NOTE: The following article is taken from The Orthodox Messenger, June 28th, 2009, a publication of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese:
KENOSHA, WISCONSIN–On Saturday, May 9th, the Chicago Deanery Churches embarked on a pilgrimage to the Greek Orthodox Holy Monastery of St. John Chrysostomos located near Kenosha, Wisconsin. This pilgrimage was organized by the Diocesan Apostolate for Youth Ministry, continuing their desire to get our youth accustomed to the idea of taking pilgrimages. The event was attended by young people as well as adults. All told, more than 50 people participated. Those from Crawfordsville and Lafayette started their five-hour journey to the monastery before dawn! Parishioners also traveled from the Schererville and Hobart parishes. Faithful from Niles, Illinois traveled to the Pilgrimage on a school bus. They held morning prayers and then talked a little about monastic life on their way there.
The monastery is one of 17 founded by the Elder Father Ephraim. It is a women’s monastery. The community was founded in 1994 and serves to provide spiritual guidance and to help preserve the Holy Traditions of the Church through an exemplary Christian life and devotion to God.
Upon arriving at the monastery, before being called to prayer, faithful were warmly greeted and welcomed by the Sisters of the monastery. In the monastery chapel (which is devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary), a Paraklesis was chanted in Greek by several of the Sisters. During this service, in the beautiful and poetic hymnography of Byzantine Chant, the Theotokos (Mother of God) is honored and esteemed for her unique role in the salvation of the human race. We beseech her to save us—just as those drowning reach out to those on dry land. Following the service, a presentation about the monastery and monastic life was then given by one of the Sisters. She explained that the monastery complex was recently completed and that 20 nuns from Greece and America now reside there.
A typical day in the life of a nun begins by rising very early in the morning for prayers. On several days during the week the Divine Liturgy is served. Following their breakfast, the nuns go about their jobs or chores. Many of them work outside in the gardens tending vegetables, herbs and flowers. Some make candles or do iconography. Some help prepare soaps and lotions. Some work in the monastery bookstore or visitor center. All of their meals are meatless, and several days each week are strict fasting days. At the conclusion of their day, with prayers, the nuns retire to their cells. The Sister told us how they believe St. John Chrysostomos watches over and protects the monastery.
Faithful were then invited to visit the bookstore, where various icons, books, jewelry, baked goods, etc. were available for sale. A delicious lunch of traditional Greek foods and fruit was served in the visitor’s refectory at the monastery.
After lunch, a walk up the hill took faithful to the main Church of St. John Chysostomos. It features a beautiful iconostasion, main chandelier (lighted by
candles), marble floor, and other furnishings made by traditional artisans in
Greece. Faithful were able to explore the magnificent Church and the two
adjoining chapels as the Sisters offered explanations and answered any questions.
At the conclusion of the day, the younger children and the clergy were presented with gift bags from the Sisters as a remembrance of the pilgrimage. The day provided an opportunity for faithful to travel to a holy and sacred place to glance at the simple yet peaceful life of monasticism. Even if it was for just a short time, Chicago Deanery faithful were able to separate them- selves from the world, leave their problems behind, and focus on learning more about our Heavenly Father and opening their hearts to His special grace.
Those who attended the Pilgrimage returned home transformed, renewed,