The Sisterhood of Presvyteres from the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco held their annual retreat at St. Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center on January 20 – 22, 2023. The retreat, led by Michelle Moujaes, focused on the theme “Relationships Affect Everything”.

On Friday evening Presvytera Maria Hillhouse led the chanting of the Paraklesis service in the Saint Photini Chapel of the Alex and Faye Spanos Faith and Heritage Center. Following dinner and the cutting of the vasilopita (baked by Presvytera Barbara Retelas), His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos met with the presvyteres via Zoom, welcoming everyone and offering his blessings for a fruitful and restorative retreat. Metropolis of San Francisco Sisterhood President Presvytera Dimitra Dogias then introduced the retreat speaker Michelle Moujaes, the founder and Executive Director at Faithtree Resources.

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Michelle began the first session Friday evening by challenging everyone to think deeply about what fosters good relationships and why they are important to cultivate. Michelle highlighted how relationships are essential to spiritual growth, wellness, and fulfillment in our lives. The presvyteres had the opportunity to reflect and discuss in small groups what they believed made relationships thrive and what was required to attend to easy or difficult relationships. Michelle’s final challenge for the evening was invite everyone to contemplate what their lives would be like without relationships.

Saturday morning, Fr. Christian Burkhard served Orthros in the Saint Photini Chapel and offered a touching homily on the impact of this service in his own ministry. Following breakfast, the presvyteres reconvened in the Spanos Center for the second session, entitled “God’s Design for our Relationships”. In this session, Michelle emphasized that all relationships must begin with God and that only He can show us how to do relationships in the right ways. Michelle dove into the multivalent Hebrew word yirah (יראה – wisdom, awe, worship) in the Old Testament, connecting this notion of wisdom with recognizing and accepting God’s design for our lives. Michelle pointed out the necessity of pre-deciding to do God’s will, even before we encounter difficult relationships. Following this discussion, Michelle led a third session on building relationship profiles, inviting the presvyteres to reflect on relationships through a series of questions. In the final session, “Growing How We Do Relationships”, Michelle shared key rules of engagement for building life changing relationships; these included studying others’ worldviews, participating in active listening, being objective, assuming best intentions, speaking truth with love, building trust, turning to Christ as our example, and praying daily. Michelle emphasized that mastery is not the goal of building Christian relationships, but rather pursing Christ in our efforts to improve these relationships.

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Saturday afternoon, the presvyteres visited the Monastery of the Theotokos the Life-Giving Spring where they were greeted by Gerontissa Markella and enjoyed the monastery’s hospitality before attending Vespers in the Katholikon. The presvyteres returned to the monastery the following morning for Divine Liturgy before returning home Sunday afternoon.