NOTE: This newspaper article is taken from The Daily Courier, July 16, 1996.
20 monks inhabit St. Anthony’s
FLORENCE (AP)—The town long synonymous with prisons and barbed wire now has a new claim to fame: It is also home to North America’s newest Greek Orthodox monastery.
About 20 monks now inhabit the red brick walls of St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox monastery, which has been under construction since October and is scheduled to be completed in August.
It lies about 14 miles south of Florence on Pinal Pioneer Parkway and east on Paisano Drive, an old bumpy dirt road, with hundreds of cactus on either side and only a handful of homes in the area.
The first thing that can be noticed while driving down the dirt road to the monastery are the huge copper domes covering the chapel and bell tower.
The chapel dome, constructed with steel and covered with plywood then copper, weighs in at more than 9,000 pounds. The chapel is nearly finished, and is expected to finished by August, construction superintendent Manuel Tavares said.
[Note: The architect, Chris Ganos (d. 2001) of Ganos Associates Architects and his architectural drafter, John McClain, also worked on the St. Anthony’s Monastery project during this time period].
The monastic community was founded last year by Father Ephraim, a spiritual elder from the homeland of Mount Athos, Greece. Ephraim believed this desert area was ideal for the monastery because of the remote location away from the distractions of the outside world. The solitude would better allow the monks to focus on spiritual devotion.
Ephraim also is responsible for opening nine other monasteries around the United States, seven being women’s monasteries.
The day-to-day business at St. Anthony’s is run by Father Paisios, the elder at the monastery. Paisios described the schedule the monks follow on a daily basis: Their day starts at midnight when they wake and have personal prayer time until 3:30 in the morning.
At 3:30 a.m., they all meet in the chapel and have church services until 7:30, followed by breakfast. Around 8:30 a.m., they lie down for a 2 ½ hour nap.
The monks then wake and have indoor-and-outdoor chores until lunch, which the cook announces by walking out into the courtyard and striking a bell.
After lunch, the monks then do more outside work like installing a new underground watering system for their landscaping and orchard, which surround their chapel and dormitories.
[Note: What is missing here is the bed time and evening sleeping hours. Lights out was generally 8pm. The fathers awoke at 12am and chugged a room temperature coffee–if their empty stomach could handle it–in order to help them through their vigil. So daily, a monk was allowed 6 1/2 to 7 hours sleep broken up into 2 segments]
During the whole time the monks are working outdoors they wear the traditional garb of long, dark robes and tall hats. As they walk or work they can also be heard praying, or seen making prayer ropes.
Paisios said that the monastery owns about 107 acres and plans to build a woman’s monastery in the future. They also have plans for a bigger church and more dormitories in order to have all of the other monks in the country come together for special occasions.
But for now the monks will be happy just to get their chapel finished in order to start having their church services in a much bigger area than they have been in since last year. The public is welcome to join in the church services when the chapel is completed in August, Paisios said.