His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon presided at the Synaxis of Superiors of Monasteries of the Orthodox Church in America at Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco Monastery here October 27-29, 2015. With the blessings of their diocesan bishops, the superiors participated in the Synaxis—the second in what is expected to become an annual event—for the purpose of strengthening the monastic life within the OCA and in an effort to identify areas of concern for the monastic communities that could be better addressed on a wider level within the Church or by means of stronger inter-monastery cooperation.
In addition to Metropolitan Tikhon, who oversees the stavropegial monasteries, His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, in whose diocese the Monastery of Saint John is located, was present for this year’s meeting. The OCA counts some 25 men’s and women’s monastic communities in the US, Canada and Mexico. Fourteen of those communities were represented at this year’s Synaxis by their respective superiors, which included
- Hieromonk Innocent, Superior of the Monastery of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco.
- Mother Christophora, Abbess of the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration, Elwood City, PA.
- Archimandrite Sergius, Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, South Canaan, PA.
- Brother Christopher, Prior of the Monks of New Skete, Cambridge, NY.
- Sister Cecelia, Prioress of the Nuns of New Skete.
- Mother Raphaela, Abbess of the Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery, Otego, NY.
- Mother Gabriella, Abbess of the Holy Dormition Monastery, Rives Junction, MI.
- Mother Thekla, Abbess of the Mary and Martha Monastery, Wagener, NC.
- Archimandrite Gerasim, Abbot of Saint Elias Hermitage, Smoky Lake County, AB, Canada.
- Mother Cassiana, Superior of the Holy Protection Monastery, Lake George, CO.
- Mother Victoria, Abbess of Saint Barbara Monastery, Santa Paula, CA.
- Mother Melania, Superior of Holy Assumption Monastery, Calistoga, CA.
- Mother Sergia, Abbess of the Presentation of the Theotokos Monastery, Marshfield, MO.
- Mother Capitolina, Superior of the Protecting Veil of the Theotokos Community, Anchorage, AK.
At the conclusion of the Synaxis, the superiors reaffirmed the statement that they had issued at the conclusion of last year’s meeting, which reads as follows.
“As the synaxis of abbots and abbesses we were grateful to be together for these days and rejoiced at our intuitive sharing with each other in the Church services, at meals and in conversations about our common monastic life. While recognizing our shared challenges, especially in forming monasticism in North America, we can affirm the general health of monasteries in the OCA. We are committed to struggle to pray unceasingly; to live the values of the desert in the 21st century; to be witnesses and missionaries of the Kingdom “that is not of this world;” to intercede for all creation, for the Church and especially for the sick, the suffering and the departed; to provide welcoming places of spiritual retreat and hospitality whenever possible, especially for clergy and their families; to continue the effort to establish a truly indigenous and organic monastic presence in North America; and to encourage the Church at large to celebrate the diversity of monastic communities.”
During their wide-ranging discussions over the Synaxis’ three days, the superiors
- discussed the nurturing and encouraging of monastic vocations as a priority for the entire Church.
- noted the presence of monastics at the 18th All-American Council in Atlanta and suggested possibilities for increased participation in future Councils.
- emphasized the monastic life as a vital part of the mission of the church.
- discussed the development within each monastic community of programs of formation and training for monastics.
- proposed creative methods by which the clergy and faithful might be introduced more fully into the richness of the monastic life.
- suggested that parish awareness of monastic life ought to be encouraged, perhaps by setting aside a month or at least a Sunday devoted to connecting with monks, nuns and monasteries.
- began the process of reviewing Article XIII of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America on Monasteries. Further review will take place over the coming year with dialogue with the Commission on Canons and Statutes.
- offered support to Metropolitan Tikhon’s proposed “Guiding Framework” with its focus on the four pillars of
- the spiritual life,
- evangelism and outreach and
- external affairs.
- reaffirmed that the emergence of authentic monasticism in North America can only come with time, effort and the grace of God.
The superiors were grateful for the opportunity to meet and pray together and agreed that such meetings would be helpful on an ongoing basis. The next meeting of the Synaxis will be held October 25-27, 2016, at a monastery location to be confirmed.