Open letter on life at the monastery (Fanny Pappas)

Fr. Theodore Petrides, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, Stroudsburg, PA.
Fr. Theodore Petrides, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, Stroudsburg, PA.

Reprinted from the Greek Star, Opinion
October 30, 2003

NOTE: Fanny Pappa’s daughter is Sister Chrysostomi [Pappas].
I would like to inform the Orthodox Faithful about the strict control the monasteries have over our children who enter into this life. And I still do not understand, what is the purpose of a monastery?

St. John Chrysostom Greek Orthodox Monastery, Prairie Plains, WI.
St. John Chrysostom Greek Orthodox Monastery, Prairie Plains, WI.

At age 37, my daughter suddenly announced to us she was leaving to live at St. John Chrysostomos Monastery, in Pleasant Prairie, WI. Needless to say, we were not prepared for this decision. It was done all in secrecy, and she was not counseled to inform the family either by her spiritual father in Stroudsburg, PA., or by the Gerontissa in Pleasant Prairie, WI. We were never told of the strict rules of monastic life and the complete isolation from family life. I don’t blame her love of the Orthodox religion. I blame her spiritual father, who always preaches the monastic life, (that I was not aware of) as do some of our other priests. When saying her good-byes to the family members, she was told the family would be saved for eight generations. This is only one example of false Orthodox teaching, what else is being told to the novices, nuns, monks, and worst of all, Orthodox laypeople. In fact, all the heresy in church history started with only one false teaching. These priests who favor the monastic life, have a way of counseling our children, making them think it was all their own ideas and preying on their weaknesses to send them off to monastic life.

The Rev. Stanley S. Harrakas.
The Rev. Stanley S. Harrakas.

I was reading a book by Father Stanley Harakas, who was a professor for many years at Holy Cross Seminary, Boston, 455 Questions and Answers of the Orthodox Faith. He said that nuns and monks devote their life to Christ. They assume poverty, chastity and obedience. They have round the clock worship, fasting and denying themselves ownership of property. Then I wish to enlighten the Orthodox faithful who support this and other monasteries, that my daughter came with three other nuns, when we were not home, during the period of the Great Lent, and took as much of her possessions from her apartment that they could stuff in their van. End tables, crystal lamps, coffee table, icons, pictures, towels, pots and pans, vacuum cleaner, video camera, jewelry, radio-tape player, etc. Also my daughter went to the bank and closed all her accounts and had them transferred to the monastery in Kenosha, WI, which amounted to thousands and thousands of dollars. They also have her car.

Gerondissa Melanie Makrygiannis (from Patras), Abbess of St. John Chrysostom Monastery.
Gerondissa Melanie Makrygiannis (from Patras), Abbess of St. John Chrysostom Monastery.

Please explain to me, how does this set an example of denying yourself — ownership of property and entering in poverty — as Father Harakas tells us in his book on Orthodoxy? How can this be accepted by the Gerontissa, when my daughter has not been tonsured? I was told by one of our priests, yet another young woman transferred all her wealth to the monastery, before her father could close the accounts. Does this show us an example of entering with poverty and humility? The Gerontissa also asked me if I would like to have a moving van come and get the rest of her things.

St. John Chrysostom Greek Orthodox Monastery in Pleasant Prairie, WI.
St. John Chrysostom Greek Orthodox Monastery in Pleasant Prairie, WI.

Another fact of monastic life that I would like to bring to your attention, her aunt, my sister, recently passed away. I called the Gerontissa to allow my daughter to come to the funeral (another fact of which we were not informed), and her response was, “she is not allowed to leave the monastery, and for what reason did she need to go, when we will pray for her here.” I was told several times, “for what reason did she need to go.” I was stunned at the cavalier attitude for the departed. Then I asked when I and her father die, can she come to the funeral for an hour, even escorted by a nun, to be with her grieving siblings? Again, the same answer. And when I said, I will call Metropolitan Iakovos, the response was, “I receive my orders from God.” Of course we were never informed she could not leave for this sacrament.

Metropolitan Iakovos Garmatis of Chicago.
Metropolitan Iakovos Garmatis of Chicago.

Why do the Metropolitans and Archbishop of this country, let Father Ephraim hold such a tight reign on the monastic life of our children? Is there no compromise? Is this really Christ’s plan to keep our children in such strict servitude? She has not been tonsured, and yet she has no right, but they can accept all her wealth and property. Is this the purpose of a monastery — money?

Fr. Theodore Petrides Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, Stroudsburg, PA.
Fr. Theodore Petrides Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, Stroudsburg, PA.

As I was told by her monastic spiritual father, of Stroudsburg, PA, “She is dead to the outside world.” But he also told me the monastery is “a spiritual intensive care unit for the priests and Orthodox faithful.” Our bishops do not listen. The advice and counseling their parishioners have been getting from these priests with monastic tendencies, has been frustrating to our local priests. These stories have been brought back to the priests by their parishioners who are getting misguided counseling at the monasteries.

Geronda Ephraim of Arizona.
Geronda Ephraim of Arizona.
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Fanny Pappas was stunned at her daughter’s decision to enter St. John Chrysostomos Monastery

St. John Chrysostomos Greek Orthodox Monastery in Pleasant Prairie, WI.
St. John Chrysostomos Greek Orthodox Monastery in Pleasant Prairie, WI.

Posted on May 10, 2002 in Letters to the Editor Editor: Recently I have spoken to John and Joann Pantanizopoulos who told me the account of how their son was influenced to enter the monastic life. My daughter also, had a monastic spiritual Father Ted Petritis, who lives in Pennsylvania, that guided her for seven years. I had no idea of what this meant until the day she announced she was leaving to enter the monastery in Kenosha, WI. Can you tell me if you know anything about St. John Chrysostom Monastery in Pleasent Prairie and Abbess Melaine. We were stunned and surprised at her sudden decision and the secrecy that went with it. Sincerely, Fanny Pappas

Gerondissa Melani Makrygiannis, Abbess of St. John Chrysostom Monastery.
Gerondissa Melani Makrygiannis, Abbess of St. John Chrysostom Monastery.

Editor’s Note: St. John Chrysostomos Monastery, under the leadership of Abbess Melanie, is the fourth of 16 Greek Orthodox monasteries founded by the Elder Ephraim in the United States and Canada since 1989. It is listed on the official website of the monasteries, http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org. According to that listing it is located at 4600 93rd Street, Pleasant Prairie, WI 53858 USA, its telephone number is (262) 694-9850, and its fax number is (262) 697-1581. Elder Ephraim and his monasteries are beloved by many who are familiar with them, and feared by many who are not. We refer you to the related stories and related links below for what little information of which we are aware which has been published on the Internet about these monasteries. However, as with other aspects of Orthodox Christianity, the best way to learn about them is not merely to read about them, but to experience them for yourself. Because we periodically receive inquiries about the monasteries of the Elder Ephraim, we would be interested in receiving letters from any of our readers who might have further information about these monasteries that they may wish to share.

Fr. Theodore Petrides Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, Stroudsburg, PA.
Fr. Theodore Petrides Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, Stroudsburg, PA.