Truly, time waits for no one. As we grow older and slower, time seems to proceed faster and faster. So much has happened in the last year and a half since our last issue of “One Thing Needful” that it is difficult to remember it all, but these are some of the highlights. Every day brings its own blessings — sometimes in trials and tribulations, but always with many blessings.
January 2017 found us being two again. We don’t understand why, but firmly believe that God has a plan which will work beautifully.
The Knitters’ Retreat changed names and is now known as Fiber Retreat since spinners, crocheters, and others who work in the fiber arts attend. Eleven women attended in 2017 from February 10th-11th. Then in 2018 on February 2-3, only six attended due to not notifying people of the dates far enough in advance.
Several things stand out about Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha (Easter) of 2017. We had a retired priest serving Liturgy here which meant we didn’t have to travel. However, Mother Thecla was still directing the choir for noon Presanctified Liturgies on Fridays at Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in Columbia, South Carolina. This was the first year we could place large, potted plants around the Plaschanitsa (Epitaphion or winding sheet of Christ) for Holy Friday Vespers. Pascha was celebrated by the four of us (the priest, his wife, and two nuns) in our unfinished chapel. With only extension cords strung from the electrical pole outside, it was dark inside, even with the lights we had — four floor-standing lamps, small contractor’s lights, flashlights, battery-powered tea lights, a few candles, and a couple of battery-powered music stand lights. Three times we processed around the interior of the nave as doing so outside presented many tripping hazards. It is doubtful that we will ever forget our first Pascha here.
On different dates during Lent, a mother with her nine children and then later a group of women from Saint Anthony the Great Orthodox Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina, arrived to help us with work projects.
In March of 2017, a six-foot fence with eight inch post and four gates was installed around the vegetable garden. Each of the gates which lead to different paths were painted with a different bright color. This makes it easier to give directions to visitors. During and after this time five raised beds were built. The fifth one is not yet finished, but that will wait for cooler weather. Some day, most of the vegetable garden will have raised beds.
Not having a way to enter the chapel under construction without going through the altar area, we had a temporary ramp built according to building codes, constructed along the north side and around the west side of the building so people can enter the nave. While the workmen endeavored to finish it by Pilgrimage at the end of April, only the steps were usable to enter the nave. The ramp was finished the next week.
On April 29th, we hosted our eighteenth Pilgrimage. Sixty-four people attended, four of whom were priests. A one-hour lecture on “Why Monasteries?” was given by Fr. Edward Rommen.
Over the last year and a half, Saint Olga of Alaska’s face was corrected so that she looks like herself and not like a tired old Polish woman in traditional Yup’ik dress. On November 26th, three additional stained glass icons were installed. The lioness in Saint Thecla’s window was made with dark brown and creamy brown glass so that it gave one the impression of partly appearing and partly disappearing like the Cheshire cat in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Saint Lyubov of Rayzon is clothed in bright colors as was her wont. Saint Anna with her child, Mary, is very regal. Pictures of these four windows and additional comments appear later in this newsletter. Colored drawings of Saint Mary and Martha of Bethany have been approved and are in the making.
For twenty-two years we have loaded up donated goods and driven to the Barnyard Flea Market to raise money for our Building Fund. In the scheme of things, it’s not that much, but it all adds up. We were there on June 10th and November 11th of 2017 and then on May 26th of this year.
Thirty teenagers and chaperones from Florida who were staying at the Cardinal Newman Center in Columbia, South Carolina, came to our monastery on June 15-16, 2017. They accomplished many, much needed and arduous tasks for us.
Some shoveled soil and compost into the newly built raised beds, others trimmed low hanging branches that protruded into our driveways, another group cleaned up the perennial garden, while still others did things like digging out a grape vine that was strangling other wanted plants, picking up fallen limbs and taking them to one of the burn piles, and other outside work. They were a really great group of Christian young people.
June 30th is Holy Apostles Feast Day on the Orthodox calendar. Each year we make it a point to attend Liturgy at Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in West Columbia, South Carolina, to celebrate their feast day with them.
During a heavy rain with high winds, we realized that the roof of our doublewide needed to be replaced and that a large tree branch had fallen through the roof of the little storage building which also houses the bladder tanks which provide water pressure for us. Due to our having patched it and removed mildew growing on the ceiling numerous times in the last twenty-one years, we decided to have the roof and insulation removed completely and replaced. So during the hot month of July 2017, we had both roofs replaced with green metal roofs, replaced the skylights with Velux Skylights, and have the popcorn ceilings removed in both bathrooms. The work created a mess both inside and out, but was well worth the trouble. It is our hope and prayer that we will never have to replace the roof or skylights in our lifetimes.
Last year’s Diocesan Assembly was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, from July 25th-28th. It is always enjoyable meeting friends from across the Diocese of Dallas and the South. There was a great little diner near the hotel which had an array of fabulous desserts. The picture to the right is of Mother Thecla with Matushka Cana Henry at one of the luncheons.
August 11th was one of those days that most people note on their calendar as a once in a lifetime event. We saw and photographed a total solar eclipse. Day animals grew quiet and night animals started their songs. Crescent shadows reflected off of the leaves. A sense of awe filled us.
In addition to celebrating their feastday, Holy Resurrection Orthodox Mission in North Augusta, South Carolina welcomed the myrrh-streaming icon of Saint Anna, mother of the Theotokos (Mary) on Sunday evening, September 17th. The icon was brought from Saint Tikhon Orthodox Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, by Fr. Daniel, one of the monks. Many people attended the beautiful service that accompanied this miraculous icon. Saint Anna is known for her aid in helping infertile women as well as helping women find husbands. Fr. Alexis Baldwin submitted an article to the Aiken Standard which they printed. The article can be found at https://www.aikenstandard.com/lifestyle/miraculous-icon-visit-connects-monastery-and-local-community/article_38b9f55e-ba98-11e7-a5a7-bb4f639ef7ee.html.
Toward the end of February 2017, a permit had been pulled and work began on a three-car garage. We had been given a substantial donation to build this structure. It was completed in September and matches the large monastery building that is being constructed as we have the funds to do so. It is so nice that we refer to it as the carriage house. Yes, it’s full.
September 21st-24th we hosted the annual Clergy Wives Retreat. Although we do not have the space to provide each of them a bed, they are so willing to sleep wherever they can find a space so they can share a few days with their peers. These women are a special group of people whose dedication to God is known mostly to Him. (There is no photo of the 2017 group.)
The last Friday and Saturday of September ended in a great flourish of helpers. We were blessed to have the help of a couple who dedicate a few hours a month to working around the monastery, a group of college students from the C. S. Lewis House at the University of South Carolina, who planted eight flats of ground covering phlox, and a group of teenage girls from Saint John of the Ladder in Greenville, South Carolina, who accomplished various outdoor jobs.
Learning how we make beeswax candles is one of the favorite things visitors like to see when they come here. Mother Helena is often giving candle making demonstrations like she gave to the group from Saint John of the Ladder.
The Synaxis of Monastic Superiors was hosted by Saint Tikhon Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, on October 24th-26th. This was the fourth year of our assembling at a different monastery. Each year we learn more about each other and that we have much in common.
As we all know, it is difficult “to get all your opossums up the same persimmon tree at one time,” i.e., things don’t always work out as planned. Archbishop Alexander, Archbishop of of Dallas and the South and the Bulgarian Dioceses, was scheduled to arrive at the Augusta Regional Airport on Saturday afternoon, November 18th. His connecting flights did not connect, thus causing him to be scheduled for a much later flight, which altered a planned dinner, required a second trip to the airport, and a rather long trip to the hotel. By the next morning, things were on schedule. Liturgy was served, Fr. Edward Rommen was elevated to Archpriest, lunch was served, and His Eminence was driven back to the airport.
For many years, we have joined the parishioners of Holy Apostles on the first Saturday of December by setting up our booth at their Saint Nicholas Festival. This year was very successful as we raised over a thousand dollars for our building fund. Most important was the camaraderie with the parishioners and those who attended the festival.
During 2017 we worked with our contractor on adding brick landings at the base of the stairs from the sun room and from the second floor. The same brick pattern was used on all of them. Both of these are on the east side. The stairs leading up to the altar were modified to create shallower, thus more manageable steps. Underground drainage was added to direct the water from the downspouts away from the building, and the paint-chipping-off brick red elbows were replaced. Now we are preparing to proceed with the next step (see Building Fund Update).
Having planned a trip to Texas in the middle of December to visit her mom, Mother Thecla left Mother Helena in charge of the monastery and flew to Austin. Little did either one of them know that Mother Thecla would have a major cardiac event (i.e. a severe heart attack or what is called the “widow maker”) and have open heart surgery with five by-passes on December 20th. A six day visit turned into a month with two weeks in Baylor, Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas (a really good hospital). The doctors released her to return to the monastery on Monday, January 15th. Mother Helena and her goddaughter, Valerie, left Tuesday morning to drive to Texas, arrived on Wednesday morning, loaded Mother Thecla into the van, made it to Vicksburg that evening, and pulled into the monastery driveway just after dusk on Thursday. Mother Thecla slept most of the way.
A week later, Mother Thecla was back in the hospital due to breathing problems which resulted in a liter and a half of fluid being drained off her right lung. Two weeks after being released from Lexington Medical Center (another good hospital), she started Cardio-Rehab which is thirty-six sessions of physical therapy. This really helped get her going again.
So many people were praying for us. Mother Thecla was often told that she was remembered at Liturgy. She is immensely grateful for your lifting her up in prayer. Yes, prayer works more than you realize.
Of course, Mother Helena is like the energizer bunny until nightfall, but this whole matter slowed us down. We had to reschedule visitors and other activities. Much assistance was given us by many. While recovery is slow and expected to take at least six months, medical professionals emphasize that we should give it a year.
Lent came early this year, but we felt we had already been through a type of Lent, and it was far from over.
Fr. James Bohlman, our spiritual father, had the opportunity to retire earlier than he expected and moved to gorgeous Hilo, Hawaii in February. He is truly missed.
A panikhida (a service for the departed) was prayed for Mother Lyubov of blessed memory on February 22nd, the fifth anniversary of her repose. We know she prays for and is still present with us. May her memory be eternal!
A group of women from Saint Maria of Paris Orthodox Mission in Cleveland, Tennessee, journeyed to our monastery on the first weekend in March, attended Liturgies on Saturday and Sunday and helped with some of the work around here.
Once again, it was Pascha with Pilgrimage following two weeks later. Fr. Thomas Moore served Liturgy assisted by Deacons Mark Barna and Nicholas Griswold. Fr. Thomas and Fr. Alexis Baldwin led the Akathist to Saints Mary and Martha and the Panikhida for those buried here. Fr. Alexis blessed the graves and then blessed our grapevines which he dearly hopes will produce enough grapes to make altar wine this year. Fr. Edward Rommen gave a talk on “Keeping the Commandments in the Land of Desire.” Vespers was served by Fr. Alexis. Seventy-six people attended this year’s Pilgrimage.
This is also a very special year for us, as we combined Pilgrimage with celebrating our monastic anniversaries. Mother Helena will be celebrating sixty years on August 10th. Mother Thecla celebrated thirty years on April 1st. (Think Saint Mary of Egypt Feastday, not the other.)
Mother Helena took the first three days of May to drive up to Frederick, Maryland, to attend the Panikhida, funeral and burial services for a long time and dear friend, Fr. Alister Anderson. Being a week shy of ninety- four, he had dedicated most of his life to spreading the Gospel of Christ and making converts. May his memory be eternal!
After fourteen months of having a priest, we have returned to traveling to Holy Apostles in Columbia one week and to Holy Resurrection in North Augusta the next. The parishioners at both churches were very glad to see us again, and we them. At this time in our history, the only way we can have a priest here on a regular basis to serve Liturgy and other sacraments is if he is self sufficient and probably retired.
Regulars at the monastery, Cinda and Stephanie, spent a day and a half sealing the brick and concrete of the carriage house and the steps, stoop and landing to the sunroom. They took before and after pictures, but you couldn’t tell the difference. However, we all know that they did a right proper job of it.
Providing a place for Orthodox Christians to be buried on monastery property has bestowed on us many blessings. People from various countries who came to this great country to make a better life for themselves are buried here. Couples who have had miscarriages or lost a child have buried them here. Often we have the opportunity to meet, become friends with their kinfolk, and learn about their departed loved ones. As an old friend of blessed memory often said, “There is room at God’s table for all His people.”
There are many other people who have assisted us in taking care of this monastery. Not all of them are mentioned here or in other newsletters, but each and every one is special to us. They have touched our lives, and we theirs. Praying for them is important to us, and we hope they pray for us.
The money needed for all six windows has been raised. Four of six stained glass windows are completed and installed. The other two, Saint Mary and Saint Martha are being made and, we hope, will be here soon. As you can see, like us, each woman is different The reason there is no Saint Helena, Empress and Mother of Saint Constantine I, is because Mother Helena wanted Saint Anna with Mary, the Theotokos.
Saint Olga of Alaska
Priest Wife, Mid-Wife
of Rayzan, Russia
Fool for Christ
Equal to the Apostles
First Woman Martyr
Saint Anna & Mary,
Mother of Christ
With the unexpected expense of replacing the roof on the doublewide and cost over runs on the carriage house, we had to borrow from our building fund. Since last year we have diligently striven to pay ourselves back. We are nearing that goal and should be able to rough in the HVAC (heating and air) soon.
Then the next step will be to save $50,000 to rough in the electrical.
1 cup oil (I usually use Sunflower oil.)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1⁄2 cup white or granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
mixed with 6 Tablespoons water
2 1⁄4 cups of flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 package of 12 oz dairy-free chocolate chips* 1 cup chopped nuts, if desired
Preheat oven to 375° F. Combine oil, brown sugar, white sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add cornstarch and water mixture and mix well. Add dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking soda) and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto non-greased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.
NOTE: If you prefer soft, chewy cookies, use Earth Balance Vegan Spread for the oil and refrigerate dough for 1 hour before baking.
*Dairy-free chocolate chips can be purchased at Trader Joes or a health food store. Read the ingredients as they often change.
from Mat. Veronika Baldwin