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January 1/14, 2015

Volume 1, Issue 1

Our inaugural newsletter is a chance to share a little of the life of St Nicholas Convent. First and
foremost it is a life of prayer. No priest is attached to the Convent presently so reader services are
conducted on a daily basis. With the help of visiting clergy Divine Liturgy is served 2-3 times per
month. Commemoration slips can be found on page 5 and names of Orthodox Christians
submitted will be remembered at our divine services.
Blessed with a large property on a peaceful setting retreats have become a major part of the life of
the Convent. You can read about our latest St Hermans Youth retreat on page 2.
Inside this issue
Like the famous New Yorker cover of years past much of the US west of Chicago Convent news
has been a mystery to me. It was illuminating and spiritually enriching to travel St Herman Youth Retreat
to the north and west of North America this past August in order to share the
Nativity Greeting
experiences of our sister communities and parishes out that way.
The North American pilgrimage began with the feast of Transfiguration at the Nativity of the Lord
mission in Wheaton, Illinois. The parish is led by Fr John Somers who had been an integral part of
the St Nicholas Summer Youth Retreat held in early August 2014. Following a pleasant visit with
relatives in Rochester, MN I headed west towards South Dakota, spending a delightful afternoon
in Sioux Falls, SD with Fr Michael and matushka Barbara Nedelsky. Illness prevents Fr Michael
from serving on a regular basis but they shared photos from the Convent of St Philothei near
Enkoping, Sweden where one of their daughters, sr Lydia, is now a nun.
Refreshed, the car headed west across the plaintive state of South Dakota to Rapid City, SD not to
see Mt Rushmore but rather a replication of an 11th century church Borgund Stave. The church
would look quite nice by the pond of the St Nicholas Convent property!
Inadvertently traveling through the hometown of Wild Bill Hickok, thereby
satisfying my taste of the wild West it was time to head north. A days drive
brought me to Great Falls, Montana where I passed by the Orthodox church of Ss
Constantine & Helen, my grandfathers first parish in the US. Amazing to
imagine that back in the late 1930s my grandmother on her own had brought
three young children from her little village in Greece across the Atlantic Ocean
and then by train across 2/3 of the United States to join her husband in service to the Orthodox
Church. Following a bit of an adventure with a dead battery just as I approached the border I
eventually made my way into Canada and up through Calgary to the Holy
Protection Convent in Bluffton, Alberta. Having spent my first years as a novice at
the St Elizabeth Convent in Jordanville it was most pleasant to discover
Jordanville West. While I had some vague notion of Bishop Savva (Saracevic) of
Edmonton I knew little of his history nor that of Archbishop Ioasaph who settled
in western Canada in the 1930s and industriously set about building numerous

churches throughout the territory. The grave of Bishop Savva along with those of Grave of Bishop
many Russian emigres from the 1940s and 50s are located in the Convent
cemetery which called to remembrance my Jordanville days where one of my first obediences was
to light the lampadas before the graves each Saturday in the cemetery there. (cont. p 3)



From December 24-26, 2014, about thirty youth,

clergy, and parents gathered at Saint Nicholas
Convent for the annual Saint Hermans Day Youth
Retreat. Over three days, they conducted services,
participated in organized discussions on spiritual
topics, and enjoyed a fellowship of faith.
On Wednesday, all attended two talks: the first on styles of Orthodox chants in
Eastern and Western rites, by monk Lazarus of the Elevation of the Cross Monastery
in Welland, Ontario, Canada; the second on the Sacrament of
Confession, by priest Daniel Meschter from Saint Innocent parish in
Pottstown, PA. Father Lazarus led his listeners in a rendition of Aramaic
chant, while Father Daniel exhorted them to apply the lessons of his talk in
Confession after the evenings service.
After a delicious meal, everyone attended a vigil service to Saint Herman at which the youth sang
melodically. On Thursday, all participated in the St Hermans Day liturgy and many communed of
the Divine Gifts.

Then after lunch, the conference attendees listened to a presentation by priest Thomas Marretta
from Saint Maximos parish in Owego, NY on the practice of the Jesus Prayer. He impressed on all
present the depth of the prayer, along with its relevance to daily spiritual life; everyone left the
talk edified.

Following Fr Thomas talk a number of participants joined St Maximos

parishioner Christa Gabriel and began to learn how to make their own
prayer rope.

That evening after dinner, priest Nicholas Chernjavsky of Holy Ascension parish in Rochester, NY
engaged the youth around a blazing bonfire, answering their questions about living an Orthodox
life in todays trying times.

On Friday after breakfast, all came to the last talk of the conference, which comprised a
discussion of Islam and its relation to Christianity. Daniel Meschter (son of Father Daniel)
presented a brief introduction on Islamic religious tradition and led a subsequent discussion on
Muslim sects and extremists.
Afterwards, the conference dispersed and all returned home, giving thanks to God for another
year and another wonderful, spiritual retreat.

many thanks to Daniel Meschter for this

report and Nikolai Vandalov for photos

THE CHURCH OUT WEST (cont. from p 1)

While my days in Bluffton fell during a trying time for the nuns (Mother Varsanophia, the eldest
nun of the community, who had been a faithful co-worker with
Vladyka Savva, was on her deathbed and would repose two days after
my visit) Abbess Ambrosia, her sisters and hieromonk Dionisije
offered wonderful hospitality and I enjoyed a peaceful and prayerful
time at the convent. It is a blessing to see a dedicated community
maintaining such an integral part of the ROCA legacy. More on the


Abbess Ambrosia and sisters

My stay in Alberta coincided with the feast of the Dormition so I was

fortunate to be able to join Fr Andrew Kencis and parishioners for Vigil and
Liturgy at Dormition Skete, a beautiful property located west of Edmonton.
Fr Andrew and his matushka Nina live on the property of the Skete which
Dormition Skete

had been bequeathed to them by the late Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov) who loved the site from
the time he had arrived there from South America with his brotherhood in 1955. It was a pleasure
to attend the festal services and the picnic following where I met a wonderful mix of people,
young and old and of various backgrounds, from converts to Romanians, Serbs and Russians that
make up the St Vladimirs parish.

Scenes from feast day at Dormition Skete, residence of St Vladimir parish priest Andrew Kencis

Too soon it was time to depart Canada but not before

giving thanks to God for the beautiful scenery on the drive
through the Canadian Rockies between Jasper and Banff.
Portland, Oregon was to be my next destination where I
first became reacquainted and enjoyed warm visits with
relatives and an old college classmate. I then made my way through the nooks and crannies of
southeast Oregon and managed to find the homesteads and share a cup of tea with a couple of
infamous ROCA Internet aficionados, Joanna Higginbotham and reader Daniel
Everiss. At Joannas initiative we were able to call upon Fr Constantine Parr, of the
Nativity of the Theotokos parish outside Portland, Oregon, who
was only recently recovered from a stroke but kindly served a
pannikhida on the anniversary of the repose of Fr Seraphim
Rose. Fr Constantine had converted to Orthodoxy in the ROCA
Joanna outside
parish of Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles but subsequently
her home
Fr Constantine
with his grandson of Portland to serve the parish which was originally affiliated with HOCNA but
is now part of the united Greek Orthodox Old Calendar church under
Metropolitan Demetrios of Astoria (
As enjoyable as they were, after the flurry of visits in Oregon it was pleasant to return to the quiet
rhythm of a monastic setting once again, this time at the St Elizabeth Convent in Etna, California.
In a previous visit to Etna months earlier much of the week had been spent in visits to the nearby
monastery and discussions with the residing bishops there, Metropolitan Chrysostomos and
Bishop Auxentios. While much appreciated and always informative and entertaining it was nice
this time to simply spend my days with the nuns, living in the same quarters and taking part as
much as possible in their daily cycle of life. The Convent is an impressive one, with many of the
buildings having been built by the sisters themselves. All are busy with their various obediences
(cont. p 6)

A certain priest was particularly diligent in praying for the dead whose names were given to him
to be remembered at the liturgy. He used to copy out these names into his private notebook and
pray for them all his life. The names accumulated, and eventually his notebook contained so
many thousands of names that he was forced to divide it into sections and take up one section a
day. It so happened that he fell into some sin which threatened him with losing his priestly rank.
This matter reached Philaret, the Metropolitan of Moscow. As the Metropolitan was about to sign
a resolution stating that the priest should be removed from his duties, he suddenly felt his hand
grow heavy. He thus postponed signing the document until the following day. In the night he
dreamt of seeing a great crowd assemble under his windows. In the crowd there were people of all
ages and walks of life. The crowd was agitated and finally addressed a plea to the Metropolitan.
What do you need? the bishop asked. And who are you? We are departed souls and have
come to you to plead for our priest. Do not remove him from his office.
Philaret, greatly impressed by this dream, was unable to forget if after he woke up. The accused
priest was brought before him. When the priest came, the Metropolitan asked him: What good
deeds have you done? Tell me? None, my Lord, the priest replied; I deserve to be punished.
Do you pray for the departed? asked the Metropolitan. Why yes, my Lord, always; it is a rule
with me always to remember all whose names are handed to me, and I always take out parts of
the prosphora for all of them, so that my parishioners have complained that my proskomide is
longer than the liturgy itself. But I cannot do otherwise.
The Metropolitan limited himself to transferring the priest to another parish, having first
explained to him who had interceded for him.
From Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave, HTM, Jordanville, NY 1996

Convent of Saint Nicholas

24 Tynan Road, Cleveland, NY 13042
Ph: 315-675-3178 e-mail: web:

(cont. from p 4) which

include iconography, embroidery and vestment making, and tending to their

various farm animals and gardens. What was most appealing though was attending services,
appreciating the order and dignity instilled by their abbess, Mother Elizabeth, and the beautiful
singing of the choir, which is not only musically adept, but so prayerful in nature, that it makes it
easy for one to pray. Time was made for one visit to the nearby Monastery of St Gregory Palamas
where I was able to have a brief conversation with the abbot, Fr Akakios, and stop in to see the
remarkable schemamonk Sergios, who always leaves one with a feeling of joy and gratitude.
Reluctantly leaving the Convent following liturgy Saturday morning I made the lengthy drive
down the coast to San Francisco to venerate the relics of Saint John (Maximovitch). Kneeling
before the relics of Vladyka John reminded me of praying before the tomb of St Seraphim of Sofia.
One has a palpable sense of the saints presence, and as the many people who constantly come to
them attest, many prayers are answered by these wonderful saints of our own time.
That evening was spent at the home of my kind hosts Nick and Xenia (Soubotin) Meyer and their
bright toddlers, Sophia and Andrew. Early the next morning I found
my way to the St Xenia parish of Fr Paul Iwaszewicz. An inspiring
priest, and one of strong faith like his father and brother, Archpriest
Valentin and priest Alejandro of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the visit to
his vibrant mission brough a fitting end to my travels out West. As I
headed east there were quick stops at the St John the Baptist parish in
Cedar Rapids, Iowa where I met up with Bishops Chrysostomos and Fr Paul with mat Elizabeth
and four of his children
Auxentios, and the Nativity of the Theotokos Serbian Convent in New
Carlisle, Indiana, where I shared a quick cup of tea with old acquaintances Mother Antonina and
sister Paula, and hieromonk Timothy (Tadros), cousin of Fr Elias Warnke, custodian of the St
Nicholas myrrh-streaming icon.
As sweet as it was to meet up with friends and relatives old and new, to see and appreciate so
many of the beautiful sights in this country which is so blessed, nothing was more fulfilling than
to return to the prayerful tranquility of a monastic home.
nun Agapia

St Nicholas Convent
Christmas Eve 2015

Peace on earth, good will towards men...