CHICAGO, IL [DOM] – The “Synaxis: National Clergy Retreat for Active and Retired Priests” was held this past week from October 17-20, 2023, at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake Conference Center in Mundelein, IL. The inaugural conference put on by the OCA Office of Pastoral Life brought together more than 120 hierarchs and clergy from the various dioceses of the Orthodox Church in America.
The conference began Tuesday evening with an opening prayer service led by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel of Chicago and the Midwest. His Eminence also took the opportunity to welcome the visiting hierarchs and clergy to the Diocese of the Midwest and shared some of the various activities of the diocese.
On Wednesday morning the conference welcomed Archimandrite Maximos Constas, PhD, who spoke on Prayer of the Heart in the priestly ministry. Between the presentations, clergy enjoyed conversation and fellowship. The day concluded with the service of Vespers.
The following day, Thursday, the delegation made their way to the historic Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chicago, IL, the Diocesan Cathedral of Chicago and the Midwest. Presiding at the Divine Liturgy was His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon of Washington and All America and Canada, and concelebrated with His Beatitude was His Eminence Archbishop Daniel of Chicago, and Bishop Nikodhim of Boston. Serving with the hierarchs were, Diocesan Chancellor, Archpriest Paul Jannakos, Archimandrite Maximos (Constas), Archpriest William Evansky, Archpriest John Kreta, Archpriest Marcus Burch, Archpriest Kirill Sokolov, Archpriest John Vitko, Archpriest Alessandro Margheritino, Archpriest Nicholas Solak, Archpriest Stephen Vernak, Priest Alexander Koranda, Cathedral Dean, Protodeacon Alexander Kichakov and Deacon Andrew Bender. The choir was directed by Reader Philip Sokolov.
In attendance was Archbishop Nathaniel of the Romanian Episcopate, Archbishop Melchisedek of Pittsburg, Archbishop Alexander of Dallas, the South, and the Bulgarian Diocese, Bishop Andrei of Cleveland, Bishop Gerasim of Fort Worth, and Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos.
Following the liturgy, a memorial service was held for Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor) and Mitered Archpriest Sergei Garklavs on the occasion of their anniversary of repose. Matushka Priscilla Shipley was also remembered during the service commemorating her 40th day of repose.
His Beatitude then blessed liturgical spears that were distributed to participants of the conference. Fr. Stephen reminded the clergy that this gift was to be a reminder to pray for one another at the liturgy. A group photo was taken at the conclusion of the blessing.
Archbishop Daniel welcomed His Beatitude, hierarchs and all of the clergy who gathered at the Diocesan Cathedral, sharing the important history of Holy Trinity Cathedral. Words of guidance and encouragement were also offered by His Beatitude who reflected on the meaningful time of the conference. A lunch provided by the cathedral community was held in the parish hall.
Later that day, clergy enjoyed time in the city and gathered again that evening for a banquet was held at the conference center. Friday, the final day of the retreat, Fr. Maximos offered final thoughts and reflections.
This conference provided an opportunity for fellowship, prayer, and education for all priests and bishops of the Orthodox Church in America.