Breaking Bread

Retreats at Mount St. Macrina offer opportunity to bake, pray together.

At her home in Staten Island, N.Y., Patricia Dietz enjoys baking all manner of breads. But her decision to travel more than 350 miles from New York to Uniontown, Pa. to attend a bread baking retreat at the Sisters of St. Basil the Great’s House of Prayer on Mount St. Macrina had more to do with wanting to lift her inner spirit.

“I needed a retreat, actually. I like to bake bread. I wanted to experience a bread baking retreat to see how Sister Carol (Petrasovich, OSBM) would tie it into the bread.” Patricia was one of nine participants in the Feb. 16 retreat, as they baked loaves of Lenten bread, or bread without any dairy ingredients. It was the first time the Sisters of St. Basil the Great hosted such a retreat. A second retreat was held on March 16. A retired secretary, Patricia is a Basilian Associate and cantor at St. Thomas the Apostle in Rahway, N.J.

She said the experience was quite moving. “It was very prayerful. We were praying as we were kneading the dough, the Lenten bread.” Sister Carol explained the activity of kneading the bread was a metaphor for how Christ shapes us to be good Christians. “As we knead the bread, God ‘kneads’ us and ‘works’ us,” Patricia said.

The bread, which was made from scratch, was taken home by the participants. “We didn’t eat it afterward because it was still warm. You can’t eat bread when it’s warm. Everybody got to take their loaf of bread home.” Patricia said the time spent baking and praying with others was a restful experience. “We all worked in the kitchen together and while the bread was raising, we were allowed to go into the chapel and pray quietly and reflect on what we had just done in the kitchen.”

Patricia also bakes the Prosphora for her church in New Jersey. “It was very relaxing. Coming from the city, from New York, with everything that living in a big city entails, it was a very good stress relief, working the dough and then sitting in the chapel. No phone, no television, no distractions, just the bread and you and the Lord.”