Pictures and Story by Fr. Andy Sensenig, OMI
(Fr. Andy is Pastor of St. Gregory Nazianzen Parish in Sitka, AK)
On January 22 to January 23, we had a Confirmation High School Retreat at St. Gregory the Nazianzen. It was lead by Deacon Kevin Woodvine and his wife Eli. Deacon Kevin and Eli are from Our Lady of Angels in Kenai. The theme of the retreat was to help the students to get a deeper appreciation of the Year of Mercy by diving in what it means to live out the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy are the following: Admonish Sinners, Instruct the Uniformed, Counsel the Doubtful, Comfort the Sorrowful, Bear Wrongs Patiently and Forgive Offenses and Pray for the Living and the Dead.
The Corporal Works of Mercy are the following: Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Clothe the Naked, Shelter the Homeless, Comfort the Imprisoned, Visit the Sick and Bury the Dead.
Deacon Kevin and Eli lead the retreat for eight of our students with joy, games, instruct and sharing. Anne Morris our DRE helped extensively and the students brought their enthusiasm and thirst to learn more about the Good News of Jesus Christ.
One of the most powerful moments of the retreat for me was during the Holy Hour with Exposition of the Eucharist with the students in our chapel in St. Gregory’s. As all of us knelt down before the Eucharist in the Monstrance, we prayed the Divine Mercy in Song. As the Divine Mercy Chaplet was being sung by Deacon Kevin, his wife Eli, Anne Morris, it was the voices of students attending that added a special melody and meaning to this beautiful way of praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It was a sacred moment of recognizing the glory of God’s merciful love for us all through the Eucharist.
The students loved the Divine Mercy in Song so much and time before the Blessed Sacrament that we even added another Holy Hour for them during the retreat and we are on the way of forming a Divine Mercy Prayer Group for them soon.
The other powerful experience of the retreat is that Deacon Kevin and Eli work with my brother, Fr. Tom Rush OMI at Our Lady of Angels in Kenai and Deacon Kevin and Eli are working with their Youth Group to come to St. Gregory the Nazianzen this coming summer for their Youth Mission Experience. This is exciting because it will be a cross diocesan mission experience among parish lead by Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Alaska. It is just one thing that I have learned over the years of being a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate that we are collaborative among ourselves, because we are not so much an organization, but a family. The people at St. Gregory’s are looking forward to our visitors and learning more about living mercy each and every day.
But that is what I have discovered about the parishioners here at St. Gregory the Nazianzen in Sitka, young and old, they KNOW MERCY and they LIVE IT!