During Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., May 27-30, ROYA gathered at Sf. Dumitru Monastery in Middletown, NY. Although this was a regional retreat for the Northeast, we even had youth travel from other parts of the U.S. such as Ohio, Illinois, and California. Since our last retreat took place during Christmas time, this was a wonderful opportunity to regroup and spend time with fellow Romanian youth. Among the youth that participated, there were several new members around the ages of 16-20, providing the opportunity to create new long-lasting relationships and bring forth the next generation of ROYA.
On Friday, we began the night with Vespers, followed by some outdoor bonding activities, and ending with a surprise treat of Italian ice. The weather was so pleasant, we spent the majority of the evening conversing outside with much resistance to go to bed at “lights out.”
Saturday morning began with us gathering for Matins and Liturgy, followed by our first meal of the day. All youth were assigned to either help set the table and prepare food or clean up and wash dishes, in order to help the women that volunteered their time to cook for us. This was put in place to provide insight on the hard work required to plan the meals and instill a similar work ethic in us. The morning began with heavy rain, which thankfully died down once it was time for our hike. We were more than fortunate to have the presence of Fr. Ionuț Voicu from Izvorul Tamaduirii in Long Valley, NJ, who came a long way to join us on our hike. When we arrived at the hiking grounds, Fr. Ionut began with an introduction of his personal story and journey to priesthood. Throughout the hike, Fr. Ionuț took the time to speak with every ROYA member, one on one, and offer spiritual advice in regard to their current struggles. We felt this truly embodied the ROYA spirit, having the company of Fr. Ionuț while in the midst of the beautiful scenery. Afterwards, we took some time to rest and then reconvened in the common area to partake in an embroidery lesson. Through this undertaking, we all grew a deeper sense of appreciation for our handmade Romanian items, such as the “costum popular.” We ended the night with Vespers, followed by some more free time to either continue embroidering, play games, or talk.
On Sunday, we partook in Divine Liturgy wearing our “ii,” along with some other familiar ROYA members that came for the day. During the meal, I performed two pieces for violin which included “Romanian Rhapsody” by George Enescu. After we cleaned up, we had a talk with Fr. Abbot Ieremia outside in the lovely weather. The conversation varied from the myrrh-streaming icon of the Holy Theotokos from Hawaii to miracles of contemporary saints. We later had a Paraklesis to the Mother of God and had a couple campers depart. That night, some of the girls decided to prepare a couple Romanian folk songs to surprise Father Abbot with the next day.
On our last day, we had an early Matins service, followed by more departing and heading towards St. Tikhon’s Monastery to venerate the Hawaiian myrrh-streaming icon of the Holy Theotokos. After our last meal with the remaining ROYA members, we presented our Romanian folk songs to Father Abbot and said our good-byes.
Overall, I felt this retreat was worthwhile and appreciated seeing new youth open up to our group. Being that my first ROYA event was the Spring Retreat in 2021, it has been a full-circle moment organizing this year’s event. The environment that this camp created for me is nothing short of wholesome and filled with genuine kindness that showed me not only where I can improve on as a person, but as an Orthodox Christian. I am excited to continue my Orthodox life with this community to fall back on and learn from. I can only hope that the new members present experienced this similar sentiment that I have towards ROYA.
Everybody that was part of this event would like to express their gratitude for Fr. Ieremia’s guidance, support, and encouragement.