Hieromonk Michael was born to Reynaldo and Leonie Santos in 1969 in the Philippines. He is the middle child of two sisters, Michelle (formerly a novice nun 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.
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.
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).
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”).
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.
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.”
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.
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).
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.
Fr. Michael held his sister in high esteem. When talking to pilgrims, he would refer to her as, “my sanctified sister.” It is said that he had pictures of her in his cell as a nun for inspiration in the struggle (and kept them up even after she returned to the world).
In the mid-2000s, she left the Monastery returned to the world, which evoked a lot of gossip and conjecture amongst 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?”
It is said that 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).
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.
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.
SOURCES: http://www.greeknewsonline.com/demetrios-visits-st-nectarios-monastery-in-roscoe/ http://stnektariosmonastery.tumblr.com/ http://www.goarch.org/archbishop/demetrios/enthronement 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! http://stnektariosmonastery.com/notice.php 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.” 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/ http://stnektariosmonastery.tumblr.com/post/103102374101/account-temporarily-terminated-via-letter-from-the
There does not seem to be any indication on that Tumblr page indicating it claims to be the St. Nektarios Monastery 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 hired a lawyer to have that Tumblr page pulled down. 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’).” It is imperative to keep an image of perfection unblemished, despite the fact that it is not in keeping with reality.