How did you get the idea for the East Meets West retreat?
Very Rev. Father Mark Shuey, dean of the Mid-Atlantic deanery for the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Josaphat, and pastor of two North Carolina missions, wanted to provide clergy with ongoing formation and at the same time explore the possibility of developing a mission in the Western North Carolina mountains following the request of a local group.
We developed the retreat for both of these purposes. The retreat, we believed, would be a good way to gather together all interested in a Ukrainian Catholic mission in the mountains and, once developed, to provide ongoing formation for all who attend. With the retreat, clergy gather for prayer, talks, liturgy, and fellowship. At the same time, anyone interested in the mission can attend our prayer services and talks; experience Byzantine Rite liturgy; and meet with clergy during fellowship.
How did you choose Canton as a location?
In June of 2014, we were invited to celebrate Divine Liturgy in Leicester by a group interested in our developing a mission in the area. We were then offered the use of St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Sylva for our first retreat in August.
Following our retreat, we were offered the opportunity to use Immaculate Conception Mission in Canton for regular services. From October of 2014 to January of 2015, we offered liturgical services at Immaculate Conception. We were unable to continue with these services at the time, because we had no clergy to send. For the next two years, we continued to hold our retreat in Sylva to gather all interested in our developing a mission.
In the spring of 2017, a deacon became available to offer monthly services in Canton and he began to do so in June, with a commitment for a priest to celebrate Divine Liturgy at least twice a year. With services now being held regularly in Canton, it was the ideal time to move the retreat to Immaculate Conception.
Why is the retreat called East Meets West?
We had three reasons for naming the retreat “East Meets West.”
First, the name honors the heritage of our Church. The Ukrainian Catholic Church is a daughter Church of the Church of Constantinople, and Constantinople historically has been known as the city where east meets west. In addition, St. John Chrysostom, whose liturgy we celebrate, was Patriarch of Constantinople from 398 to 404. The name also honors him.
Second, the retreat was planned as a way to gather our clergy, priests and deacons, who reside across the state of North Carolina, east and west, for fellowship, liturgy, and prayer.
Third, the retreat’s services and talks are held at a Roman Catholic church and open to the public, many of whom are Roman Catholic, or western. In addition, we encourage clergy seeking ongoing formation, whether eastern or western, to attend. We see the retreat, therefore, as a meeting or gathering of members of the one Church east and west.
Why did you choose the Beatitudes as a theme?
The Beatitudes are a summary of all Our Lord teaches. With the Beatitudes of the Sermon of the Mount, Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us how to live in the world as Christians. In the Byzantine Rite, the Beatitudes are prayed as part of Divine Liturgy and as part of Typica, a service prayed on days Divine Liturgy is not offered. We hope our talks will give those who attend the retreat greater insight into why the Beatitudes are included in our liturgy and why they are an essential guide to the Christian life.
Why did you choose the book on the Beatitudes by St. Gregory of Nyssa?
St. Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 330-394) is considered one of the great early theologians of Christian mysticism. He teaches us that with the Beatitudes Jesus Christ leads us up a ladder to perfection by keeping his commandments and living an ascetical life.