On Why the Presvytera Must Retreat

Oct 16th

This is a quick thank-you that I spoke to our parish community on returning from the National Sisterhood of Presvyteres 2017 Retreat. My inclination is to be always a little flowery and long-winded, so I tried to b a little more concise. I truly could go on and on about the work of the priest and what it means to be a clergy family. It is a blessed burden, and one we would not trade.

Many of you know that this past week I spent time in California at the National Sisterhood of Presvyteres retreat. When Father comes homes home from meeting or “retreats”, he generally tells you a sampling of what he learned and how he wants to apply it to our church family and community. He asked me to do the same. Now, his retreats are full of meetings, and in the “free time” given them, there are impromptu meetings. The presvyteres retreat is not exactly like that. Yes, we spent time in seminars, listening to a seasoned priest’s wife discuss the topics of beauty in the church, self-image and Orthodoxy, and clergy life and burnout, but we really did a lot of fellow-shipping and relaxing, too. I would be happy to discuss any of those topics with you!

But what I do want to talk about for a few moments is why it is important for the presvytera to retreat and refuel. It is not horn-tooting, I promise! Here’s the thing: Your priest loves you in a way no one else can. He loves you as your spiritual guide, a man who is responsible for your souls, and one who will be there for you at a drop of a hat – for traumatic life moments and for the joyous moments. At night, you are often the last thing he thinks about. The growth of this community and how we can serve you are our vacation travel discussions. When he is with his brother priests on “retreats” or fellow-shipping together, they spend the majority of their time discussing the ways they can bless their communities. In short, he loves you, he worries about you, he thinks of you always. The priesthood is not a full-time job. It is an all-the-time job.

When he was ordained, the bishop placed in Father’s hands the Lamb of God, the body of Christ, and said to him ,”Matthew, receive this pledge and preserve it whole and unharmed until your last breath, for you shall be held accountable for it at the fearful coming of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” His Eminence was not talking only about the Eucharist but about all of us, as well. That is a blessed and heavy weight.

So, as his presvytera, as your presvytera, my main ministry in this church community is to support my husband. To be the buttress that helps keep him upright and energized when it is difficult to be either. To brainstorm and consider what work there is to be done. I was once asked how my “job” is any different. Why engineers’ spouses do not get their own retreat, lawyers’ spouses do not get retreats but priest’s wives do! The quick answer is that his ministry permeates nearly every aspect of his life, and so it does mine. And, while that is a blessing beyond imagination, it is also exhausting. It was a gift to me to spend a long weekend learning how to serve this community better, how to serve my husband better, and to spend time with those who have the same ministry to their parishes and husbands. Thank you so much for sending me, for watching our children during liturgy, and for your continued and valuable prayers for Fr. Matthew and our family. We are so very grateful for you all.