Mother Christophora and the nuns of the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City, PA welcomed hundreds of pilgrims during the first weekend of August 2016 for the community’s annual pilgrimage marking the celebration of its patronal feast day.
The monastery church was filled on Friday evening, August 5, for the festal Vigil served by His Eminence, Archbishop Mark of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, guest hierarch; Priest Nikolai Breckenridge, New Kensington, PA; and Protodeacon John Oleynik, Canonsburg, PA. The nuns and friends hosted the pilgrims at the dinner that followed.
On Saturday, August 6, the day of the feast, Archbishop Mark and His Eminence, Archbishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, concelebrated the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the monastery’s outdoor Saint Elizabeth Pavilion Chapel. Nineteen priests from the OCA and the Greek and Antiochian Archdioceses led the hierarchs in the opening procession. Archbishop Mark delivered a stirring homily at the Liturgy, after which he presided at the traditional blessing of fruit.
For the first time this year, youth pilgrims had been invited to showcase their talents during the afternoon. Three teenage pilgrims offered oratorical presentations, while a fourth sang a beautiful rendition of “Blessed is the Man.” Participating youths were given gift certificates to the monastery store as a sign of thanks on behalf of the community.
Many pilgrims were anointed during the celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Unction, after which Great Vespers was celebrated. On Sunday, August 7, Archpriest Peter Pawlack celebrated Matins and the Divine Liturgy.
In August 2017, the community will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the monastery’s establishment by Mother Alexandra—the former Princess Ileana of Romania—who fell asleep in the Lord 25 years ago. See related story.