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Telephone: (604) 826-9336.
Mail: PO Box 18, Dewdney, BC, Canada V0M 1H0
Location: 37323 Hawkins Road, Dewdney, BC.
In the year of 1968, during a visit to Mount Athos, Lev Puhalo and Vasili Novakshonoff developed the idea of founding a Canadian Orthodox monastery. Discussions with some of the monks on the Holy Mountain brought to mind the fact that monasticism is very much at the heart of the development of national Orthodoxy in every country where the Faith has flourished.
Since some of the monks on Mount Athos had advised them not to delay, but to act at once on their calling, Lev and Vasili immediately set about to develop their plan. Having no financial resources for the undertaking, they began their struggle in a tiny hut east of Rosedale, BC. The building had only a dirt floor, and in the late autumn of 1969, they built a platform of scrap lumber over half the floor, while the other half remained dirt. During the first winter, which was exceptionally cold and damp, the two strugglers found that their roof had several leaks. That year witnessed a number of ice and snow storms in the upper Fraser Valley region, and the two strugglers endured much from the cold winds which blew through the poorly built walls of the skete. Since the building was uninsulated and had no source of heat, they stretched two sheets of plastic over a rope line, placed a small kerosene burner between them, and these two make-shift tents became the first cells of the first Canadian Orthodox monks.
A symposium titled “Forgotten Voices, Women in the Early Church” was held at the monastery in the spring. It introduced both Orthodox Christians and a large number of Protestants to great women saints of the early Church, such as Zinaida, Philonella and Hermione. A large number of people attended from Metropolitan Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and the state of Washington. In fact, not everyone could be comfortably accomodated in the auditorium and some were left to stand through the talks. The success of this symposium can be measured by the invitations from various Protestant churches for Vladika Lazar to speak on the same subject to their congregations. Speakers at the symposium included David Goa and Anna Altmann from Edmonton.
The kitchen of this poor skete was in the area with the dirt floor, and consisted of only a Coleman stove and a single tap with cold water. There was no plumbing. In these conditions, the two translated the life of St Theophil, the Fool for Christ of the Kiev Caves and the life of the Blessed Xenia (both published at Jordanville, NY), and a significant portion of the History of Russian Imperial Coronations for the Russian Orthodox Youth Committee.
Lev was ordained deacon in 1972 and remained in the monastery of the Russian Church for one year, before being assigned to serve in a parish in the US for another three years, then returning to Canada to resume the development of the first Canadian Orthodox monastery. Deacon Lev travelled a great deal lecturing and giving talks in Orthodox parishes for young people. During these years, he developed a deep feeling for isolated Orthodox Christians living in areas where church life was not available to them. His ministry to isolated Orthodox Christians was to become a central feature of the Canadian Orthodox Monastery of All Saints of North America, and Fr Lev became the first Orthodox missionary in modern times to seek out and serve isolated Orthodox Christians in Canada and America.
The second monastery site was somewhat more substantial than the first. It consisted of a tiny four room cabin in the mountains above the Chilliwack River Valley south of Chilliwack, BC. There was no plumbing or running water in this building either, but it was insulated and had a sound roof. The development of the first Canadian Orthodox monastery continued on this site in 1973. With Deacon Lev’s frequent absence, Vasili carried on much of the struggle alone. It was at this time that Synaxis Press was founded to become the first Canadian Orthodox publishing house. Publication of the Canadian Orthodox Missionary began in 1973, and the first edition of the Synaxis Theological Journal appeared in 1974.
During the first years of the new monastery, the monks heated themselves and cooked food with an ancient stove. Deacon Lev cut and split many cords of firewood each fall, and in 1974 installed a pipeline bringing cold water into the monastery from a spring on the mountainside above the monastery building. This second monastery would never have hot water or indoor plumbing.
Vasili continued with full time secular employment in order to finance both the monastery and the mission to isolated Orthodox Christians. Deacon Lev built a chapel onto the monastery for regular services, and this chapel would become the site of the first English-language Orthodox parish in Western Canada. These were years of hard work and struggle for the monks. Their mission and goals were not understood by ultra-ethnic jurisdictions and the idea of Orthodoxy expressed in the English language was strongly resisted. At the same time, Deacon Lev was one of the most active Orthodox Christian missionaries in North America. He often travelled as much as 10,000 miles on Greyhound and other buses during a year, helping isolated Orthodox Christians in small communities and speaking to many non-Orthodox groups about the Faith. Many people were converted or returned to Orthodoxy by his tireless but exhausting efforts. All this activity was financed by the monks from their own labors.
In 1980, a small group of Canadians of Romanian descent living in the Chilliwack area came to the monastery and asked if they could worship in the monastery chapel. Bishop Ireney of New Gracanica ordained Deacon Lev to the priesthood for the new parish of St Tikhon and the monastery.
When Fr Lazar was called upon to go to New Gracanica, north of Chicago, to help found the St Sava Serbian Orthodox Seminary for the New Gracanica Metropolitanate, Metropolitan Ireney ordained Fr Varlaam to the priesthood to serve the St Tikhon parish. Fr Lazar spent most of the next five years at New Gracanica, and during this time, he rebuilt the St John the Baptist parish in Cedar Rapids, IA.
In 1985, the parish of St Nicholas in Langley, BC appealed to the monastery for help and for a priest. St Nicholas Canadian Orthodox Church in Langley became the second English language Orthodox parish in Western Canada.
Because pure beeswax candles were not available locally, Fr Varlaam built a small candle factory to produce hand-dipped, pure beeswax candles in the two parishes and the monastery.
The feast of the “Theotokos, Joy of Canada” was established in 1984, when Metropolitan Ireney of New Gracanica presented the Monastery with a small icon of the Theotokos as a blessing to its Canadian Mission.
Fr Lazar was consecrated bishop in 1990. At about the same time, the monks felt a need to develop the monastery further, and with prayer and fasting, and less than $5000 in the bank, they began to search for new property. By God’s mercy, the monks were able to acquire a forty acre property with an 8000 square foot main building, all divided into large rooms. The Canadian Orthodox Monastery of All Saints of North America was able, by God’s blessing, to take possession of the new property in November 1991.
Vladika Lazar named the property itself “New Ostrog” after the famous Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Montenegro. The candle factory was dedicated to the protection of St Vasili of Ostrog.
With God’s help, and the prayers of the faithful, the monastery continues to grow and thrive. The conference series, held under the auspicies of St Maximos Centre for Canadian Orthodox Studies, located in the New Ostrog complex within the monastery grounds, has become a standard feature of Canadian Orthodox life and development. By God’s blessing, twenty-five years of lonely, patient struggle for the spiritual development of Canadian Orthodoxy has begun to bear fruit. The brotherhood looks forward with faith and assurance in God’s mercy and help, to the future.
The monastery was received in 2003 into the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), where it enjoys the prayerful intercessions and blessing of our Metropolitan Herman and Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and All Canada.
Events in 2004
The monastery sponsored an exhibit commemorating the 800th anniversary of the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by the Crusaders. The monastery hosted the Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers, co-sponsored by the Fraser Valley Orthodox Clergy Association, and on All Saints Sunday, Bishop Seraphim together with many clergy and faithful celebrated a Healing service. The annual pilgrimage and feast of the Theotokos “Joy of Canada” was celebrated in August, with a cross-procession with the bearing of relics and icons. On October 1, the Monastery, together with the Orthodox Peace Fellowship and Simon Fraser University Orthodox Club sponsored a peace forum in Vancouver. On October 2, a new exhibit of icons by Canadian Iconographer Heiko Schlieper opened as part of the Monastery’s gallery. In November, a special forum will be held called “Conversations on Mars Hill” and features dialogues on a wide variety of subjects between Archbishop Lazar and leaders of civil and secular society, moderated by Canadian philosopher David Goa. Finally, during 2004, a number of Synaxis Press publications were translated into Romanian, Russian and Greek.
Events in 2005
The Monastery has begun a new outreach for Russian and Ukrainian speaking people by serving the Divine Liturgy once a month in Church Slavonic. This has been met with great enthusiasm and it enables people who live farther away from Vancouver to come to the monastery for liturgies, baptisms, etc. The monastery also continued to served weddings, baptisms and other services for Orthodox Christians living in isolated areas of British Columbia.
Our video and DVD filming outreach continues to develop. With the cooperation of David Goa, Director of the Chester Ronning Institute in Edmonton, and Father James Matta of California, the monastery produced a number of new videos and DVDs this past year. All filming has been done in the Heiko Schliepper Icon Museum but work continues on remodeling a sitting room into a filming studio, where future productions will take place. As before, videos are available and now many of these same videos have been transferred to DVD.
An Anointing service was held on the Feast of All Saints, with the following clergy participating: Archbishop Lazar, Bishop Varlaam and Hieromonk Moses from the Monastery of All Saints of North America; Archpriests Michael Fourik and Stephen Slipko of Holy Resurrection Church, Vancouver; Fr Iohanna Ayoub from Prophet Elias Arabic Church, New Westminster; Archpriest Lawrence Farley of St Herman of Alaska Church, Surrey; Priest Nicolae Lapuste of Holy Trinity Romanian Church, Vancouver; and Priest John Bingham of St Nicholas Church, Langley. The outdoor service was celebrated in several languages (English, Slavonic, Romanian, Arabic and Greek). A Cross-Procession followed with clergy and laity carrying relics and icons.
Archbishop Lazar has made two trips to Romania in 2005, first in spring where he gave a number of talks particularly to students at various universities. In autumn a second trip was made to speak at an international congress, sponsored by the Romanian Academy of Sciences, the Romanian Patriarchate and the Templeton Foundation. Vladika Lazar spoke at both Bucharest and Constantsa. This year alone, three of his books have been translated into Romanian and published. Two of his articles have appeared in the official journal of the Romanian Academy of Science, and the Academy also translated and published his book “The Evidence of Things Not Seen.”
The popular book, “God’s Fools,” published by Synaxis Press and reprinted a number of times, has been translated into both French and Greek. It is readily available in France under the title of “La Vie des Fols-en-Christ: Folie de monde et Sagesse de Dieu.” In August, “God’s Fools” was translated into Greek and published on Mount Athos.
It was a great joy to be able to set out for veneration two new relics: St Paissy de la Niamt and St Haralambos, both of whom are greatly loved by Orthodox Christians.
The annual “Joy of Canada” feast was marked this year by a special Cross-Procession. In previous years the Icon of the Theotokos was carefully carried by two clergy. This year, however, a special icon case had been built for it as well as a structure allowing the icon to be carried by four people.
The “Joy of Canada” icon of the Theotokos made its first journey out of British Columbia when it was taken to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and Edmonton, Alberta. In Saskatoon, it was received at the Holy Resurrection Sobor with the chanting of the Akathist composed for it, and a Divine Liturgy. The reception of the icon was almost overwhelming in the love and sincerity shown by everyone. From there it was taken to Edmonton where it first visited Holy Trinity Church where Vespers and an Akathist were served. It also visited St Herman Sobor where an Akathist was served. This was the first pilgrimage away from the Monastery of this holy wonderworking icon. The feast of “Joy of Canada” is the first truly Canadian Orthodox feast, and it is appropriate that the icon should make pilgrimages throughout Canada as a blessing to our nation.
The Monastery of All Saints of North America sponsored a lecture and display commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the Russo-Japanese War. Following a Slavonic Liturgy, Elena Koutarjevskii gave a spirited and illuminating talk in Russian on the significance of this war to Russians and English was arranged by George Patrikeeff, serving as an edifying for this occasion.
The monastery, mainly through the efforts of Archbishop Lazar, has made a tremendous outreach, first to local universities by means of talks, discussions and seminars, and to the states of the United States where similar lectures were given. We must include in this outreach Vladika’s extensive tours in Romania.
Several new titles have been published by Synaxis Press and older titles have often been reprinted, such as “The Guardian Angel” which has gone through numerous reprintings. As well, the 2006 Traditional (Julian) Calendar has been prepared and will be available to all those who would make use of it.
The monastery’s website has been updated and consolidated, with an effort to make material more accessible to viewers.
Events in 2006
This year the Monastery of All Saints of North America has had a constant flow of pilgrims and visitors. They are all warmly received, given a tour, offered tea, and in the case of Orthodox visitors and pilgrims, taken to the Church to reverence the many relics and icons in it.
The monastery’s website has been worked on and updated, thanks to a concerted effort by a number of faithful. Its Russian page has greatly expanded and now the website is becoming truly Canadian in its multi-lingual approach.
Archbishop Lazar has led a number of retreats this year in Washington, DC, Virginia, Florida, Michigan and Baltimore, as well as in Regina, Saskatchewan and Sifton, Manitoba. He has given many lectures, as he does every year, and we should note that he was the keynote speaker at the Orthodox Christian Laity Association’s annual communities in Baltimore, MD.
Synaxis Press continues to re-print various titles as well as adding new ones. More books written by Archbishop Lazar have been translated into Romanian and are becoming increasingly popular there. Permission has also been given to have titles translated into Russian and published in Russia.
The main events at the Monastery of All Saints of North America continue to be: the Sunday of Orthodoxy celebration; Paschal Vespers service and agape which attracts many people, including a number of non-Orthodox who find it spiritually uplifting; the Anointing Service on the Sunday of All Saints which attracted more than 500 faithful this year; and the Feast of the Monastery’s Icon, the “Theotokos, Joy of Canada” which is the All-Canadian Orthodox Pilgrimage.
In August, Archbishop Lazar led a pilgrimage from the Prairie Provinces to Sifton, Manitoba, which has become a provincial heritage site because of its Orthodox Church, cemetery and former monastery. The two Canadian pilgrimages—one to the Feast of the “Theotokos, Joy of Canada” and the other to Sifton, Manitoba—have made an indelible mark on the Orthodox Faithful, and certainly those of Western Canada.
The agricultural aspect of the Monastery has, once again, not been too successful, since the bears eat most of the blueberries, apples, plums, cherries and pears, but the monastics have become accustomed to sharing with the surrounding wildlife!
Finally, much outside publicity has been given to the Monastery, especially in a three-page spread in the Vancouver Sun, which is Western Canada’s leading newspaper.