The last week of the year, youth of the midwest gathered in St Louis, Missouri, for the annual Saint Herman’s Retreat. Teens from across the diocese met at Camp Wyman for long walks, morning and evening prayers, edifying talks, and breakout groups where they were able to ask questions and get important answers. The retreat this year featured two speakers. Priest Turbo Qualls of St Mary of Egypt Serbian Orthodox Church in Kansas City spoke on the importance of humility and knowing the Faith. He went point by point through the Creed as well as the apologetics techniques used by Protestants to enable youth to protect their faith. Elizabeth Naasko, wife of Priest Benjamin Naasko of Saints Sergius and Herman of Valaam in Michigan, spoke about refining the nous. She discussed how to analyze and then filter out harmful social messages.
The week also highlighted outdoor activities like archery, ax throwing, and a climbing course. Larissa Sander provided daily vocal exercise and choir practice to enable the teens to sing for both Vigil and Divine Liturgy for the feast of Holy Prophet Daniel. The clergy and sisterhood of Saint Basil the Great parish graciously hosted the youth, the youth committee, and chaperones for a delicious dinner before Vigil and then again after Liturgy.
The annual volunteer event took place at Saint Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church where the young people tore out damaged food bank cupboards before assembling new shelves. The teens also sorted and re-shelved foods as well as cleaning the kitchen, temple, cry room, and grounds. Saint Basil’s also provided snacks for the hard working teens to eat afterwards which were greatly appreciated. The highlight for many was the Gateway Arch and tram ride up to the top where they looked over the muddy Mississippi, the city of St Louis, and the court house where the Dred Scott case was heard.
St. Herman’s is always wonderful but it was especially joyful this year after being only virtual last year. The youth, their families, and the youth committee cannot fully express their gratitude to the Fund for Assistance, the Saint John Kochurov Society, and Vladyka Peter for their support both spiritual and financial.