The Most Holy Mother of God Monastery: A New Beginning

An Eastern Catholic monastery is spiritually indispensable for the Ukrainian Church in Canada , and is of vital importance for each of the faithful. As a place of peace, prayer and brotherly love, the monastery is the clearest sign of God's presence in the world, and is, indeed, the very heart of the Church. In his Apostolic Letter Orientate Lumen (The Light of the East), His Holiness Pope John Paul II states: "Monasticism has always been the very soul of the Eastern Churches ... The monastery is the prophetic place where creation becomes praise of God, and the precept of concretely lived charity becomes the ideal of human coexistence, becoming a reference point for all people ..." It is a powerhouse of prayer, enabling God's grace to flow like a spring of living water to all Christians, to the Church, and into a desperate world.

The Monastery of the Most Holy Mother of God in Orangeville , Ontario , is a Studite Monastery, where the special presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary is experienced in an extraordinary way by many pilgrims who come in search of the Living God. Located on top of one of the highest hills in the beautiful Hockley Valley on some three hundred acres of land, this spiritual oasis currently belongs to the Ukrainian Eparchy of Toronto. In the six years since its purchase from the Roman Catholic Order of the Cistercians, this holy monastery has seen its share of trials and tribulations. Its small community of consecrated lay people, under the spiritual leadership of Hieromonk Terry ( Taras ) Kraychuk, is supplemented by a wider circle of faithful known as the "extended community", and is supported by many generous benefactors from across the country, who understand the necessity of cultivating a spiritual center of prayer in the Eastern Christian tradition. And indeed, through perseverance in prayer and the uninterrupted fulfillment of the full Liturgical Rule of the Byzantine Church , this sanctuary of the Mother of God has been thus far preserved by the Lord, and abundantly blessed as a spiritual haven for countless souls.

Nonetheless, perspectives for the future have remained uncertain, undermined specifically by two key factors: 1) the sizable mortgage constantly owing to the Cistercians, and 2) the lack of a larger monastic presence to re-enforce the small community.

The resolution of these difficulties has proved complex, due to their interlinked nature: without the settlement of the financial debt, any potential monastic community would be in a state of instability with respect to future planning or long-term goals; conversely, without the actual presence of a larger community of monks, it is almost impossible to pay off the overshadowing debt due to the questionable prospects for the monastery. Although a sincere effort was made to explore numerous solutions, both by the Eparchial Monastery Committee formerly headed by Bishop Cornelius Pasichny, and by the presently presiding Bishop Stephen Chmilar, none of these endeavours proved successful in overcoming the existing obstacles. With the passage of time, the debt load only increased, and the uncertainty mounted. Finally, the anticipated moment of truth arrived: the Cistercians, encumbered by their own financial difficulties, have given notice to the Eparchy that they would repossess the monastery in order to resell it if by April 15 th of this year, the required payment of two million dollars was not forwarded to them. With this, the Monastery of the Most Holy Mother of God stands today at the crossroads ...

At this most perilous of moments, however, the Lord's hand has not abandoned His Mother's House, but has clearly and wondrously manifested Itself in a surprising sequence of events. On March 11 th of this year, an unexpected meeting transpired between the monastery community and Bishop Stephen Chmilar, in the presence of a number of His Grace's eparchial counselors, all deeply pained by the monastery situation. A plan was proposed, whereby the monastery would be incorporated as a non- profit charitable institution, effectively transferring the ownership of the monastery from the Eparchy of Toronto to the abiding monastery community, headed by its Superior . Bishop Stephen added the stipulation that the monastery must be made directly responsible, in the spiritual order, to His Beatitude Lubomyr Husar, invoking the Church's "STAVROUPIHIJSKYJ USTRIJ" for the monastery structure, and gave his conditional blessing pending the consent of His Beatitude Lubomyr for the proposed plan. Only with the blessing of the Head Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church could the process of incorporation be set into motion. Also, in view of the critical shortage of time, the monastery community was conferred the task of initiating an emergency fundraising campaign to safeguard the monastery, with the goal of raising as much financial backing as possible by the April 15 th deadline.

Within days of this first glimpse of hope, Fr. John Tataryn, the Vicar General of the Eparchy, was able to contact His Beatitude Lubomyr, who is currently in the United States for a short period. Fr. John was given to understand that His Beatitude Lubomyr is willing to endorse the plan, provided that the Mother Monastery of the Studite Order in Univ , Ukraine , headed by Ihumen Fr. Benedict Aleksijchuk, would agree to extend its patronage to the Orangeville Monastery, and to send one hieromonk to Canada to support Fr. Taras in establishing a monastic community. It was strongly believed that Fr. Benedict would most certainly comply with these requests, since he had been the first superior of the monastery in Orangeville at its very inception, and was well disposed to its present community. And indeed, shortly afterwards, Fr. Benedict voiced his verbal support for the project.

Providentially, there has recently been a hopeful increase in interest in the Orangeville Studite Community - from potential vocations in Canada and the United States . One English-speaking postulant has already arrived in January, and two others have expressed serious interest, paving the way for the development of a truly bilingual community, open to candidates from all regions of North America .

It is clear, based on these recent events, that the Lord is granting the Mother of God Monastery a new beginning, a renewed, and perhaps as yet unforeseen role within the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada . Many people have already sacrificed enormous amounts of time, energy and material resources to uphold this Holy Sanctuary of God's Mother, and most certainly, the Lord will reward them a hundredfold. There exists, nonetheless, a most urgent and immediate financial crisis, which could, ultimately, determine the future of the monastery.

We are, therefore, sending out a most urgent appeal to all the faithful of the Church in Canada for your fervent prayers, moral support and financial assistance. We believe that if a substantial short- term payment is delivered to the Cistercians on April 15 th, they will make an allowance of time for the full settlement of the debt. Please be assured, however, that if we are not successful in this holy endeavour, and the said payment is refused, then all donations (or loans) for the immediate campaign received up to that final moment will be promptly returned to the original donors! Otherwise, income tax receipts will be issued for all donations. To date, the monastery has already received a pledge of $200,000 from two benefactors to start off the fund drive. Needless to say, all donors and benefactors will remain perpetually in the liturgical prayers of the monastery community.

We leave the last word to His Holiness Pope John Paul II in Orient ale Lumen:

"In consideration of its importance in Eastern Christianity, we would like monasticism to flourish once more in the Eastern Catholic Churches, and that support be given to all those who feel called to work for its revitalization ... This hope also concerns the territories of the Eastern diaspora where the presence of Eastern monasteries would give greater stability to the Eastern Churches in those countries, and would make a valuable contribution to the religious life of Western Christians."

Yours in Christ Jesus,

for Hieromonk Taras Kraychuk,

Petro Humennyj
Monastery Treasurer

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