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 Monastery. 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.

https://www.scribd.com/doc/263270549/Letter-from-St-Nektarios-Monastery-s-Lawyer-attempting-to-take-down-a-TUMBLR-page

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The Mauling of a Young Girl at St. Nektarios Monastery, Roscoe, NY (ca. 2000) [Updated]

NOTE: The following information is taken from posts published at http://stnektariosmonastery.tumblr.com/

In 1999, Geronda Joseph Voutsas wanted to have guard dogs for the monastery, similar to St. Anthony’s Monastery. He purchased 4 pure bred dogs from a local breeder; 3 German shepherds and 1 Rottweiler. They were named Chiotes, Duvelis, Roussos and Arapis. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Arapi

Arapi, Duvelis and Rousos.
Arapi, Duvelis and Rousos.

The original plan was to train them and use them as guard dogs because there had been numerous incidents of night time intruders and vandalism on the property.

One Sunday, the novice in charge of walking the dogs, Gregory, took them off their leash so they could run freely. On this particular day, a bus from Astoria was visiting the monastery. The bus organizer, Katerina Koutsoupakis, had brought her 2 young daughters. The girls were playing with other children at the monastery’s playground which was located just past the first pond.

The first pond at St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY. There use to be a small playground and trampoline beside it.
The first pond at St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY. There use to be a small playground and trampoline beside it.

The unleashed dogs ran to the playground and attacked Katerina’s daughter who was about 9 or 10 years old.

This girl was severely mauled—her face, arms, legs, etc. had been bitten, leaving wide, deep gashes. She was airlifted to a hospital in the city and proceeded to go through reconstructive surgeries, skin grafts, etc.

The other children were traumatized by the incident. The news spread through the five boroughs quickly. The monks were instructed they had no blessing to speak about the matter to anyone. If someone asked, they were to respond “I don’t know,” and if they were persistent, then the monk would refer them to Fr. Germanos or Fr. Epifanios.

Shortly thereafter, the young girl’s mother decided to sue the monastery to help pay for the large medical bills which her family could not afford. This action initiated a chain of events that were orchestrated by the monastery to help minimize the potential damage this embarrassing scandal could create.

New York State Police - Division Canine Unit in Cooperstown, NY
New York State Police – Division Canine Unit in Cooperstown, NY

First, a State Trooper from the K9 unit was called in to examine the dogs to see if it could be determined if they were at fault, or if they had any predispositions to this type of behavior. The expert determined that the shepherd with a floppy ear, Duvelis, was a fear biter and most likely the culprit that initiated the attack.

The monastery had to eliminate the evidence so no tests could be done on the dogs’ teeth/bite patterns, etc. Fr. Kassianos and a catechumen from Toronto (who was never baptized and has since fallen away from the Church) were given the obedience to take the 3 shepherds to the local animal hospital and have them put down.

Fr. Kassianos Titonis of St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery in Roscoe, NY.
Fr. Kassianos Titonis of St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery in Roscoe, NY.

The Rottweiler, Chiotes, was given as a blessing to a young man named Stavros in New Jersey. The monks were given an obedience to tell pilgrims that they had given all the dogs away as a blessing. The reason: the monks were unable to properly care for them so the dogs were given better homes.

Next, in order to minimize the monastery’s culpability, two of the older fathers started to coach the novice responsible for the dog incident on what his story would be at the hearing. This would be the ‘official’ story and he had to rehearse it daily with them until he had it memorized.

Fr. Mark Andrews:  spiritual Father of the Drewchin family and  biological father of a rassaphore at St. Nektarios Monastery, Fr. Raphael.
Fr. Mark Andrews: spiritual Father of the Drewchin family and biological father of a rassaphore at St. Nektarios Monastery, Fr. Raphael.

Katerina also started looking for a young girl who witnessed the attack. It was decided an older father would call her spiritual father so he could talk to the girl’s mother, who in turn would talk to the girl. She was essentially given an obedience to say she didn’t know or remember anything from that day if anyone was to ask her about what had happened.

Alexandra Drewchin, one of the witnesses of the brutal mauling, has gone on to become a famous musician. She sings in 2 bands: Eartheater & Guardian Alien. http://alexdrewchin.bandcamp.com/
Alexandra Drewchin, one of the witnesses of the brutal mauling, has gone on to become a famous musician. She sings in 2 bands: Eartheater & Guardian Alien. http://alexdrewchin.bandcamp.com/

During this time period, one of the monks from St. Nektarios, Fr. Philotheos, had to travel to St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence as he had an INS appointment down there (as the Brotherhood had not informed INS about relocating to NY, they were still using the Florence address and the monks without citizenship had to fly back and forth to Arizona for immigration appointments).

Fr. Philotheos did not want to return to New York due to ongoing problems there, and asked Geronda Ephraim if he could transfer to St. Anthony’s Monastery. He relentlessly begged big Geronda to allow this. Big Geronda allowed it and the monk remained at St. Anthony’s.

Katerina interpreted this event as an attempted cover-up, i.e. this monk was sent far away, out of state, so he wouldn’t be called to the hearing to testify, and thus must have been responsible as well.

Katerina talked to Fr. Philotheos when she visited St. Anthony’s to see  Geronda Ephraim for confession. She secretly recorded Fr. Philotheos while conversing with him, in the hopes she could obtain some kind of evidence to help her case. She understood his vague apology and self-reproach as an admission of guilt which further confused things, but was later resolved.

Geronda Ephraim admonished Katerina to drop the lawsuit. She did not obey his counsel.
Geronda Ephraim admonished Katerina to drop the lawsuit. She did not obey his counsel.

Despite Geronda Ephraim admonishing Katerina not to sue St. Nektarios Monastery, she proceeded (keep in mind, Geronda Ephraim’s own words are advice and admonishments are obediences too, the Elder shouldn’t have to say “I command you” or “This is a command.”). Katerina was awarded approximately $650,000.

This settlement was a setback for St. Nektarios Monastery as they had an obligation to pay a $25,000/month mortgage for the first two years of their existence, with the possible penalty of losing the property.

Geronda Joseph Voutsas, Abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY.
Geronda Joseph Voutsas, Abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY.

The consensus of the Elders was that Katerina would not enjoy her money and it’d bring her misery as she essentially was attacking St. Nektarios himself via her actions. Also, since she lost big Geronda as her spiritual father, and by extension the monasteries, she had essentially lost or forfeited her salvation.

The first grey tabby at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY) was named Arapi.
The first grey tabby at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY) was named Arapi.

NOTE: Arapi is equivalent to the English word “nigger” and at the monasteries, it is a name reserved for the black animals, or animals with the most black in them. ( http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Arapi )

"Arapis" the black cat at St. Anthony's Monastery in Arizona.
“Arapis” the black cat at St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona.

Geronda Ephraim had a black cat when he lived on Mount Athos with St. Joseph the Hesychast. He named it Arapi and it was one of his favorite cats. Thus, the name now has somewhat of a sentimental tradition and has been transplanted to the North American monasteries. The black cat at St. Anthony’s is named Arapi. Later, when the Geronda Joseph obtained some cats for St. Nektarios Monastery to help with mice control, he named the gray tabby cat Arapis).

Hierodeacon Stephanos Giannakouros feeding the cats at St. Nektarios Monastery.
Hierodeacon Stephanos Giannakouros feeding the cats at St. Nektarios Monastery.

Also see: https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/category/anti-black-sentiment-in-orthodox-patristics/

Blind obedience: For readers that may not understand, whenever a monk or nun is issued an obedience–and by extension a lay person who is confesses at the monastery–they are expected to do it, without complaints, grumbling, and especially without judging, criticizing or examining the order that is give. Even if the obedience is a ‘sin’, or a crime, etc. the disciple is not accountable for doing it; the one who has given the command will account for it. The disciple is accountable, though, if he/she does not obey. Geronda Ephraim has said in many homilies to his monastics, “On Judgement Day, God will ask a monk only one question: ‘Did you do obedience?’ If the answer is yes, then the monk will go to Paradise. If the answer is no, then eternal hell. This is the mindset monks and nuns live; and if they don’t have it, they struggle to acquire it through prayer, warring their thoughts, and caning themselves.  This is why there is a conspiracy of silence when incidents occur, and it’s also how the monasteries insulate themselves from outsiders. When the whole brotherhood or sisterhood is told, if anyone asks, this is the answer. Even if it is a lie, in the minds of the monks and nuns, they are not lying: they are doing their obedience and gaining crowns for the next life. Their only fear is not executing the obedience properly, by which they could lose their eternal soul if God happens to call them to the next life and they die in disobedience.

It should also be noted that one of the main obediences Geronda Ephraim has given to all the abbots and abbesses (and their second-in-commands) is he does not want scandals, he does not want bad examples from monks/nuns that incite people to talk badly about the monastery, extra special caution when a dignitary visits (many times before a bishop or priest visits a monastery, the Abbot or Abbess will call all the monastics for a pep talk to be on their best behavior, not to do or say anything that will scandalize the special guest), etc. There is a constant need for perfection that is not keeping with reality. And this anxiety of the abbots and abbesses not to sadden Geronda Ephraim is many times transmitted to the monastics.

Fr. Philotheos and Novice Gregory have both left the monastic life, and are now happily married living in the world.