With the blessing and guidance of His Eminence Metropolitan Basilios Kodseie, the first Annual Church School Family Retreat was held on the 17th of January 2020. The retreat was moved from the Antiochian Village in Goulburn to St. Nicholas parish hall in Punchbowl due to the current bushfire crisis, however we glorify God Who responded to our prayers for rain.

70 students were in attendance on the day, with ages ranging from 4 to 16. They were also joined by 16 parents. The day began with the prayer for the commencement of the Church school year and blessing of the Holy Water by the clergy. Following the opening prayer, parents retreated to the Church to commence session one. This was a fruitful talk by Fr. Isaac Zghaib on the teachings of St. Theophan the Recluse, from his book “Raising Them Right”. The students were divided into three groups for session one—infants, primary and high school—where they began their spiritual activities on the life of St. Theophan, the patron saint of our Archdiocese Church School Department.

At midday, His Eminence Metropolitan Basilios arrived for an engaging talk with the students, during which he surveyed the talents of the children as they chanted and asked various questions about the Church and everyday life. Later on, there was a cake cutting for the feast of St. Anthony the Great. His Eminence stayed on with the parents and spent the first half of session two discussing the importance of raising children in the faith and answering the parents’ questions. He later presented each parent with a copy of the book, “Raising Them Right” by St. Theophan.

During session two, the high school students tried their hand at iconography while the primary students had a fun time playing various rotational games. The day ended with a vesper service to St. Theophan, served by Fr. Isaac and Dn. Theophan who were aided by a choir comprised of teachers, students and parents.

Overall, the feedback of the day was very positive. We look forward to the next family retreat, which will become an annual event!