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 Greek Orthodox Monastery., Inc. 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)

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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

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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

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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.

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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:

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“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

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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

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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/

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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.

Letter-from-St-Nektarios-Monastery-s-Lawyer-attempting-to-take-down-a-TUMBLR-page1a

Letter-from-St-Nektarios-Monastery-s-Lawyer-attempting-to-take-down-a-TUMBLR-page2a

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Orthodox Monks Don’t Experience Rigor Mortis?

“A Monk’s Funeral: 30 hrs after death, the corpse retains its flexibility” [Athonite Moments, p. 200]
Pilgrims to Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries are taught about a “Miracle exclusive to Orthodoxy”—i.e., monks do not experience rigor mortis when they die. Typical of the other “exclusive miracles” which are taught at the monasteries, this one also has some grey areas. Depending on the monastic giving the sermon, it is either all orthodox monastics throughout the world, or just Athonite monastics. In some cases, the monastic giving the sermon will grab the book Athonite Moments and show the pilgrims a photograph of a monk being lowered into a grave with signs of flexibility and no rigor mortis. Also see Geronda Evdokimos claiming this scientifically understood phenomena as an exclusively orthodox miracle that “testifies to sanctity.”

Of course, if you question the monastic giving the sermon, they only have a cursory understanding of what rigor mortis is—which usually amounts to “all corpses are stiff after they die and any flexibility in a corpse is scientifically impossible.” What “proof” do they offer to validate their erroneous understanding of corpses, decomposition and rigor mortis?  A photograph from a book and their “authority” validates this “scientifically impossible” phenomenon.

“Black, white, red: An atmosphere of mournful quietness” [Athonite Moments, p. 201]
Similar to their erroneous claim of Persistent Frontal Suture being an “exclusive orthodox miracle,” the claim that a corpse without rigor mortis is an “exclusive orthodox miracle” is also scientifically and biologically erroneous. In both cases, “science is not needed to validate these miracles” because they are an Athonite oral tradition and “monks who speak to God know more than a worldly scientist.” Science is not always rejected by the monastics—if science validates something in orthodoxy, or if science cannot explain phenomenon which for the monastics validates a divine origin, then it is accepted. When science conflicts with orthodoxy, then it is dismissed as idle, vain, worldly knowledge that is incompatible with spiritual knowledge.

SOME OBSERVABLE AND PROVEN FACTS ABOUT RIGOR MORTIS

First of all, rigor mortis is easily “broken” by bending and moving the joints about. A common question people have for morticians is whether they need to break a corpse’s legs if the body doesn’t fit into the coffin properly. The answer is, of course, no. The legs bend quite easily even after death.

''Remember the day of death, but also the day of resurrection & judgment'' [Athonite Moments, p. 201]
”Remember the day of death, but also the day of resurrection & judgment” [Athonite Moments, p. 201]
Second of all, rigor mortis is basically a stiffening of the limbs. The joints become difficult to bend, but this does not happen with all bodies. There is a technique morticians use to get rid of it called “breaking the rigor mortise.” Basically, you bend the limbs back and forth a few times and the joints will loosen up. This “breaks” the stiffness and the body is back to normal.

The Athonite monks are aware of corpse manipulation because some of them have stated that Fr. Seraphim Rose’s corpse was manipulated by his disciples to smile, etc., to give the appearance that he had a saintly death.

Also see: Misconceptions & Questions — A collection of questions and opinions about the funeral industry and Ask an Undertaker and Working Funerals: Decomposition.

WHAT IS RIGOR MORTIS?

Rigor Mortis is the stiffening of the body after death because of a loss of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) from the body’s muscles. ATP is the substance that allows energy to flow to the muscles and help them work and without this the muscles become stiff and inflexible.

Rigor Mortis begins throughout the body at the same time but the body’s smaller muscles – such as those in the face, neck, arms and shoulders – are affected first and then the subsequent muscles throughout the rest of the body; those which are larger in size, are affected later.

gerontissa efpraxia

Rigor normally appears within the body around two hours after the deceased has passed away with – as we have already mentioned – the facial and upper neck and shoulder muscles first to visibly suffer from its effects. Many Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCO) have reported that upon discovering the deceased that their face might have taken on what looks to be a grimace; this is because the facial muscles have contracted as ATP drains from them.

Once the contracting of all the body’s muscles has taken place this state of Rigor – technically referred to as the Rigid Stage – normally lasts anywhere from eight to twelve hours after which time the body is completely stiff; this fixed state can last up to another eighteen hours.

Contrary to common perception the process of Rigor Mortis actually does reverse and the body returns to a flaccid state; the muscles losing their tightness in the reverse of how they gained it: i.e.: those larger muscles that contracted last will lose their stiffness first and return to their pre-Rigor condition.

See: Rigor Mortis and Lividity

 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT RIGOR MORTIS

Rigor mortis can be used to help estimate time of death. The onset of rigor mortis may range from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on factors including temperature (rapid cooling of a body can inhibit rigor mortis, but it occurs upon thawing). Maximum stiffness is reached around 12-24 hours post mortem. Facial muscles are affected first, with the rigor then spreading to other parts of the body. The joints are stiff for 1-3 days, but after this time general tissue decay and leaking of lysosomal intracellular digestive enzymes will cause the muscles to relax.

A Funeral Procession, Filotheou Monastery, Mt. Athos
A Funeral Procession, Filotheou Monastery, Mt. Athos

During rigor mortis, another process called autolysis takes place. This is the self-digestion of the body’s cells. The walls of the cells give way, and their contents flow out. Rigor mortis ends not because the muscles relax, but because autolysis takes over. The muscles break down and become soft on their way to further decomposition.

Thus, contrary to the misconceptions disseminated by the monastics, the flexibility witnessed in some monastic corpses during their funeral—which occur 24-48+ hours after their repose—is not “a scientifically impossible miracle which scientists cannot explain.” Rather, it is a natural process that is quite common and has been observed in corpses throughout the world, both orthodox and non-orthodox, lay people and monastics. Once again, the monastics misrepresent a natural phenomenon as an “exclusive miracle to Orthodoxy.” As stated above, in Greek-American orthodox monasteries, the “secular sciences” are generally not considered a “valid” source of information when it comes to understanding or interpreting natural phenomena and processes.

MONASTIC FUNERALS

Schema Monk Constantine Cavranos
Schema Monk Constantine Cavranos

The monastic funerals here in North America are unlike those in Mount Athos: the body is not flung into a hole, but rather it is placed in a coffin and lowered into the hole. Thus, there isn’t much contact with the body before burial other than the last kiss. So witnessing such “miracles” of corpses without rigor mortis here is uncommon. Of course, if the superior tells the monastics that the body is warm and without rigor mortis, then they will believe it is so, and will also transmit this “miracle” to the pilgrims who visit.

Constantine2

Each monastery has its own process of preparing the body for burial, again giving opportunity for manipulation. The body is then placed in the middle of the Church, usually under the polyeleos, and the monastics have to read the entire Psalter continually until the next day. Then the funeral service occurs in the church ending with the procession to burial. Depending on time and circumstance, this process can take from 24-36 hours or more. Thus, photographs of monks without rigor mortis after such a time period cannot be considered a “miracle exclusive to orthodoxy” as this can happen to any corpse; i.e. the natural return to the pre-rigor condition.

Schema Monk Constantine Cavarnos' funeral procession at St. Anthony's Monastery
Schema Monk Constantine Cavarnos’ funeral procession at St. Anthony’s Monastery

Example of Ephraimite abuse (Joanna, 2015)

The following article is taken from Remnant ROCOR Blogspot, March 18, 2015:

Icon of Elder Ephraim  used by monks in their cells
Icon of
Elder Ephraim
used by monks
in their cells

So: someone takes a pilgrim’s trip to one of these ephraim monasteries, who has gone there before.  Anyway, while there this person meets another pilgrim of the opposite sex whose company is enjoyable.  They begin a little dialogue between them while waiting to see the priest for confession.  Now, because of the harsh cold wind and snow that day, they both decided to go sit in one of their cars for warmth, as both of them were cigarette smokers.  So as soon as they both got in the car and had just finished closing the doors……  Suddenly, to their amazement and extreme shock, out of nowhere there were two monks pounding on both sides of the car’s doors, yelling and screaming at both of them to get out of the car right away.  Also saying that this is not acceptable on their monastery property.

[NOTE: There have been incidents of fornication in the past at monasteries. Sometimes, when the rooms have other occupants and a member of the opposite sex cannot be snuck in, then they will rendezvous in a vehicle or, on some of the larger properties, go out into the woods. As countless homilies in the monasteries are about how duplicitous the lay people are and the kinds of transgressions that occur even on monastery property, many times monastics err on the side of caution and assume the worse. The homilies are usually based on the information the abbot or abbess receives hearing confessions or revelation of thoughts from pilgrims visiting their monasteries. Other times, pilgrims tattle tale on pilgrims or pious friends reveal what their impious friends did in secret on monastery property.

In one case, an ex-novice showed up intoxicated at his former monastery with a non-orthodox woman at 2 am. He was blessed to stay one night only and had to leave the next day. The fathers were curious why he’d show up during vigil with a scantily-clad heterodox when he obviously knew the rules and schedule due to having lived there for a couple of years. The elder and the older fathers who were aware of the secret exorcisms the Elder routinely performed on him before he returned to the world also had reservations. Though the ex-novice left without a hostile or violent “incident”, the Elder hinted that something had went on during the night between the couple. This monastery only had one priest at the time and so the monks slept after their personal vigil and went to church for service at 6:30 am. 

During lunch, the ex-novice had his cantor of wine removed from the table because he was struggling with alcohol abuse at the time, he was chugging it by the glass full and had to leave (drive off) after the meal. This individual was politely told he wasn’t welcome there anymore unless he adhered to the rules.].

Both pilgrims, frightened by the banging and yelling, got out and said, “We know this, and respect this! – but we were only having a cigarette in the warmth because of the bad weather and ice out there, but we can go somewhere else and return later, if even this is a problem.”

SmOC

The monks got more angry and furious and stated that, “No you are not even permitted to do that,” (i.e., no blessing), “now get back inside.”  They even followed the pilgrims back inside.

[NOTE: Following the teachings of St. Nikodemos, who states tobacco smoke is the incense of the demons, the monasteries have a strict no smoking policy. Sometimes there is “economia” with non-Orthodox workers doing contract work at the monasteries and the smoking ban is lifted just for them].

During confession the priest-monk aggressively and harshly asked one of them if they had exchanged phone numbers, but the pilgrim said to him, “No disrespect here, Father, but that is none of your business,” as it has nothing to do with matters of the faith.  The priest-monk got so furious that he said, “You do not have a blessing to give or accept a number.”  Then he kicked out the male pilgrim from the property and later on threatened the female pilgrim, too. 

[NOTE: There are only 3 male monasteries under Geronda Ephraim that are in climates with snow: Holy Transfiguration Monastery (IL), Holy Trinity Monastery (MI) and St. Nektarios Monastery (NY); which narrows it down to Hieromonk Pavlos (IL), Geronda Joseph Mammis (MI), Hieromonk Michael Santos (NY) or Geronda Joseph Voutsas (NY)]. 

Paulos Joseph2

Hieromonk Michael & Geronda Joseph (Kursk Root Icon)

So, it’s pretty clear, among other things, that they obviously abuse their power, (good example here); and they think they can control everybody with everything in their lives, by threats, slander etc… – anything that works for them and get away with this kind of behaviour.  They do not have these rights! nor the right to embarrass people in front of others in any way!  If there is something to say, just say it in private…

[NOTE: Typically in the monasteries, spiritual children of either sex in the world need to get a blessing before they can start dating an individual. If they receive the blessing, and things go well, the spiritual Father will request to meet the boy or girl. After that, he will decide if the relationship can continue. In the cases of new spiritual children, countless individuals have been given obediences to break off the long-term relationships they were in for various reasons—fornication, the partner was non-Orthodox, the partner, though Orthodox wasn’t a good person, etc.

At the monasteries, the spiritual Father always has the last say in a relationship. The spiritual father also has countless cautionary tales about spiritual children who disobeyed him, continued dating or even married someone they forbade, and the disasters that have occurred since then for the individual. This is why in both the male and female monasteries, there is a match-making system for close and loyal spiritual children.

Some superiors even have photo albums of men and women they can show. The spiritual Fathers like to keep the dating pool “in the family” so to speak because the rules and guidelines for relationships—no touching, kissing, etc.—are strict. The rules for marriage—no sex on fast days or before Communion, sex only for procreation, abstinence after childrearing period is over, and coitus being the only form of sex permissible—are also strict. If the two candidates have the same spiritual Father, or at least spiritual Fathers who are in obedience to Geronda Ephraim, then they’ll be on the same page and it won’t come as much of a shock when certain obediences are given].

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There have been many red flags about these people for so long, etc., and many other observations I had personally made as well, that were, unfortunately, horrible!  But sometimes somehow you try to give the benefit of the doubt, especially when you have friends who frequently visit the monasteries, convincing you that all those complaints out there are false about them, or you misinterpreted, etc., – that it’s always someone just trying to discredit them in any way possible, just because of jealousy, etc.  But when it happens way too many times it’s obviously not a misinterpretation.  It’s the truth.  In my opinion, they did a good job of this to themselves many times; they’ve discredited themselves numerous times!  Their lies just keep on growing and multiplying…. this is not accidental or coincidence, it’s who they really are, unfortunately.

(name withheld)

RR

Reading Names During the Proskomide at Geronda Ephraim’s Monasteries

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:

The office of Preparation of the Divine Liturgy and The Office of Oblation (Proskomide)

St. Anthony's Monastery Feast Day (early - mid-2000s)

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.

Geronda Dositheos and the Fathers.
Geronda Dositheos and the Fathers.

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.

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.

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.
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony's Monastery (AZ)
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ)

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.

Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony's Monastery (AZ)
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ)

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.
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony's Monastery (AZ)
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ)

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.

Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony's Monastery (AZ)
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ)

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.

Geronda Joseph Mammis (MI) Great Entrance at Holy Annunciation Monastery (FL)
Geronda Joseph Mammis (MI) Great Entrance at Holy Annunciation Monastery (FL)

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.

WidowMites

Hieromonk Michael Santos of St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery, Inc. (Roscoe, NY)

Hieromonk Michael was born to Reynaldo and Leonie Santos in 1969 in Quezon, Nueva Ecija (Philippines). He is the middle child of two sisters, Michelle (formerly a novice nun for 8 years at Holy Protection Monastery) and Myla. The Santos family immigrated to Canada when Fr. Michael was very young and settled in the outskirts of Toronto, Ontario. Fr. Michael was raised in the Roman Catholic faith.

After graduating high school, Fr. Michael went on to the University of Toronto, where he majored in philosophy.

The southern entrance to Philosopher's Walk, University of Toronto.
The southern entrance to Philosopher’s Walk, University of Toronto.

In the mid-90’s, he was baptized by Geronda Joseph Voutsas at St. Kosmas Greek Orthodox Monastery in Caledon, Ontario. He was allowed to keep his original name, and it was one of the few baptisms performed by Geronda Joseph allowed to be videotaped.

The chapel at St. Kosmas Monastery, where Geronda Joseph baptized Fr. Michael.
The chapel at St. Kosmas Monastery, where Geronda Joseph baptized Fr. Michael.

Becoming a Monk He became a novice monk in 1998 at St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, AZ but was a member of Geronda Joseph’s synodia (at that time, due to Metropolitan Sotirios of Canada forcing their hand, the Brotherhood of St. John the Theologian Monastery in Picton, Ontario was forced to flee Canada and seek refuge at St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, AZ. They became the Brotherhood of St. Nektarios after relocating to Roscoe, NY in 1999).

St. Anthony's Monastery, AZ, where Fr. Michael started out his novitiate period.
St. Anthony’s Monastery, AZ, where Fr. Michael started out his novitiate period.

In Arizona, Fr. Michael mainly worked with the outside Fathers digging holes, planting palm trees, and doing hard labor. At the time, Geronda Ephraim nicknamed him “Kinezos” and “Kineziko” (meaning “Chinese” or “the Chinaman”).

Fr. Michael Santos
Fr. Michael Santos

In December 1998, the monks under Geronda Joseph drove up to Roscoe, NY and established the St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery. During Holy Week of 1999, Geronda Ephraim visited the monastery briefly. Along with 3 other novices, Fr. Michael was tonsured a monk by Geronda Ephraim in the old chapel of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY. Once again, Fr. Michael kept his original name.

During Great Lent, 1999, Geronda Ephraim visited St. Nektarios Monastery secretly, in order  to tonsure four novices.
During Great Lent, 1999, Geronda Ephraim visited St. Nektarios Monastery secretly, in order to tonsure four novices.

At the time, because Geronda Ephraim came up secretly and tonsured the four novices (i.e. without the Bishop’s knowledge, nor his blessing to perform priestly functions) it was decided the four novices would keep their original names. This was also partly because 3 of them were converts and had their names changed in baptism already. As well, as the monastery had only been open a few months and not many people had visited yet, no one would know the difference. Geronda Ephraim, via Geronda Joseph, gave the novices an obedience in case lay people who had seen the novices without koukoulis in church asked them when they were tonsured. “We were tonsured in Arizona, but they didn’t have our koukoulis ready. We just received them.”

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 old chapel, which was connected to the main white house, was later converted into a living room and part time guest quarters for feast days. Geronda Joseph also used the living room at night for his vigils.

The
The “main house’ as seen from the guest quarters.

Before his ordination, Fr. Michael fluctuated from working as an outside Father (construction), ekklesiastiko (taking care of the church), cleaning guest houses, to bookstore (receiving pilgrims and exhorting them spiritually). Also, he was one of the few fathers that Geronda Joseph trusted to go on errands outside the monastery (either driving alone or with another monk).

Fr. Michael holding the Kursk Root Icon (with Geronda Joseph)
Fr. Michael holding the Kursk Root Icon (with Geronda Joseph)

Novice Michelle Santos Fr. Michael’s older sister, Michelle, was a novice at Holy Protection Greek Orthodox Monastery in Pennsylvania for a number of years. She started out at the original property in Weatherly, PA and relocated with the sisterhood to the new property in White Haven, PA.

Holy Protection Monastery, PA,
Holy Protection Monastery, PA, “sister monastery” of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY.

Fr. Michael held his sister in high esteem. When talking to pilgrims, he would refer to her as, “my sanctified sister.” He had pictures of her as a nun in his cell for inspiration in his own personal struggle (and kept them up even after she threw off her rassa and returned to the world).

Pathway to the old bookstore at St. Nektarios Monastery (2005)
Pathway to the old bookstore at St. Nektarios Monastery (2005)

In the mid-2000’s, she left the Monastery and returned to the world, which evoked a lot of gossip and conjecture among pilgrims. As well, it put Fr. Michael in a difficult position as lay people would ask him in the bookstore, “What happened? Why did your sister leave?”

Geronda Joseph giving a speech in the old bookstore at St. Nektarios Monastery.
Geronda Joseph giving a speech in the old bookstore at St. Nektarios Monastery.

Michelle kept Fr. Mark Andrews as a spiritual Father for a short while afterwards, but it was awkward for her to return to Holy Protection for confession, as well, Gerondissa wasn’t comfortable with her returning as these things weaken the resolve of monastics (i.e. seeing their former co-strugglers in the world looking normal, healthy and happy).

Fr. Mark Andrews (Editor of Fr. Nicholas Palis' Translations)
Fr. Mark Andrews

Ordination to the Priesthood In 2009, Fr. Michael was ordained a priest. It should be noted that on Mount Athos, one of Geronda Ephraim’s prerequisites in determining if a monk was ready for ordination was whether or not he had prayer of the heart. There are various opinions among the elders in the American monasteries on whether or not Geronda Ephraim is as strict here in this regard as he was on Mount Athos.

Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, Chancellor of the GOA, ordained Fr. Michael a deacon on Nov. 17, 2009.
Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, Chancellor of the GOA, ordained Fr. Michael a deacon on Nov. 17, 2009.

Also, Fr. Michael was the recipient of a very special vision/miracle of St. Nektarios who appeared to him when he lost his balance off a ladder and carried him down to safety.

Archbishop Demetrios ordained Deacon Michael a priest on Nov. 18, 2009.
Archbishop Demetrios ordained Deacon Michael a priest on Nov. 18, 2009.

SOURCES:

NOTE: If one visits the official website of St. Nektarios Monastery, they will find the following notice

NOTICE TO USERS

The information on this site is the property of The Holy Monastery of St. Nektarios. This is the only website on the internet that is managed and approved by the monks of The Holy Monastery of St. Nektarios. Information found posted on other internet sites and blogs regarding St. Nektarios Monastery and its monks has not been validated, and in certain instances is inaccurate and misleading. Everyone is free to read and reflect on the information on this site. However, none of the information on this site may be reproduced without the prior written consent of St. Nektarios Monastery. If you wish to use any of the material on this site please contact us. †May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you!

 

Stories that may tarnish a monastery’s image and reputation, or expose some of the darker happenings in that monastery, will never be validated by a monastery and are usually dismissed as “ridiculous.” Elder Ephraim only wants outsiders to experience the “front stage” behavior that is curated for them.

It is very easy for a monastery to discredit stories and there is a two-fold method that is very effective:

  1. The superior will instruct the fraternity to deny everything if asked.
  2. If the information is coming from a former monk or nun then they will be discredited as having mental illnesses, being delusional, or left the monastery jaded and are trying to retaliate via slander, etc.

The above notice on the St. Nektarios website seems to be a direct response to this tumblr page:

http://stnektariosmonastery.tumblr.com/ [Dead Links]  

http://stnektariosmonastery.tumblr.com/post/103102374101/account-temporarily-terminated-via-letter-from-the 

censorship1

There does not seem to be any indication that this Tumblr page claims to be the official St. Nektarios Monastery page or that it represents St. Nektarios Monastery. As with most celebrity “fan pages”, the reader assumes that the celebrity does not actually run the page, nor is it the official webpage of the celebrity (unless stated otherwise).

Yet, St. Nektarios Monastery used pilgrims’ donation money to hire a lawyer to have that Tumblr page pulled down in an attempt to control the narrative (i.e. suppress and censor the “back stage” behavior that was revealed).

The Tumblr page now has a disclaimer: “This blog is not directly affiliated with St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery (According to the monastery’s lawyers, this blog ‘misrepresents the ideological underpinnings of our client’s tenets’).” [Update: After this attempt to have the page pulled down failed, and the lawyer’s letter was published on social media, the monks started a complaint campaign to Tumblr and falsely claimed that photographs that they themselves did not take or own were copyrighted. The premise of their mindset is, “any image that shows the monastery is automatically copyrighted and their property regardless of who took the photograph.”].

It is imperative to keep an image of perfection unblemished, despite the fact that it is not in keeping with reality.

The one positive outcome of this whole affair was the Monastery’s admittance that their way of life is an ideology. This is quite interesting as ideology has never been used by the Church Fathers to describe monasticism or the Orthodox spiritual life.

“Ideology” has been used frequently by Orthodox authors writing apologetic texts against various political -isms, such as Communism, Marxism, Fascism, Nazism, Feminism, Racism, Nationalism, etc.; many of these –isms require a sort of blind obedience to a state or dictator much like the relationship between Elder Ephraim and his monastics. 

Orthodox writers have also used “ideology” in apologetics against destructive cults and new religious movements; i.e. things that are new, novel, uncanonical and unorthodox (and many times requiring absolute blind obedience to a spiritual leader or guru).

Orthodoxy and orthodox monasticism have never been portrayed as an “ideology” in either ancient or modern Orthodox texts. The fact that St. Nektarios Monastery, Inc. views and understands their beliefs, lifestyle and spiritual teachings as an ideology should concern Orthodox Christians.

Letter-from-St-Nektarios-Monastery-s-Lawyer-attempting-to-take-down-a-TUMBLR-page1a

Letter-from-St-Nektarios-Monastery-s-Lawyer-attempting-to-take-down-a-TUMBLR-page2a

Hieromonk Chrysostomos, Fr. Michael in background.
Hieromonk Chrysostomos, Fr. Michael in background.
Fr. Michael and Geronda Paisios (AZ).
Fr. Michael and Geronda Paisios (AZ).

3 Michael

5 michael reading

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Hieromonk Michael at Geronda Polycarp's Ordination

Why are newly tonsured monks and nuns not included in the Orthodox Observer’s Clergy Updates section? (2002)

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.

Iero 2
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ)

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.

 

Iero 3
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ)

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.

Rd. Constantine Wright: There is a map and list of the Athonite monasteries in America at the following link: http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/map.htm

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?

Atstaves:

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:

http://www.pokrov.org/cultorth.html
http://www.rickross.com/groups/ephraim.html

 

The rest of the debate can be found here.

 

Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto Slandering the Athonite Monasteries, Elders and Confessors

The following is transcribed from a youtube video of Metropolitan Sotirios’ speech during an undated Christmas Lent. There are usually a couple buses organized to take Greek Torontonians down for confession at St. Nektarios in NY and Holy Trinity in MI. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7EMKMvdQzc

Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto,  agreed Ephraim's monasteries & methods of collecting young and vulnerable adults is cultic.
Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto has  stated that Fr. Ephraim’s monasteries & methods of collecting young and vulnerable adults is cultic.

We are now in the period of Christmas Lent. You very well know that sometimes our Metropolis brings over father-confessors. This year, in this particular period, we are not going to bring in any father-confessors. But, all of us must confess. All of us must prepare ourselves to receive the Prince of peace, Christ, Who is God and is coming to be born as a human being. And i want all of the faithful Christians to go in repentance and confess to our priests.

Geronda Ephraim and Bishop Sotirios (Ελληνικός Τύπος)
Geronda Ephraim, Bishop Sotirios and Gerondissa Alexia, Abbess of St. Kosmas Monastery  (Ελληνικός Τύπος)

There are certain things we must know when we are confessing: 1) If we confess for the first time, we should repent and confess all our sins from the very beginning until the moment of our confession. When I do that in true repentance, and the priest or bishop forgives us in the name of Christ—or Christ forgives us through the priest or bishop—then we must know that those sins we have repented for and confessed through the priest or bishop have been erased by God and they will not exist anymore. 2) When you go to confession a second or another time, you must know that you should never repeat the sins, you should never confess the sins again that you confessed in previous confessions that you had. For if you do, you commit a greater sin. If you do that it means that you are not believing in the healing and forgiving power and the mercy of God. I want all of you to prepare yourselves for Christmas and for receiving Christ. Christ Who is the Messiah. The only Redeemer and Savior of the world.

Geronda Ephraim, Bishop Sotirios and Gerondissa Alexia, Abbess of St. Kosmas Monastery  (Ελληνικός Τύπος)
Geronda Ephraim, Bishop Sotirios and Gerondissa Alexia, Abbess of St. Kosmas Monastery (Ελληνικός Τύπος)

Some of our people make the mistake that they don’t trust their priest. And of course, the Church tries to understand it, and by economy and showing love to the people, we sometimes bring over father-confessors from other regions. And we will do that during the period of Great Lent for Easter.

Geronda Joseph Mammis, abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, MI (originally from Montreal, QC)
Geronda Joseph Mammis, abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, MI (originally from Montreal, QC)

But some other people make the big mistake to go to some monasteries in the United States. Believe me, I am for the monasteries, but sometimes some of the father-confessors who are so inexperienced—there is one of them I have in mind but I am not going to say any names and who has been a priest for only two years—then damage is done to the souls of the people.

Hieromonk Michael Santos of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY (originally from Toronto, ordained in November 2009).
Hieromonk Michael Santos of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY (originally from Toronto, ordained in November 2009).

I don’t want to recount the story of a young man who went to one of those monasteries. But I want you to know there are some father-confessors who, instead of being an example of love and forgiveness, what they do many times they pass judgment on our priests who serve our communities. Many times they say that these priests are not worth your going to confess to them because some of them do not have beards, or some of them do not have the experience. But in reality, they don’t have the experience. I do not allow our priests to receive people for confession if I know that they don’t have the necessary experience.

Geronda Joseph Voutsas, abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY (originally from Thessaloniki)
Geronda Joseph Voutsas, abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY (originally from Thessaloniki)

And one of these abbots, I’m not going to say any names, he goes as far as to think he’s above the Church. And though the rule says of the people have not been married in the Church they cannot receive Holy Communion until they are married in the Church, he allows them to receive Holy Communion. And he is the one who passed judgment on our priests. I want all of you to be very careful. I want you to repent. I want you to purify your souls. And I want you to be prepared for the coming of Jesus Christ. He is the only Redeemer and Savior of the world. He is the Messiah. Let us prepare ourselves for His coming.

NOTE: In the spring of 1997, Geronda Joseph, with the help of Fr. George Passias, took his brotherhood from St. John the Theologian Monastery in Picton, ON and immigrated to the United States via St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona. They sought refuge there from Bishop Sotirios’ persecutions until December 1998, when they relocated and founded the St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY. This was followed by a series of accusations by Bishops Sotirios of stolen money, etc., which were countered by Geronda Joseph’s rebuttals in the Toronto Greek newspapers.

For those unfamiliar with the St. John the Theologian brotherhood, it consisted of:

*Fr. Germanos, who came with Geronda Joseph from Philotheou Monastery.

*Novice Anastasios, now Fr. Theophanes at Panagia Pammakaristos Monastery (NC). Bishop Sotirios once investigated the cells of the monks. Fr. Theophanes relates the bishop was scandalized because he had lots of pictures of Geronda Ephraim on his wall, and only one icon of Christ. Fr. Theophanes mother also became a nun at Holy Protection Monastery (at the original property in Weatherly, PA).

*Novice Athanasios, now Fr. Kassianos at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY)

*Novice Nikos, he was sent home from Arizona in 1998. Apparently he hid his thoughts from his Geronda, and couldn’t detach himself from his sister whom he frequently called. Thus, the devil isolated him from the brotherhood through his disobediences and he didn’t progress. It is said that shortly before he left the monastery, he started punching and breaking things and was losing control of his temper and composure.

Geronda Nektarios, Abbot of Panagia Pammakaristos Monastery in North Carolina.
Geronda Nektarios, Abbot of Panagia Pammakaristos Monastery in North Carolina.

*Novice Demetrios, now Geronda Nektarios, abbot of Panagia Pammakaristos (NC).

*Novice Iraklis, now Fr. Epifanios at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY).

Also, George (Mammis), now Geronda Joseph at Holy Trinity Monastery (MI) stayed as a sub-novice in Picton for a week or two and then afterwards was sent down to St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ).