St Paisius Monastery, Safford AZ

The Holy Monastery of St Paisius Velichkovsky is remarkable for its natural beauty, desert gardens, and several unique chapels. This is one of the largest women’s monasteries in North America, with over twenty in the sisterhood.

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage

From the Monastery’s ‘About Us’ page:

St. Paisius Monastery is an English-speaking monastery which lives out its monastic life with the blessing of His Eminence KYRILL of San Francisco and Western America (ROCOR).

The sisterhood had its beginnings over 30 years ago in northern California. At the newly established St. Paisius Monastery, many young women began to gather around the Abbess, who was then joined by other nuns seeking a traditional coenobitic life.

When the sisterhood numbered almost twenty, the need for a permanent location became paramount. The sisters found suitable property in the high desert of Arizona. The desert terrain required much hard labor to subdue and cultivate, but the sisters accepted that this was a necessary part of their spiritual struggle. Over time, by the grace of God, a spacious catholicon was constructed which stands as the jewel of the monastery. In addition, an extensive olive orchard and fruit orchards have been planted, along with a sizeable vegetable garden to feed the sisters and the thousands of guests who visit each year. Also, many acres of land around the main buildings are now adorned with beautiful desert landscaping, the work of the sisters’ hands.

To support themselves, the sisters publish books on the spiritual life, as well as numerous akathists with themes which support the Christian home and the struggles of Christians living in the world. With this aim, almost 150,000 copies of akathists have been printed.

The Abbess of the monastery is Nun Michaila. The monastery is served by three chaplains, Archimandrite Dorotheos, Archpriest David and Archpriest Michael. The Divine Liturgy is served several times a week, along with the full cycle of church services.

The Monastery also has an extensive gift shop, with an impressive assortment of icons and books from around the Orthodox world, as well as its own unique offerings.

Due to the Sisterhood’s building project (an expansive dining hall, which will complete the assembly of the monastic complex), and my timing, I was only able to stay for an afternoon, but have been welcomed back on my return route to stay for a few days. One of the nuns gave me an extensive tour, and Abbess Michaila gave me a blessing to make some photographs of the beautiful grounds. I hope you enjoy them!