Holy Myrrhbearers MonasteryAccessible

Otego, New York

Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery

Founded 1977

Diocese: Stavropegial Institutions

Deanery: Stavropegial Chapels


144 Bert Washburn Rd
Otego, New York 13825-2265


Website: holymyrrhbearers.com

Office: 607-432-3179

Fax: 607-433-4792

Parish Contacts


By bus
Take Trailways or Greyhound to Oneonta.

from the north/northwest
Take the NY Thruway or Rt 20 east to Rt 28 south.  This connects with 205 south towards Oneonta.  At the intersection of Rts 205 and 23, turn right and go 1 mile to west Oneonta.  Turn left onto South St (County Rd 8) and go between 3 and 4 miles to a small white church on the right.  Make the first right turn after the church onto Bert Washburn Rd.  Monastery is the second place on the right.

From the south
Take I-87 north to the Harriman exit.  Take 17 west to Roscoe.  From there take 206 north to Walton and follow signs for Oneonta:  County Rd 21 to Franklin, 357/28 to I-88.  Take I-88 west (towards Binghamton) to exit 13, to Rte 205 north.  At the fork where Rts 205 and 23 divide, go left 1 mile to West Oneonta.  Turn left onto South St (County Rd 8) and go between 3 and 4 miles to a small white church on the right.  Make the first right turn after the small church to Bert Washburn Rd, and the Monastery is the second place on the right.

From Albany
Take I-88 west (towards Binghamton) to exit 13, to Rte 205 north.  At the fork where Rts 205 and 23 divide, go left 1 mile to West Oneonta.  Turn left onto South St (County Rd 8) and go between 3 and 4 miles to a small white church on the right.  Make the first right turn after the small church to Bert Washburn Rd, and the Monastery is the second place on the right.

From Binghamton
Take I-88 east (to Albany) to Otego (exit 12).  Turn left at the end of the entrance ramp into Otego.  Turn right at the “T” and go through the village.  Make the first possible left hand turn after the only traffic light in town, to Otsdawa Ave.  Go approximately 6 miles and turn left onto Bert Washburn Rd.  Monastery is the second place on the right.

The nearest airports are in Binghamton or Albany.

Schedule of Services

All services are in English.  Please phone ahead for possible schedule changes.  The Monastery presently has no assigned priest and the nuns normally attend Divine Liturgy at St. Innocent’s Mission, Oneonta, NY.  Divine Liturgy is scheduled in the monastery chapel on weekday feasts and selected other occasions.

The nuns do the Hours daily:  Matins at 5:00 AM, Third Hour at 9:00, Sixth Hour at Noon, Ninth Hour at 3:00 pm, Vespers at 5:00, Compline at 7:00.  On Saturdays and the vigils of feasts, the Vigil service begins at 6:00 pm and Compline is not served.

During Great Lent, Presanctified is served in the monastery chapel on Wednesdays beginning with the Ninth Hour and Typica at 3:00 pm.  On Fridays, the Presanctified begins at 6 pm.
Wednesday & Friday Evenings During Great Lent

All are welcome to our pilgrimages.  On these days we celebrate with the Divine Liturgy, an Akathist and a Healing Service, all followed by fellowship and pot-luck refreshments and vespers or vigil as appropriate.  We schedule services for both Saturday and Sunday of the weekend of our patronal feast of the Holy Myrrhbearers, always the second Sunday after Pascha.  Our Fall Pilgrimage is always scheduled for the second Saturday of October.

Parish Background

Myrrhbearers Sunday 2007 marked the 30th Anniversary of the first Divine Liturgy we celebrated as a community.  That service took place in May of 1977 in St Sergius of Radonezh Chapel at the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America, where we lived and worked for our first five years.  Here, we will chronicle some highlights of these beginning years.

During the first five years at the OCA Chancery, we were blessed to experience the Church very intensely.  Those who work in similar situations know the sense of being very inspired and alternately very tempted.  God is merciful.  Even if there had been no other reason, we believe He put us there to give us genuine compassion for those in positions of authority who must deal with so much in our churches.

There were many other reasons for being at the Chancery, however.  We were able to form bonds of friendship with many people, both within the OCA and in other jurisdictions, that we cherish to this day.  In addition, during that period, Metropolitan Theodosius made possible our visits to other monasteries in this country, and also to the Monastery of the Protection of the Mother of God in Bussy, France.  We are truly grateful for the generosity, support, and patience our fellow monastics have shown through these years as we feel our way into a traditional form of monastic prayer and life within our American setting.

Metropolitan Theodosius, along with clergy, choir directors, and others in and near the Chancery as well as friends at St Vladimir’s Seminary did much to educate and encourage us in developing a full cycle of monastic services.  We were given the time and the resources to compile our service books:  the Horologion, Octoechos, Triodion, Pentecostarion, and Menaion.  In the years since then we have continued to add to and revise our services as new translations have appeared and as our choir skills have improved.

When it became obvious that we would need our own home in order to grow into a fully monastic life-style, the Metropolitan blessed us to move into rented quarters near St Vladimir’s Seminary for an interim period.  During this time, we tested our ability to live on our own, to find our own sources of income and become incorporated so that we could purchase property.  We found many more wonderful friends who made good suggestions and gave us the encouragement we needed to begin the mail-order business that has become a central means of support.

We began property-hunting on a shoe-string budget in 1982.  By the summer of 1983, we were beginning to wonder if the Lord really did want us to have a permanent home.  Then we found a Pennysaver ad for our present property.  It was a bargain:  144 acres with farmhouse, two barns, mobile home and pond for $55,000.  Still, that was eleven times the money we had so carefully saved in the bank.  We believe it was a series of miracles that made it possible for us to move here on the day after Thanksgiving in 1983, and another miracle that left us mortgage-free shortly after the death of Fr Alexander Schmemann.

In 1985, not long after we moved here, parishioners from SS Peter & Paul Church in Herkimer volunteered their services to build us a chapel.  They were soon joined by members of St Basil Church in Watervliet and Dormition Church in Binghamton.  John Gala of SS Peter & Paul drew up the plans, and we were able to hire a contractor to put in a full-basement foundation the following fall,.  We had just enough funds to buy the materials for our volunteers to cap the basement in time for winter.  By the next spring we were able to begin the next phase.  There were several workdays when Orthodox men and women gathered from all over New York State and northern Pennsylvania to put up the framing and close in the shell of the new structure.  Then our faithful crews from Herkimer, Watervliet, and Binghamton began the long work of finishing the interior as we were able to purchase the supplies.

Those of you who have been here know that the chapel is truly a beautiful labor of love, from the many windows and skylights to the French doors, oak parquet floors and knotty pine paneling. The only sad part was that the wonderful work parties ended, and many of our friends missed seeing us as we missed seeing them!  Fully 200 people were present for the consecration of the chapel by Metropolitan Theodosius, assisted by Bishop Job, Fr Thomas Hopko (our spiritual Father), Fr James Jadick (who had headed up most of the construction work), Fr Stephen Belonick, and other local area clergy.  One of the moving parts of the service came when the Metropolitan handed out certificates to those who had helped to build the chapel.  Almost everyone present qualified, and he wisely thanked al the wives who had put up with their husband’s long hours away and often had come themselves to help feed everyone.

Many of these people, together with new friends, have gathered in the chapel to witness first a life-procession, then the clothing of a new Sister in the Monastic Habit, and more recently, the installation of Mother Raphaela as the Monastery’s first Abbess.  In many ways these very moving services are the seal and confirmation of all the faith and work that has gone on before.

There is no question that having our chapel consecrated was a major milestone for us.  Since then, through the generosity of friends, an iconostas with beautiful icons has been added, the main icons being gifts from St Gregory the Theologion Church in Wappingers Falls, NY.

Shortly after the chapel was finished, many of our friends from St Michael’s in Geneva, NY donated funds to plant the memorial prayer garden that has been a source of joy to us and to our guests.  Fifty small cedars were planted around the outside and they have grown into walls for shelter and privacy.  It has become a lovely outdoor chapel.  During the summer it is a quiet place for prayer and reading and on occasion we serve Vespers and Memorial Services there.

In 1991, again through the generosity of friends, we were able to purchase a small piece of property adjoining our pond with an old house originally built for the families who ran the mills on our millpond.  We have found documents during the first commercial operation of those mills to 1803.  Sadly, although the dam was a source of power in the 1950s, floods and the ravages to time have now left us only the dam with its original laid-stone spillway and what we call the mill house.  By 1995 we were able to begin the renovation of this house which was completed in early 1997, and it is now available for the use of our guests.  Please write or phone for reservations, as space is limited and often taken in advance.

By 1998, on the site of the old farmhouse, we completed building a two-story, 32’ x 92’ space to inspire, support, and encourage women who sense a call to dedicate their lives to repentance and labor, the worship of God, and prayer for His people and His world.  It provides the silence and privacy needed for the hideden life of a monastic while also providing additional rooms where guests and other pilgrims can find hospitality and God’s healing peace and beauty.  As funds have become available, we have added a portico entry-way, tying together the Chapel and Monastery buildings, a bell tower with 6 bells from Russia, and a deck for the sisters’ use.

This renovation and construction was made possible by a Pan-Orthodox committee, the Friends of Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery, who volunteered to help us with necessary fund-raising.  Mr Robert Carpenter, head of Carpenter Poros Construction and also parish president of Dormition Church, Binghamton, headed the construction crew after donating the plans.

We also dream that one day we will be able to put up a large summer church for the occasions when already our chapel is too small.  An old octogonal barn north of us, listed on the National Historic Register, looks like a classic Byzantine Church needing only to be moved and to have a cross placed on the cupola.  It is not being maintained and we recently learned that is was offered to a historical society that turned it down. When we find the funds either to move it or to duplicate it, we believe that it will be a beautiful church that Orthodox of all traditions will be able to recognize as their own.

St Vladimir’s Seminary Press has published two books collections of our Abbess’s essays:  “Living in Christ” and “Growing in Christ,” both by Mother Raphaela.  A third book of her essays is under consideration by the Press.  This is helping to win us many new friends.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it will labor in vain.”  We ask you to join us in our prayer that we may grow only as the Lord wills.  We pray that those dreams which are simply desires for the glory and praise of men will not come to pass and that those which are for the glory of God, the salvation of our souls and the hastening of His Kingdom will be blessed.  May we continue to see the mighty works of God throughout the years of our monastery’s life.

Thirty years is a very short time by monastic standards, and we know we have many miles ahead to travel as individuals and as a community.  Still, we “declare the mighty acts of the Lord” as we have witnessed them in these past years.  We go forward, grounded in gratitude for all that we have been given, with the humility to recognize that everything that has come has come usually in spite of ourselves, so that God is glorified in all things.  This is our “Good News!”