“It…refueled the small fire”

By Subdeacon Abraham Barahmeh,
St. Basil Melkite Church, Utica, N.Y.

For many years I have been discerning the Holy Priesthood. But only recently, in my senior year of high school in 2020, did I take my faith and discernment seriously.
Last year, my spiritual father, Very Rev. Jim Koury, informed me about a three-day weekend retreat for discerning Byzantine Catholic men. It’s held once each year in November at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh, Pa. and I was eligible.

I applied and was accepted to participate. I attended it with the closed mindset of “I don’t think the Seminary is for me.”

By the end of the retreat, I had many questions for myself. These questions arose because I felt it had refueled the sm

ll fire urging me to take discernment to the Holy Priesthood more seriously.
The two biggest questions that arose were; “Am I in the right major in college?” and “When am I ready to join?”

I had talked to my spiritual father about my experience going, and I was advised to “Pray about it. There is no rush.” I took his advice and prayer became my journey friend.
I had planned on not attending another “Come and See,” thinking I was all set and had the discernment I needed to consider joining the Seminary after college, but Father Jim had insisted I go again, saying, “It won’t hurt you going again! And you will always learn more!”

So, I applied for the 2022 “Come and See” and was accepted again. It took place Nov. 4 to 6 at the Seminary.

I was one of 21 young men in attendance. Together we represented the Melkite, Ukrainian, and Ruthenian jurisdictions.

This time I could take in more information than before since I was more familiar with what would happen during the retreat.

The first day of the retreat (Friday) focused on learning about the four dimensions of formation: spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and human. The Seminary’s Director of Human Formation explained each dimension’s meaning and its key in our lives. At the end of that night I reflected on each dimension and how I could improve myself more in each.
The following day during brunch after Divine Liturgy, I talked with my mentor about the four dimensions of formation.

He told me, “A big part of Seminary is that not only will your professors/mentors help you grow, but also your peers.”

Following brunch that day were talks on a week in the life of a seminarian, the challenges of discernment, the Theology of Priesthood, and discerning marriage and priesthood. Each talk helped me understand how to prepare myself if I am accepted as a seminarian and what to look for during my discernment journey.

My favorite part of Saturday was the panel discussion. This allows time for the retreatants to ask the seminarians any question they want ranging from their pre-Seminary studies to their favorite books and saints.

On the last day of the retreat (Sunday), we began the day with early-morning Matins in the Seminary Chapel followed by Divine Liturgy at a nearby parish.

For the conclusion of the retreat, the rector explained the discernment journey, and, from what he said, I learned it is not me who chooses whether to become a Priest or not, but God.

As my time began to end at the retreat, I had set three goals for myself by the time I graduate from college: First, take elective classes to help me think like a philosopher/theologian. Second, increase the time dedicated to God each day, like in Seminary. Lastly, work on approaching new things with an open mind.

My thoughts on the “Come and See” retreat are that it gave me hope and a plan about my future, and that I encourage young men who take their Eastern Catholic faith seriously to take advantage of this opportunity in the future.