Major Russian Monastery In US Organizes 1st Feast Day Since COVID-19 Pandemic Began

WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 17th August, 2022) The major English-speaking monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in the United States was hit hard economically and physically during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it not only survived but it began to grow and organized its first feast celebration in nearly thee years, the convent's dean, Gabriel (Hooten), told Sputnik.

The Holy Cross monastery is a men's convent near the city of Wayne, West Virginia. The brotherhood numbers about 25 monastics, mostly Americans who converted to Orthodox Christianity from other denominations.

"Although there was some uncertainty for a period of time, we did not have it too bad," Gabriel said.

The monks were initially concerned about the economic state of the monastery, because the revenue from pilgrims decreased dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. However, they found additional ways to fundraise and began to sell more goods online, including candles and incense, he said.

Gabriel noted that the monks also decided to broadcast most of the services on the internet to give people an opportunity to pray while their local parish churches were closed down due to the pandemic measures. That allowed attracting people and establishing connections with those who previously had never known about the monastery.

"The abbot made a decision, in consultation with some of the fathers, to temporarily broadcast the services and I think many people discovered our monastery through that ministry," he said. "They began to participate in some way with our daily services, and it was a source of comfort and consolation to them when the churches were physically closed. So, we were able to make many connections with people who perhaps did not know about us before, and they were able to know us, to understand our life in some ways, and many people became interested in trying to help us."

This August, the monastery held its traditional St. Panteleimon feast day for the first time in nearly three years. The great martyr and healer, Panteleimon, an Orthodox Christian saint who lived in the ancient city of Nicomedia in the 3rd-4th centuries, is a patron saint of the Holy Cross monastery.

In 2020, the monastery had to cancel traditional celebrations because of the global coronavirus pandemic. Last year, the monks set a goal of holding the feast but almost all got infected with the coronavirus just a week before the gathering, which forced canceling it a second time in a row.

"This year, thank God, everything came together. There were no temptations to stop this feast day. This was a really great joy," Gabriel said. "We had some of the clergy from the local area, as well as from further away, friends and supporters of the monastery came and serve with us."

The Bishop of Manhattan, Nicholas, served the Divine Liturgy and gave a very inspiring sermon about the importance of turning to St. Panteleimon in prayers, and how the course of his life serves as a model for Orthodox Christians, Gabriel also said.

"We really rejoiced that St. Panteleimon brought us together, that we are able once again to pray together, to serve, to receive the Holy Mysteries and we thank him for arranging everything this year," Gabriel added.