacon Trevor Fernandes (Saint Michael the Archangel, Toledo). Participants represented both the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church, as a two of the retreatants are in diaconal formation through the Holy Apostle Institute – belong to the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church proclaimed this year as a “Year of God’s Word.” The theme of the Retreat – “Liturgy in the Life of the Church” – was chosen in particular to explain how Liturgical prayers give a parish a robust prayer life.  The participants were guided by the Retreat Master – Fr Deacon Dr Daniel Galadza, who is a lecturer at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, in Canada, and at the Three Holy Hierarchs Seminary of the Kyiv Archeparchy of the UGCC.  Fr. Deacon Daniel explained the meanings, structures, and theological significance of the Liturgical Prayer, Vespers, Liturgy of the Hours, Matins and Divine Liturgy.  A central image to which the retreatants returned was the burning coal that is placed upon our lips in the Holy Eucharist, and which sets our whole body and soul on fire, so that we may become and remain the tabernacles of the Living God.  The image from Isaiah that we receive a burning desire to remain with and serve God should be not only a personal effect, but a communal one: so that all of  parishes can become alive in prayer.

Retreat participants were also guided by Fr. Vsevolod (Sal) Shevchuk, Retreat Spiritual Director (and pastor of Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church, Akron), who provided not only spiritual guidance, but the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  In a break-out session, the spouses of the deacons and candidates conducted reflections on the diaconal ministry with Pani Kate Loya, the wife of Fr. Deacon Gregory Loya, whose family of ten attend Saint John the Baptist Ruthenian Byzantine Cathedral in Parma.  The theme of Pani Loya’s conference was the Diaconal Couple, Partners in Ministry.  As a mother with a large family and with a career, and wife of a deacon, this conference helped to reinforce the spousal and family blessings and sacrifices of diaconal ministry.

Nestled among the beautiful autumn foliage, participants were blessed with cold but sunny weather, and concluded the retreat with a Sunday Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral, followed by a closing lunch at the Retreat Center.  With several new retreatants this year, and a geographic representation from California to Nevada to North Carolina to Ohio to Pennsylvania, this weekend’s event gave hope that the ongoing formation of deacons in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the North American church and our St. Josaphat Eparchy will continue to grow under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.