OCA Monastic Synaxis invites presentation on North American Thebaid Project

I was deeply honored to be invited to speak about the North American Thebaid Project at the OCA’s recent Monastic Synaxis.

The superiors, led by His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, and Archbishop Nathaniel, had numerous excellent questions and insights, all of which further improve the Thebaid Project, and help it support monastic life even more than before.

Based on conversations and personal invitations from several of the superiors, I sensed a real interest in the Project, and I very much look forward to visiting the many monasteries in the OCA.

Holy Transfiguration Monastery site of monastic superiors’ annual Synaxis

Ellwood City, PA [OCA]

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2016 OCA Monastic Synaxis; Photo by Ralph H. Sidway.

With the blessing of their diocesan bishops, superiors of monasteries of the Orthodox Church in America gathered at the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration here October 25-27, 2016 for their third annual Synaxis for the purpose of strengthening monastic life in the OCA while providing a forum for the superiors to meet and share their respective communities’ joys and challenges.

The Synaxis opened with the celebration of the Vigil and Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Great Marty Demetrius.  His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, who oversees the stavropegial monasteries, and His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel, in whose diocese the Monastery of the Transfiguration is located, were present for this year’s meeting.

The OCA counts some 25 men’s and women’s monastic communities in the US, Canada and Mexico, twelve of which were represented by their superiors, including

  • Mother Capitolina, Superior of the Protecting Veil of the Theotokos Community, Anchorage, AK.
  • Mother Cassiana, Superior of the Holy Protection Monastery, Lake George, CO.
  • Sister Cecelia, Prioress of the Nuns of New Skete, Cambridge, NY.
  • Brother Christopher, Prior of the Monks of New Skete, Cambridge, NY.
  • Mother Christophora, Abbess of the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration, Ellwood City, PA.
  • Igumen Gabriel, representing Archimandrite Sergius, Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, South Canaan, PA.
  • Mother Gabriella, Abbess of the Holy Dormition Monastery, Rives Junction, MI.
  • Archimandrite Gerasim, Abbot of Saint Elias Hermitage, Smoky Lake County, AB, Canada.
  • Hieromonk Innocent, Superior of the Monastery of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, Manton, CA.
  • Mother Melania, Superior of Holy Assumption Monastery, Calistoga, CA.
  • Mother Sergia, Abbess of the Presentation of the Theotokos Monastery, Marshfield, MO.
  • Mother Thekla, Abbess of the Mary and Martha Monastery, Wagener, NC.

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Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery begins 40th year

OCA, Holy Myrrhbearers, May 13, 2016:

Myrrhbearers-2016-0513-otegony1His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, will preside at the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy marking the opening of the 40th anniversary year of Holy Myrrhbearers’ Monastery here on the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women, May 15, 2016.

The Divine Liturgy, to which the faithful are warmly invited, will begin at 10:00 a.m. in the monastery chapel.  An informal “Agape” fellowship hour will follow.

“Throughout the week of May 15, we will have an informal Open House, ending with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 21,” said Mother Raphaela, Abbess.  “In addition, while we no longer schedule formal ‘pilgrimage’ days, the monastery chapel will be open daily for monastic services and quite prayer.  Everyone is always welcome!”
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OCA Monastic Synaxis looks to ‘Creative Methods’ to Nurture Vocations

Key Points of Convergence show how the Thebaid Project resonates with the Monastic Mission of the OCA.

The timing and topics of the Orthodox Church in America’s 2015 Monastic Synaxis could not have been more significant.

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While His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin of the Diocese of the West, and fourteen superiors from among the more than two-dozen monastic communities in the US, Canada and Mexico were meeting at the Monastery of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco in Manton CA, many of the foundational components of The North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage Project were being finalized, including the budget, funding proposals, and itinerary.

At its core, the Synaxis affirmed the message which Metropolitan Tikhon delivered at his address to the AAC in July, that “the monastic life is a vital part of the mission of the church.”

But how to enhance and expand this “vital part of the mission?”

I believe it will take vision, hard work, sacrifice, and not a little creativity. As with any good work in Christ’s Church, it will also require what Elder Joseph the Hesychast would call patient endurance in suffering,” and, as St. Paisios of Mount Athos would say, philotimo. There will be challenges, setbacks, disappointments. Anyone who seeks to follow Christ, whatever his or her labors, will be taking up a cross in order to do so.

Most significant for the Thebaid Project are these three points of convergence with the Monastic Synaxis:

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