A Slove­nian prayer ser­vice

The Glengarry News - - News - BY STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON News Staff

Those who at­tended any of the World Day of Prayer events through­out Glen­garry on Fri­day af­ter­noon were pre­sented a har­row­ing view of life in Slove­nia.

It wasn't too long ago that Slove­nia was part of Yu­goslavia, a so­cial­ist-com­mu­nist state that was hardly friendly to peo­ple of faith. In­deed, dur­ing the World Day of Prayer ser­vice held at St. An­drew's Pres­by­te­rian in South Lan­caster, con­gre­gants heard the story of Mar­jeta, who had learned about God from her wid­owed mother and grand­mother. Be­cause of her faith, Mar­jeta was un­able to get a grant to con­tinue her ed­u­ca­tion af­ter her high school grad­u­a­tion, so she had to study abroad.

Mar­jeta's story wasn't the only one told on Fri­day. There was also the story of Ema, who was born into a fam­ily of abu­sive al­co­holics. She swore that she would never drink and that her own chil­dren wouldn't have to face such hor­rors. But af­ter she mar­ried and started a fam­ily of her own, her hus­band's com­pany went bank­rupt and he wound up turn­ing to booze for so­lace. Soon, he, too be­came abu­sive and poor Ema is con­stantly pray­ing for her hus­band to seek help.

There was the story of Natasha, a Ro­mani woman who, un­like many Roma in Slove­nia, had a happy child­hood. She al­most never ex- pe­ri­enced re­jec­tion be­cause of her eth­nic­ity, but that wasn't the case for her fel­low Ro­mani kids. Many of them live in houses with­out run­ning wa­ter or elec­tric­ity, have limited ac­cess to school, and are con­stantly mocked in school.

There was also the story of Mo­jca, whose boyfriend aban­doned her when she, at age 21, told him she was preg­nant. With­out a man, she con­tin­ued her stud­ies and even­tu­ally found a hus­band. She found work as a re­searcher, though she longs for a more com­pas­sion­ate so­ci­ety that makes it eas­ier to bal­ance fam­ily life with work com­mit­ments.

The women men­tioned were not at the ser­vice in St. An­drew's. Their sto­ries were read by proxy by a num­ber of lo­cal vol­un­teers - Ar­lene Ken­tell, Sharon Mercer, Wendy Wert, Elaine Lalonde, Karen Dav­i­son-Wood, Denise Cullen, and Betty Doo­nan.

The World Day of Prayer is a global ec­u­meni­cal move­ment led by Chris­tian women who wel­come be­liev­ers to join in prayer and ac­tion for peace and jus­tice. Ev­ery year, a dif­fer­ent coun­try is spot­lighted; this year, the pro­gram was cre­ated by a group of women in Slove­nia.

And de­spite the dour sto­ries pre­sented above, the tone of the ser­vice was one of op­ti­mism. God was praised for en­dow­ing Slove­nia with nat­u­ral beauty, “from the Pan­non­ian Plains to hills to green forests and high moun­tains; from the mys­te­ri­ous Karst un­der­world to the coast of the Adri­atic Sea.”

Things took a turn for the worse af­ter World War II when the com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment deemed re­li­gion to be counter-pro­duc­tive; be­liev­ers were im­pris­oned, per­se­cuted, and given limited ac­cess to jobs. It wasn't un­til Slove­nia ob­tained in­de­pen­dence in 1991 that things started to get bet­ter, although, the pro­gram notes, that cul­tur­ally “some prej­u­dices still re­main.”

In­deed, to­day, many Slovenes know what it's like to be a refugee or a mi­grant worker. Their prayer is that they not take their free­dom for granted.

“We have to con­fess that now we tend to for­get this ex­pe­ri­ence when it comes to our at­ti­tude to­wards peo­ple who have had to leave their own ru­ined homes in search of peace and a bet­ter life,” read the pro­gram.

The St. An­drew's ver­sion of the event was led by Mar­jorie McArthur, a mem­ber of the church. She said that the World Day of Prayer is an an­nual tra­di­tion in this par­tic­u­lar sec­tion of Glen­garry. Ev­ery year, four churches cel­e­brate it to­gether - the other three are St. John in the Wild­wood, Salem United, and St. Joseph's Catholic - and that the ser­vice ro­tates each year among the churches.

Other World Day of Prayer events were held in Glen Ne­vis, Maxville, and Mart­in­town.

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