This summer has been busy but a blessing to us. We were fortunate enough to be able to attend the ByzanTEEN Youth Rally at Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA, July 8-11. It was great to enjoy a weekend full of prayer, talks, meals, sports and fun (and how could I fail to mention card games?) with 250 energetic teens from across the country. Sister Celeste, who formerly had a big role in the youth rallies as the Director of Youth Ministry for the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, commented, "Being with the teens again was bittersweet. It was thrilling to pray and play with them and bask in their unique energy and love. I miss them dearly, but they're always close in my heart and prayer."
Praying compline each night at midnight was a highlight for us, as well as the impromptu Panachida (prayer service for the deceased) prayed one night for recently departed Metropolitan Basil. The most inspiring moment however, would have to be the procession from the college to Sts. Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church, a couple blocks away, and the Divine Liturgy celebrated with all of the bishops. A group of teens had been practicing throughout the weekend to cantor the liturgy, and with the incredible singing and the sense of energy and reverence, we were quite sure we were in heaven!
Two weeks after the Youth Rally we hosted the 2nd Annual Life in Christ Girls' Sleepover Weekend, sponsored by the eparchial Office of Vocations, July 22-25. Teen girls from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania gathered to pray, have fun and learn about modeling Christ, during the weekend themed "Byzantine Next Top Model: What are you modeling?" Activities such as the "Maze of Life," virtue fashion show skits, crafts and games complemented a talk by Sr. Julie and Jessie Houck on real beauty and being clothed with Christ, a talk by Sr. Celeste on the monastic habit and how we are all called to live in poverty, chastity and obedience, and other talks on the challenges and joys of married life and the importance and joy of the Mystery of Holy Repentance.
The girls seemed to enjoy spending time with us at the monastery. During a competitive game of Spud, participant Rose Hunt from St. Stephen's in Euclid exclaimed, "I never knew nuns could be so crazy!" (We hope it's the good kind of crazy...)
On Saturday we spent a beautiful evening in the chapel across the street, gathered in the dark around an icon of Christ surrounded by candles, meditating on how we had at times failed to model Christ in our lives. One by one we participated in Christ's healing grace in the Mystery of Holy Repentance and returned cleansed, clothed anew in Christ.
On Sunday morning the girls prayed Matins in our chapel and then joined the boys (who were participating in the Alive in Christ Ascetical Boot Camp for Guys across the street at the Shrine) and families down at the Shrine altar for the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy with Bishop John. The weekend closed with a nice dinner and wrap-up awards program.
So, we are looking for a much-needed break! Hmm... In the meantime, please keep in your prayers the annual pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady of Mariapoch taking place across the street at the Shrine this weekend, especially for the teens and young adults who will be camping out. (Good weather would be great!) If you are in the area please stop by! The schedule is available here. You won't want to miss, among other things, Sr. Celeste's chicken paprikas!