Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

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Clergy Retreat 2011

The Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Eastern United States, held its Annual Clergy Retreat on March 21-24 2011, in St. Mary’s Villa Convent, Sloatsburg, New York. His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim presided over the Retreat, which was attended by the clergy from all the parishes of the Archdiocese.

According to the retreat schedule, prepared beforehand by the Archdiocese, the clergy met with His Eminence at the New Archdiocesan Center on Midland Avenue in Paramus, New Jersey, on Monday evening, on March 21. The retreat was opened with the evening prayers. After a short message by the Archbishop, a Lenten dinner was prepared for the attendees, after which they all left for the convent, happy and singing praises to the Lord.

Tuesday morning started with the morning prayers, during which His Eminence pleaded with the Holy Spirit to descend on all the clergy and bless them and their spiritual meetings. His Eminence and the clergy offered special prayers on behalf of Rev. Fr. Edward Hanna, and asked the Lord to grant him speedy recovery following his surgery. After discussing the agenda of the retreat with the fathers, His Eminence asked Very Rev. Raban Fady Abdul Ahad to lead a Bible Study on Chapter 10 of the Gospel of St. John. The subject was about the Good Shepherd, which the fathers read, discussed and meditated upon.

Noon prayers were held followed by lunch, after which His Eminence announced the establishment of the Archdiocese Clergy Council. Very Rev. Fr. Shamoun Asmar and Rev. Fr. Gabriel Adde were chosen by the fathers to be the co-secretaries of the Council. His Eminence blessed the two priests, and the first meeting of the Council was assigned to take place on May 4, 2011, at the Archdiocese in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Sunday school also was discussed by His Eminence and the clergy, who formed two groups to study two lessons from the fourth grade program. They also reviewed the progress made by the Unified Sunday School Committee of North America. The offered their gratitude to God for the work of Mrs. Linda Khoury who has been instrumental in keeping this committee active and productive. After Evening prayers and dinner, Mr. John Samuel and Mrs. Ramona Malki, previous presidents of SOAYO and current co-chairs of the Taskforce on Revitalization of the Youth of the Archdiocese, met with the clergy and explained in detail the Youth’s relationship with the Church, and the hardships they face in this time of cultural, spiritual, social and religious challenges. They put up a preliminary plan, which includes several important recommendations for the Archdiocesan Executive Council to act upon. After the night prayers, everyone turned in for private meditations.

On Wednesday morning, after prayers and breakfast, the clergy attended another Bible study, given by Very Rev. Raban Fady Abdul Ahad about the vineyard and its husbandman, derived from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 15. After Noon prayers, His Eminence and the clergy met with Deacon Dr. George Kiraz, to discuss the work of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Committee, mainly the two recent publications: Lectionary of the Book of Acts and Lectionary of the Epistle Readings. These books were prepared by the above-mentioned committee, they will be distributed throughout the parishes of the Archdiocese. In this meeting they also discussed the future plans of printing the church services books of Baptism, Matrimony and Burial of the dead, in Syriac and English. His Eminence gave some members of the Liturgical committee, the task to prepare the Matrimonial and the Burial ritual services, in three languages for the use of the clergy. He recommended them to study the texts, correct them and make them ready for review by the committee.

After Vespers and dinner, a meeting was held with members of the Parish/Clergy Committee of the Archdiocesan Executive Council: Mr. Sait Samuel, Mr. Elias Sarkar, Mr. Jack Darakjy, Mr. Talal Findakly, Mr. Aboud Shakarjy. His Eminence started the meeting with prayers, asking the Lord to bless all those who work in His vineyard, both Clergy and Laity, for His glory and for His Holy Church. The Council members discussed, alternatively, the work plan of the council, which was established by His Eminence to take care of the priests’ needs and standardize parish services and reports. His Eminence thanked God for his priests and expressed his appreciation for the clergy and their ministry in the parishes of the Archdiocese.

After thanking the Council’s Committee for their love and dedication towards the Church and appreciation of its priests, His Eminence concluded the meeting with the night prayers. Later, His Eminence joined the fathers in singing beautiful spiritual and national songs.

On Thursday, after morning prayers and breakfast, His Eminence met the clergy to wrap up the spiritual Retreat. The next year retreat was scheduled to be in the second week of the Lent. His Eminence finished by thanking the Lord who blessed this Retreat, and implored Him to keep His Holiness, our Patriarch, Mor Zakka I Iwas, in His care; in order to lead Church worldwide. He also prayed for the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful people, and asked God to bless the priests and their families, in order to serve their parishes with fervor and love.

In return, the clergy thanked His Eminence for his great fatherly care and love, and for his humble spirit and immediate concerns towards his children’s needs, and asked the Lord to keep him healthy for many years to come.

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