The Metropolis of San Francisco held the first Retreat for Health Care Professionals of the Bay Area
“Hope for the Caregiver” was the theme of the first retreat for health care professionals which took place on March 30th in Belmont, California. Attending the event were fifty doctors, nurses, other therapists and caregivers who, in many different ways, care for their fellowman. The retreat was organized by the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco in cooperation with the Network of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for pastoral Health Care. Its goal was to offer the opportunity to Orthodox Christians who care for the sufferer to meet under the sheltering love of the Church, so as to gain the spiritual strength necessary to continue their valuable and difficult work. The day-long retreat was sponsored by the Greek Orthodox parish of the Holy Cross in Belmont, California, who generously hosted the participants with brotherly love.
The Retreat began with the Service of the Blessing of Waters presided by His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco. After the service, His Eminence welcomed the participants, expressing his joy for the event, stressing the importance that each one has in ministering to those in need and the need for mutual support among caregivers within an ecclesiastical context.
In turn, Protopresbyter Rev. Peter Salmas, Dean of the Parish of the Holy Cross, greeted those present, noting his participation as representative of the Metropolis in the 2nd International Conference of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for Pastoral Health Care that took place in Rhodes, Greece, in 2011. He expressed the hope that this pilot event will be an example for other parishes and Metropolises to host similar gatherings to support caregivers.
The first presentation of the retreat, “The Meaning of Hope”, was delivered by Protopresbyter Rev. Dr. Stavros Kofinas, Coordinator of the Network of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for Pastoral Health Care. Before beginning his presentation, he related the greetings of is All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and described the aim of the Patriarchal Network for Pastoral Health Care. In his presentation, Fr. Kofinas said that hope is found in meaningful relations. True hope is not a hope in something but rather, in someone. Citing St. John Climacus, he brought attention to the fact that “the power of love is in hope, because by it we await the reward of love. The failing of hope is the disappearance of love”. Thus, “unwavering hope is the door of detachment”. When one has hope that does not falter, one can then detach himself or herself from the things of this world, “from the more sorrowful to the better and more pleasing”, living in and through the sacrificial love which is expressed in the Cross.
Dr. Tanya Spirtos, gynecologist , Member of the Clinical Faculty of Stanford University School of Medicine and Kristen Azar, R.N, followed in presenting “The Difficulties in Maintaining and Offering Hope as a Health Care Professional”. In their joint presentation, they explained the dynamics of hope from a medical perspective. They noted that hope is provided when one can express and choose regarding his or her basic physical and emotional needs. They also cited that the difficulties in maintaining hope stem from the complexities of hospital care, the indifference of the community at large regarding medical care and the inability to accept our own limitations.
His Grace Bishop Maxim of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America was the third speaker of the retreat. He spoke on “Gaining Hope in prayer and liturgy”, showing that hope can be gained if it is founded on a personal relationship with God and the Community of the Faithful who comprise His Church. When we forget the Personhood of God, we lose sense of our own personhood and cannot find hope. He also explained that hope is acquired in forgiveness, which is the reuniting of persons, the possibility of others to share their holy space.
Following these three presentations, there was an open discussion amongst the participants. One of the problems discussed was the difficulty of assisting those that prefer to live in hopelessness rather than finding meaning in God. At the end of the discussion all expressed their desire to hold such an event again in the future.
Concluding the retreat, His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco presided during the Great Vespers of the Second Sunday of Great Lent that took place in the magnificent church-building of the Holy Cross.
Issued by the
Network of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for Pastoral Health Care
April 20, 2013