By Fr. Andy Sensenig, OMI
From January 22 to January 23, Deacon Kevin Woodvine and his wife Eli led a High School Confirmation Retreat at St. Gregory Nazianzen parish in Sitka. Deacon Woodvine and his wife are members of Our Lady of Angels parish in Kenai. The theme of the retreat, KNOW MERCY was to help students develop a deeper appreciation of the Year of Mercy by diving into 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 led the retreat for eight of our students with joy, games, instruction and sharing. Anne Morris, St. Gregory parish 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 St. Gregory’s chapel. As all 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, and Anne Morris, it was the voices of students attending that added a special melody and meaning to this beautiful way of praying. It was a sacred moment of recognizing the glory of God’s merciful love for us all through the Eucharist.
The students loved the time, and song, with the Blessed Sacrament so much that another Holy Hour was added for them during the retreat. Now, there is a move toward forming a Divine Mercy Prayer Group here for the youth.
Deacon Kevin and Eli work with my brother-in-ministry, Fr. Tom Rush, OMI, at Our Lady of Angels parish in Kenai, and they are making plans with their Youth Group to come to St. Gregory’s this coming summer for their Youth Mission Experience. This is exciting because it will be a cross-diocesan mission experience among parishes led by Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Alaska. 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 Nazianzen in Sitka, young and old, they KNOW MERCY and they LIVE IT!