Thinking of running off to the monastery? (Metropolitan David, 2004)

The following is a commentary on Fanny Pappa’s Open Letter on Life at the Monastery. Fanny Pappa’s daughter is Sister Chrysostomi at St. John Chrysostom Greek Orthodox Monastery in Wisconsin. 

I am a lonely voice crying out for change to these injustices in our monasteries. I’m sure nothing will come of my outcry, but someone has to speak out.

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

Let these young people live the monastic life, if they choose, but don’t deny them any contact with the families for baptisms, weddings and funerals or a holiday. I know my daughter will never leave the monastery because of her seven years of indoctrination and guidance by her monastic spiritual father. Her every move was guided by him. The nuns and monks are kept in complete isolation from the outside world and priests are not allowed to speak to the novices or even look directly into the eyes of the nuns.

Are we living in the dark ages or the 21st century? We have been very upset and losing faith with our Orthodox religion, and one of the priests I know told me, “the monastery is not the Orthodox religion. It is a cult with an ‘issue’ of strong control over all who have entered the monastic life.” Is this what St. Basil wanted his monasteries to become? A place of isolation from the world and control over a few individuals who serve there just to pray 24 hours a day and collect donations for themselves and their monastery?

Aerial view of St John Chrysostom Monastery.
Aerial view of St John Chrysostom Monastery.

The Orthodox have to know how my daughter and others are treated in the monasteries and the money being donated into these places of worship.

One of the many questions that need to be answered is:Why do all the nuns from St. John’s in Pleasant Prairie fly to Father Ephraim’s monastery in Florence, AZ, for the feast day of St. Anthony, but they can’t visit their families? Are we not worthy enough?

I ask every parent, is this the kind of life their son or daughter should follow with such strict obedience? Was this the plan St. Basil had when he started his monasteries? 

The 5 foolish virgins without oil in their lamp.
The 5 foolish virgins without oil in their lamp.

In the same forum thread, a certain Fr. Michael also gave an opinion on Fanny Pappa’s Open Letter:

After reading this post I thought I’d like to make a few comments on the article itself and on Monasticism in general.

There are a number of points the author makes about the way her daughter went into monastic life that are indeed bad, superstitious, inconsiderate and suspect. BUT there are some points which I believe the author needs to be educated on with regards to the monastic way of life.

The author states that everything was done in secrecy and her daughter was not told to inform her family about her decision. This is bad for a number of reasons: Entering the monastic life should be a celebration for everyone. Secrecy is absurd when making the decision to enter the monastic way of life. It’s like being baptized in secret without the celebration which comes from it – or making your first Communion.


The author says she was never told of the strict rules of monastic life and the complete isolation from family life. The fact of monastic rules and isolation, to some degree, is true. Monasticism entails the giving up your entire life for the sake of Christ. This means everything – family, friends, money, status, career, etc. I find it hard to understand that the author didn’t realize at least some of the sacrifice involved when her daughter entered the monastic life. BUT, the part where her daughter was denied permission to attend a funeral for a close family member was cold, unChrist-like, and hard hearted. And the response from the Gerontessa, “I receive my orders from God”, was flippant, disrespectful and out and out mean.

I also would like to comment on the part about the collecting of the daughter’s property. Yes, when you enter monastic life, you are expected to liquidate your assets and give them to the poor. What does this mean in a physical sense? Should the daughter have liquidated her assets and then given them to another body or organization for distribution to the poor? Who is more poor in physical needs than a monastery (and I’m not talking about Chartes, France either!)? There is nothing wrong when entering into the monastic life to give your physical assets to the particular monastery or convent you’re entering. BUT, again, the way this was accomplished was crass, rude and again un-Christ like.

I feel greatly for the author with regards to the horrible way she was treated . She felt betrayed and hurt which I don’t blame her in the least. The way her daughter’s entry into monastic life was cheapened by the actions of her fellow nuns. BUT most of the points made by the author in which she felt are not needed or antiquated are indeed part of the monastic life today.

I treasure our Benedictine apostolate for it’s sincerety, compassion and humility. My our holy Father Benedict pray for us always!

In Christ,


Geronda Ephraim and Hieromonk Pavlos (priest at Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Harvard, IL) walking along the path at St. John Chrysostom Monastery, Pleasant Prairie, WI.
Geronda Ephraim and Hieromonk Pavlos (priest at Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Harvard, IL) walking along the path at St. John Chrysostom Monastery, Pleasant Prairie, WI.