DARIEN, IL [MW Diocese Communications] -- Over 80 priests and deacons from throughout the Diocese of the Midwest gathered at Aylesford Carmelite Retreat Center here Monday through Wednesday, May 7 - 9, 2012, for their annual Clergy Convocation.
The gathering -- which boasted the largest attendance in the Diocese's history -- marked the first since His Grace, Bishop Matthias was elected to and installed in the See of Chicago and the Midwest.
In a series of talks and open discussions, Bishop Matthias related the ministry of the late 20th century Metropolitan Meletios of Preveza in Nikopolis, Greece, who distinguished himself by transforming the community to which he had been appointed in unprecedented, yet simple and obvious ways. Citing a number of examples from "Beauty for Ashes: The Spiritual Transformation of a Modern Greek Community," written by Stephen R. Lloyd-Moffett and published by Saint Vladimir's Seminary Press in 2009, Bishop Matthias traced the spiritual growth of the Preveza Metropolitanate, drawing obvious parallels to opportunities that clearly exist in the Diocese of the Midwest.
Metropolitan Meletios eschewed "programs," "plans," and "strategies" that some might consider to be more appropriate in corporate settings. Faced with a variety of issues -- sexual misconduct within the Church, the restoration of the local Church to spiritual health, and the renewed trust between Church leaders and the faithful -- Metropolitan Meletios challenged his people to apply the essence of the Orthodox Christian faith in their unique context to inspire social and religious change.
While that which Metropolitan Meletios faced upon assuming his duties is not exactly parallel to that which the Diocese of the Midwest is facing decades later, the manner in which he set out to bring about transformation surely can be studied and applied today, Bishop Matthias emphasized. Any reorientation, he continued, must be borne of the Gospel, and the desire to live it personally and corporately, on the parish, deanery, and diocesan levels.
In successive interactive sessions, Bishop Matthias reported on the many good things that are happening in the Diocese of the Midwest, and offered a variety of insights as to how the clergy and faithful alike can build upon them. He punctuated his observations with anecdotes from his own four decades of priestly ministry, sharing many of the joys and sorrows he experienced during his six parish assignments. While he was clear in outlining his expectations and hopes, he was equally clear in his willingness to continue listening, to continue learning, and to continue to serve as the Diocese's archpastor with the valuable input of the members of the Bishop's Council and the Diocesan Council, the delegates to the Diocesan Assembly, and the clergy who gather annually for the Convocation. While a variety of opinions and attitudes were expressed, it was clear that the priests and deacons indeed share the same goal and ministry -- to proclaim the Gospel in the Midwest in fulfillment of their calling as servants of the Word and Sacrament.
Daily services brought the clergy together for worship, while the opening evening's Akathistos Hymn in honor of Saint Alexis Toth served as a reminder that the Church in the Midwest truly has grown "from generation to generation." The highlight of the Convocation was the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on Wednesday morning at the neighboring Saints Peter and Paul Church, Burr Ridge, IL, which made it possible for the clergy to gather together as a group around their Bishop to manifest their unity in Christ, mission, and ministry by partaking of the Holy Eucharist.
Photos from the Convocation may be viewed here.