Ancient Faith Women’s Retreat 2022: Speakers and Topics

We are overjoyed to announce that the in-person Ancient Faith Women’s Retreat is back! This beloved gathering will take place on November 10-13, 2022, at Antiochian Village Conference and Retreat Center in Bolivar, PA.


Our theme this year is the Theotokos, and we have invited four wonderful women to lead us in learning more about the Mother of God. Below you’ll find their names, together with the title and description of the session they’ll be leading. A full schedule for the retreat will be available soon.

Cheryl Ann Pituch: Looking at the Panagia through iconography

This session will take us into the history of several icons of the Theotokos. Where did they come from? How were they found? What is their unique story? Is it possible to have or develop our own personal journey with the Panagia through one of her icons today?

Cheryl Ann Pituch was born in Pittsburgh, PA and raised in the Presbyterian church. She has been Orthodox for 44 years. Over the last 38 years, she has had the influence of three Iconographers who have provided the layers of skill, theology, and prayer to her development as an iconographer. Cheryl Ann has done iconography all over the United States, from personal commissions to churches, seminary’s and monasteries. Cheryl Ann has been married for 50 years to Eugene Pituch. She has 4 grown children and 5 grandchildren. She resides in Robert, Louisiana, and is a communicant of Saint Basil Antiochian Orthodox Church in Metarie, Louisiana.


Brandi Willis SchreiberBrandi Willis Schreiber: Cultivating Devotion to the Theotokos

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, one of many great Orthodox spiritual leaders and guides to the faith, observed that the Virgin Mary “prays for us ceaselessly. She is always visiting us. Whenever we turn to her in our heart, she is there … and all too often we forget her.” As the Mother of God, Mary truly serves as our greatest intercessor and advocate, someone to whom we can always turn for comfort and help. Despite this assurance, however, sometimes devotion and prayer to her can be unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and outright difficult for many Orthodox Christians – especially those who have not “grown up in the faith.” Why is this? And what can we do to cultivate a more earnest, sincere, and trusting relationship with her? In this session, Brandi Willis Schreiber, author of A Long Walk with Mary: A Personal Search for the Mother of Godwill lead attendees in exploring how to “go deeper” with an understanding and devotion to Mary. Through meaningful conversation, creative exercises, and personal storytelling, attendees will hopefully leave inspired with ideas on how to better encounter Mary in ways that fit the realities and challenges of their individual lives. Regardless of whether your prayers and love to Mary flow easily and regularly, or if you’re just tentatively figuring out what your relationship to Mary could be, this session is for you.

Brandi Willis Schreiber is an author of poetry, nonfiction, and award-winning fiction and has presented workshops on a variety of topics, including encouraging creative writing, working with students with disabilities, and volunteerism, among many other things. A longtime native of West Texas, her work has appeared in New Texas: A Journal of Culture and LiteratureThe Texas Review, Red River ReviewAll Things Dickinson:  An Encyclopedia of Emily Dickinson’s Worldand elsewhere. Her first book, A Long Walk with Mary: A Personal Search for the Mother of God, was published by Ancient Faith Publishing in 2021 and is “a deeply personal but beautifully universal memoir” of a year spent studying and seeking the Theotokos and integrating her into her spiritual life. An avid gardener, lover of walking, and decade-old convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, Brandi attends St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church in Lubbock, Texas with her husband (who is pursuing the diaconate) and young son.


Elina Pelikan: Creating a Glass Icon of the Theotokos

In this session, every participant will create a glass icon of the Theotokos to take home. Glass icons are originally a Romanian folk art, one that brings the deeply technical work of iconography to a level anyone can approach. Elina has taught this course numerous times to groups as young as 9 years old with wonderful results, so all levels and artistic abilities will be able to succeed! Yes, even you.

Elina Pelikan is an Orthodox artist living in North Carolina with her husband Jesse, where she attends St. Raphael Orthodox Church and homeschools her five children. She has been painting and creating visual as well as performance art since childhood, and spends most days teaching and creating dance, music, art, and theater. She enjoys working on digital design projects as well as traditional egg tempera icons, along with other arts such a photography, Byzantine chant, rhythm tap, and sculpture.


KassianeKassiane: The Theotokos, Our First Missionary

The Theotokos, like most women, wears many hats in her work. During her life on earth and presently, as the King’s Right Hand, she has always been active as our chief example and our first missionary. When we study her, our modern categories and impressions around mission and evangelization break down and it becomes evident that the Great Commission and our theosis are not separate projects –  Mary shows us that there is only one mission. And it’s the one that all of us have already begun.

Kassiane is a literary translator/editor, project manager and creative working in the digital mission field to serve the Chinese diaspora. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Stanford University and lives in Southern California with her husband and two children.


About Melinda Johnson

Melinda Johnson is an Orthodox Christian, wife, mama, writer, and the author of Letters to Saint Lydia (AFP 2010) and the Sam and Saucer books (AFP), among others. Melinda has a Master’s in English Literature because she loved taking literature classes so much she couldn’t stop doing it. When she is not seeing “heaven in a wildflower,” Melinda enjoys writing for children, walking and talking, and baking bread.

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