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Bishop Thomas Letter About 2019 Lenten Pilgrimage and Retreat

You know very well what the ancient holy fathers predicted concerning our times. It was said: They will be saved by faith, the endurance of sorrows and illnesses, and repentance. We have no [good] deeds. In everything and always we transgress Christ's commandments. Therefore, all that is left for us is to repent, endure and believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to seek out and save those who are perishing, will also save us who entreat Him...
+Abbot Nikon Vorobiev, Abbot Nikon Letters to Spiritual Children p.164

May God bless you all,

I would like you to consider helping us bring together Orthodox Christians to a Lenten Pilgrimage to the gravesite of St Raphael of Brooklyn. This retreat is open to everyone. In addition to the Liturgy and supplication services, there will be a number of speakers that will lead us in retreat.

For our young people, we will be blessed to have Fr Joshua Makoul, who is a spiritual counselor for our youth in the northeast; Fr Noah Bushelli, who oversees the Homeschooling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese; and Fr Joseph Hazar, dean of the Cathedral in Charleston, WV, who has extensive experience in working with young people.

Our Young Adults will be privileged to have Fr Nicholas Belcher lead them in retreat. Fr Nicholas assists His Eminence, Metr. Joseph, of the Antiochian Archdiocese, oversees young adult activities for our Antiochian Diocese of New York and Washington, and is the former Dean of Students at Holy Cross Seminary.

We will also be privileged to have Fr John Dixon, pastor of Holy Spirit Church in Huntington, WV, who will be leading our retreat for Parish Council members. He has extensive experience as a lay person in offering leadership to his own parish council, as well as now leading them spiritually. Fr John converted to Orthodoxy, served as parish council chair, and presently serves as pastor the same parish of Holy Spirit Church in Huntington.

Our host is Fr Anthony Yazge, who will be assisting us in the Divine Services. He will also be leading retreat sessions and recruiting leadership in our Orthodox Metropolises, Archdioceses, and Dioceses in North America. Fr Anthony is the Director of the Antiochian Village Camp, he works with our youth all over the Archdiocese, he serves as the priest of our Heritage and Learning Center at Antiochian Village, and he is the dean of our Western Pennsylvania parishes.

I feel it a great privilege to be blessed to be included in this retreat. Very kindly, I ask that you do everything you can to bring as many people together as possible for this retreat. It will be a great blessing to be with all of you, asking the intercessions of St Raphael at his gravesite.

The retreat is being held at the Antiochian Village, Bolivar, PA, April 12-14, 2019. To register, go online to the Antiochian Archdiocese website, and click on the January 2019 Word magazine. The very last page will have the information that you'll need to register. You can also call the Antiochian Village Heritage and Learning Center at 724-238-3677. I'm sure they'll be happy to assist you to register for the weekend.

Once again, this is open to everyone. It would be especially wonderful for people who have never been to the Village or to the gravesite of this holy saint, to make this pilgrimage.

May God bless you and keep you always.

Yours in Christ,