Friday, October 16, 2009

"I belong to my Lover, and for Me He yearns": Our 2nd Monastic Retreat

“I belong to my Lover, and for Me He yearns.” This aching yet tender verse from Song of Songs was the theme for our second retreat for women discerning monasticism. Our retreat began with silence as we quietly watched “Into Great Silence,” a two-hour and forty-five minute movie (documentary) of life at the Grande Chartreuse, considered one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries located in the French Alps. Philip Gröning, producer and filmmaker, lived in the monks’ quarters for six months and filmed their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. “Into Great Silence” is more of a meditation than a documentary. Silence and reflection was integrated throughout the week as we experienced the rhythm of prayer, meals, work and recreation of monastic life.

One of the highlights of the retreat was a road trip. We visited Monastery Marcha, a Serbian Orthodox monastery in Richfield, Ohio. Upon our arrival, Sister Anastasia warmly greeted us with great hospitality. She offered a traditional sweet candy and Serbian coffee. She explained that this particular tradition of hospitality goes back centuries when people took great lengths to visit the monasteries and were tired from their long and difficult travels. The hegumena (abbess), Mother Anna, an 87 year old nun immediately lit up the dining room with her entrance and genuine joy and “spunk.” We listened intently as she shared many stories of her life and her simple yet great wisdom. Sister Anastasia led us to their chapel and shared her love, wisdom and support for our endeavors for our future monastery. The holiness and aching love for Christ was clearly present at Monastery Marcha.

We hope that the women went home from the retreat refreshed, and yet instilled with a greater ache for union with God, knowing that they belong to Him and He yearns for union with them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fall Work Day

A group of great volunteers joined us for a fall work day on Saturday, October 10. They enthusiastically helped us with repainting the trim around the house, cleaning gutters, raking leaves, repotting house plants to bring inside, weed-wacking, cleaning window sills, working on the chapel walls and other projects. We are so grateful for their help and were encouraged by their joy.

In the evening we prayed vespers in our chapel and then enjoyed a cookout and bonfire in the back yard. It was amazing how the food seemed to multiply! We talked, laughed and kept warm around the fire. Sr. Celeste and I were asked to “tell a story,” and it was a joy for me to realize that we already have stories to tell about the development of the monastery. (On October 3 it was six months since we moved in!)

You can click on the collage of photos from the work day to see it in full screen. You’ll see the photo in the upper right corner of the Fetsko family being interviewed on video. We are working on a short video about the monastery with Bob Kasarda of Eastern Christian Media (, which Bishop John will take with him on his parish visits. Please pray for this project, and keep an eye out for it soon!