This year’s Midwest Lenten Retreat, held at the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House in Mundelein, IL, took place February 12-14 with the participation of 15 clergymen from the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.
The retreat gathered pastors of the Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Charlotte, Cleveland, Evanston, Greenfield, Palos Heights, Racine, Richmond, St. Petersburg, and Twin Cities parishes, along with Diocesan staffer Fr. Daniel Findikyan and the retired Fr. Yeprem Kelegian. The retreat was overseen by Diocesan Vicar Fr. Simeon Odabashian.
Their theme was based on the Scriptural injunction, “Come to me, all that are weary and heavily burdened.” Four active discussion segments, focused on “Clergy as Wounded Healers,” were masterfully led by Fr. Dennis Spies, S.T.L, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Joliet and Associate Dean of Formation at Mundelein Seminary.
Among his many profitable insights offered, Fr. Spies emphasized that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but rather connectedness. The point was valuable in light of the Eastern Diocese’s recent focus on the opioid crisis and addiction in general.
The Intimacy of Communion
The presentation also affirmed that one of the main roles of a priest is to invite people to intimacy in Christ. In the Armenian Church we identify this intimacy with “communion” in its fullest sense: personal, ecclesial, and sacramental.
Each morning and evening the assembled clergy prayed the daily offices of Sunrise, Peace and Rest, concluding each with reflections and periods of silent meditation.
Since the last day of the retreat was February 14, the solemn observance of the Feast of Jesus’ Presentation to the Temple, Fr. Odabashian celebrated the holy badarak.
He invited all to reflect on the intimacy which the biblical figure Simeon the Elder experienced holding in his arms the 40-day-old baby Jesus, who is the eternal Word of God and Savior of the universe. Because of that intimacy every believer can say with the elder Simeon: “Lord, let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all peoples” (Lk 2:29,30).