March 19, 2015
Howell, NJ: Presanctified Liturgy concludes Eastern American Diocesan Lenten Retreat for Clergy & Matushkas

On Wednesday, March 18, the Lenten Retreat for clergy and matushkas of the Eastern American Diocese, being held at St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell, NJ, drew to a close. Bishop George of Mayfield led the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, co-served by Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan and clergy participating in the Lenten Retreat. All three days of the conference took place under the protection of the Icon of the Mother of God "Softener of Evil Hearts," which was present in the cathedral.

At the Little Entrance, in accordance with the resolution of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops and with the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion, Bishop George bestowed awards upon several clerics of the Eastern American Diocese:

- Abbot German (Ciuba; rector of St. Stephen Church in Old Forge, PA) was awarded the right to wear the palitsa and jeweled cross.

- Archpriest Alexander Donchenko (rector of St. Nicholas Church in Poughkeepsie, NY) was awarded the right to wear the jeweled cross.

- Archpriest Alexis Duncan (rector of Nativity of the Mother of God Church in Albany, NY) was awarded the right to wear the jeweled cross.

- Archpriest Seraphim Stephens (former rector of St. Joseph of Optina Church in Virginia Beach, VA) was awarded the right to wear the jeweled cross.

- Priest Paul Ivanov (rector of Holy Myrrhbearers Church in Brooklyn, NY) was elevated to the rank of archpriest.

- Deacon Alexander Doohovskoy (cleric of St. Xenia Church in Methuen, MA) was awarded the right to wear the double orarion.

Upon completion of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, the clergy and a multitude of the faithful, who attended that day in order to pray at the magnificent lenten services, communed of Christ’s Holy Gifts.

Archimandrite Demetrios (Carellas), chaplain of Nativity of the Mother of God Greek Convent in Saxonburg, PA, addressed the faithful with a sermon. Fr. Demetrios drew special attention to the matushkas participating in the conference, and used real-life examples to describe the invaluable role played by the Mother of God in our lives, as well as the necessity of running to her in prayer and asking her help and intercession.

In his farewell address, Bishop George, who will be traveling to his new place of service in the Diocese of Australia & New Zealand, thanked the Icon’s guardian, Sergey Fomin, for bringing the holy image; he also spoke about his imminent departure for Australia and asked the prayers of all present. His Grace noted that it is not for us to question the ways of the Lord, but rather to thank the Savior, firmly believing that all that we are given is for our salvation.

Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan thanked Bishop George for their shared prayer, and wished him especial strength from the Cross, both in the remaining days of Great Lent, and in his new place of service.

On behalf of the clergy and faithful of the Eastern American Diocese, Bishop Nicholas presented Bishop George with a hand-painted gramota in gratitude for his labors in the Diocese.

On behalf of the Diocesan Council, clergy, matushkas, and parishioners, diocesan secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov also sincerely thanked His Grace for his archpastoral labors to the benefit of the clergy and faithful, and presented Bishop George with a palitsa bearing an icon of the Holy Trinity, as "a spiritual shield, a defense and fortification, in memory of the Diocese." His Grace assured the clergy and faithful of his prayers.

Retreat participants adopted a Resolution that touched on the need for increased work with the next generation. "Understanding the vital need to nourish our youth, we call upon pastors, families, and parishes to increase their ardent support of liturgical life, activities, and involvement of young people, ensuring the future health of the Church," reads the Resolution. "It is an obvious fact that, if we do not energetically begin making our work with the youth a primary focus, there will be a seriously diminished likelihood of a future Church filled with vitality. This focus must begin in the home with the upbringing of children nourished with prayer, the Word of God, and the lives of the saints, as well as the encouragement of parish priests in the establishment of Sunday schools and youth discussion groups. Also of primary importance are activities such as the annual St. Herman Youth Conferences, summer camps, and pilgrimages. These must not be merely declarations from the clergy and parents, but personal and heartfelt interaction and encouragement. This process of the churching of future generations must begin today."

Concluding the Lenten Retreat, a group photo was taken of all of the participants. A delicious lenten luncheon was offered in the parish hall, and brotherly interaction continued at length. Throughout the whole of the conference, participants especially prayed for the health of Archpriest George Larin, rector of Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY, and one of the Diocese’s senior-most clerics, who over the last month underwent two serious operations. On the final day of the retreat, they sent Fr. George a get-well card signed by all of the participants and wishing him a speedy recovery. In the second half of the day, the clergy departed for home to resume their pastoral service, and the myrrh-streaming Icon, which is making a repeat visit to the Eastern American Diocese, continued its travels to Washington and onward to the Diocese’s parishes and monasteries.

Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese