NOTE: A couple new articles on the Friends of St Nektarios Monastery Tumblr page sheds some light on the methodology used by Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries to “invalidate” a story; i.e. to render a historical event and reality non-existent, as if it never happened.http://friendsofstnektariosmonastery.tumblr.com/
A few months ago, a story from the Lehman’s Country Store Blog about Geronda Ephraim’s nuns travelling 10 hours from Quebec to a small Ohio town to fill two vans with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise was circulating around the web. At the time of the nuns’ shopping spree, the Canadian dollar was very low (1 CAD = 0.72453 USD, thus 1,000.00 USD = 1,380.21 CAD; 1,000.00 CAD = 724.53 USD) The Loonie lost 17% of its value in 2015, the second-worst year it’s ever had. Also, most of the products purchased were readily available in stores close to the monastery and/or generally within the Quebec borders. Furthermore, the nuns bought a large amount of canned meat (designed for survivalist situations). However, monastics are forbidden to eat meat by the ecclesiastical canons, at these products are not fit to feed farm animals.
Less than 3 months after this shopping extravaganza, the monastery in Quebec held an annual fundraiser dinner to raise more money for the monastery. In the past, the monasteries have not participated in policies of financial transparency. The amount of money they raised that night is not available to the public.
Someone identifying himself as a “concerned pilgrim” contacted the Metropolis in Canada and asked the Metropolitan about the nuns’ excessive spending, especially when the exchange rate was so low. The following is a brief synopsis of these events, followed by the entire email exchange at the end of the article.
December 16, 2015, The day Lehman’s published the story a concerned pilgrim wrote their bishop, Metropolitan Sotirios and asked about this peculiar incident. The entire email exchange, spanning over 2 months and producing no answers or explanation, can be read at the end of this article.
December/January, Lehman’s social media sites start deleting the post about the nuns’ shopping spree.
January 10, 2015, a priest from Montreal responded to the pilgrim and essentially said, “You’re wrong, it is not true.” By this time, all the social media platforms belonging to Lehman’s had deleted the story, though their digital footprints still remain on the web.
January 17, 2016, the pilgrim responds to this priest and writes the bishop again concerning the unsatisfactory and offensive answer he received.
January 20, 2016, the Metropolitan responds, claiming “regarding the purchases of the nuns of Panagia the Comforter Monastery from the Lehman’s Hardware and Appliances Inc. I do not know anything about this. I have asked Abbess Thekla for an explanation and then I will write to you.”
February 19, 2016, the concerned pilgrim writes another inquiry due to having heard nothing in a month
February 23, 2016, Basil Roccas answers on behalf of the bishop, stating “Gerondissa Thekla fell sick with pneumonia while on a pilgrimage to Arizona recently, and as of last week was still in Arizona. She presumably has not had the opportunity to reply to His Eminence’s letter, and this is why His Eminence has not replied to you.”
March 6, 2016, The Quebec Monastery has their annual fundraiser.
May 15, 2016, As of this date there has been no further response from the Metropolis. Ignoring people does not make them go away… lack of transparency does not inspire people to donate money, either.
NOTE: The following article is taken from Lehman’s Country Life. The owner of Lehman Hardware and Appliances Inc., Galen, describes how a couple of nuns from Geronda Ephraim’s monastery in Quebec drove 10 hours to the village of Dalton, Ohio (pop. 1,843) to fill two vans with products “to help when the power leaves them in the dark.” Interestingly, many of these products can be purchased at various locations in Quebec. However, the nuns chose to drive 10 hours to a small village in a different country to pay a higher price (via the exchange rate).
A Visit From The Sisters of Le Troupeau Benit
by Galen Lehman
Last week our store was blessed with an interesting visit by a group of sisters from Quebec, Canada. These ladies live in a Greek Orthodox religious community and apparently use many of our products, as they came prepared with a LONG list of items they needed! The Sisters run a cheese factory called Le Troupeau Benit (The Blessed Flock) where they make and sell cheeses made from their very own sheep and goats.
Beth Smith handled the order entry and had many of us running around gathering items for these ladies. They spent most of their day at the store with a short leave in the afternoon for lunch at Mrs Yoder’s Kitchen in nearby Mt. Hope, Ohio. The Customer Service counter was piled so high we finally had to find another place to gather their wares. The items ranged from milk bottles,Aladdin lamps and canned meat, to lamp parts, cast iron kettles, how-to books and many miscellaneous housewares items.
Our staff member Roger helped them load up, and in the conversation discovered they live the Lehman’s lifestyle of gardening, cheesemaking and many other self-sufficient skills. They have electricity, but it frequently goes out on them. This trip was to get items to help when the power leaves them in the dark. Hurray for the Aladdin lamp! They had two vans with seats down and loaded all the goods into them, then had a 10-hour drive back home to Quebec.
We were honored and blessed to serve this very special group of sisters, and we thank them for their visit. We hope the products they purchased will be beneficial in aiding their noble ventures!
The Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery Tumblr page makes the following observation:
Are the nuns preparing for the last days?
One wonders: Why these nuns would drive 10 hours out of province and country to purchase items readily available in Quebec? Especially when the Canadian dollar is so low (1 CAD = 0.72453 USD, thus 1,000.00 USD = 1,380.21 CAD; 1,000.00 CAD = 724.53 USD). Not to mention all these items have to be declared at the border, though there are numerous ways to enter Quebec illegally without border checks. The cost of gas for a 20 hour round trip which include tolls, plus food and snack expenses, are also not cheap. Some of the American monasteries along the border have bank accounts in Canada (usually under a trusted pilgrim’s name, or a shell account) and they send up the Canadian dollars they receive in donations to be deposited there. It is unknown if the Canadian monasteries do the same down here for the US dollars they receive from pilgrims.
The few convenient routes from the monastery to the Lehman’s store are still a few hours out of the way from the MI, NY, and PA monasteries that the nuns sometimes visit for feast days, or privately on regular days.
Perhaps they did not want locals of Quebec to be scandalized with the thousands of dollars spent on things which may seem superfluous. Because why pay $30 for an oil lamp at their local hardware store when they can drive 10 hours to buy $300 Aladdin Deluxe Brass oil lamps? One wonders why such fancy, expensive lamps are needed for “when the power goes out?”
In September 1999, some of the heads of the monasteries stayed at St. Nektarios Monastery in New York as a stopover before Archbishop Demetrios’ enthronement (Saturday, September 18, 1999). Due to Hurricane Floyd, the monastery lost it’s power and some of the basements were flooded (this was before Geronda Joseph spent half a million dollars+ on a generator to power the main buildings). Hieromonk Chrysostomos and Father Kassianos went out and purchased regular oil lamps and lamp oil for each room/monastic. If Gerondissa Thekla followed this pattern, then that is around $6,900 (9,523.42 CAD) for the 23 nuns to have their own lamp (compared to the $690 it would have cost them at their local hardware store). If the nuns purchased lamps for all the different buildings on their property …
The canned meat is also a curiosity since monastics are forbidden to eat meat by the orthodox canons (interestingly, bishops who are also tonsured monastics tend to ignore this canon here). In some cases, out of economia, monastics who are very ill will be given an obedience to eat meat for strength.
Sometimes, out of economia, non-orthodox workers may be served or permitted to eat meat at monasteries during construction. In extreme cases of economia, pilgrims might be given a blessing to hunt on monastery property. In 1999, Geronda Joseph gave Gerasimos Kourkoumelis permission to hunt Canada Geese at St. Nektarios Monastery, NY. This was allowed for a two-fold purpose: 1) to create a bond with Gerasimos and soften him to the church 2) to eliminate the Geese that were destroying the grass and golf turfs of the property.
With the excahnge rate, the canned meat products are more expensive than those sold in Canada.
The liturgy of Preparation, also Prothesis or Proskomide, is the act of preparing the bread and wine for the Eucharist. The Liturgy of Preparation is done quietly before the public part of the Divine Liturgy begins and symbolizes the “hidden years” of Christ’s earthly life. This is where particles of the prosphoron are taken out for commemorating both the living and the dead. This is also the point of the Service where the names of the living and the dead are read. Every monastery has printed copies of name commemoration sheets either in the narthex by the candles or in the reception area. For an explanation of the Proskomide, see:
Orthodox Christians give names whenever they go to the monasteries but this traffic greatly increases during the two forty-day Lenten periods of Christmas and Pascha. In the male monasteries, the fathers go into the altar to read the names during the Proskomide. When they’re finished reading all the typed name lists, they then have a blessing to read their own personal list of names. Most monks have a notebook with the names of their family, friends and those who ask them to pray for them.
Every monastery has their own special list of names which are read every Liturgy during the Proskomide by the priest celebrating the Liturgy. Every list starts with Geronda Ephraim’s name, all of Geronda Ephraim’s monastics who have died, all the monastic names of that monastery, and all the benefactors of the monastery. The hieromonks of the monastery may have their own names incorporated into this list as well.
For the monasteries, benefactors fall into two categories:
The financial donors. This could be either huge donors, donors who give nice sums regularly, people who regularly donate large amounts of expensive supplies, people who organize large groups to come to the monastery (there is usually an extra fee placed on top of the cost of the seat, whether it be bus or plane, that is then given as a donation to the monastery), etc.
The donors of time and work. Not everyone has the means to give large sums of money to the monastery. Many of the pilgrims are working-middle class and in lieu of money will donate their time and effort to help build the monastery or to help keep it functioning.
Men with trade skills might help do construction, carpentry or electrical work for free. Women may help in the kitchen, or cleaning the guest houses, doing laundry, dusting furniture, etc. Depending on the seasons and monasteries, there is also help in gardening, shoveling snow, sweeping desert dust off the walkways, etc.
So these particular pilgrims, depending on the capacity of their aid, will end up on the permanent altar name lists that are read every Liturgy. They are classified as builders of the monastery. The only time they get removed is if they do something really bad to betray the monastery or join another religion and can no longer be commemorated.
Now due to the huge influx of names that the monasteries continually receive throughout the year, problems in reading them all in time before the Proskomide finished started to arise. In larger monasteries where there are 20+ monastics, it isn’t so much a problem. In smaller monasteries, it becomes difficult. However, Geronda Ephraim devised a strategy for his monasteries to sort the names they receive into different categories to lighten the burden:
Under $40: These lists get read only once and then are thrown out. They are put in a pile separate from the name lists that will be typed up on the computer. The 1x folder in the altar is always the thickest.
$40-$100: Though this category varies slightly form monastery to monastery, this pile of name lists is put in the “few times” category. This means the name lists will be read more than once in the Proskomide, but not the full 40 liturgies.
Over $100: This category of name lists usually makes it into the 40 day pile. This means the names will be typed up on the computer, printed out and placed in the 40x folder in the altar. Each monastery has their own system of tracking how many times a sheet of names has been read. After the list has been read for 40 Liturgies, it is thrown out.
There is another category of name lists that don’t even get read: the ones that are so illegible that no one can even make out what names are written.
So, if one wants to sort of guarantee that their names will be read for the entire 40 Liturgies, they should donate at least $100 or more with their list. Or, at the very least, they should donate large amounts of their time to help the monasteries with anything they require. In this way, the Abbot or Abbess may feel compelled or obligated to enter their name list into the 40x folder. The worth of a pilgrim is measured by their dedication and filial devotion to the monastery, whether it be donation of time, money, work, effort, etc.
Time is money. Reading thousands of names also takes time and effort on the part of the monastics. Not to mention, many of the monastics are eager to read their own personal name lists of family, friends from the past, pilgrims, etc.
It should be noted that between the end of data-collection (May 2014) and time of release of final report (October 2014), at least two new monastic communities appeared on the “Orthodox Church map” of the United States. However, because they did not participate in the survey, information about these monasteries is not included.
Introduction: Background of the Study and How It Was Conducted.
More than 70 Orthodox monastic communities representing various Orthodox jurisdictions operate today in the United States. There exists significant diversity among these communities in terms of their size, liturgical practices, openness to outside visitors, educational programs, ʺeconomicʺ activities, etc.
The study ʺOrthodox Monastic Communities in the United Statesʺ was initiated by and conducted under auspices of the Committee for Monastic Communities of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States (His Grace, Bishop George (Schaefer), Chairman). Principal researcher and author of the study report was Alexei Krindatch, research coordinator for the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.
The Committee for Monastic Communities of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops is tasked with cataloging, studying and comparing the different monastic communities and practices in the United States. Accordingly, the study ʺOrthodox Monastic Communities in the United Statesʺ was designed in order to take a first step towards this goal.
The major source of information presented in this report was a survey of US Orthodox monasteries conducted in the fall 2013 ‐ spring 2014. A two‐page questionnaire was sent to all US Orthodox monastic communities and completed by their superiors. The questionnaire used in this survey is provided in Appendix A. All 71 monastic communities existing in the United States at the time of the study participated in the study.
In addition to completed questionnaires many monasteries provided various additional materials such as monasteryʹs brochure, bylaw, typicon, etc. Most of these materials were scanned, saved in digital format and provided in an addendum to this report.
1. Most of the monasteries in the USA belong to the GOA (27%), followed by the OCA (25%) and the Russian Orthodox (24%).
2. Most of the monasteries are female (37 monasteries, 52% of all monasteries), though almost evenly divided with male (34 monasteries, 48% of all monasteries).
3. 23 of the 50 states have monasteries, half of which are in just 5 states.
4. New York has the most monastic communities (13 monasteries, 18% of all monasteries), followed by California (8 monasteries, 11% of all monasteries).
5. 39 of the 71 monasteries in the US were founded after 1990. Only 4 were founded prior to World War II.
6. There are 512 monastics in all US monasteries. The average number of monastics per community is slightly above 7. 39 monasteries have less than 5 monastics. Only 8 monasteries have more than 20 monastics.
7. The largest Orthodox monastery in the US is Saint Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona (GOA) with 49. Out of the 8 largest monasteries, 6 belong to the GOA.
8. 53% of all the monasteries use English as the primary language in worship, 16% equally English and another language, and 31% primarily another language. OCA monasteries mostly use English (83%), while GOA monasteries primarily use Greek (84%).
9. 52% of all monasteries use email. 51% have websites.
10. 37% of all monasteries receive a significant number of visitors.
St. Anthonyʹs Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Florence, AZ
See also website at http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org. In the summer of 1995, six monks arrived in the southern Arizona desert to establish St. Anthony’s Monastery, carrying with them the sacred thousand‐year heritage of the Holy Mountain, Athos. Elder Ephraim, a disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, having restored and repopulated four Mt. Athos monasteries and having established several monastic communities in Greece and North America, transferred six Athonite monks to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona to start a new monastery. Upon their arrival, the fathers began the necessary construction: building first the main church, living quarters for monks, a dining hall, and guest facilities. As the monastery expanded, more chapels were built; a vegetable garden, a small vineyard, citrus orchards, and an olive grove were soon to follow. An elaborate system of gardens, pathways, gazebos and Spanish fountains truly render the monastery and its extensive grounds an oasis in the desert.
The monastery was named after St. Anthony the Great, the renowned third‐century ascetic of Egypt, “the father of monasticism.” The main church, the catholicon, is dedicated to Saints Anthony and Nectarios the Wonder‐worker, who is especially popular amongst the Greeks. There are also chapels dedicated to Saints John the Baptist, Seraphim of Sarov, Demetrios of Thessalonica, George the Great Martyr, Nicholas the Wonder‐worker, Panteleimon the Healer and the Prophet Elijah. The monastery follows the coenobitic rule of monastic life. The brotherhood of over 40 monks and novices holds all things in common and follows a daily schedule of prayer and work under obedience to the abbot, their spiritual father. St. Anthony’s welcomes all visitors. Orthodox men and women from around the world visiting for a few days of spiritual growth and quietude are accommodated at the monastery’s guest facilities. Day visitors can visit the chapels and walk the grounds between 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM. Upon entering the monastery, all visitors are asked to stop at the bookstore. Photographs (including videos) may be taken of the buildings, grounds and church interiors, but not of the monks or guests.
The monastery maintains ʺThe Divine Music Projectʺ ‐ the website that contains more than 6000 pages of Byzantine music in Western and Byzantine notation in the style of chanting used on the Holy Mountain. The scope of this project covers the liturgies of St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, St. James, and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, as well as various doxologies, and hymns for Vespers, Orthros, the Mysteries, and the Menaion. The words of the hymns are provided in Elizabethan English, Modern English, and Greek.
Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Harvard, IL
Monastery was founded in 1998. Fr. Akakios was sent from St. Anthony Monastery (AZ) by Elder Ephraim to establish monastic community in IL. Land and buildings used by monastery were purchased from the local residents. This is a very quiet monastery with very few visitors. The small chapel at the Monastery is dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and Theologian. Besides being busy with the upkeep of the grounds, many handicrafts are made at the Monastery. Some of them, accordingly wrapped, are available as gifts for baptisms and weddings. Also, monastic clothes are custom tailored at the Monastery, as well as vestments, rhasa, and hats for Orthodox clergy. We also make pure beeswax candles. The gate is open daily between 6:00 am and 7:00 pm, and everyone is welcome to visit.
Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Spring Branch, TX
With the blessings of His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah, the monastery was founded by Elder Ephraim in 1996. On July 16, 1996, three monks from the Athonite monastery of Philotheou in Greece arrived in Kendalia, Texas to found Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery. They brought with them the heritage of the late Elder Joseph the Hesychast, whose spiritual children, among them Elder Ephraim, helped reinvigorate the
spiritual life of the Holy Mountain in the second half of the 20th century. Elder Ephraim selected these three Fathers to bring the humble glory of Orthodox monasticism to the great state of Texas.
Led by the young priest monk and Abbot, Archimandrite Dositheos, the Fathers purchased and began converting the 140 acre and abandoned Muslim property into a Greek Orthodox Christian monastery. This included transitioning a former mosque into the Katholikon [main church], dedicated to the monastery’s namesakes, Archangels Michael and Gabriel and all the Angels. On the monastery feast day, November 8, 2009, the katholikon was consecrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah. Traditional Byzantine ecclesiastical design inspired the church’s basilica modeling, especially that of the main church at the monastery of St. Katherine on Mt. Sinai, the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, St. Dimitrios in Thessoliniki, Greece, and the famous church of the Protaton on Mount Athos. In 1999, the slowly expanding brotherhood commenced building the trapeza [dining hall]. In 2002, the fathers poured the 18,000 square foot foundation of what will become the 42,000 square foot monastic kellia [dormitories], complete with a library, infirmary, offices, archondariki [guest reception room], bookstore, and other facilities.
During the 16 years since its founding, the monastery provided hospitality to pilgrims the world over. Greeks, Antiochians, Russians, Romanians, Serbians, countless American converts and inquiriers have found a harbor for their souls. At the intersection of so many jurisdictions and with visitors from so many cities, the monastery is an exemplar of pan‐Orthodoxy. The Texas Hill Country is a desert of its own. Rugged and wind‐swept, vast and yet strangely familiar, the arid Hill Country is a good home for an Orthodox monastery. Central to the major metropolitan hubs of Austin and San Antonio and only a few hours’ drive from both Dallas and Houston, the monastery is blessed to be able to provide hospitality to pilgrims and inquirers and a place of spiritual refuge for Orthodox men.
The brotherhood has fathers from many walks of life and from different countries. The monks follow the Athonite Typikon, or rule, which directs each of the Fathers to keep both a private prayer and reading rule in the early morning hours as well as attend the services of Hours, Orthros, Divine Liturgy, Vespers and Compline daily. At present, the Fathers are devoting much of their time to the building of the monastery kellia [dormitories]. Within the grounds of the Monastery is an Orthodox cemetery where the faithful may choose to lay to rest their loved ones. Many find comfort knowing that those who have been laid to rest “in the hope of life eternal” are on the monastery grounds, in such peaceful and prayerful surroundings. You will often see one of the fathers or a pilgrim meditating nearby. The names of those on the monastery grounds are
commemorated at every Divine Liturgy. Holy Archangels Monastery maintains a commercial winery and produces wines from many varietals of grapes grown sustainably.
St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Roscoe, NY
Saint Nektarios Monastery was founded in January 1999 by the reverend Elder Ephraim with the blessing of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The Monastery is dedicated to St. Nektarios of Aegina (†1920), who is referred to as ʺthe Saint of our century,ʺ on account of the countless miracles he performs daily for the faithful seeking his help. The Monastery’s main chapel is dedicated to Archangel Michael of Mandamado.
The Monastery celebrates three feast days every year: The translation of the holy relics of St. Nektarios on Sept. 3rd; The dormition of St. Nektarios Nov. 9th; Archangel Michael of Madamado on the second Sunday after Easter (Sunday of the Myrrhbearers). All the services at the Monastery are conducted in Greek.The Monastery bookstore has a wide selection of available religious literature and handcrafted items.
The community was founded in 1998 by Elder Ephraim of Philotheou with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta. The original monks came from St. Anthonyʹs Greek Orthodox Monastery in Arizona, as well as the Monastery of Philotheou on Mount Athos. The monastery lies on a beautiful property with rolling hills, in an area of Florida known for its Spanish moss covered live‐oak trees, horse farms, and horse‐training facilities. The property was originally a sugar plantation. The monks support themselves by making beeswax candles and maintaining a bookstore and giftshop.The monastery is dedicated to the Theotokos and is named after the famous historical church of the Panagia of Blachernae in Constantinople. The monastery celebrates its major feast day on July 2, the feast of the Deposition of the Sacred Robe of the Theotokos at Vlahernes. In addition, twice a year monastery celebrates the feast day of St. Sava the New of Kalymnos (December 5 and 5th Sunday of Great Lent). All services are in Greek and follow the Athonite typicon.
Saint Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Washington, TX
Established in 2004 in the historic Washington on the Brazos, TX. There are three chapels on monasteryʹs grounds. The Monastery provides daily cycle of services and welcomes pilgrims every day.
St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Goldendale, WA
The Monastery of St. John the Forerunner was founded in 1995, when local doctor, Gerald Timmer, donated his 48‐acre property to the Greek Orthodox Diocese of San Francisco for the foundation of a womenʹs monastic community. Geronta Ephraim, a priest‐monk and former abbot from Holy Mount Athos, Greece, was contacted by His Eminence Anthony (then ruling bishop) to help establish the monastery in Washington.
(ʺGerontaʺ in Greek means an ʺElderʺ or ʺAbbotʺ). Already the spiritual father/elder of 11 monasteries in Greece, in 1989, he began the work of establishing monasteries in North America with the blessing of the Church officials and the appeal of the Orthodox faithful in the United States and Canada. Geronta Ephraim called three nuns from the Holy Orthodox Monastery of the Panagia Hodigitria in Volos, Greece to come to Goldendale. At first, the small monastery of St. John the Forerunner was virtually unknown. Slowly, with much prayer, perseverance, and Grace from God, the Orthodox faithful, and others wanting to know about the Orthodox Church, began to visit and help the monastery. There are now more than 20 nuns and novices at St. Johnʹs Monastery. Monastery follows the ʺcoenobiticʺ way of life meaning that sisters hold all things in common and follow a daily schedule under the direction of the Abbess.
The monastery supports itself solely by the handiwork of the sisters and donations. The nuns practice the traditional arts of the Orthodox church including: painting Byzantine icons, knotting prayer ropes, making incense, and dipping beeswax candles. They also mount icon prints and make natural soaps and lotions and bake traditional Greek foods and pastries for their bakery and gift shop (both are open to the broad public, bakery is located off the monasteryʹs grounds). Bakery features full espresso bar and serves classic Greek foods such as gyros, stuffed vine leaves, baklava, etc. as well as traditional American dishes and pastries. The sisters also provide catering service for dinners, parties, etc. The gift shop carries the sistersʹ beeswax candles, incense and natural soaps and lotions, Christian books, Byzantine music, etc..
Monastery of the Holy Theotokos the Life Giving Spring (GOA), Dunlap, CA
In 1993, the monastery began with two nuns who came from Greece. Metropolitan Antony of San Francisco built extensive monasteryʹs facilities. In 2003, 14 more nuns arrived and moved into these facilities. In 2010, the monasteryʹs Katholikon was consecrated. In 2013, the monasteryʹs cemetery chapel was consecrated. The monastery is located next to ʺSt. Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Centerʺ which belongs to the GOA Metropolis of San Francisco. Visitors to monastery can stay at St. Nicholas Ranch.
Annunciation of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Reddick, FL
The Holy Monastery of the Annunciation was established in September of 1998. The nuns in it trace their spiritual heritage to the ancient monastery of the Honorable St. John the Forerunner in Serres. This historic monastery was established in the thirteenth century and is one of the most frequently visited pilgrimages in northern Greece. The nuns make high quality incense with different aromas and using the ancient recipe from Mount Athos, Greece.
St. John Chrysostom Monastery (GOA), Pleasant Prairie, WI
Two female monastics from Thassos (Greece) assisted in the establishment of the monastery of St. John Chrysostom in 1994 with the blessing of the local Metropolitan, His Eminence Iakovos of Chicago.
Holy Protection of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), White Haven, PA
Holy Protection Greek Orthodox Monastery was founded in 1993 by Elder Ephraim, former Abbot of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos, who also founded 16 other monasteries throughout the United States and Canada. The Monastery’s “Mother House” is the Archangel Michael Monastery on the island of Thasos in Greece. The site of the Monastery is on a mountain overlooking the Lehigh River Valley in the Pocono Mountains region of Pennsylvania. A white cross can be seen on the top of the Monastery’s mountain from interstate route 80. The construction of the Monastery’s present facilities began in 2001. These facilities include: the main building with the monastic cells; the main church dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter & Paul; and
two chapels dedicated to St. Nektarios and St. Paraskevi. Other buildings include: a bakery, a workshop with an icon‐painting studio, a woodworking shop, a candle making shop and a guesthouse. The Sisters maintain gardens, greenhouse and fruit orchards. The daily program begins at midnight with keeping vigil with prayer and spiritual reading, followed the first daily Church service. After a rest period and breakfast, the Sisters begin their work day until evening when they retreat to their cell for rest. The Abbess, Gerondissa Olympiada, is an iconographer from the Monastery of St. Michael in Thasos, Greece.
The nuns arrived from Greece from the monastery of Archangel Michael from the island Tasos. The property is covered with trees and forests. Monastery has pond. Monastery has three buildings: 1. residence for nuns with dining hall, two work rooms; 2. chapel + guesthouse; 3. candle making facility.
Nativity of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Spartanburg, PA
Founded in 1989, it was the first Greek Orthodox women monastery in the United States
NOTE: The 22+ sisters who live at Saint Monastere Vierge Marie La Consolatrice (Panagia Parigoritissa) run a cheese factory called “Le Troupeau Bénit (the blessed flock), referring to their sheep and goats. Since 2001, they have been selling and producing cheeses that has become known province-wide. Every week, they use 1,500 liters of certified Category A milk from their flock to make their cheeses. They make the Athonite, a mild Dutch cheese with a nut-like flavor; the Graviera, which has a sweet and fruity taste; Greek feta, a soft traditional cheese; a Havarti-type cheese called Le Bon Berger, mild and tangy; and a goat cheese called “Les Petites Soeurs,” one of the healthiest cheeses on the market. All are made fresh and are preserved with rape seed oil.
BROWNSBURG-CHATHAM, QUEBEC–(Marketwired – Nov. 1, 2014) – Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions (CED)
The Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, announces that the Monastery of the Virgin Mary the Consolatory’s cheese factory, Le Troupeau Bénit, received government support through the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto to increase its productivity.
The sisters’ picturesque, white-painted monastery is nestled in a forest in Brownsburg-Chatham, north of Lachute. They make their Troupeau Bénit (which means “blessed flock”) butter and cheeses from the milk of a flock of 150 goats and sheep they sold to the neighbour last year. The sheep’s-milk butter is ivory white; the goat’s-milk version whiter still.
“We eat it on bread with honey or jam,” says Sister Makrina. “It is too delicious even to cook with.” She says there are a number of reasons their butter is so delicious. Sometimes, it’s because the animals have just given birth, so their milk is especially rich. Partly, it’s the wild grasses on which the animals graze and the care with which the sisters churn the butter.
“Everything here is done by hand. We add goat’s milk sour cream and then beat it by hand on ice until it clots, then we drain the water and hand-press it to dry,” Sister Makrina explained.
“But the main reason it’s so good is that we pray over everything we do in the monastery. God is always present here. He blesses our work.” (Source)
A debate on an Orthodox Christian forum in 2002 about why the Greek Archdiocese does not keep track of their newly tonsured monks and nuns in the same way it keeps track of its priests:
A. Styl writes:
The Orthodox Observer often lists a “Clergy Update” that lists ordination of deacons and priests, retirement of priests, and new assignments of priests–all good information.
Where is the list of newly tonsured monks and nuns in the monasteries and convents under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese? Families of these newly tonsured monastics often learn of the tonsuring and the location of their loved one after the fact. If the Archdiocese keeps track of its priests, why are the monks and nuns kept out of the loop? Why the secrecy or even the shadow of secrecy in listing these monks and nuns?
The absence of this list runs parallel with the absence of information about the monk Ephraim-led monasteries on the GO web site or Orthodox Observer. If establishing 16 monasteries within the last 10 years is a tribute to the Church, why is it not highlighted and presented to the people as a model? Because it is not a model of monasticism and because the GO church doesn’t know what to do with this rogue monk. Cults depend on secrecy and isolation in order to survive.
Alex Arnakis: The difference is that priests, deacons, etc., are public functionaries, and therefore the public has a right to know who they are. Monastics, on the other hand, answer to no one except themselves (and their monastic superiors), and thus are entitled to a curtain of privacy.
If the monastics want to cut themselves off from their families, it’s their business. This isn’t to say that doing so is right, because (in my opinion) it violates the Commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” The Commandment applies even if the parents are dysfunctional (and we all know how common dysfunctional families are among Greek-Americans).
Because the Ephraimite monasteries are *not* a tribute to the Church; they’re an embarrassment to the Church. The problem is that monastic life for the young is not consistent with the so-called “family values” that the Church is trying to promote.
Ephraim is a fish out of water. If people want to join monasteries, there are plenty of monasteries in Greece that they can go join. Monasticism just doesn’t fit with the ethos of America.
Serge: Perhaps it has to do with monasticism’s origins as something semi-independent of other church instititutions. Isn’t this still at least somewhat true in Orthodox monasticism, where each full-fledged monastery is independent of the others?
Marina: Monastics are not clergy and no such publication exists in Greece or Cyprus, for example.
Cunneen: Alex, I have to take exception to that. On the Catholic side, the Benedictines among others are alive and well in this country. They provide retreat centers and places of silence and peace for the rest of us, which is an important corrective to the ethos of America.
I’m sure that Orthodox monasticism is just as important to American Orthodox.
Alex Arnakis:I should have said “Monasticism in the tradition of Mt. Athos, as promulgated by Elder Ephraim, doesn’t fit with the ethos of America.” I’m sure Roman Catholic monasteries don’t recruit teenagers against the will of their parents, and do other things to split families apart. Nor do they make a personality cult of their abbots, doing such things as drinking their bath water.
The Trappist monks of Holy Cross Abbey (Berryville, Virginia) make some awfully good fruitcake. (BTW, I notice that they don’t accept novices younger than 23.)
Cunneen: All Orthodox monasteries in the U.S. aren’t Athonian, are they? We met monks from a small (monastery?) in Northern California affiliated with OCA; they make icons and do some simple farming. There are only three of them, but they seem very happy and open.
This is at the website for St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, AZ.
Fr. Ephraim is not being secret. There are several public websites given in the list. Fr. Ephrain travels (insofar as he is allowed to do so) and speaks openly. On the other hand, the efforts at secrecy are coming from those who are trying to suppress monasticism, the heart of our Orthodox Faith, in this country.
Alexander Arnakis: No, there were monasteries before Fr, Ephraim. But he’s the one who sparked the growth, and the controversy.
A. Styl: Yes, there are several public websites, but the Archdiocese’s web site and its newsletter, the Orthodox Observer, do NOT list him or his monasteries’ activities. Those of us who want to expose the monk Ephraim and his cult are not against monasticism within the Church. There is monasticism and then there is monasticism, the Ephraim-type that requires secrecy and deception. The term of “salvific deception,” which allows one to lie in order to preserve one’s salvation is touted to the novices and tonsured monks/nuns. In other words, it’s ok to deceive others in order to preserve and further your own salvation and your monastic community. The guardians of our faith are allowed to lie?
I have attended several GOA National Clergy-Laity Congresses over the past decade, and the Fr. Ephraim monasteries have been a great source of private debate. When they have been brought out at public meetings, the GOA hierarchs clearly have admonished those present that they consider these monasteries under their jurisdictions, but for some reason or another, they have little or no control over what occurs there. Metropolitans will visit these monasteries on occasion, but other than that there appears to be little or no control exterted by them. The GOA drafted some regulations concerning these monasteries, but I am not sure what happened to them.
In the meantime, the GOA over the years has established several monasteries of its own, which are clearly included on their web site. I have visited non-Ephraim and Ephraim monasteries (two Ephraim monasteries are in my area, with one may be housing a young man whose recruitment was and still is a major source of controversy.) The non-Ephraim monasteries are open and warm, the Ephraim ones secretive and furtive in nature. The monk (within one year of joining was tonsured!) in question avoided contact with the general public during my visits. The monks and nuns of the GOA monasteries behaved differently. While rumors swirl about how the Ephraim monasteries operate and how they recruit youngsters to become monks, no such rumors swirl around the GOA formed monasteries, nor of any other monasteries of other canonically recognized Churches in the USA.
The Ephraim monasteries are organized around Fr. Ephraim, all 16 or so of them. True monasteries are organized around a single abbott, not multiple monasteries organized around a single abbott. And Ephraim himself has jurisdiction hopped when it has suited him to do so, and how and why he left Mt. Athos has never been disclosed or explained. Many insist that he left Mt. Athos because he was on the verge of being booted out over some unusual behavior and teachings. Again, there is no way of verifying this, and until there is proof offered, at best they are rumors that just keep on persisting.
You know the old expression, where you smell smoke, there must be fire? In the Ephraim monasteries, the “smoke” smell is clearly evident.
Peter A. Neenan: Contrary to American ethos? Tell that to the Benedictines!
Catherine Hampton: Please present the evidence that this term is used and taught by Archimandrite Ephreim and others in his group….
I’m a former member of a religious cult (a Protestant based cult) who has no problem accepting that an Orthodox group could also fall into this particular sin. (I’ve seen it happen.) However, I also have no problem believing that, for political or other invalid reasons, a group of people might accuse a particular monk or leader of cultism when they are not actually guilty of it.
So far, the evidence I’ve seen about Archimandrite Ephreim is equivocal, and not terribly well supported.
If there is real evidence of genuine cultlike behavior (as teaching the doctrine you cite above would be), I’d like to hear it, and see it posted. But it should be real evidence — the testimony of multiple witnesses, a sound recording in the voice of Archimandrite Ephreim, a document written by him that he acknowledges or that can be proved to have come from him, etc.
Otherwise, I’m going to assume that the war we all observed within the Greek Orthodox Church in America is continuing, and that a partisan in this war is engaging in propaganda to sway our opinion for reasons that have nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the person he’s accusing.
That’s interesting information… You know, somebody really should gather together these stories, interview the people involved, and post it in one location. Over five years ago, I and another former member of a cultish Protestant group did this. It proved useful to a huge number of people who had been members of or otherwise were affected by the group, people whose very existence we didn’t suspect and most of whom didn’t realize that others had had the same experiences they did.
The advantages of getting specifics into the daylight — names, dates, first-hand testimony, and analysis by outsiders who do not have an axe to grind — is hard to overstate. Maybe you could start something like this?
Seth Williamson: Correct me if I’m wrong, but as I understand it, the kid was old enough to join the armed forces without parental consent. Then why can’t he become a monk?
Cunneen: Reading accusations and waiting for evidence seem to be two of the major activities of this newsgroup. We get a lot of both.
That’s what makes unsupported accusations so evil; puff up enough smoke and people begin to believe there’s a fire because you said so. That’s essentially the method of propaganda: make an accusation often and loudly.
Atstaves: Hi Catherine. Try going to http://www.pokrov.org/. There are extensive articles on the Ephraim monasteries for anyone to review, including a few articles by an Archbishop who has taken exception to several of their teachings and has written articles setting the record straight.
Baseless rumor and its smoke will usually dissipate within a short period of time. With the Ephraim monasteries, after a decade, the smoke just never seems to go away.
Go to http://www.pokrov.org/ and read all about them along with an Archbishop’s response over two or three articles contradicting Ephramite teachings. You will get a better idea of what some of us are talking about.
I wish it were just idle rumor.
Regards, Louis Geo. Atsaves
A. Styl: Catherine, you want real evidence? So do we! Those families, except for the one in Tennessee, hesitate to speak out for two reasons: 1) ostracism from their parish (questioning the Ephraim-type of monasticism is not encouraged or translates into condemnation of all types of monasticism) and 2) isolation from their loved one inside an Ephraim-led monastery or convent as evidenced from the young Fr. Theologos and his self-isolation from his family. Letters are written and calls are made to Church heirarchs but nothing is done to set up guidelines or counseling. The secrecy of the whole thing is mind boggling! This power of spiritual dependence is so strong that parishes and priests fear speaking out because the Ephraimites idolize their “spiritual father”-the monk Ephraim. Families don’t want to be labeled as troubled or dysfunctional because their loved ones joined a cult. These families feel shame and guilt. As a former member of a Protestant cult, you could appreciate this I’m sure. We hear from these families but we cannot reveal their names for the sake of their privacy.
Please go to the following web sites for more information and “evidence” from personal testimonies, newspaper articles, and reports on Ephraim’s views on marriage and aerial toll houses, etc. from the Ukrainian Orthodox Archbishop Lazar Puhalo. Other than a few things on the Orthodox News web site (www.orthodoxnews.com,) we can’t lead you to more “evidence” other than these: