The Orthodox 2005 Winter Youth Retreat
By Jordan Rovny
During the Orthodox 2005 winter youth retreat in Pharr, Texas, parents and teenagers from five families came together and grew in fellowship as they supported the Casa Amparo Orphanage, assisted in the St. George's Food Pantry, interacted at a beach in South Padre Island, and shared their talents at the talent show-all within the span of a week. Thanks to the Perdomos for hosting such wonderful events.
Monday night upon everyone's arrival at the church, Dr. Mark Cherry, an Orthodox Philosopher, who had kindly traveled from
On Wednesday we all began preparations for the
Thursday was our day-long outing to the beach at
Overall, we had a very full, exciting week. Each day was blessed with a prayer service. I had never before helped at an Orphanage or read the Epistle during a Divine Liturgy. Besides all the new experience gained, I became better acquainted with other Orthodox youth and more enlightened in the ways of the Church.
* Note: Actually, Father forgot that he’s helped at a number of Divine Liturgies in Spanish in
Jared Rovny’s Account
During the last week of December 2005, an Orthodox youth retreat was held in
The wonderful Orthodox philosopher from Austin, Dr. Mark Cherry, was kind enough to treat everyone to a series of three lectures titled “Living an Orthodox Life in an Un-Orthodox World”. These lectures were very enlightening and presented many debated issues of today with the clear lens of Orthodox perspective. Among other things, he discussed abortion, euthanasia, and being unashamedly open with the Faith and Orthodox practices. Dr. Cherry’s buoyant atmosphere was missed when he left for
The first day of the retreat, Tuesday, started with gathering the donated supplies, jamming them into the vehicles and taking them to Casa Amparo girl’s orphanage. After a very warm welcome we unloaded the supplies and were given a tour. We were shown the beautiful grounds and buildings which had started from absolutely nothing- from complete scratch. The incredible efforts of the sisters and their enduring love for the girls has slowly but surely hammered away at the plot of ground, bringing forth a magnificent community. After being given a delicious lunch we got to take part in the beautification of the orphanage: some painted while others worked in the garden, every person joyful to help on any level. When we were near finished and Madre Natividad saw what had been accomplished, the look on her face and the joy she expressed (even if we couldn’t understand what she was saying in Spanish) gave everyone their energy back and more - we could have done it all over again. We then said our goodbyes and headed back across the border.
On Wednesday we all participated in the food pantry event, held by
Thursday we spent at the beach. The water was chilly but the weather was great-especially for the middle of winter! We swam, built castles, played soccer, destroyed castles, and just strolled along the beach. For me at least, this period contained the most exciting and also the most peaceful times of the week. It was terrific for everyone. That night we had a Great Vespers in preparation for Divine Liturgy the next morning.
The Spanish Liturgy was a very new experience. The songs sounded wonderful in Spanish, and the choir got a taste for singing a service in a different language. Difficult, but we all enjoyed it. We then had picture time before breakfast and the departing of two of the families. That day was spent in preparation for the talent show that night, which included everything from a King Wenceslas play to a recorder trio, contortionists to song solos, and a grand piano finish. Afterwards the talented Angel taught everyone how to dance to salsa, which we thoroughly enjoyed for hours on end. Saturday morning we said our final goodbyes after breakfast and left for home.
I eagerly await the next gathering and am hopeful that the number of participants will grow. This PRO-ORB retreat was a great experience and something I wouldn’t have missed for the world. But until next time, everyone will be paying much closer attention to their Spanish teachers!
The week after Christmas, the Rovny family plus Christiana and Nick Anderson went on a youth retreat to
The next day we went over the border to the Casa Amparo Girl's Orphanage. Before we left, we had crammed our van full of donated clothing just for them. The orphanage was over the border, which happened to be only five miles away, in
The orphanage lies in the center of a poor neighborhood, which is very sad to drive through. However, the grounds of the orphanage, run by a few Catholic Nuns, seem like a little piece of heaven inside the protective walls. Once we had unloaded all of the donations, we did a little bit of gardening in a patch reserved just for us. We were told to pick the "weeds", but somehow we confused the grass there as weeds. Oh well, we just redistributed it in little "plugs." I really wish I knew who coined that term, but I digress. After a grand tour of the grounds, it was time to head back to
The next day was the twice-a-month St. George's Food Bank day, where poor families can get the essentials of life at the most reasonable price available--free. Once again I wish I had more language experience under my belt, but, alas, I am only in my first year of Spanish class, so I only knew about three applicable phrases--not many when somebody is trying to explain that they want something. I believe we served about seventy families that day, some with well over three kids. Even if you can't speak the same language, it feels good to help someone.
Thursday we went to
The day of the Liturgy en español was destined to be fun. This was the day of our first Divine Liturgy in anything other than English or Greek and the day of the Talent Show. Early in the morning was the Liturgy, right before some people, unfortunately, had to leave to return home. The Spanish Liturgy was surprisingly easy to follow, due to the similar tunes and brief English sections of un-translatable material. After Church, we then went to the house and had a break before the beginning of the Talent Show. The seven of us acted out the song "Good King Wenceslas.” The musical skit starred Jared, our King; me, the Page; Jordan, our Narrator; and Jeremy, Rachel and Christiana, our Choir. Nick demonstrated his, ahem, physical flexibility. Ana, Cristina, and Joanna played a trio of some sixteenth century music on their recorders. Angel demonstrated his remarkable piano-playing skills. Christiana sang "Sweet Baby James." Nathan sang "A Whale of a Tale" from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Cristina performed a Lord of the Rings song and piano duet with Joanna. What an end to a terrific week, for that was the last whole day we would spend in