Shepherds Tending Other Shepherds

32597329347_8f227c14d2_kClergy Govenie, April 4-6, 2019
St. Sophia’s Cathedral, Chicago, IL

On the 4th week of Great Lent leading up to the Sunday of Saint John of the Ladder, over 20 priests and 2 deacons from across the diocese gathered in Des Plaines, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, for the annual Lenten Govenie with our father and chief Shepherd, Metropolitan Joseph. A govenie is a special kind of retreat that includes divine services, spiritual talks, and leads up to confession with a celebration the Holy Eucharist. At the conclusion of this year’s govenie, His Eminence pronounced, “This is so far my favorite govenie.”

46816158084_f537588321_kDivine services suffused the fathers three days with the radiance of God’s presence. Every morning, they began with Matins and 1st Hour, and every evening was capped off with Vespers and Compline. Prostrations and the Prayer of Saint Ephraim contributed to the solemn and sober atmosphere. And the personal prayers and intentions of all the fathers ensured that they were gathered not only on behalf of one another, but on behalf of each flock of faithful Christians that these pastors tended.

Pastoral care was the overarching theme of the spiritual talks given in the late morning and afternoon. Topics included:

  • How to live the faith inside & outside the church
  • How to encourage active vs. passive church attendance
  • God’s love in the midst of adversity
  • The Church as a place of refuge
  • How to know God and allow His love to change us
  • Moving from passive to active faith
  • Discerning God’s truth from the world’s “truth”

Most of all each father was bolstered by the brotherhood and mutual agreement of all the other fathers.

This brotherhood of faithful shepherds finally gathered on Friday evening for an Akathist to our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. Then the fathers offered confession one to one another, as these shepherds who usually tend the rational sheep were themselves shepherded.


On Saturday, full and happy hearts exalted the God of all as each participant celebrated Divine Liturgy. It was so good to come together from so many different parishes across the country. And the host, Fr. Grouiu Tzonkov of the St. Sophia’s Cathedral, provided the anchor for their heavenly journey. Each and every pastor left to his home flock Saturday afternoon with strengthened brotherhood and a renewed sense of his mission to preach the gospel in all the world.


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