On the 13th and 14th of October 2012, OCMC Missionary Christina Semon led a group of ten Moldovan Youths to participate in a pilgrimage that was organized by the Association of Romanian Orthodox Youth (ATOR) of Iasi, to venerate the miraculous relics of St. Parascheva of Iasi during the celebration of her feastday. The program was filled with prayer and fellowship among many other teenagers from throughout Romania, who were organized by their local ATOR to attend. The youth shared meals, played games, and participated in services together. Abbott Iustin Petre of Saint Ioan Casian Monastery in Constanta was the invited guest to feed the souls of the youth. He talked about the life and helpful guidance of Fr. Arsenie Papacioc, a well-known and beloved Romanian spiritual father who, last year, passed into life eternal.
One of the highlights of the trip was the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy, celebrated with at least 12 hierarchs, one of which was His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of Romania. The floor of the cathedral was packed with fellow pilgrims who were attending the services and resting from their long journeys. And, to get inside, we had passed many people who obviously also traveled distances, sleeping outside on the benches among the countless venders selling religious objects on every corner. Most of the Moldovan youth had never experienced such a large pilgrimage before, nor have seen so many people stay in line for more than 24 hours, and on top of it, in the rain, to reverence a saint’s relics. These tangible expressions of pious faithful had all of our senses receiving the spiritual atmosphere, such as smells of incense and fresh basil.
To express the value of Romanian spirituality is beyond words. Equally, it is hard to relate this remarkable experience to something commonly experienced in America. But, the expectation of our pilgrimage may be likened to that all that builds with expectation while standing in line for a couple of hours to ride a really good rollercoaster. As one of the Moldovan youths expressed, “It was worth staying in line in order to feel the struggle; otherwise it would have been too much comfort.” With their having this opportunity, a profound relationship with St. Parascheva began to be built, especially as she was so present when receiving their supplications.
With the increased enthusiasm the Moldovan youths brought back home to Orhei—like fire inside them and more strength—together we are preparing during this Advent season for other youth activities that are yet to come. The partnership through ATOR continues to bear beneficial fruit in both Moldova and Romania youths, as they strive to help encourage one another to remain faithful, active members of the Body of the Church.