Hi! My name is Iryna and I would like to tell you a little about our ten-day break with LCI students and CMC missionaries. It was a very good and fruitful week for all of us. It is so amazing that we can have an opportunity here in Gaming not just to learn English but also to grow spiritually.

The CMC missionaries started their retreat a bit earlier than the LCI students. On Monday we had an English class and after some free time until the evening. Sr. Andrea, Vladimir, and I prepared dinner for everyone. It was a beautiful common dinner because we got to spend some time together with the CMC girls, Gracie, Flannery, and Adeline. After dinner, Fr. Joseph showed us a documentary about Blessed Bishop Teodor Romzha, who is a martyr of Communism. For me, it was especially interesting to know about him because he was a Greek Catholic bishop from Ukraine who died for his belief. At that time, the government wanted to destroy our faith by using all the ways they could imagine. I am always proud of stories similar to this, because it shows the nature of Ukrainian people, who through all their history showed fortitude, courage, patriotism, and their devotion to their ideas and beliefs.

On Tuesday in the evening, we prayed together the Akathist Hymn for our intentions. After, each of us lit a candle for those intentions. The next day, Wednesday, the LCI students started their retreat. It was such a cold and foggy morning! It even snowed for the first time this year! But, it seemed like it was a part of the plan. Due to the weather, we had the opportunity to spend more time in prayer. So, we went with CMC missionaries and Fr. Joseph to Maria Langegg. But, because of the fog, we lost our way for a few minutes, and it was funny. We could see only in two meters in front of us! We were so close to the church but we did not see it.

When we finally arrived, we met a priest of the Community of the Beatitudes, who greeted us and let us stay there. He showed us a chapel, where there was an original icon of the Blessed Mother. Fr. Joseph also showed us the church. It is a large, Baroque church that is dedicated to the Holy Virgin and is one of the most important pilgrimage places in Austria. It is so beautiful inside! The statue of Mary with seven swords which pierce her heart impressed me the most. Those swords symbolize the Seven Sorrows of Mary. In that chapel, Fr. Joseph gave us two talks. In the first talk, he explained that each moment in our life is a gift and we should not spend time in vain, we have to live in the moment. The second talk was about the seven capital sins. He explained why at times we can feel sad when we start to be close to Jesus. It is because of egoistic self-love. Love of ourselves should be ordered to Jesus in a positive way. Many times, we do not see our problems. We have to see ourselves in Jesus. Fr. Joseph made a clear analogy to it. We can look in a well, like in the mirror, and just enjoy what we see: our own reflection. We can be attached to all things more than to Jesus. That is why people can be miserable inside; it is so hard to let some things go. Instead, we need to look at Jesus and concern ourselves not with how we look, but with please the Lord. After that we prayed the Rosary for the intentions we had lit our candles for on Tuesday.

When we came back to Gaming, we had another prayer in the Byzantine chapel. Fr. Joseph also explained the Gospel from Mark 10:46-52 about the curing of the blind man. After that day, I understood that Jesus hears all our prayers and we do not have to have any doubt about it. Even if we pray for some intention for a very long time, we should not give up; we have to be patient because God knows what is best for us.

On the last day of the retreat, on Thursday, the LCI students had two more talks. Fr. Joseph explained to us the four cardinal virtues. He finished the talk with beautiful lines from the Gospel of John 15:1-11. Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). This quote made me reflect on how here in Gaming, God gave us a beautiful opportunity in this retreat to become good branches on the vine.