The Mothers of Holy Theophany Monastery (Romanian) and their chaplain, Right Reverend Archpriest Lawrence Gosselin (Melkite) hosted the 3rd Annual Eastern Catholic Monastic Sobor at the Mothers' beautifully manicured facility on the outskirts of Olympia, Washington. Participants included the Holy Theophany Mothers, Fr. Lawrence, the fledgling community of Duchovny Dom (Ruthenian) from Warren, Oregon, Hegumen Fr. Theodosii Krychuk from the the Exaltation of the Most Holy, Precious, and Life Giving Cross Monastery in northern Alberta on the Canadian prairie, and the Monks of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Redwood Valley, California. Unfortunately, Fr. Jonathan and the Brothers of Sacred Heart Monastery (Maronite), also in Washington state, were unable to attend this year due to scheduling conflicts.
After a casual gathering the evening of August 16th at Fr. Lawrence's Holy Martyrs Skete just down the road from Holy Theophany, we all prayed Orthros of the Greek tradition on Wednesday morning in Holy Theophany's Katholikon and shared a fasting breakfast prepared by Mother Irene, who continued to provide beautiful and nourishing meals throughout the duration of the sobor in the Mothers' trapeza with animated conversations after supper in the adjoining library.
There were morning and afternoon sessions with the 6th Hour and lunch in between on both Wednesday and Thursday with discussions about several articles that had been recommended by the various communities, articles dealing with diverse monastic concerns and experiences, from the profoundly spiritual to the seemingly mundane everyday details of community life.
Sister Teresa Jackson, O.S.B., from St. Gertrude Monastery (Latin) in Cottonwood, Idaho was serendipitously on retreat at Holy Theophany and was kind enough to share her insights into the challenges of growing old in monastic life - her large (huge by Byzantine standards) community of sisters includes many very elderly consecrated virgins, all still living in the community, and also described a number of possible resources available to most Americans (and Canadians, too, with slight differences). Plans for next year's gathering were also bandied about. There are rumors of a new Chaldean monastery being established somewhere in southern California, perhaps they will be represented at the sobor next year. We also discussed the possibility of inviting representatives of certain other monastic communities from outside our far-flung geographical area.
The opportunity to enjoy the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in monastic life, to experience the different liturgical practices and customs of another community from another tradition, to pray together with brothers and sisters normally scattered here and there in small, isolated monastic families across the western edge of the continent, was certainly more than worth the 12-hour drive from Mt. Tabor, energized as we were from the Great feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos.
According to the schedule as it is at this moment, next year's sobor will (or may) return to Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, which will involve absolutely no travel time for us here at Mt. Tabor, a welcome change.
Article by Another Monk of the Eastern Church
Photos by Fr Theodosii