On August 15th, under the spiritual guidance of Reverend Father Anoop Thomas, Vice President of the MGOCSM of the Northeast American Diocese, more than twenty participants gathered at Holy Transfiguration Retreat Center to participate in the first ever Talmeedo Men’s Retreat. This retreat was initiated with the mission to transform the young men throughout our Diocese into disciples of Christ, through prayer, devotion, and meditation. Reverend Father Abey George and Reverend Deacon Dennis Mathai were invited as this year’s main speakers to speak about discipleship with respect to the three topics for this year’s retreat: patristics, prayer life, and sacramental life.
In order to maximize their experience while at Talmeedo, upon arrival to Holy Transfiguration Retreat Center, all participant’s offered their electronic devices (cell phones, ipods, etc) and car keys to Talmeedo committee members. This empowered participants to focus on their spiritual lives while on this retreat, and not be distracted by social media, as we often are in our daily lives. Wednesday’s activities consisted of icebreakers, fellowship, dinner and prayer. The liturgical hourly prayers, as found in the Sheimo prayers, were conducted throughout the retreat at the appropriate times. Each participant was assigned to lead certain aspects of each liturgical prayer, such as chanting Psalms, Scripture readings, etc.
Thursday, the first full day of the retreat, was immersed in prayer, including a meditation offered by Seminarian Sanjay Mathew. There were also service projects, dynamic discussions, and a bonfire. Unlike conventional retreats and conferences where the main keynote address/talk is typically given by the speaker in a lecture-type setting, at Talmeedo, these main sessions were round table based. During the first session Fr. Abey and Dn. Dennis co-facilitated a discussion on Christian discipleship and what it means to be a disciple. Afterwards, participants were split in two service events groups to help clean some parts of our beautiful Retreat Center. One group helped clean up a Shrine of Saint Mary, which is found on a trail on the grounds of Holy Transfiguration. Another group helped in the library, where a study area with internet workstations will later be created. In the afternoon, participants enjoyed a lively discussion centered around the imagery of discipleship as expressed in the Sheimo prayers of our Church.
Later in the evening, participants were able to engage in fellowship and discussion at the bonfire, as they reflected on their experience at the retreat so far.
Friday’s activities included praying the liturgical hours, included a meditation led by Seminarian Royce Mathew, a discussion session, a video presentation, an instructive class, and a vigil. During the third discussion session, Abey Achen and Dennis Semmassen led discussions on the types of struggles and challenges we face as Disciples of Christ. After the discussion, Father Abey gave a presentation on his pilgrimage to Mouth Athos, and showed a video related to the life, history and experience on Mount Athos. Later in the afternoon, the speakers led a class on how to make bread for Holy Qurbono. With the help of the clergy and seminarians, each participant was able to make their own appam. After completing Vespers and eating dinner participants partook in a vigil which was focused on chanting, Psalm readings and prayers of repentance. Participants were given the opportunity to privately reflect on their own spiritual journey, through counseling or in the Sacrament of Holy Confession.
Talmeedo Men’s Retreat culminated with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on Saturday morning. Throughout the retreat, time was set apart in between sessions to allow for reflection and for fellowship amongst participants and clergy. Through post-retreat surveys many participants shared that Talmeedo Men’s Retreat was the “best retreat/conference they have ever been to” and expressed their desire to return for next year’s retreat. Participants especially highlighted how liberating it was for them to not be bound to their phones, which helped them reflect deeper on their relationship with God.
The Talmeedo Committee shared of their humbling experience as God used them to initiate this ministry for our Diocese. The committee expressed their gratitude to His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos, Metropolitan for his encouragement as they began this new ministry, and the guidance of Reverend Father Anoop Thomas. The committee lastly shared of their sincere gratitude to the main speakers - Reverend Father Abey George and Reverend Deacon Dennis Mathai - for their time and for teaching valuable lessons on Christian discipleship.
The committee highlighted that our own Retreat Center provided a perfect atmosphere for silence, reflection and meditation. The hard work of Mary De Angelis, Director of HTRC and the entire staff of Holy Transfiguration was especially recognized and appreciated. Mary, and her staff ensured our time spent at the Diocese's spiritual home was memorable and the retreat went without a single glitch.
The Talmeedo Committee has already begun breaking ground in preparation for next year’s Talmeedo Retreat at Holy Transfiguration Retreat Center. Based on the feedback of participants and clergy, next year’s Talmeedo will be unlike any other ministry our men will experience. Details of Talmeedo 2019 will be released in the coming weeks. The continued prayerful support of our clergy and faithful is humbly requested.
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