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CANADIAN DIOCESE: March 9, 2018
The Great-Lenten Pastoral Retreat of the Canadian Diocese concludes

The Great-Lenten Pastoral Retreat of the Canadian Diocese was held on March 5-7, 2018, at the Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God in Jackson Point, ON.

Jacksons Point is a small and picturesque community north of Toronto, which Russians call Beryozki or birches. Unlike the famous village of Churaevka in the USA, which was founded by the writer Grebenshchikov, where, up till this day, on the corner of Pushkin and Tolstoy Streets, a chapel designed by Nikolai Rerikh stands, Beryozki came into existence more organically. In 1955, in the Canadian forest, which is so similar to the nature of central Russia, surrounded by majestic birches, the first summer house was built for the large Artiukhov family. The Artiukhov sisters Maria and Alexandra, back then still young girls, can be considered the founders of Beryozki.

The first day of the pastoral meeting began with the report of Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada and ended with a litia for the the repose of Metropolitan Laurus on account of the 10 year anniversary of his repose (16 March, 2008, on the feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy). On the second day of the pastoral meeting the current affairs of the diocese were discussed. Archbishop Gabriel impressed on the clergy of the diocese the importance of spiritual topics for the meeting. For this reason the second day began with the lecture of Deacon Andre Psarev of Holy Trinity Seminary on the topic: The Intra-Council Committees and Sobornost in the Russian Orthodox Church. Deacon Andrew, one of the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia at the Intra-Council Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church, shared his experiences working on these committees, which have their beginning with the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church held in 1917-1918. After the lecture, Fr Andre answered questions from the participants of the clergy gathering.

The pastoral meeting was also visited by Fr Jovan Marjanac, a graduate of Holy Trinity Seminary, and the secretary of the Canadian Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who came with a part of the relics of the newly-glorified Serbian St Mardarije.

The Holy Hierarch Mardarije (Jovan Uskokovic) was born in 1889. After completing his secondary school studies he became a novice at the Studenica Monastery. Here he was tonsured a monk and ordained a hierodeacon in 1909. Metropolitan Dimitrije sent him to serve at the Serbian representation church in Moscow. Soon afterwards he entered the Volyn seminary, located in the city of Zhitomir, but later transferred to the Kishenev seminary, which he finished in 1912. He continued his studies at the St Petersburg Theological Academy, from which he graduated in 1916. While studying at the academy, he was assigned, by the Holy Synod, the task of presenting lectures to Slavic prisoners of war. On the 3rd of July, 1917, he was assigned as the administrator of the Serbian Orthodox parishes in America and raised to the rank of archimandrite.

At the final session of the second All-American Council in Cleveland, held on the 8 February, 1919, Bishop Alexander (Nemolovsky) nominated archimandrite Mardarije as a candidate to become the bishop for the Serbian Orthodox parishes in North America. The blessing of Patriarch Tikhon was required to carry out this ordination, but because of the difficulties in communications due to the tragic events of 1917, Archimandrite Mardarije was sent to Belgrade. Some time later on the 5th of December 1925, the future bishop was unanimously elected by the Council of Bishops in Sremski Karlovci to be the bishop of the American Diocese.

On April 25, 1926, in the Belgrade cathedral, the future saint was ordained Bishop of America and Canada by the Serbian Patriarch Dimitrije. He arrived in the USA on the 8 May, 1927. Bishop Mardarije ruled the Serbian Diocese of North America until his blessed repose. St Mardarije died on 12 December, 1935, in Ann Arbor, MI, at the age of 45. The Monastery of St Savva in Libertyville, IL, was built by Bishop Mardarije during the Great Depression. The incorrupt relics of the saint were found in this monastery. The Council of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, on May 14-29, 2015, canonized Bishop Mardarije and decreed that his memory be celebrated on 12 December.

After hearing about the life of St Mardarije, the participants of the clergy gathering venerated the relics of the saint and served a short prayer service to the saint.

On the last day of the clergy meeting the Hierarchical Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts was served. The Liturgy was celebrated by Archbishop Gabriel, the priests of the diocese who had come from all ends of the large Canadian Diocese to participate in the clergy gathering, as well as six deacons. Almost all of the parishes of the diocese were represented at this gathering. Although the church in Jacksons Point is not very large, all of the clergy were able to fit into the altar.

At the conclusion of the clergy meeting, Archbishop Gabriel thanked the rector of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God parish for his hard work in the parish as well as the good job he and the parish sisterhood had done in preparing for this years Lenten gathering.

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