Saturday, December 21, 2013

Enjoy the Master's hospitality!

Click on the photo to read our Christmas Letter!  Our letter shares a reflection on God's hospitality and also announces some exciting news!

If you would like to make a year-end tax-deductible donation to the monastery, please click here for instructions.  We are so grateful for your love, prayers and support!

May God bless you and your loved ones as we prepare for the beautiful feast of His Nativity!

"Through the Spirit, the prophet called out: This is our God and the Way.  There shall not be another but Him.  From Him you will discover the way of all knowledge.  He will take on our likeness by clothing Himself in the flesh of the virgin Handmaid of God.  He is coming to be born; He who is unapproachable by nature, is approachable to me" (Stichera from Vespers, Dec. 21).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The week of the bishops!

What a week of grace!  We are so grateful to God for the amazing encounters last week with some holy bishops!  The troparion (hymn) to St. Nicholas (which is also used for other bishop-saints) sums up the qualities that we found in these bishops:
Your life has shown you to your flock as a rule of faith, an image of gentleness and a teacher of moderation.  You acquired greatness through humility and wealth through poverty.  O father and archbishop Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God to save our souls.
Us with Bishop Kurt
Bishop Kurt Burnette

First was the ordination of Bishop Kurt Burnette as the new bishop of the Eparchy of Passaic (New Jersey).  For all of us at the monastery, it was the first ordination of a bishop that we had ever witnessed.  We were in awe to witness the bestowing of the vocation of apostle and the fullness of the priesthood upon this priest of God.  It was a rare gift to see so many bishops participating in a Divine Liturgy: bishops of multiple countries representing various Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as numerous Roman Catholic bishops.  We also loved Bishop Gerald's homily.  He spoke about the qualities of St. Nicholas, especially his zeal for the faith, gentleness and humility, and set him as an example for Bishop Kurt and all the bishops and priests.  We were touched by the way he spoke about humility and his challenge to the bishops and priests to spend an hour each day in prayer.

Bishop Fülöp Kocsis

One of the bishops attending the ordination was Bishop Fülöp Kocsis of the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog, Hungary.  After the ordination, we had the privilege to drive this bishop home to our monastery.  Bishop Fülöp lived the monastic life prior to being chosen as bishop.  He received his formation at the famous Monastery of Chevetogne in Belgium and then founded a monastery in Hungary.  He and the other monk at the monastery were both chosen as bishops, but shortly after the monastery became vacant, three young women approached him with their desire to become nuns.  These women have recently begun to live the monastic life in Bishop Fülöp's former monastery.  After reading about us in our eparchial newspaper, Horizons, he was interested in meeting us and took this opportunity to visit the monastery and spend some time with us.  He celebrated Great Vespers in our chapel for the feast of St. Nicholas and also prayed Matins with us.  He and his secretary, Tamas, sang with us in beautiful harmony, and it was one of the most beautiful and moving experiences of prayer we have had in the monastery.

Bishop Milan Lach

Us with Bishop Milan
On the Feast of St. Nicholas, we took Bishop Fülöp and Tamas to the Byzantine Catholic Cultural Center in Cleveland for the Moleban to St. Nicholas (a supplicatory prayer service).  Also present were Bishop John (our bishop) and Bishop Milan Lach, auxiliary bishop of the Archeparchy of Prešov, Slovakia.  [A fun fact: Bishop Milan is currently the youngest Catholic bishop in the world!]  A number of students from St. Mary's Byzantine School in Cleveland came to pray and meet the bishops.  At the end of the service, Bishop Milan and Bishop Fülöp were given an opportunity to say a few words to the participants.  Bishop Milan spoke about the joy that comes from Jesus Christ and Bishop Fülöp spoke about the importance of visiting a monastery -- a place where prayer is continual.  Here are their touching words:

In the evening we attended the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of St. Nicholas at St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church in Barberton, Ohio.  The three bishops (Bishop John, Bishop Fülöp and Bishop Milan) concelebrated the Liturgy.  What a rare gift!  One of our favorite moments was when the three bishops sang the "Agios o Theos" together (the third verse of the "Holy God" which is sung in Greek by the bishop in a hierarchical Divine Liturgy) and harmonized with each other!  Bishop Milan also gave a beautiful homily on the qualities of St. Nicholas which we should imitate.  "Christian love should be discreet," he said.

The Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Church, as well as other moments of prayer during those few days, was truly heaven on earth.  There were many moments in which we lost all sense of time, and praying with these bishops from other countries spiritually connected us to their Byzantine Catholic flocks -- our brothers and sisters in Christ.  The bishops also connected us to the saints who have come before us, especially the bishops and apostles, through the succession of episcopal ordination, and ultimately to Christ.  Like St. Nicholas, they emulated the faith, gentleness, moderation, humility and poverty of Christ.

If you're interested in viewing more pictures or videos from our experience last week, check out these links:

Photo Album
Homily of Bishop Milan for the Feast of St. Nicholas

Friday, November 22, 2013

A feast day... and a fasting recipe!

First of all, a great big Happy Feast Day to Sr. Cecilia! Today is the feast of the virgin and martyr, St. Cecilia, who is the patron saint of musicians (it's fitting that Sr. Cecilia is our cantor!), but not for the reason you might think.  Here is how St. Thérèse of Lisieux reflected so beautifully on why St. Cecilia is the patroness of musicians:

"What a model! In the midst of the world, with every sort of danger ringing her round on the point of being married to a young pagan who dreamed only of earthly love, Cecilia might well have trembled and wept..., but no, 'Leaving the instruments sounding for her wedding, Cecilia was singing in her heart'...What total trust!...She was not afraid...she knew that Jesus was under obligation to guard and protect her virginity, and she knew the reward.

St. Cecilia is like the Bride in the canticles; I see her as a choir in an armed camp. Her life was one melodious song in the midst of terrible trials; which does not amaze me, because the holy gospel rested upon her heart and in her heart the Spouse of Virgins rested.

Now as you know, we are currently in a fasting period for Christmas - the Nativity or Philip's Fast (click here for more details if you don't!) - which you might think would make celebrating a feast day somewhat of a bummer!  And I suppose it might be if you based your happiness on whether you got eat meat or dairy on any particular day (placing your joy in things = always going to let you down).  Luckily though, we take our feasting as seriously as our fasting, so we try to find special ways to enjoy fasting food while we feast. (That was a lot of fasting/feasting combinations - and also a lot of parentheses.)

So on the menu for dessert for Sr. Cecilia's feast day was a new recipe I found on the blog oh she glows while searching for fast-friendly dessert recipes called Pumpkin Pie Brownie in a Crunchy Pecan Crust.  As soon as I read the title, I thought 'Challenge accepted!'  So here are some pictures of my journey to deliciousness.

Here are all the dry ingredients for the brownie layer.
Sift it.  Sift it real good.
My first foray with coconut oil - it proved a success!
Creamy. White. Goodness.
Up close and personal with the brownie layer.
Whipping the pumpkin goodness.
Pumpkin pie stuffs - Thanks, Mother Theodora for hand modeling!
Pecan layer of awesomeness.
Why yes that would be carpet that has the look of brick, but the feel of carpet.
Pecans all mixed up!
The finished product pre-baking.
Yummmm.  All cooked and overflowing with yumminess.
The final served product!

So there you have it - a pictorial journey through Sr. Cecilia's feast day dessert.  It was oh-so-delicious and a big hit!  

Check out the recipe below for the full scoop. 

Pumpkin Pie Brownie in a Crunchy Pecan Crust


Pumpkin Brownie Layer:
• 1 cup canned pumpkin
• 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp sugar
• 1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
• 3/4 cup white flour
• 1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1 tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot/tapioca)
• 1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
• 1/2 tsp sea salt
• 1/2 tsp baking soda

Pumpkin Pie Layer:
• 1 cup canned pumpkin
• 2 tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot/tapioca)
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 3 tbsp almond milk
• 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg)

Pecan Topping:
• 1/4 cup margarine
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1/3 cup white flour
• 3/4 cups chopped pecans 

1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a pie pan (9in pan was not big enough!  Use bigger!).
2. For brownie layer: In a stand mixer or by hand, mix together the coconut oil, pumpkin, vanilla,
and sugar until blended well. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking, soda, sea salt
and mix until incorporated. Take the entire mixture and place in pie pan. Wet spatula and spread
around evenly so it is smooth.
3. For pumpkin layer: In a large bowl mix together the pumpkin, vanilla, and milk. In a small
bowl, mix together the cornstarch, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Slowly add the dry ingredients
to the wet and mix well until all clumps are gone. Now add on top of brownie mixture. 
4. For pecan topping: Mix all ingredients until well combined and sprinkle on top of the pie.
5. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F. Remove from oven and cool for 20-30 minutes and then
move to the fridge to chill for 1.5 hours.
6. Serves approx 8-12 slices. Serve with vegan ice cream if desired. I made a coconut whipped cream that was more like a sweet white sauce - pretty delish!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A feast that is perfect for the fast

November 21st is the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple.  The tradition of the Church says that Joachim and Anna took Mary, at the age of three, to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate her to the service of God according to their promise.

This is a perfect feast to celebrate in the midst of the current fasting period which is preparing us for the Nativity of Christ.  Theologian Fr. Alexander Schmemann often said that Mary is not the great exception, but the great example.  In this feast, we commemorate Mary's entrance into the Temple in order to be prepared to become the Temple.  This is exactly what we are called to do during this fast: to prepare ourselves to become the Temple of the Incarnate God!  Jesus said, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (Jn 14:23)."  St. Paul also tell us, "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? (1 Cor 3:16)."

In his book, The Winter Pascha (which we recommend!), Fr. Thomas Hopko says, "Jesus Christ, the Son, Word, and Image of God, is physically and spiritually formed in the body of Mary so that He might be formed in us as well (see Gal 4:9)."

The liturgical prayers for the feast illustrate this for us:
"The holy and immaculate One is being led into the Holy of Holies by the Holy Spirit.  She is being nourished by angels, since she is the holy Temple of our holy God.  He has sanctified all creation because of her entrance, and He has deified our fallen human nature" (Stichera at Vespers). 
So what do we suggest for you on this feast?

  • Attend Divine Liturgy (or Mass) at your parish if you can
  • Reflect on one of the Scripture passages mentioned in this post
  • Pray at least one of the prayers/hymns from Vespers or Matins from the feast
  • Ask God to allow this Nativity Fast to prepare a place in you for Jesus!

This is also the second anniversary of Mother Theodora's tonsure as a stavrophore nun (her life profession).  Happy anniversary Mother!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

40 Days until Christmas!...Let's start fasting!

And so it begins again...that time of year in which most people begin feasting in honor of the "Holiday Season."  But we Christians are called to something very different...we are called to fast!  This might sound a little depressing...but actually, it should excite us!  The challenging discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving should awaken in us the desire to prepare a place in the darkness of our hearts for the coming of the Light of the World who alone can satisfy every desire that we have!

Today is the Feast of St. Philip the Apostle, and the fasting period which begins this evening after vespers is named after him.  The Philip's Fast, or Nativity Fast, is a fast of 40 days in preparation for the celebration of the great mystery of the Incarnation--of God taking on human flesh so that we might partake of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).  We invite you to join us in this fast so that together we may prepare a place in our hearts and in our world for Jesus (two places that desperately need Him)!  The traditional fast prescribes abstinence from meat and dairy products, but if this is not practical for you, we invite you to pray about the way that God is calling you to pray, fast and give alms during this time.

Below is a beautiful prayer from the Emmanuel Moleban which you may want to use!:

O God and Father, the Almighty One, you created the human race in your image and likeness, and when we fell through disobedience, you promised to send a Savior. When the fullness of time had come, your favor rested on your only-begotten Son, and he was born of the Virgin Mary. Thus, what Isaiah the prophet foretold was fulfilled: "Behold, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, which means 'God with us.'" His birth filled all creation with light; he gave us the baptism of repentance, and restored our ancient dignity. Now, most compassionate Lord, you bring us to these honored days of the Christmas Fast that we may do battle with the desires of the flesh and draw strength from the hope of resurrection. Receive us, then, as penitents and forgive our wrongdoing, those done knowingly and unknowingly, through malice and through weakness. And may our prayers, our fasting, and our works of mercy rise up before you as incense, as sweet spiritual fragrance, that in company with the Magi and the shepherds we too, with pure hearts, may be found worthy to bow down before the Nativity of Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. To him, together with you and your all-holy Spirit, belong glory, honor, and worship, now and ever and forever. Amen.

Know that we are praying for you!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

“Draw me in your footsteps, let us run": Our Discernment Retreat

“Draw me in your footsteps, let us run,” from the first chapter of the Song of Songs, was the theme for our fall discernment retreat, November 7-10.  Three young women from Ohio, Florida, and Louisiana spent the weekend at the monastery in order to quiet and open their hearts to God’s call for their lives and to spend time getting to know us and our life of prayer and hospitality.

The retreat consisted of talks, the regular monastic schedule of liturgical prayer, silence for personal prayer, recreation, meals enjoyed together, the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession) and Divine Liturgy.  Sr. Cecilia spoke about monasticism as a “martyrdom of love” and about the call of every Christian to follow Christ by dying with Him—in the particular way that He calls each of us.  Mother Theodora’s topic was “Draw me in your footsteps,” the first half of the retreat theme.  She drew on the wisdom of the Church Fathers, other saints and her own life experiences to illustrate the ways that God draws us to Himself.  Sr. Gabriella spoke on the second half of the theme: “Let us run.”  Looking at the Gospels, she reflected on the meaning of discipleship and the necessity of first being a disciple of Christ while discerning one’s vocation.  She pointed out the plural “us” in the verse, showing that our discipleship should draw others to Christ.

At the end of the retreat, the young women expressed the peace they had found in leaving all in God’s hands.  They especially loved the liturgical and personal prayer and joked with each other saying, “All this could be yours!”  Friendships were formed, and no one wanted to go home!

Click here to view more photos!

We are considering the possibility of repeating the retreat January 17-20, 2014, for young women who were not able to attend the November retreat.  If interested, please fill out the Vocation Inquiry Form (or contact us if you have already filled out the form).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Entering into the Love of the Trinity: Sr. Cecilia’s Reflection on the General Assembly

This is our second reflection on the Eparchy of Parma's General Assembly.  See our October 15th post for Sr. Gabriella's reflection.

After a powerful experience of the Mystery of Holy Repentance (confession) on Friday and as I sat down in the church, I felt strongly that there was something I needed to totally give over to God.  TOTALLY—to be able to say, “You can take this out of my life if You want to; I surrender it.” I panicked.  I was terrified to give this over TOTALLY.  But I immediately heard Jesus speak to my heart, almost in a sad tone of voice: “Do you think I won’t give it back to you?”  My stubborn heart was melted.  How could I refuse to surrender this gift to the One who loves me TOTALLY?  He was even telling me that He would give it back to me!  In the very instant I heard these words, I also understood that this statement didn’t mean that the thing I needed to give over would be given back to me in exactly the same way as I have it now, but I knew that it would come in the form that is exactly as I need it.

During the Assembly, God was speaking to my heart in a very personal way, yet this personal experience was not separate from my experience of being part of the Church.  In fact, it seemed to me that God was speaking the same things to the Church as He was speaking to my heart.  This makes so much sense.  Deacon Michael Lee explained that we are made to live in the context of the Church, and “without communion is despair.”

Here are a few other quotes that struck me during the Assembly (there were also many others!):

Fr. David Petras:
“We are in love with the Divine Liturgy…because this is God who gives Himself to us.”
“It is God who takes initiative.”

Deacon Michael Lee:
“The cross reveals God’s love;…we see an inkling of the love of the Trinity.”
“Look at what He did [giving Himself on the cross]…WHY DO WE DOUBT HIM?”

God loves us!  We are loved by infinite love!  And yet, Deacon Michael reminded us, as he spoke about the love of the Trinity revealed through the cross: “We are supposed to have that kind of love for each other.”  “We find ourselves only in the sincere gift of self,” he said.  We were created for no less than to enter into the love of the Trinity—to enter into a continual life-giving cycle of self-emptying and receiving!  Our Church, founded by Christ, was made for no less than this!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “God’s very being is love.  By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (221).

When we look at our relationships with God and others in terms of this “eternal exchange of love”—this cycle of self-emptying and receiving—we understand what it means to be Church and what it means to be human.  And when we discern that God is asking something particular of us, we will be able to see how His request fits into this life-giving cycle (or at least trust that it does!).  We will know that whatever He asks us to let go of, He will give back in greater measure!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

LIVE from Mumford Rd: Episode 5!

Don't miss this episode, which includes a beautiful interview with the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light, a new community of Maronite Sisters which was founded around the same time as our monastery!

"LIVE from Mumford Rd" takes you inside Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, with your hosts Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Gabriella, LIVE in the eternal time of the Kingdom of God!

In this episode, the Sisters talk about what they have been up to and about their upcoming discernment retreat.  They answer an "ask the nuns" question and read a quote from one of their favorite books.  Sr. Gabriella also interviews Sr. Marla Marie and Sr. Therese Maria of the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light.  And, as always...there are bloopers.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sharing in God's Serenity: Sr. Gabriella's Reflection on the General Assembly

Our previous post included the witness videos from our eparchy's General Assembly which took place last month.  The Assembly was a powerful experience for each of us and for the eparchy; therefore we would like to reflect on it, especially during this time when the parishes are holding follow-up sessions.  We hope that our reflections will also benefit those outside the Eparchy of Parma!

In his book Courage to Pray, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom writes:
“Often we are in tumult… That is why our prayer is trembling and hesitant, a prayer of tumult, uncertainty and incoherence.  Isn’t this the story of the storm on the lake of Galilee?  The Lord and his disciples are on the lake.  A tempest comes up when they are out to sea.  Death threatens them, the waves are huge, the winds beat against them.  They fight for their lives as hard as they can, and all this while the Lord is asleep on a cushion at the prow.  He looks comfortable to them.  They can’t bear him looking so comfortable, his indifference.  In their wretchedness they turn to him, wake him up, try to force him to realize what is happening.  ‘Lord, do you not see that we perish?’  But what are they doing by asking this question?  Are they appealing to the Lord to control the storm?  Yes and no.  First of all they want him to share their suffering.  They want him to be as anxious as they are.  They think he will not help them unless he shares their anxiety.  The Lord gets up, he refuses to share their panic.  He keeps his own serenity.  First he turns to them, ‘How long must I be with you, men of little faith?’  And then he turns towards the storm, and casts his own serenity onto it.  He orders the waves to be still and the wind to be silent, and his own peace to come down on everything about him.  The storm is still and the disciples fall at his feet.  Who is he?  They are still doubtful.  We often make the same mistake.  Instead of seeking to share God’s serenity, we ask God to share our tumult.  Of course he does share it, but with his own serenity.”

While reflecting on the Assembly, I read this excerpt from Metropolitan Anthony Bloom’s book, Courage to Pray, and I saw a few things that made a lot of sense to me.  First of all, I saw myself – in my own sinfulness, restless in the tumult of my own life, seeking Christ to calm the storm – instead of curling up with Him in the helm and realizing the God who I love can conquer all and has all under control.  I am the problem.  How often I am the small child yelling for my Father to “Fix it!” instead of the trusting child, curled up in His lap, assured that He is in control.

Next I saw our Byzantine Church, scared about what is coming next: “How will everything turn out, how will we keep this or that church open, where are the young people?!”  I saw our Church rushing to Jesus asleep in the boat, shaking Him, demanding Him to share in our anxiety – seeing only our fears of the future, not His insurmountable wisdom and power at work – the work that needs both death and resurrection in order to be complete.

Then I looked at myself and our Church in light of the Assembly and I felt a sense of peace.  Serenity.  Trust.  Openness.  After experiencing such a weekend of prayer, opportunities for forgiveness, times of personal and communal reflection, talks on Jesus, Mary and prayer, witnesses of Christ working in the lives of people – my heart is moved.  I felt on a personal level what I would venture to say everyone present on group level experienced, which is a true revival of faith, hope and trust in God and in prayer and a greater appreciation for our shepherd and father, Bishop John, who valiantly led all of us through the experience.

What a weekend it was!  I dare to say we and future generations will look back at this Assembly and see it as a decisive moment in the history of the Eparchy of Parma.  Now it’s up to each one of us – clergy, monastics, and laity – to embody the fervor, to enflesh the zeal, to incarnate the Gospel of Jesus Christ we received at the Assembly or that we will receive through the subsequent meetings.  We need to see the Church in a new light – one of hope, one of trust, one of expectation.  We need to act now not as one dead but as one truly alive.  As St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  Let us make St. Paul’s words to the Galatians our own:  “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (2:19-20).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Eparchial Assembly Witness Videos!

You may or may not have heard about our Eparchial Assembly that happened just a few short weeks ago, but it was a wonderful event held at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Parma, Ohio for members of the Eparchy of Parma.  We were privileged to be present throughout the weekend for all the prayer services and talks, and we wanted to share with you some videos of the witnesses that were given during the Friday presentation.  Say a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit for the continued efforts of the Assembly - then dive right in to these great personal reflections on our Eastern Catholic faith and our Byzantine Church in America!

Bishop John:

Fr. David Petras:

Mrs. Anna Barna:

Chris Singel:

ByzanTEENs and Young Adults:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Interviewed by Fr. Mark of EWTN's Life on the Rock!

Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Gabriella were interviewed by Fr. Mark from EWTN's show for young people, Life on the Rock, at the Fest in Cleveland this August.  Fr. Mark asked them some tough questions, but they had a great time and did their best to answer from the heart based on their experiences in the monastic life.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hot off the Press!

Our Summer/Fall edition of Pomegranate Blossoms is now online!

Have you heard about someone making a "pilgrimage" to a holy place, or have you made one yourself? Have you attended the annual "pilgrimage" at Mt. St. Macrina, the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch or another religious shrine? WHY DO WE DO THIS?? We hope you'll enjoy Sr. Gabriella's article, "What is a Pilgrimage for?" in the newest edition of our newsletter.

We have also included photos of groups who have visited the monastery this year, as well as articles on our girls' camp and the Mariapoch pilgrimage. The back page includes information on our upcoming discernment retreat in November. Enjoy and share with a friend!

Photo: Enjoying a visit from Pilgrim George, a life-long pilgrim,  as he made his summer pilgrimage through Ohio this year.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Upcoming Discernment Retreat for Young Women!

We are excited to announce a great opportunity for young women:

"Draw me in your footsteps, let us run” (Song of Songs 1:4).  Young, single Catholic women, ages 18-35, who would like to take a weekend to pray about a possible vocation to the monastic or religious life, are invited to inquire about attending the upcoming discernment retreat at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, Thurs., Nov. 7 – Sun., Nov. 10, 2013.  Experience the life of prayer at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, listen to talks on prayer and discernment, make use of the opportunity to get to know the nuns, and receive healing through the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession).  If you are interested in this retreat, or a future retreat or discernment opportunity, visit and fill out the online Vocation Inquiry Form.   Space is limited for the November retreat, so be sure to fill out the form by October 21.  Mother Theodora will call you to talk about availability.   If you have already filled out the Vocation Inquiry Form, you must contact Mother Theodora to express interest in the retreat and to confirm availability before making any travel plans.  With questions, call 440-834-0290.

Click here to view the brochure!

Friday, August 30, 2013

You're invited to our fall work day!

Join us for a day of outdoor and indoor work projects, prayer, food and fun at the monastery on Saturday, September 28.  Volunteers of all ages and abilities are welcome!  The day begins at 10 a.m., includes lunch, and closes with vespers at 5 p.m. followed by a cookout.  Come at whatever time you are available, and bring a side dish to share if you can.  Please RSVP by Tuesday, September 24, to 440-834-0290 or, so that the appropriate amount of food can be prepared.

Facebook Event

We're praying for all those who are travelling this weekend to Mt. St. Macrina in Uniontown, Pa., for the annual pilgrimage!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..."

We promised to post a longer article about our girls' camp, and although we are a bit behind, we still wanted to share with you about this fruitful weekend that took place here earlier this summer!  This is the article that appeared in the most recent issue of our eparchial newspaper, Horizons.  To view our photos, click here!

“We are witnesses” was the theme for the fifth annual Life in Christ Girls’ Sleepover Weekend (“Girls’ Camp”) June 27-30, 2013.  Fifteen teen girls from Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin, along with seven young adult facilitators, camped out at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, for a weekend of prayer, talks, discussion and fun.

Stephanie Packard, 18, of St. Mary parish in Cleveland, said, “It helped me to grow closer to Christ and to return back to Him.”  Another participant commented, “I realized how much I don’t talk to God.  I found my vocation and healed over a past experience during the talks and confession.”

The four-day camp is sponsored by the Eparchy of Parma’s Office of Vocations.  The participants heard from speakers representing each of the vocations in the Church, who spoke about their call to holiness within their vocations and about their favorite saints and the importance of praying to the saints.  This gave the girls an important opportunity to reflect on the way that God is leading them during this time of their life.  One participant said, “I had said ‘yes’ to Christ countless times, but this weekend I shouted ‘yes’ with my whole heart.”

The weekend began on Thursday evening with a documentary on the life of St. Maria Goretti, followed by discussion.  The girls were surprised by the patience of St. Maria in her everyday life, her example of purity and her forgiveness of her murderer.  On Friday morning, Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Gabriella, of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, spoke about the call of each person to be a saint.  A saint, they said, is someone who is holy, and “holy” means to be “set apart.” Therefore, holiness is not first a matter of “doing” but of “being”; it is a gift from God.  They shared the ways in which we open ourselves to the gift of holiness: through prayer and the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments).  The Sisters then talked about the examples the Church gives to us in the canonized saints.

Leah VanDine, 15, of St. Mary in Cleveland, said, “My favorite part of the weekend was the entire moral of the weekend, ‘We are Witnesses,’ because it helped me come to see the holiness in myself and in others and our spiritual need to be saintly.”

Young adult facilitator Stephanie Bullock spoke about the single life, particularly the temporary state of singleness as a special time of grace and growing in holiness while discerning one’s ultimate vocation.  Young adult couple Art and Maggie Klatt spoke about the vocation to marriage and the challenges and joys of seeking holiness through setting aside self out of love for God, spouse and family.  Mother Theodora, of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, spoke about the vocation to the monastic life and shared her journey of discernment.

The camp also included plenty of fun and prayer.  One participant said, “It is the most amazing experience to be with so many girls from all over the country and truly come together.”

On Saturday evening, young adult Rob Fetsko of Holy Transfiguration parish in Mentor, Ohio, gave a moving talk to the girls about their inherent dignity as daughters of God.  “You are beautiful just as you are,” he said.  He explained that when young women understand their dignity and live in a way that demonstrates that, it helps young men to be who they are called to be.   The girls then participated in the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession) and spent the evening in personal prayer in the gentle glow of candle-lit icons.  Emily Clark, 15, of St. Francis de Sales parish in Akron, Ohio, said, “My favorite part of the weekend was the confessions because it was awesome and freeing.”

The weekend culminated with a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch, across the street from the monastery.  The girls and their families joined the Boys’ Camp participants and their families for this moving, youth-cantored liturgy with Bishop John, followed by lunch and an awards program.

Megan Tucholski, 16, of Holy Spirit parish in Parma, Ohio, said of the weekend, “It strengthened my relationship [with Jesus Christ] because I got time to find Him and also to find myself.”  To young women considering next year’s camp, Mae Martin, 16, of St. Stephen parish in Allen Park, Mich., advises, “It’s so fun and peaceful and awesome!  You have to come.”

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"FIAT: Mary, Our Model of Faith"

Happy Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God!  

If you missed Deacon Sabatino's talk this past Sunday at the annual pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch (or if you just want to listen to it again, like we did!), today is a great day to watch this video we filmed!  Deacon Sabatino spoke on the theme for the pilgrimage, "FIAT: Mary, Our Model of Faith."  What is faith?  What does it mean to live by faith and not by sight?  What is knowledge?  Why are we so afraid to give our lives totally to God?  How do we become fully alive and truly happy?  This is a perfect talk to listen to on this feast of the Mother of God, during the Year of Faith!  Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo is the founder and director of the Institute of Catholic Culture.

Last night we enjoyed the beautiful vigil for the Feast of the Dormition, including the burial procession with the shroud of the Mother of God while chanting the Song of Songs!  Our beautiful flowers at the tomb were also blessed today at the Divine Liturgy, as is tradition.

"O Most Pure One, even in death your countenance appears as a paradise and breathes forth grace and life.  Now, O Mother, accept from us, Your children, our love and this funeral hymn which we offer up from the depths of our souls!" --First Station, Vigil Service

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mariapoch Pilgrimage info and Teen Campout deadline fast approaching!

Don't miss the annual eparchial pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch (across the street from our monastery), which is coming up in two weeks!

You are invited to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch in Burton, Ohio, August 10-11.  This pilgrimage weekend will explore the theme, “FIAT! Mary: Our Model of Faith.”  Experience Byzantine Catholic prayer services, including a Divine Liturgy on Sunday with Bishop John Kudrick, attend talks and activities for all ages, enjoy the beautiful Shrine grounds - you can even camp out overnight!  On Sunday afternoon, Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo—founder and executive director of the Institute of Catholic Culture—will speak on Mary as our model in faith.  Admission is free.  Meals will be available for purchase at the cafeteria.  For more information on the pilgrimage, visit or call 216-741-3312.

We are also coordinating an overnight campout for teens and young adults in conjunction with the pilgrimage at the shrine (with an optional volunteer day/vespers/bonfire/campout for young adults on Friday) on August 9, 10, and 11th. 

Please be sure to sign up for the campout by Friday, August 2nd! The cost is $25 per person, which strictly covers food - checks are made payable to Eparchy of Parma. Please be sure to print, sign and return your release form (and your medical cards for teens) to Mariapoch Campout, Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, 17485 Mumford Rd, Burton, Ohio 44021. 

If you have any questions, feel free to email us at or call us at 440-834-0290.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

LIVE from Mumford Rd: Episode 4!

"LIVE from Mumford Rd" takes you inside Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, with your hosts Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Gabriella, LIVE in the eternal time of the Kingdom of God!

In this episode, the Sisters talk about what they have been up to on their taping hiatus, namely celebrating Pascha and Girls' Camp.  Sr. Cecilia interviews Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo, Executive Director of the Institute of Catholic Culture and soon-to-be speaker at Our Lady of Mariapoch annual pilgrimage, which you all should be at! (See info at  You will also hear from one of our sponsors, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Girls' Camp Photos!

Our fifth annual Girls' Camp, June 27-30, was a truly blessed and fruitful weekend!  We will share more about it soon in a longer post, but for now, please enjoy these great photos!  (click on the photo below)

"My favorite part of the weekend was the entire moral of the weekend, 'We are Witnesses,' because it helped me come to see the holiness in myself and in others and our spiritual need to be saintly." 
-Leah VanDine

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sr. Cecilia on the radio and Sr. Gabriella in the National Catholic Register!

You can listen to an interview with Sr. Cecilia this weekend on Living Bread Radio! (1060 AM in the Cleveland, Akron and Canton, Ohio, area and 89.5 FM in Mahoning County, Ohio)  If you're not in the listening area, you can still listen online on their website.  Click on the "Listen Live" button.  Her interview will  air on the local weekly show called "Around the Town" on Saturday, June 15, at 11:30 a.m. and Sunday, June 16, at 6:30 p.m.  After this weekend it will also be posted on this page (click on the link for AT_11: air date 6-15-13).  Sr. Cecilia was interviewed earlier this week and answered questions about Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, how she heard the call to the monastic life, the Eastern monastic habit and more!

Sr. Gabriella appeared recently in Catholic media too!  She was interviewed for a National Catholic Register article about the Magdala Apostolate.  This apostolate is "an outreach project of the Institute of Catholic Culture and is dedicated to providing sound doctrinal formation—both initial and ongoing—for women religious and novices, in accord with the Church’s call for a new evangelization and the mission of the Institute of Catholic Culture."  Through the Magdala Apostolate we are able to take live classes via the internet on topics of Scripture, catechetics, apologetics, and hopefully additional topics in the future.  We are so grateful for this opportunity, which has been truly enriching for us, and will benefit those we serve.  (If you are able, please financially support this apostolate!  The Institue for Catholic Culture relies totally on donations, and they promise to keep this program free for all religious communities who wish to participate!)  And don't forget to check out the article!

On another note, our Facebook page reached the 1,000 "likes" mark today!  We are feeling all of your love and support!  Know of our prayers for you!!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thank you Lyceum Students! (And listen to this clip!)

Some students help Sr. Cecilia weed and mulch the raspberry beds
The students of the Lyceum, a Catholic classical education school in Cleveland, Ohio, visited our monastery and the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch yesterday to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and to offer their service with projects around the grounds.  Most of these students are Roman Catholic, but they have learned to beautifully sing the Byzantine Divine Liturgy!  Thanks, students and staff, for your voices and for your hard work!  Check out this short clip from their opening Marian hymn:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Girls' Camp Registration Posted!

Attention all teen girls and parents:  We have posted the registration form and brochure for the 2013 Life in Christ Girls' Sleepover Weekend (Girls' Camp) on the 'For Teen Girls' tab on our website!  Please be sure to register SOON because we are limiting registration this year to 20 teens.  The registration deadline is Wednesday, June 12th.  For more information, click on the 'For Teen Girls' tab!  If you have any questions, feel free to email the Girls' Camp Team at or give us a call at 440-834-0290.  Get excited to learn this year about how We are WITNESSES!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mothers...Fathers...and work day volunteers!

First of all, Happy Mother's Day to our dear Mother Theodora!...and to all of our mothers!  You have nurtured us with the love of God!

Secondly, we also honor our fathers today...well, our Fathers of the First Eccumenical Council (Nicea)!  On this Sunday after the Ascension, the Eastern Church honors these Fathers who defended the basic truth of our faith that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man (the Arian heresy denied this truth).  These Fathers include saints like St. Nicholas and St. Athanasius.  We owe to them our gratitute for the Symbol of Faith (creed) that we profess at every Divine Liturgy.

And lastly, but not least of all, we want to thank all of our awesome volunteers who came out yesterday, even in the damp, chilly weather, to offer their time and talents to help us with many projects in and around the monastery.  At least 60 people joined us!  All of the many children who came were great workers!  Click on the photo of Sr. Gabriella to see more photos from the work day and cookout!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Join us for our Spring Work Day & Cookout!

Saturday, May 11

Join us for a day of outdoor and indoor work projects, prayer, food and fun at the monastery on Saturday, May 11. Volunteers of all ages and abilities are welcome! The day begins at 10 a.m., includes lunch, and closes with vespers at 5 p.m. followed by a cookout. Come at whatever time you are available, and bring a side dish to share if you can. The monastery is located at 17485 Mumford Rd. Burton, Ohio.

Please RSVP by Tuesday, May 7, to 440-834-0290 or, so that the appropriate amount of food can be prepared. You may also RSVP on our Facebook Event!

We always have a great time, so we hope you are able to join us!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spring Newsletter

Please enjoy our spring issue of Pomegranate Blossoms.  In our cover article we share our thoughts about evangelization in light of the paschal season.  How are monks and nuns called to evangelize?  How are you called to evangelize? Inside, we share the opportunities for prayer we've been able to provide in the past few months (although if you've been following our blog you've probably read about them already!). We also give a list of our upcoming spring/summer/fall events!

Happy Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, one of our favorites!

At the sixth hour, You came to the well, O Fountain of Wonders, to ensnare the fruit of Eve; for at that very hour, she had been driven from Paradise by the guile of the serpent.  When the Samaritan woman came to draw water, You said to her, O Savior: Give Me water to drink, and I will give you waters of eternal life.  And the woman hastened to the city and proclaimed to the people: Come and see Christ the Lord, the Savior of our souls. 
--Stichera from Vespers

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Coming from the tomb like a bridegroom"

Christ is Risen!  Indeed He is Risen!

Enjoy this album of photos from our Holy Week and Pascha!

This is the most important time of the year in the Church, but it also has a particular importance for us as Christ the Bridegroom Monastery.

Holy Week is often called "The Week of the Bridegroom" because it is the week in which Jesus gave His life for His bride, the Church. The icon of Christ the Bridegroom depicts Jesus suffering his passion.  But the image of Christ as Bridegroom doesn't come to an end on Good Friday.  We continue to sing about Jesus as the Bridegroom during the paschal season!  Here are some quotes from the Resurrection services:

"Bearing torches let us meet the bridegroom, Christ, as He comes forth from His tomb; and let us greet, with joyful song, the saving Pasch of God." 

"O women, be the heralds of good news and tell what you saw; tell of the vision and say to Sion: 'Accept the good news of joy from us, the news that Christ has risen.' Exult and celebrate and rejoice, O Jerusalem, seeing Christ the King coming from the tomb like a bridegroom." 

"O Passover, save us from sorrow; for today Christ has shown forth from the tomb as from a bridal chamber and filled the women with joy by saying: 'Announce the good news to My Apostles.'"

May your celebration of the Resurrection be filled with the profound joy of knowing Christ's total and particular love for you.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pope Francis, St. Andrew of Crete, St. Mary of Egypt...

We were blessed to have the opportunity to watch the announcement of the new pope live on the internet (we don't have television).  We delayed the start of our Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts (the Lenten evening Liturgy celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays) to watch, and then began the it was probably one of the first liturgies to commemorate Pope Francis!  We are thrilled to welcome and pray for our new Holy Father!

Check out this article: Pope Francis is very familiar with the Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy!

On Thursday we led the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio, joined by about 30 others who came to pray with us.  The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, prayed in the Eastern Church on Thursday of the 5th Week of the Great Fast (Lent), takes us on a journey through the entire Bible, placing us in the shoes of all the penitents of the Old and New Testaments and teaching us from their examples.  The hundreds of prostrations unite our body and soul as we repent of our sins and experience God's mercy.  It was truly a moving experience for us, not only because of the beauty and intensity of the service, but also because of the unity we felt with those who came to pray with us.    Their deep prayer and perseverance lifted us up off the ground after each prostration and filled us with great energy!  Thank you!

This short video is a small look into this beautiful three-hour long service:

Happy Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt!  (Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast)  We are praying for you as we complete the Fast and enter into Great and Holy Week!

"Once filled with all kinds of evil, now through repentence she appears as a bride of Christ.  Leading an angelic life, she crushes the devils with the help of the Cross.  Therefore, the venerable Mary has become a bride of the the kingdom." (Kontakion of St. Mary of Egypt)

The story of St. Mary of Egypt--a great read if you have time!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

“This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

(This article was written as a reflection for the Byzantine Catholic Vocations Facebook Page - be sure to check out this great endeavor for our metropolitan church!)

On this fourth Sunday of Lent, we commemorate St. John Climacus, a seventh century monk known most popularly for his work, ‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent,’ which is a treatise on the importance of asceticism as a means of attaining spiritual perfection.  The two main ascetical efforts undertaken by the clergy, religious, and faithful of the Byzantine Church during the Great Fast are prayer and fasting.  But why?  Why prayer and fasting?

Prayer is our relationship with God, our connection to the Divine.  It moves our hearts and minds outside of our earthly home, and allows us to lift our “eyes to the hills” because our “help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:1-2)  Often times though, we have trouble praying because we are very attached to this world.  To things, people, food – you name it, we grasp for it.  Fasting attempts to break the hold of these temporal or transitory goods on us in a tangible way so that we may remember that the good things God gives us are just that – gifts provided by God and are not God in and of themselves.  It allows us to take a step back from these essential goods in our life and remind ourselves that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4), that is Jesus Christ.  In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, fasting combined with prayer “allow [Christ] to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.”

There are also times in our life (or rather in our hearts) when we experience demons that can only be cast out through prayer and fasting.  We hear in the gospel today about a faith-filled father who approaches Christ on behalf of his demon-possessed son.    Because of the father’s great act of faith, Jesus is able to heal his son – but this healing causes a stir among the disciples.  “Why could we not cast him out?”  Jesus responds, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”  When we encounter such demons, or even harder, the inner reality of our own sinful heart, we realize that prayer and fasting become not just an ascetical effort but a way of life, a necessity to our salvation and a pathway by which we purge our hearts, minds and bodies of the demons or sins that possess us.

According to our Typikon or rule of life, “Fasting is one of the pillars of monastic life and an important tool in attaining detachment, freedom and self-discipline.”  In the tradition of our Holy Fathers, such as St. John Climacus who we commemorate today, monastics participate in the traditional ‘black fast’ for the 40 days of the Great Fast and Holy Week, which means we fast from meat, dairy, wine and oil.  (Yes, there are in fact still some food groups available outside of these categories!)

For monastics, fasting becomes our way of life.  We first learn to fast from food but that external fasting reminds and leads us to the internal reality that I mentioned before – God alone satisfies our hunger.  But we are human – and sometimes are very forgetful. (Perhaps I just speak for myself!)  For this reason, the Church in her Wisdom combines prayer with our fasting.  Again from our Typikon, “However, fasting is not an end in itself….Fasting must always be joined with prayer. Therefore the periods of fasting in the monastery coincide with the liturgical cycle of the Church. In this way, fasting also creates a spirit of expectation and joy as the monastery looks forward to the coming feast.”  By living out our fasting in conjunction with the Church’s liturgical cycle, we are constantly reminded of why we fast  through the prayers we pray and our prayer directs our attention back towards God, the One we desire to fill us.  Just remember, fasting without prayer is simply dieting!  Our fasting must serve a purpose; otherwise we become “a resounding gong or a clashing symbol.” (1 Cor 13:1)

Remember, it is never too late to participate in the Great Fast!  If you haven’t kept your Lenten promises to yourself or you never got around to coming up with any, ‘plug in’ to the wisdom of the Church and pick one of the items of the traditional fast to give up! (Or all of them!)  Find a Lenten prayer service to attend at your church (or at a monastery!) or try praying the Prayer of St. Ephrem.  Offer up these sacrifices for the intention of finding your vocation!  Allow these final weeks of the Great Fast to engage your mind and heart in a new way through the prayer and fasting tradition of the Church, so that when we reach Pascha, you will truly know Christ is RISEN, body and soul!