On Saturday, April 2, 2016, Archpriest Michael Oleksa of Anchorage, Alaska, led our Annual Lenten Retreat here at Holy Ghost Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Using the theme “That All May Be Saved,” Father Michael spellbound retreat goers with stories of Orthodox Christian missionaries to Alaska during the 18th–19th centuries—including Ss. Herman, Innocent, Jacob Netsvetov, and Juvenaly—and demonstrated how their missionary efforts might serve as examples for urban ministry in the 21st century. He also spoke about the life of Matushka (Mother) Olga Michael, a 20th century Y’upik native, and her popular veneration among the faithful of Alaska.
By using detailed, mesmerizing descriptions of the saints’ lives, Father Michael illustrated key principles for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, among them:
- Evangelize with prayer and in faith;
- Truly love and advocate for the people with whom you are sharing the gospel;
- Before drawing up a “evangelization plan,” determine the needs of the people with whom you are sharing the gospel, via face-to-face conversations;
- Build bridges between cultures: listen to each others’ stories and identify commonalities between your culture and the people with whom you are sharing the gospel;
- Continually educate laity within the Church, so they are able to share the gospel;
- Continually educate hearers of the gospel, so they remain anchored in the Church;
- Invite seekers to “come and see” church worship, instead of arguing with them about doctrinal, historical, and moral issues; and
- Be a walking witness to the joy of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Listen to one of the talks in Father Michael’s retreat, regarding how Alaskan saints can inspire urban ministry.
Listen to Father Michael’s Sunday homily titled: “Lessons from the Sundays of Great Lent.”
Our community thanks Father Michael for sharing his superior insights into the lives of the Alaska saints and for inspiring us to imitate their missionary efforts. And, we also thank his wife, Matushka Xenia, for being with us. May our Lord Jesus Christ bless them!
Your pastor, Father Steven Belonick