On Saturday we hosted a retreat day for wives of priests from the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Parma. The eight women, who came from the northeast Ohio area, Pittsburgh and Florida, asked to spend a day away from their responsibilities at their homes and parishes and gather at the monastery for some encouragement, prayer and rest.
It was a rare opportunity for these women, who often feel alone in their unique vocation, to spend time with each other and to be free to talk about their struggles and joys.
Mother Theodora gave a talk on the theme of the retreat day, "The one thing needful." She reflected on Martha and Mary of Bethany and the gifts of both of these friends of Jesus. She encouraged the women to take advantage of the opportunities during the retreat day to sit at the feet of Jesus in silence and listen to His voice. She reminded them that in their daily life they first need to be the bride of Jesus and to be with Him and be loved by Him; this relationship is the foundation of their other vocations of wife of a priest, mother of children and mother of their parishes.
After Sixth Hour, lunch and silent prayer, Sr. Iliana gave a talk from the perspective of a child of a priest. She shared funny stories from her childhood in the rectory, her struggles and the graces that helped lead her to her monastic vocation. Regarding the wives and children of priests, she said, "We don't just happen to be here; it's not just chance. We each have a particular vocation in the heart of the Church." She encouraged the women to asked the Lord, "What part of Your body am I?" She reminded them that all are called to holiness. Just as Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus' feet, "We need to receive our oil from Him so that we can pour it out on others."
After more time for silent prayer on the monastery grounds, the women departed, but not before asking to come back next year!