The Chapel of Archangel Michael Madamado at St. Nektarios Monastery, Roscoe, NY

Huff House

In the Fall of 1998, with the blessing of Elder Ephraim, Elder Joseph Voutsas and Fr. Germanos Ponitkas purchased the 188 acre property known as the Huff House Golf Resort in Roscoe, NY for $2,500,000. Three lay-disciples from Toronto had taken second mortgages from their houses for $100,000 each and donated it for the down payment of the property, which helped greatly. Two of the donors gave the money as donations and the other donor gave the money as a loan. There was also a $25,000/month mortgage for the first 2 years and with the help of donations, the two monks paid off the mortgage.

Cell phone pic of Fr. Epifanios old desk mat (aerial of the property)
Cell phone pic of Fr. Epifanios old desk mat (aerial of the property)

Many of the original structures of the Golf Resort have been torn down. The structures that remained have had their exteriors and interiors redone, and new buildings have been erected. The property value has also sky-rocketed. The amount of money put into each new building (chapel, trapeza, monks’ quarters, new reception area, etc.) averages at over 2 million dollars/building.

The monks of St. Nektarios Monastery (NY) with Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemesos, Cyprus.
The monks of St. Nektarios Monastery (NY) with Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemesos, Cyprus.

At the end of December 1998, Abbot Joseph, together with 3 monks (Fr Germanos, Kassianos & Epifanios) and 4 novices (Symeon, Philotheos, Alexios and Michael) departed St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, AZ and drove to Roscoe, NY to start setting up St. Nektarios Monastery. They arrived in early January 1999. Fr. Seraphim came from Arizona shortly afterwards. Due to problematic issues, Elder Joseph sent Fr. Seraphim back to Arizona after a brief stay at St. Nektarios Monastery. The monks were instructed to tell pilgrims that Fr. Seraphim was only sent up on loan to help start the monastery. This was so the pilgrims wouldn’t be scandalized

Brotherhood of St. Nektarios at Russian Synodal Building, NY.

During Holy Week of 1999, Elder Ephraim visited the Monastery and tonsured the four novices as monks in the old chapel. Elder Ephraim did not change the names of the new for two reasons:

  1. Because they were recently baptized converts who just changed their names at baptism.
  2. So the lie that they were given as an obedience to tell people would be more believable—The new monks had an obedience to tell people they were tonsured in Arizona but their koukoulis weren’t made yet and they had just received their koukoulis now. This was to cover-up the fact that Elder Ephraim visited the monastery and performed an ecclesiastical function without the knowledge or permission of the Bishop.
St. Nektarios Monastery, Kursk Root Icon, Russian Clergy and monks.
St. Nektarios Monastery, Kursk Root Icon, Russian Clergy and monks.

Some years later, Elder Ephraim again secretly visited St. Nektarios and tonsured 4 novices: Kosmas (Jason), Ephraim (Gerasimos), Nektarios (Gregory), and Damianos (Anestis). This time, the tonsure took place in the new chapel as the old chapel had been converted into a living room for the monks and a temporary dorm when the monastery couldn’t accommodate all the visitors in the guest houses.

The First Chapel at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery, Inc.—The Upstairs Living Room

Fr. Michael outside the old kitchen of main house. The upstairs living room of this house was originally the first chapel.
Fr. Michael outside the old kitchen of main house. The upstairs living room of this house was originally the first chapel.

The first church at St. Nektarios Monastery was located in the upstairs living room of the white building, originally dubbed “the main house.” The iconostasis from St. John the Theologian Monastery (closed in 1997) was used, as well as all the other materials from that chapel. The Chapel had golf green wall-to-wall carpeting. The use of the living room as a chapel was a temporary solution until the main church could be built. When the temporary chapel was no longer needed, it was converted back to a living room—a couch occupied the area of the Holy Altar, a computer station the area of the Proskomide. The former narthex was also used as temporary sleeping quarters when the guest houses became full and there was nowhere to put the extra pilgrims.

Originally destined to be the female guest quarters, the abbot decided part way through construction to make this structure the monks' quarters.
Originally destined to be the female guest quarters, the abbot decided part way through construction to make this structure the monks’ quarters.

When Geronda Ephraim secretly visited the monastery during Holy Week of 1999, he gave obediences on where to build everything and how the monastery should look. Geronda Ephraim told the abbot to build the main church where the tennis courts are and the trapeza would be where the current monks’ quarters are now built.

The Present-day Chapel of Archangel Michael Madamado (formerly, the Chapel of St. Nektarios)

03

The new chapel—which was formerly a Gaming/Entertainment Room—was finished shortly before the first Feast Day of the Monastery in September 1999. Of course, there was still lots more work to be done, this was only the initial groundwork so it could be used as a Church. The new chapel was originally dedicated to St. Nektarios. During the mid-aughties, Elder Joseph decided to change this and re-dedicated the chapel to Archangel Michael icon of Madamado. This was done for two reasons:

  1. The monastery needed another feast day type event to help generate more income and donations for all the projects that were taking place and will continue to take place.
  2. The large church that has yet to be built will be dedicated to St. Nektarios and it wouldn’t make sense to have two chapels dedicated to the same saint.
The 3D sculpture of Archangel Michael Mantamados, Lesvos, made from the blood of martyrs and mud.
The 3D icon of Archangel Michael Mantamados, Lesvos, made from the blood of martyrs and mud.

The present-day chapel at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery, Inc., Roscoe, NY is dedicated to the Archangel Michael icon of Madamado. So far, it has cost the monastery a couple million dollars to “beautify God’s house.”

Some Aspects in the Construction of the Chapel

The chapel circa 2005, before the bell tower was completed.
The chapel circa 2005, before the bell tower was completed.

In order to do the stone work and add a bell tower, etc. the pre-existing structure needed some foundational reinforcement. [NOTE: The bell tower was originally going to be taller. Before it was completed, Gerondissa Olympiada drove Gerondissa Ephraimia, abbess of the Archangel Michael Monastery on Thassos, for a visit. Gerondissa Ephraimia told Geronda Joseph the bell tower should be lower, so he changed the plans and did obedience to her suggestion].

The monastery hired Joe Valentine—owner of Valentine Construction Company, Inc. in Deposit, NY—to do the work. Joe Valentine’s crew was so impressive, that the monastery would hire them to do the foundation and concrete work of all their future projects. And thus, Valentine Construction’s annual revenue became 1 to 2.5 million dollars.

Fr. Epifanios Kapritsas
Fr. Epifanios Kapritsas

The Valentine crew became very close with the monks at the monastery. When Joe Valentine was in a custody battle for his baby boy, he asked Geronda Joseph if he could testify as a character witness for him in court. Geronda Joseph told him he didn’t know the language that well and it would be difficult for him to testify. However, Geronda Joseph gave Fr. Epifanios the obedience to testify as a character witness, which he did, and Joe Valentine won custody. Geronda Joseph later told the fathers that he didn’t testify for him because if something bad happened later, his name would be attached to it. He also told the fathers, and Joe himself, that he won custody because of all the help he gave to St. Nektarios monastery, etc.

Concrete

According to the Masters Concrete webpage, as of November 23, 2009, Masters Ready Mixed Concrete (Kingsley, PA) has provided approximately 1900 yards of concrete between the two buildings.

Also see an interview with Fr. Epifanios Kapritsas of St. Nektarios Monastery concerning the benefits of Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF’s).

http://www.specifyconcrete.org/project-profiles/view/st-nektarios-monastery

Stone Work

1

The Monastery ordered their stones from a New York State company, Champlain Stone, Ltd. South Bay Quartzite® was the material used for the Chapel’s exterior. It is advertised as: “A quartzitic sandstone with an advancing and receding surface that resembles a windswept and sandy beach. Visually smooth, yet heavily textured with a blend of tan, antique white, ice blue, amber, and brown. South Bay Quartzite® will enhance any home from warm beach cottages to cozy cabins deep in the woods.”

http://www.champlainstone.com/south-bay-quartzite%c2%ae.html

The stone work itself was done mainly by a crew of Ecuadorian stone masons who work for a Greek man named George from New York. The Fathers also helped out with the project. The Ecuadorians’ work was so impressive that they were to be hired for other projects as well. The fathers also respected their ethical work etiquette: “They don’t swear, smoke, and they don’t talk much, just work.” Later, during the construction of the new monks’ quarters, the Ecuadorians experienced a big temptation.

Fr. Raphael (Micah) Andrews of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY [son of Fr. Mark Andrews of Holy Protection Monastery, PA]
Fr. Raphael (Micah) Andrews of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY [son of Fr. Mark Andrews of Holy Protection Monastery, PA]
Father Raphael had stolen a radio from the pick-up truck of a Mexican work crew doing the drywall. As the drywall crew couldn’t imagine a monk stealing their property, the only other suspects were the Ecuadorians. There was nationalistic and heated tension between the crews from that time on. When Geronda Joseph discovered the stolen radio during a routine, random cell check, he was almost ready to call the police on Fr. Raphael. As Geronda Joseph has repeatedly told Fr. Raphael, “If it wasn’t for your father, Geronda Ephraim would have sent you home ages ago!”

Page 12 of the brochure below has pictures of the stonework on the chapel.

Framing/Roofing

06

One of the main crews the monastery uses for framing is JP Construction, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, which is owned by John Paralavos. They were used for the extension of the Chapel, as well as all the other building projects. His crew was given special liberties: they could smoke and get drunk on monastery property. Like the other crews that did jobs at the monastery, the workers would stay overnight and sometimes for an entire week. One of John’s workers was an alcoholic. The abbot would give him a large cup of Metaxa every night as a reward for a good day’s work.

005

The story of how John became close to the monastery is interesting. Shortly after he visited the monastery with his family, the abbot read an article in one of the Greek papers which listed the richest Greeks in America—the abbots and abbesses like to know which pilgrims need “special attention.” When the abbot saw Johns  name  he decided to cultivate and groom him. This is a common practice with most of the wealthy Greeks that visit the monasteries: special treatment, groom and cultivate. The monasteries have a lot of bills and expenses and wealthy donors are a good asset. John Paralavos’ wife had lupus so he was already in an emotionally vulnerable state that could be easily manipulated. Regular blessings with St. Nektarios’ relics, house visits, taking him on a trip to Arizona to meet Geronda Ephraim, etc. also helped.

Geronda Joseph Voutsas, Abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery
Geronda Joseph Voutsas, Abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery

One time, John told one of the monks at St. Nektarios that he was thinking of asking Geronda to do a holy water blessing of his house. This monk told Geronda Joseph just before John and his wife went in for confession—it is a common practice for monastics to relay everything a pilgrim has told them before they go into confession. Geronda Joseph brought it up to them before they could ask and John started hailing him as a holy prophet, which the abbot dismissed. Later, the abbot asked the monk if he told John he had been informed beforehand about John’s desire to ask for the blessing. The monk responded, “No, I didn’t say anything.” The monk was then given an obedience not to tell John that he had told the abbot beforehand. Thus, John could continue to believe that the abbot was a God-inspired prophet who read his heart.

http://www.schmidtswholesale.com/

Stastidia in the Church

The stastidia in the Church were designed and made by the company in Serres, Greece that does all the wood work for Elder Ephraim’s monasteries in North America (chairs in the church, iconostasis’, etc.): Eleftheriadis Bros Sa.

Before the stastidia were made, there were wooden chairs for the pilgrims, and cushioned arm chairs for the monastics. Periodically, some pilgrims would become scandalized that the monks “sat in fancy chairs” while the pilgrims were forced to sit in “less comfortable chairs” or stand. One pilgrim even had the audacity to quote scripture to some of the monks in this regard, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues…”

Stasidia

Each individual seat cost close to $600, the Bishop’s Throne cost much more. The monastery made a plea letter to raise the funds to cover the cost and mailed it out to the pilgrims on their mailing list. With the help of donations, the monastery was able to cover the cost of the stasidia. The abbot would sometimes state, “It’s the poor people who build this monastery.” He gave a homily to a group of close spiritual children visiting the monastery and related a story:

0

“There was one man in New York who is very rich. He made a comment that he’d donate if there was going to be a plaque with his name stating he donated. The pilgrim told the rich man that the monasteries aren’t like the parishes in the world and don’t do plaques of honor. The rich man replied he wouldn’t give a cent, then. And to his shame, poor women who work hard cleaning toilets and save up money—which they hide from their husbands—gave donations for the entire amount of a stasidia. It’s the pain and sweat of the poor that build the monasteries.”

Address: Serres 621 21, Greece

Phone: +30 2321 078297

http://www.eleftheriadi.gr/

Iconography in the Church

07

George Filippakis of Woodbury, NY, is an artist who specializes in Byzantine iconography. He was commissioned to do the iconography at St. Nektarios Monastery, Inc. His first project was in the Trapeza, and then he did the Archangel Michael Chapel. The cost of the Church’s iconography was quite a few hundred thousands of dollars.

100% Beeswax Candles

23

The candles in the narthex are hand-made from real beeswax by the monks of St. Nektarios with the help of various pilgrims. Originally they were manually dipped by hand. In 2008, Geronda Joseph decided to order a $20,000 candle-making machine from Greece which would do most of the work for the monks.

The beeswax was originally bought from a company in Babylon, NY. Geronda Modestos offered Geronda Joseph his contact in China, where they bought “100% pure beeswax” for $1/lb., however, it had a funny smell. Though pure beeswax is expensive, and the prices increase yearly due to the high death rate of bees and hive collapses, the recycling of used candles from the narthex in the candle-making process helps cut the costs.

http://www.spwax.com/

22

St. Nektarios was one of the last of 8 monasteries to be established in the year of 1998 via the blessing of then Archbishop Spyridon (2 in Florida, 2 in North Carolina, 1 in Texas, 1 in Michigan, 1 in Illinois and finally the 1 in NY). 1998 was a busy year for Elder Ephraim having to oversee the establishment of 8 new monasteries in less than 12 months, which his disciples state is further proof of his sanctity.

As two other monasteries have feast days in November, the Brotherhood decided to celebrate their main feast day on September 3, the day of the translation of the relics of St. Nektarios. This can ensure that each monastery can still attract peak numbers of visitors for their individual feast days, as well as allow the monks or nuns from those monasteries to travel to each others’ feast day celebrations.

The monastery has grown to over 20 monks with only a few monks having left in its 15 years of existence.

https://www.scribd.com/doc/263270549/Letter-from-St-Nektarios-Monastery-s-Lawyer-attempting-to-take-down-a-TUMBLR-page

23

Protected by Prayer (Fr. Panteleimon Datch of St. Nektarios Monastery, Roscoe, NY) [UPDATED}

NOTE: As a rule of life, most monks get some kind of illness or pain as a cross to carry for the rest of their monastic life. Sometimes, a monk can be gifted with multiple illnesses. Back and knee aches, as well as acid reflux are quite common. Though, it can be anything from chronic athlete’s foot, jock itch, irritable bowel syndrome, menorrhagia, chronic migraines, severe cases of dermatitis or psoriasis, hernias, herniated discs, etc. All the above are quite common in the monasteries.

In three of the mens’ monasteries, there have been severe accidents:

1) At Panagia Vlachernon (FL), Fr. Joseph had his rassa caught in a table saw which dragged his arm in,

2) At Holy Trinity Monastery (MI), a novice from Montreal, also named Joseph, cut off some fingers in a power saw accident (he went back home and is no longer a monk), and

3) At St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ) Fr. Menas cut off part of a finger in a power saw accident. As well, Fr. Makarios had a heavy item fall on his head from a roof during construction which has left him with permanent brain damage, memory loss, etc.

The following account is by a monk residing at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery named Fr. Panteleimon (Vasili) Datch. It describes his own personal experience and struggle in bearing the cross of acoustic neuroma while living the monastic life:

Fr. Panteleimon as a novice (Vasili).
Fr. Panteleimon as a novice (Vasili).

In August 2003 at the age of 31, I left the practice of law and became an Orthodox Christian monk. Although my earlier vocation was often exhausting and sometimes required working into the morning hours, as a monk I kept vigil daily from midnight to dawn. We also maintain a complete work and liturgical schedule, all the while attempting to keep a prayer on our lips. Furthermore, we do not eat meat and often fast. Thus, when my initial acoustic neuroma symptoms appeared about six months after I had arrived, I understandably accounted for them as the results of fatigue and diet.

I often heard ringing in my left ear, I had a sharp pain in my neck whenever I tilted my head back and intense chronic headaches, which magnified when I would awake from sleep. After 21⁄2 years of monastic life, I noticed that as I made my prostrations, I would temporarily go blind. The fathers would complain about my forgetfulness, my vertigo began interfering with my work and my blackouts became so frequent that I feared driving. My headaches also had become painful to the point that even the sound of a voice was unbearable.

part1

“…my condition has worsened and I thought the problem was with my brain.”

In March 2006 I went to see a physician in Syracuse. I remember standing as he entered and briefly losing my sight. He noted that, and tested my reflexes, but he never examined my eyes. He concluded that I had calcium in my inner ear, prescribing exercises and Meclizine, and sent me home.

I tried the exercises, but I soon began awaking completely blind. This lasted for about 30 seconds and then I slowly regained my sight. I also remember getting up to answer the door and not being able to see the person who was standing in front of me. Thus, three weeks after my initial appointment, I contacted the doctor again to inform him that my condition had worsened and that I thought the problem was with my brain. He arranged an MRI for me three weeks later in April of 2006 in Syracuse.

Dazed, in pain and frequently losing my vision, I was driven to my appointment. Immediately following the MRI, the doctor contacted me. He informed me that I had a 4 cm acoustic neuroma, a vestibular schwannoma, that was blocking my left ventricle, causing hydrocephalus, and that I would go deaf in one ear. I was rushed to the hospital to be admitted on an emergency basis. After examining my eyes with a penlight, the E.R. doctors immediately discovered that they were bleeding internally from the tremendous pressure of the excess brain fluid. I was in danger of permanently losing my sight and even death; thus within two hours I was being operated on to place a shunt from my head to my abdomen.

After surgery, they kept me in the intensive care unit under 24-hour observation for a week. Considering my symptoms, the doctors were amazed that I had lasted as long as I did without suffering something far worse. It was truly by the grace of God that I was alive and, in relative terms, well. The only explanation I can give for not being blind now, after experiencing blackouts for months, is that I was immersed in continual prayer for the previous three years, and that many continued praying for me. In His mercy and love, God helped me despite the fact that I should have been more diligent in seeking medical attention. I also had fallen into the hands of an extremely experienced neurosurgeon who was willing to sacrifice his personal time to help me.

One week after the shunt was placed, I returned home. My neurosurgeon put me on heavy doses of Decadron to reduce brain swelling before my scheduled AN surgery three weeks later. As the tumor pressed against my cerebellum, I lost sensation on the left side of my face, lost my sense of taste and became increasingly clumsy, being unable even to peel an orange.

My surgeons used the sub-occipital approach, and after 12 hours removed 95% of the tumor, without compromising my facial nerve. Nonetheless, I had very significant facial weakness—my voice was unrecognizable, I could not close my left eye, and I was dizzy and uncomfortable, in addition to the expected tinnitus and deafness.

I underwent physical and occupational therapy for my balance, my face and my voice. In retrospect, therapy for my face and voice was premature, as I had no mobility in my face and my voice had not started to recover yet. I did learn some exercises that I used later, however. I am not sure whether the balance retraining helped at that time.

That summer I took daily walks and continued my exercises. Despite the gold weight, my eye was almost always dry and never closed, for which an ophthalmologist placed a plastic plug in the corner to prevent drainage.

Acoustic Neuroma
Acoustic Neuroma

“As of my last MRI, my tumor has shrunk…”

I always had a headache, and my neurosurgeon prescribed Darvocet to relieve the more unpleasant ones. He performed Gamma Knife surgery on the remaining portion of the tumor in October 2007. As of my last MRI, my tumor has shrunk, still requiring observation for at least the next six years.

In the meantime, I read about the Trans-Ear hearing aid in the ANA Notes Mailbag. This particularly interested me, since between the shunt and the craniotomy I had enough holes already in my skull; thus eliminating the Baha. I would describe Trans-Ear as follows: “It helps, but don’t expect miracles.”With Trans-Ear, I catch things that I would not hear otherwise, although it is ineffective in noisy environments.

I experienced magnified vertigo and nausea and in November 2008, I was directed to the emergency room in case I had a relapse of hydrocephalus. The E.R. physicians found nothing. A week later,my vertigo and nausea peaked. I started to shiver, tremble, hyperventilate and vomit, while losing sensation in my extremities; this continued late into the night. Eventually, thank God, the vomiting ended and I got some rest. It was a disconcerting feeling losing control of my body, but it helped me to pray with a lot of zeal.

Hoping for some extra guidance, I contacted a schoolmate whom now was a neurologist living in Atlanta. My friend referred me to another neurologist who is two hours away in Kingston. He prescribed for me Topomax, thereby reducing my headaches by at least two thirds.

The remaining headaches he continued to treat with Tylenol or Darvocet. I also read in the ANA Notes Mailbag that Effexor may be helpful in treating vertigo. My friend confirmed that he uses this drug in his treatment of vestibular migraines, and that its efficacy is well known and published. I also have started taking Meclizine, upon the recommendation of my doctors, for the nausea and vertigo.

Removal of acoustic neuroma
Removal of acoustic neuroma

“I am convinced that God wants the best for us, although he may occasionally allow difficulties…”

My facial weakness and my voice have greatly improved. Until recently, my voice still tired quickly, though. I underwent a simple procedure called an injection laryngoplasty to remedy this deficiency, wherein an ENT injects calcium crystals into the weak vocal cord to prevent excess vibration and therefore improve the hoarse sounding voice. This is not a permanent solution, and success is not guaranteed. My voice is now almost as clear as it was before my craniotomy, with some limitations.

I have also started an exercise program using a small, portable stair-stepper called the Xiser.™ It helps me both to stay fit and improve my balance.

I am convinced that God wants the best for us, although he may occasionally allow difficulties to improve our character, to avoid a greater evil, to bring us closer to Him or for other reasons that we cannot understand. I am grateful not only to Him but to my doctors, nurses and caregivers, despite occasional human mistakes, and I pray for as many of them as I can remember almost every night.

I try to look at others whose conditions are more serious than mine, to focus on their suffering, and not my temporary problems. I am more aware than ever before of my human weakness and mortality, as the nerves that affected my auditory, facial and vocal nerves, are only the size of mere strings, yet they have permanently altered my life. Regardless, with God’s help, human weakness can be overcome.

Finally, I struggle never to listen to the negative thoughts that sometimes invade my consciousness. I categorize them as enemy and foreign, praying to God to always give me a positive attitude about my recovery and my future.

Vasili Datch as tonsured Rassaphore Monk, Fr. Panteleimon.
Vasili Datch as tonsured Rassaphore Monk, Fr. Panteleimon.

Acoustic Neuroma Association Notes, Issue 113,March 2010, pp. 5-6

Sourced from: https://www.tumblr.com/search/Fr.%20Panteleimon%20Datch

Original source (full pdf.): https://www.anausa.org/patient-survey/doc_view/2-march-2010-newsletter

UPDATE: The original source for the pdf. has been removed and now displays a 404 error. The pdf. is archived and can be found and downloaded at:

https://web.archive.org/web/20140701000000*/https://www.anausa.org/patient-survey/doc_view/2-march-2010-newsletter

Clicking the blue circle of November 30 will open the pdf.