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Report by: Danielle Geeza

Over 20 young women in grades 7-12 gathered at Saint Basil Academy in Garrison NY from November 11-13, 2016 for the Third Annual Girls Retreat. "Iconography: Windows into Heaven" was the theme, with iconographer Randi Sider-Rose of Immanuel Icons (website) leading the educational sessions.

Participants enjoyed a low-key evening on Friday consisting of pizza, games, and evening prayers. Similar to the previous year, everyone was asked to bring hygiene products and other items to be donated to the Dutchess [County] Outreach Mission in Poughkeepsie NY. Dutchess Outreach strives to meet the basic needs of low-income individuals when no other resources are available to them, and assists them in becoming self-sufficient. The generosity of our young women was again astounding! Many thanks to Tania Metz (Saint Gregory the Theologian Church, Wappingers Falls NY) for transporting the items.


The Divine Liturgy was served on Saturday morning by Father Jason Vansuch (Chair, Department of Youth Ministry) and Archimandrite Anthony (Director, Saint Basil Academy). The responses to all of the weekend services were sung by the girls under the leadership of choir director Ms. Janet Neis (Saint Stephen Cathedral, Philadelphia PA). After a bountiful brunch served by Academy staff, everyone gathered into a classroom which Randi had transformed into an icon studio. The walls and tables were covered with sketches and examples of her own work. Randi's talk had two parts: "What Makes An Icon An Icon" and "The Transfiguring Light Of Iconography."


Randi started off by opening a group discussion in which participants were asked to identify differences between Eastern Orthodox icons and Western art depicted in churches across denominations. They managed to fill an entire white board with characteristic differences! Randi also incorporated hands-on activities during her second session. First she led the girls in a tracing and sketching exercise, and then she worked side-by-side with participants on one of her current projects: an icon of Saint Mary Magdalene.


The girls were given free-time to play basketball, hang out in the dorms, and explore the Academy's beautiful grounds until the time for Vespers. After the service, the evening wrapped up with dinner and the movie “Pay it Forward" while eagerly awaiting the arrival of Archbishop Michael for a Q&A session.


Over the course of the weekend, the young women were introduced to and enthusiastically learned a new hymn written by Youth Department supporters. All of the girls, together with chaperones and the Youth Department staff, surprised His Eminence by singing it when he arrived Saturday evening. The hymn's words, set to Tone 1, embody the department's mission:


The Youth Department of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey,
under the leadership and guidance of His Eminence Archbishop Michael
We strive to guide the youth of our diocese in the holy Orthodox faith through prayer, education, and fellowship.
For the youth are not only the future of the church, but they are also the present.
O Lord, Jesus Christ our God and Savior,
Who loves us more than we love ourselves,
keep the youth of our church and all of us in Your loving care.


The weekend concluded with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, brunch, and goodbyes.

“On behalf of the retreat participants,” said Danielle Geeza (Youth Department Assistant), “special thanks are extended to His Eminence, Archbishop Michael; Father Jason Vansuch; Randi Sider-Rose; Janet Neis; all of the chaperones; and the entire staff of Saint Basil Academy, especially Archimandrite Anthony, who lovingly opened their arms to all participants once again. It was truly a spiritually uplifting event and an absolute joy to see the young women of our diocese come together for prayer, education, and fellowship, and to renew old friendships and to cultivate new ones.”


2017 Girls Retreat

Saint Basil Academy

November 10-12, 2017

Mark your calendars!

2016 GIRLS RETREAT - 11/12/16

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