Monday, December 28, 2015

Teen girls: you're invited to a sleepover at the monastery, Jan. 16-17!

Teen girls 13-18 are invited for an evening of prayer, food and fun, at the monastery for our girls' sleepover, January 16-17.  Click here for the schedule and to register!  Families of the girls are invited to Divine Liturgy and brunch on Sunday morning.  Space is limited to 15 girls, so sign up soon!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bearing Christ in the ordinary

I have been reflecting the last several weeks on my call to spiritual motherhood, which made itself profoundly manifest at my profession.  The weeks following the profession have been a time of learning from Jesus, through the example of the Mother of God, what it means to be a spiritual mother.

In my search to learn more about Mary’s maternity, I was led to pick up a book called The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander, which has been teaching me much about Mary’s example of motherhood.  I was pondering Mary’s pregnancy and how we are all called, nuns in particular, to be pregnant with God.  We are called to bear Christ to the world, not through extraordinary means, but through the ordinariness of everyday life.
      “Yes, it certainly seemed that God wanted to give the world the impression that it is ordinary for Him to be born of a human creature.
     Well, that is a fact.  God did mean it to be the ordinary thing, for it is His will that Christ shall be born in every human being’s life and not, as a rule, through extraordinary things, but through the ordinary daily life and the human love that people give to one another.” (Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God, ‘Fiat’ p. 18)
Not much has changed outwardly in my daily life since my life profession.  I still have the same work to do, I still have the same sisters to love, I still must respond ‘yes’ every day to all the calls that Jesus makes.  What is different is that I now interiorly have the grace to fulfill my vows to Him, if I just turn to Jesus in every ordinary situation and allow Him to unite Himself to me through the very mundaneness of everyday life.  I must surrender in each situation to His will and allow Him to love through me each person I encounter – filled with Him within me and bearing Him, not myself, forth to the world.
     “The surrender that is asked of us includes complete and absolute trust; it must be like Our Lady’s surrender, without condition and without reservation.
     We shall not be asked to do more than the Mother of God; we shall not be asked to become extraordinary or set apart or to make a hard and fast rule of life or to compile a manual of mortification or heroic resolutions; we shall not be asked to cultivate our souls life rare hothouse flowers; we shall not, most of us, even be allowed to do that.
     What we shall be asked to give is our flesh and blood, our daily life – our thoughts, our service to one another, our affections and loves, our words, our intellect, our waking, working, and sleeping, our ordinary human joys and sorrows – to God.
     To surrender all that we are, as we are, to the Spirit of Love in order that our lives may bear Christ into the world – that is what we shall be asked.” (Ibid, p.19)
So here is my challenge to you in the final days of the Nativity Fast or Advent: Remember… that it is more important to come bearing Christ rather than gifts to all the festivities you will be attending… that you should share the joy of a life lived in union with Christ along with your Christmas cookies… that you should love each person you encounter in these final days of preparation, from the UPS delivery man bringing your last minute Amazon purchases, to your kids who may do more to hinder your holiday decorating than help.  Each of these moments is an opportunity to incarnate Christ, to experience the true meaning of Christmas and to receive the promise of God’s love as Mary did, in the very normalness of life.

Mother Gabriella

Friday, December 11, 2015

Hot off the Press!

A new design, twice as many pages, and a beautiful reflection from each one of the six members of our monastery about our new steps in monastic life this year.  Please enjoy our Winter 2015/2016 edition of Pomegranate Blossoms!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Congratulations Mother Cecilia & Mother Gabriella!

It's been quite busy here at the monastery this past month, so we are finally getting around to a short post to congratulate our new mothers, Mother Cecilia and Mother Gabriella, who made their life profession and were tonsured as stavrophore ("cross-bearer") nuns on November 8, at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio.  About 500 people joined us to witness this profound moment. Mother Cecilia and Mother Gabriella are happily getting accustomed to being called "Mother," wearing a wedding ring and a klobuk, and growing deeper in union with their Bridegroom, Christ!

We plan to post the beautiful pictures soon!  Please keep all of us in your prayers!  You are in ours.  May God prepare your heart for His coming as we approach the feast of His Nativity.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Life Profession, November 8

Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Gabriella will make their life profession on Sunday, November 8, at 2:00 p.m., at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 1900 Carlton Rd., Parma, Ohio.  All are invited to the profession service and Divine Liturgy!  Here is some information about this step in the monastic life and what you will experience at the profession:

Mother Theodora hands the bishop the scissors at her profession in 2011
After several years of discernment and experience in living the monastic life as a dokimos (postulant) and then as a rasophore (“robe-bearer”) nun after her tonsure, a nun may request to make her life profession and commit her whole life to Christ as His bride.  If she is determined to be ready to make this commitment, she is received as a stavrophore (“cross-bearer”) nun during the monastic profession service.  At the beginning of the service, she is led up through the center of the church in a white robe (symbolic of her baptismal garment), barefoot, with her head uncovered and long hair flowing.  She makes three prostrations as she walks up through the church, symbolizing the three immersions in the baptismal font.  As she walks and approaches the bishop standing before the Royal Doors, the people sing a troparion about the return of the prodigal son to his father.  After the final prostration, the bishop helps her up.  He then asks a series of questions to determine her free will, her intentions, her willingness to renounce the things of the world, and her willingness to embrace poverty, chastity, obedience and all the “sorrows and restraints of the monastic life for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.”  She answers, “Yes, Master, with God’s help.” The bishop then recites a powerful catechesis (instruction) about the monastic life and beautiful words of encouragement, such as, “May He be with you when you fall and when you rise up again, consoling and cheering your heart with the comfort of His Holy Spirit.” The bishop then prays to God that He may accept her and help her.  The bishop then asks her to give him the scissors that he will use to cut her hair.  She must hand them to him three times to demonstrate her free will.  Then he tonsures her (cuts her hair) “as a sign that she has renounced the world, and everything that is in the world, and for the restraining of her will and of all fleshly desires.”  The bishop then blesses each piece of the habit one by one with prayers that explain the significance of that piece of clothing, and she is clothed in each piece.  In addition to the habit she has been wearing since her tonsure as a rasophore nun, she also receives the klobuk (hat with veil), the paramandyas (a square of black wool embroidered with a red cross and the instruments of the Passion), the mandyas (cape), a hand cross, a 300-knot chotki (prayer rope), and a lighted candle.  In Christ the Bridegroom Monastery the nuns also receive a wedding ring to symbolize their union with Christ as their Spouse.  The nun is now led in front of the icon of Christ where she will stand holding her hand cross and lighted candle for the duration of the Divine Liturgy that follows, just as the newly baptized would do.

A stavrophore nun experiences the fullness of monastic life, sharing in the passion, death and resurrection of her Bridegroom.  She is given the title of “Mother” to express the fruitfulness of her union with Christ.  Before the nun is tonsured as a stavrophore she relinquishes all monies,

possessions and property.  At this point, the nun is committed to remain for her lifetime in Christ the Bridegroom Monastery.  Many people ask, “Is the life profession the same thing is ‘final vows?’”  Yes, but Eastern monastics do not make “temporary vows” as other types of religious communities do, so there is no need to specify that these are the “final” vows.  To read more about the stages of monastic life, visit the “Discerning?” tab.  Please pray for Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Gabriella as they prepare for this serious, yet exciting and joyful day!

Please note: The profession and Divine Liturgy will last approximately three hours (but it will be timeless joy!).  Unfortunately we are not able to invite everyone to the dinner reception that will follow, but the Eucharistic banquet is the most important of all!

You are also invited to join us at the Sisters' respective home parishes on the two following Sundays as we celebrate in Thanksgiving for the gift of their vocations!

Mass of Thanksgiving for Sr. Gabriella
Sunday, November 15, 2015
11:00 a.m.
St. Francis de Sales Church
4019 Manchester Road
Akron, Ohio

Divine Liturgy of Thanksgiving for Sr. Cecilia 
Sunday, November 22, 2015 (Feast of St. Cecilia)
10:30 a.m.
St. Joseph Byzantine Church 
8111 Brecksville Road
Brecksville, Ohio

Monday, October 5, 2015

Entrusted to God and to the Church

Our community grew to six members on September 30th, when we welcomed Victoria Olsen as a dokimos (postulant) during Vespers for the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God. Victoria entered on the patronal feast day of her home parish, Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine parish in Denver.  Her pastor, Fr. Michael O'Loughlin, was able to make the trip out to be present for her entrance day. He reminded us that the feast day is also the patronal feast of Victoria's home eparchy, Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix! Victoria's parents, grandmas and a cousin were also able to be present. Enjoy these photos from the day!

Here are some beautiful words from our bishop's homily:

“Entrusting: what a beautiful concept…on this Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God.  Jesus entrusted his good friend, John, to His Mother.  He said ‘Here is your mother.  Trust her.’  And we know that Mary is that image of the Church, and God entrusts us to this beautiful instutition, organization, family: the Church.  And so we do trust and we do have to have that kind of faith, and today is an opportunity for us to entrust ourselves into the hands of: a superior, into the hands of those who have been given to us for support. …We know that Victoria has in the past and will continue to thank her family, and we in the name of the Church thank her family for showing her that right to trust, that ability to trust.  [This trust] comes from living in a strong family, or it comes later in life with the grace of God. …We take a moment to be reminded of those to whom we are entrusted. …We thank God for the gift of His Mother, whose mantle is held over us, to show us that indeed it is a mantle of love, a mantle of interest and care for us.  And so, how appropriate we do trust, and we indeed want to maintain that newness in our life and not lose that first fervor that is easy to lose. …I am sure that God has great things in store for [Victoria] as she continues her discernment now to determine if in fact this community is where she will find God’s plan for her.”

Monday, September 28, 2015

"You are an enclosed garden": Upcoming Discernment Retreat

The retreat has been postponed to the spring. Please check back later for the new date!

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 our upcoming discernment retreat, Thurs., Oct. 15 – Sun., Oct. 18, 2015.  Experience our life of prayer, listen to talks on prayer and discernment, make use of the opportunity to get to know us, and receive healing through the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession).  If you are interested in this retreat, or a future retreat or discernment opportunity, fill out the online Vocation Inquiry Form.  Space is limited for the retreat, so be sure to fill out the form by October 8.  Mother Theodora will call you to talk about availability.  With questions, call 440-834-0290 or email

Visit our "Discerning?" page for the schedule and more information.  Or check out the retreat brochure!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Welcome, Victoria!

Please keep in your prayers our soon-to-be dokimos (postulant) Victoria Olsen! She will enter our community at Vespers for the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God on September 30. Victoria comes to us from Denver, Colorado, where she was a parishioner of Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church. She will be an enthusiastic, joyful addition to our community! Please pray for her as she begins this time of growth and discernment of the monastic life.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Our new sisters explain their names

Our new rasophore nuns, Sr. Emilia and Sr. Iliana, were tonsured on September 7, and they would like to share with you about the saints and inspiration behind the monastic names they received:

Sr. Emilia
Feast Day: May 8

“You shall be given a new name
which the LORD himself will give. . .
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall
your God rejoice over you.”
(Isaiah 62:2,5)

“…the handmaid of God, Sr. Emilia.” These words are the words spoken by my bishop on the day of my tonsure. I did not know my name up to this point. When he said, “Emilia,” my heart skipped a beat. That was my number one choice, but it wasn’t one of the three choices that I submitted to Mother Theodora. I had already received that name in eighth grade, when I was confirmed. I told God in prayer one day, “I love Emilia, I feel called to take that name, but I already did. If it is really you asking me to take this name again, I need you to make Mother pick it without it being an option and without me saying it’s the number one name on my heart. I need to know it is your will, Lord.”

My seventh grade year, my mom passed away just two weeks after having the youngest of my siblings, Edward Benedict. If he had been a girl, my mom wanted to name him Emilia Rose, after St. John Paul II’s mom, who died when he was young. In honor of my mom, I chose to take Emilia as my confirmation name that next year. When I submitted that name I had to write a little report on St. Emilia. Here are some of the things that I found interesting then, which are even more so now:

St. Emilia was the mother of ten children, five of whom are canonized saints. She instilled the Christian faith in her children, teaching them to pray and devote their lives to the Church (this reminded me greatly of my own saintly mother). The most well-known children of St. Emilia’s are St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Macrina. Because of her holiness and the holiness of her children, St. Emilia is referred to as “The Mother of Saints.” She left everything behind to start a monastery with her oldest daughter Macrina. They began to live humble lives with other women who sought union with God.

These points about her life affect me more now because of the connection with the Byzantine Church. Her children are celebrated on the Byzantine calendar and St. Basil the Great has a special liturgy that we, the faithful, use during Great Lent. When I was in eighth grade, I had no idea what the Byzantine Catholic Church was. I had no idea that down the road I would be tonsured a rasaphore nun in a Byzantine monastery and receive that same name again. Looking back at this process, I can clearly see God’s hand at work in my life. He truly picked my name the day I was tonsured and it means that much more because of the connection with my mother.

Now that I am called Sr. Emilia, I will live each day remembering to emulate this holy saint. I will look to her for guidance in holiness, for examples of how to be a good mother for those children of God that come to me seeking spiritual motherhood. Above all, I will remember and be connected to my own mother each day as I remember her love for God and her dedication to raise me and my ten siblings in the love of the Lord, my heavenly Father. I will have the memories of her example to help me in religious life; to always love the Lord above all else, and strive to lead the souls whom I encounter to heaven, to union with God.

“You are now God’s daughter; you belong. In Christ, you are His favorite, His beloved.”
(Abba’s Heart, by Neal Lozano)

Sr. Iliana                        
Feast day: July 20th, Elias the Prophet  
Meaning: “My God has answered” in Hebrew 
Pronounced: ee-lee-ah-nah (Iliana, the Ukrainian spelling of Eliana, feminine of Elias)  

The Lord placed the name Iliana on my heart on Pentecost Sunday, and filled my heart with a burning desire to be named after the great prophet Elias. I felt unworthy to be named after such a great prophet, so full of fiery zeal, when I was so small and prone to fear. Elias was “filled with jealous zeal for the Lord” (I Kg 19:10). He was taken to heaven in a “chariot of fire” (II Kg 2:11) and when he was born, his father saw “angels of God hovering around the child, wrapping the child in fire and feeding it flames” (The Prologue of Ohrid). So, too, I wished to be caught up in the flames of His love.  

The next day, I decided to ask the Lord if this was the name He had chosen, and asked Elias if he was, in fact, adopting me as his little pupil. I began to read about the Transfiguration, and was immediately struck by the image of Jesus speaking to Elias face to face, and so I understood that Elias would teach me to pray and speak with the Lord face to face, “as a man speaks with a friend” (Ex 33:11). When Jesus said that “Elias has come already,” the disciples “understood that he was speaking of John the Baptist” (Mt 17:12-13), and so I understood that with Elias as my patron, I would also have John the Baptist, the “friend of the Bridegroom” (Jn 3:29) as my patron as well. As we continued to celebrate Pentecost, I felt that by choosing the prophet Elias as my patron, I could also cry out with Elisha, “Let me inherit a double share of your spirit” (II Kg 2:9).  

I felt that the three most courageous, zealous prophets of the Lord were adopting me, a small little soul so prone to fear, teaching me that “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” (II Cor 3:17) and helping me hear the “still, small voice” (I Kg 19:12) of the Lord speak to my heart, “To you my friends I say: Do not be afraid” (Lk 12:4). As I pondered these things through the day, I continued to ask the Lord if this was what He was choosing for me. Then I went to the chapel for Vespers, and soon discovered that we were having Great Vespers, for the Feast of the third finding of the head of John the Baptist! The friend of the Bridegroom had adopted me and my soul rejoiced! Then the Lord confirmed this burning desire during the readings for Great Vespers, when Mother suddenly read, “Lo, I will send you Elias, the prophet” (Mal 3:23). 

I began to research the feminine name of Elias and discovered that Iliana meant “my God has answered” in Hebrew. This meaning resonated so deeply, for I knew in my heart that my vocation to be a nun at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery was a beautiful answer to prayer from the Lord. As Elias had “quenched his thirst by the stream” that the Lord had provided (I Kg 17:6), so too, the Lord was quenching my thirst for Him. As the “hand of the Lord had come down upon Elias” (I Kings 18:46) so that he could accomplish the Lord’s work, so too, the Lord’s hand was coming down on me.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Introducing Sr. Emilia & Sr. Iliana

When Pope Francis announced the “Year of Consecrated Life” which began on November 30, 2014, and will continue until February 2, 2016, we knew we didn’t have time to plan and implement any programs or events to celebrate this special year.  However, God had time.  It turns out that in addition to major renovations, our first fundraising event and the usual annual activities at the monastery, the Lord planned some large steps of growth for us during the “Year of Consecrated Life,” the first of which took place during Vespers for the recent feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God.

On Monday, September 7, our two dokimoi (postulants), Jacqueline McNeill and Motria Lonchyna were tonsured as rasophore nuns by Bishop John at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch in Burton, Ohio, receiving their habits and new monastic names and entering more fully into the monastic life.  Jacqueline is now Sr. Emilia, and Motria is now Sr. Iliana.

“Rasophore” simply means “robe-bearer,” which refers to the riassa (religious robe) which the nuns are clothed in at this stage in their monastic life.  A rasophore nun also receives the tunic, apostolnik (veil), belt, and skufia (hat).

Receiving the habit and new name is preceded by great anticipation within the monastic community as well as outside of it, and the moment of hearing the nun’s new name is one of emotion for all. Careful discernment takes place on the part of the dokimos as she submits three names to Mother, as well as on the part of Mother Theodora as she listens for what the Holy Spirit desires.

Mother chose the name Sr. Emilia—a name that was not on Jacqueline’s list, but one that was very close to her heart.  Sr. Emilia explained, “When Bishop John said, ‘Emilia,’ my heart skipped a beat. That was my number one choice, but it wasn’t one of the three choices that I submitted to Mother Theodora. I had already received that name in eighth grade, when I was confirmed. I told God in prayer one day, 'I love Emilia, I feel called to take that name, but I already did. If it is really you asking me to take this name again, I need you to make Mother pick it without it being an option....I need to know it is your will, Lord.'” St. Emilia was the mother of ten children, five of whom are canonized saints, including St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Macrina.  Bishop John was full of emotion as he tonsured Sr. Emilia and gave her this name, and he explained at the end of the service that Emilia was his mother’s name.

Sr. Iliana’s name is the Ukrainian spelling of the feminine form of St. Elias the Prophet.  She explained that the Lord placed this name on her heart on the feast of Pentecost.  She desired to be “caught up in the flames of God’s love” as St. Elias was. She felt that this courageous prophet was adopting her, “a little soul so prone to fear, teaching me that ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom’ (II Co 3:17) and helping me hear the ‘still, small voice’ (1 Kg 19:12) of the Lord speak to my heart, ‘To you my friends I say: Do not be afraid’ (Lk 12:4).”  The name is pronounced “ee-lee-ah-nah.”

Many friends and family witnessed the tonsure. “Tonsure” is the cutting of the hair as a sign of consecration and commitment to God. Following the service, the guests enjoyed a potluck dinner at the shrine pavilion, where the newly-tonsured nuns greeted them and tried to get accustomed to responding to their new names.

The first year as rasophore nuns is a time of limited communication with those outside the monastery so that the new nuns may learn to depend on their Bridegroom alone.  If the rasophores and the monastic community discern that it is God’s will that they commit the remainder of their lives to Him and be united to Him as His brides, in several years they may make their life profession and be tonsured as stavrophore nuns, at which time they will be given the title “Mother” to represent the spiritual motherhood with which they are blessed by this union.

Please keep Sr. Emilia and Sr. Iliana in your prayers as they continue to discern God’s will and strive to give their lives to Christ and His Church.

The second moment of growth in our monastery will occur, God-willing, on September 30, when another young woman, Victoria Olsen, will enter the monastery as a dokimos (postulant).  Victoria is from Holy Protection Byzantine Catholic Church in Denver, Colorado.

The third moment will occur on November 8, when rasophore nuns Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Gabriella will be tonsured as stavrophore (“cross-bearer”) nuns and make their life profession to Christ.  All are invited to attend the profession and Divine Liturgy for the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and all the Angels at 2:00 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio. Glory to God for all His blessings this year!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Come and join us for our Fall Work Day!

Saturday, September 19th
10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Join us for a day of outdoor and indoor work projects, prayer, food and fun at the monastery on Saturday, September 19.  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, September 15, to 440-834-0290 or, so that the appropriate amount of food can be prepared. 

Facebook Event

Thursday, August 20, 2015

“Beautifully Made, Wholly Redeemed”

We are finally getting around to sharing with you about our busy summer! This post is about our Girls' Camp, which took place in June. We are still smiling as we think about it!

Twenty “Beautifully Made, Wholly Redeemed” teen girls gathered at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery for the seventh annual Eparchy of Parma Girl’s Camp, June 25-28. Coming from parishes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and even as far away as Texas, the girls came to encounter Christ’s love through the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession).

View our photo album

“Beautifully Made, Wholly Redeemed,” the theme of this year’s camp, emphasized the original beauty in which we were all created in infinite love and in the image of God. The girls watched the classic Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast,” which illustrated the beauty and dignity that lies deep within the heart of each one of us, and is not just reliant on our outward appearance. In our small group discussions, we looked more closely at these words from Scripture: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Throughout the camp, we explored the main themes of salvation history. “In the divine image He created him; male and female He created them…God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good” (Genesis 1: 27, 31). The truth is that we are all made very good, but the lies of the devil and the fruit of sin in our lives leave us ashamed, and we hide from God. We read in Genesis that after the fall, “God then called to Adam” (Genesis 3:9). Throughout salvation history, God has been calling to each one of us, desiring to restore within us the original beauty of His creation, desiring to be reconciled with us, desiring to embrace each one of us as His beloved child.

Sr. Cecilia gave the main presentation this year, explaining the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession) and how Confession is a renewal of our baptism. After Confession we are completely reconciled with God, as clean as a baby that has just immerged from the baptismal font. She quoted an exorcist who said, “The devil fears one good Confession more than a thousand exorcisms,” because when we immerge from the confessional we are completely pure, a “new creation.” After Sr. Cecilia’s talk, one of the girls shared that this was the first time she had truly understood what was actually happening in Confession.

Mary Fetsko of Holy Transfiguration Parish in Mentor, Ohio, shared her personal testimony as a single woman living in the world, and how God has been working in her life. She reflected on how God’s mercy in the Mystery of Holy Repentance had helped her understand her own dignity and beauty in God’s eyes. Jason and Brooke Roberts of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Akron, Ohio, gave a talk about their vocation to marriage. They emphasized that love is not always a feeling but a choice you make every morning, and they also spoke about how Confession has helped strengthen their marriage.  

Dokimos (postulant) Moki Lonchyna shared her remarkable vocation story and how God has spoken to her of His love through prayer and the Mystery of Holy Repentance. She shared that her vocation, as is every vocation, was a response to His particular call upon her heart. After Moki’s talk, one of the girls commented, “This is the kind of story you read in a book, but this one actually happened!” Chris Kelly, a youth minister at Sts. Robert and William Parish in Euclid, Ohio, followed with an inspiring talk about how God fulfills our desires through the vocation he is calling us to, and how the deepest desire of every woman in the desire to be loved.

Although the main theme of the camp was related to Confession, we found that prayer  and God’s love became a focus for many of our small group discussions. We learned of a personal God who cares deeply about each of our hearts, who speaks to our hearts of His love, and who wants to be with us. Prayer is simply being with God, even when you do not know what to say. When you take time to be with Him you begin to hear Him speaking to your heart of His love. The girls themselves expressed so beautifully the fruits of the camp. Georgianna Hartung shared that “it brought me closer to Jesus and showed me a way to listen to Him.” Yana Monaco shared that “praying, Confession and various discussions opened my eyes to a more intimate and loving fellowship to people and especially to God.”

The camp culminated in a time of quiet reflection and prayer and an opportunity for Confession on Saturday evening. Most of the girls wrote that their favorite part of the camp was Confession. One girl shared that “it was very powerful and cleansing,” and “I know of His forgiveness and mercy, and I’m more open to prayer.” Elisabeth Hartung shared, “I’ve come to understand more fully my need for love, love that can only come from God.” Veronica Perts also shared, “I found hope and courage and LOVE in Jesus Christ. I experienced the love Jesus has for me.”

Our girls were not only showered with torrential downpours of God’s mercy and love during the camp, but with torrential downpours of rain as well. Our “camp” turned into a sleepover very quickly, as all the girls had to sleep in the monastery due to the rain. Although many girls lamented our flooded tents and soccer “field,” the camp remained very prayerful and fun. Our spirits were not completely dampened, and we were still able to make our crafts, share in group discussions, and get to know each other better.

The camp closed with a joint Hierarchical Divine Liturgy with the flooded boys’ camp participants at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch, across the street from the monastery. After liturgy, the campers and their families shared a delicious lunch prepared by Richard Plishka, and the campers received rewards from the Sisters and facilitators. To encourage more girls to attend the camp next year, one of the participants said, “It was a spiritual strength booster and will leave you changed.”

Saturday, August 15, 2015

More good news!

Before the "Year of Consecrated Life" is completed, four fifths of our monastery will take the next step in consecrating our lives to God! As you read in our last post, Jacqui and Moki will be tonsured as rasophore ("robe-bearer") nuns on September 7. And today, on this great Feast of the Dormition, we are overjoyed to share with you that Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Gabriella will make their life profession and be tonsured as stavrophore ("cross-bearer") nuns on Sunday, November 8!

As Mary, the Mother of God, surrendered herself to God at the Annunciation as well as at her Dormition, may Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Gabriella be filled with grace in order to give their total "yes" to God and to joyfully die to the world. Please pray for them, that they may place their lives without condition into the hands of God, so that His will may be accomplished in them, bringing forth life into the world.

At the Sisters' profession, they will receive additional pieces of the habit, as well as the title "Mother" to represent the spiritual motherhood that results from their union with Christ the Bridegroom.

All are welcome to attend the Profession and Divine Liturgy for the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and all the Angels on Sunday, November 8, 2015, at 2:00 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 1900 Carlton Rd., Parma, Ohio.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Soon to be transfigured!

On this great Feast of the Transfiguration, we are overjoyed to announce the tonsuring of our two dokimoi (postulants) as rasophore nuns on September 7! During Vespers for the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, Jacqueline and Motria will be clothed in the monastic habit, belt, riassa (robe) and skufia (hat) and receive a new monastic name. Please keep them in your prayers as they prepare for this next step in their monastic formation!

All are invited to join us for Vespers:

Monday, September 7, 2015
The Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch
17486 Mumford Rd. 
Burton, Ohio 44021
4:00 p.m.Vespers for the Feast of The Nativity of the Mother of God

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Next Step

"May God truly bless this undertaking and each member thereof who gives a total gift of self."

Yesterday, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy during the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch, Bishop John announced that he has established our monastery as a public association of the Christian faithful--the next step in our full canonical establishment as a monastery. He also presented each of our tonsured members with a copy of our approved Typikon (rule of life). It was a beautiful moment, surrounded by so many of the eparchy's clergy and faithful!

Photo: The Sister on the right is Sr. Adalberta, one of the Social Mission Sisters who formerly cared for the shrine and gave us their former residence as our monastery.

Decree of Erection
Christ the Bridegroom Monastery
A Public Association of the Christian Faithful

Mother Theodora Strohmeyer, a stavrophore nun and spiritual mother of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, [hereafter "the Monastery"], a private association of the Christian faithful in the Eparchy of Parma, petitions that the Monastery be erected as a public association of the Christian faithful.

Having studied the petition and its supporting evidence, and reviewed and approved the proposed Typikon, I hereby erect Christ the Bridegroom Moanstery as a public association of the Christian faithful in view of being erected in the future as an autonomous monastery.

As a public association of the Christian faithful, the Monastery enjoys juridic personality and autonomy of life in accord with canon 573 and 920-930. It remains subject to the authority of the bishop of the Eparchy of Parma in all those matters prescribed in the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches for public associations of the Christian faithful.

May God truly bless this undertaking and each member thereof who gives a total gift of self, giving glory to God and service to his people.

Given this 1st day of August 2015

Most Reverend John M. Kudrick
Bishop, Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma

Rt. Rev. Dennis M. Hrubiak

Monday, July 20, 2015

Join us for the 60th annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch

About the Pilgrimage
Join us for the 60th annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch (across the street from the monastery) in Burton, Ohio, on Aug. 1-2, 2015.  This year’s eparchial pilgrimage also marks the 300th anniversary of the weeping of the replica of the original icon of Our Lady of Mariapoch in Mariapocs, Hungary, Aug. 1-5, 1715, which is considered the birth of the shrine in Hungary.  All are invited to this anniversary pilgrimage in Burton for a weekend of prayer and fellowship in honor of, and in supplication to, the Mother of God.  We will pray especially for persecuted Christians and for the end to terrorism.  Come during the day or camp out overnight.  The weekend will culminate with a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated by Bishop John on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.  For the full schedule and other information, please visit  Teens wishing to participate in the chaperoned campout program must submit a release form and payment by July 27.  With questions, please call the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery at 440-834-0290.  Updates are also available on the Facebook page for the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch.

ByzanTEEN Campout
Teens ages 13-18--join us for a weekend of prayer and fun during the 60th annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch in Burton, Ohio, Aug. 1-2, 2015.  For the schedule, more information and to register, visit  To participate in this chaperoned campout program, you must submit a release form and payment by July 27. The cost is $25, which includes all meals.  With questions, please contact the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery at 440-834-0290 or
More Information
Online Registration

About the Speaker
Our speaker this year is Seminarian Patrick Schultz. God-willing, Patrick will be ordained a deacon in October and a priest in May for the Diocese of Cleveland. Patrick is a dynamic speaker who will talk about the persecutions facing the Church in both the Middle East and in our own country, and to what God is calling us in the face of these persecutions. His talk, "Awash Amidst Heresies & Idols: A Look at the Church and the World," will take place on Sunday, August 2, at 1:30 p.m.

Patrick will also speak about his vocational journey, at the campfire on Saturday, August 1, at 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Exciting updates for our "Mumford & Nuns" BBQ

Only 10 days left to purchase your ticket for our "Mumford & Nuns" BBQ on July 11!  Don't miss out on a great evening and a chance to support our monastic life!  Here are some updates:

1. Blazin Bills, a popular local restaurant, will be catering our BBQ!

2. We've added a few items to our silent auction sneak peak:
-A kayak
-A framed print of a drawing from Lord of the Rings by Sr. Cecilia
-A trap-shooting experience for two

3. Our jam, jelly and notecards will be available for purchase during the event

Visit our BBQ page for more information and to purchase a ticket! Tickets are $60/person or $110/couple. Please purchase your ticket by June 30.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Pomegranate Blossoms

Our Spring/Summer edition of Pomegranate Blossoms is hot off the press!  Enjoy a great reflection by Sr. Gabriella about change and making space for God, based on her experience with our current renovations.  Learn about our newest dokimos (postulant) Moki.  Let Mother update you on our renovations.  See what groups have visited the monastery recently and what talks we've given, and find out about our upcoming events.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Join us for our first fundraising event!

We're excited to invite you to "Mumford & Nuns" BBQ, our first fundraising event, on Saturday, July 11!  Enjoy a BBQ cookout, live music, monastery tours, a silent auction, raffles and more!  “Mumford & Nuns” BBQ is a “play on words” with the name of the popular band “Mumford & Sons” and will take place at the monastery (on Mumford Road!). The event is for adults 21 and older.

We are grateful to a committee of volunteers from Byzantine and Roman Catholic parishes in Northeast Ohio for suggesting and helping with this event. We think this will be a great opportunity for you to visit the monastery, pray with us, enjoy an evening out, have an opportunity to get to know us, and support monastic life during this Year of Consecrated Life.

Visit our BBQ page for more information and to purchase a ticket! Tickets are $60/person or $110/couple. Please purchase your ticket by June 30. We are also in need of table sponsors and event sponsors.

Here is a sneak peak at some of the silent auction items:

  • An icon of Christ the Bridegroom hand-painted in the traditional egg-tempera style by postulant Moki Lonchyna
  • Framed photographs by Fr. Patrick Anderson
  • A dinner cooked for you, and up to six guests, by Mother Theodora
  • Themed gift baskets

We hope you can join us for a great evening!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Girls' Camp registration is now open!

Teen girls!  It's time to sign up for Girls' Camp!  Our theme this year is "Beautifully Made.  Wholly Redeemed." 

Girls' Camp is open to girls 13-18.  The camp takes place here on the monastery grounds and is led by us and other young adult women.  The event is sponsored by the Eparchy of Parma Office of Vocations and provides an opportunity for teen girls to discover different vocations in the Church and develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

For more information and to register, visit our Teen Girls' tab.  Be sure to register by June 15! Space is limited!  There is also a camp for boys 8-18, taking place at the same time across the street from us at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch.  More information is available here. We will close the camp at the shrine with the boys and their families on Sunday, June 28, with a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy with Bishop John, followed by lunch.

Watch our short Girls' Camp video below to see what we do at Girls' Camp!

Click here to view photos from last year's camp

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Happy 20th Anniversary of Orientale Lumen!

Today, May 2, the feast of St. Athanasius, is the day, 20 years ago, that St. John Paul II signed his Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen ("Light of the East").  This letter inspired the foundation of our monastery and the writing of our typikon (rule of life)!

So this letter is a big deal for us, and we recommend that you read it! Why?

If you are an Eastern Christian, we recommend it because it helps us to better understand who we are, our dignity, our gifts and our place in the Church and the world. It also challenges us to pray and work toward the unity of the whole Church, East and West, which is urgently necessary as we face the many attacks against Christianity and the need to be a witness of love in the world. "They will know you are My disciples by your love for one another!" (Jn 13:35). How will the world embrace the truth of Jesus Christ if His body is divided?

If you are NOT an Eastern Christian, we recommend it because it was written for you!  We will use St. John Paul II's own words from the introduction of the document:
"Since, in fact, we believe that the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches is an integral part of the heritage of Christ's Church, the first need for Catholics is to be familiar with that tradition, so as to be nourished by it and to encourage the process of unity in the best way possible for each. 
"Our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters are very conscious of being the living bearers of this tradition, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters. The members of the Catholic Church of the Latin tradition must also be fully acquainted with this treasure and thus feel, with the Pope, a passionate longing that the full manifestation of the Church's catholicity be restored to the Church and to the world, expressed not by a single tradition, and still less by one community in opposition to the other; and that we too may be granted a full taste of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church which is preserved and grows in the life of the Churches of the East as in those of the West."
So the purpose of this letter for all of us is nourishment and unity, no matter to what Tradition we belong.  And it's not very long! :)

Let's pray in a special way today for unity, so that we may be able to "offer ourselves to God with the pure hands of reconciliation, and the people of the world will have one more well-founded reason to believe and to hope" (Orientale Lumen, 28).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Third phase of renovations begin! (While our very full monastic life continues!)

Please forgive us for our lack of updates on our renovation project--life has been so crazy around here that there isn't time to clean up the mud on the floors, let alone write a blog post! (We've found a moment to write this one now, but the mud is still on the floor...)

The second phase of our renovations are just about complete! We have moved into our new rooms and are working on moving into the new kitchen!  As this phase was finishing, we discerned that we should go ahead and move along with the next portions of the project. And that's when things got really crazy... So, here is a quick photo synopsis of what is currently happening:

The bushes in front of the monastery have been removed... that trenches around the monastery could be dug and the basement waterproofed to stop the flooding.

 We dug up the flowers in order to save them.

The pond is being drained so that it can be lined with clay and the dam replaced.

Also, while the Bobcats are here, they tore down an old garage.

Inside, we had to empty the pool room which we had been using as a big storage room.  It is now being gutted and the pool will be removed. (We're bracing ourselves for the jackhammers!) 

And, the paneling in the cloister rooms (in the north side of the monastery) is being torn down and will be replaced with drywall (and insulation in the walls, for greater quiet in our rooms).

While all of this has been going on, and even though the monastery is pretty much a disaster, we still managed to continue providing hospitality.  Some women from New Millennium Laity joined us for noon prayer, and they brought lunch to share.

 Our Serbian Orthodox nun-friends from Monastery Marcha visited with their chaplain and two visiting priests.

 We hosted some seminarians from the Diocese of Cleveland for Vespers and dinner. 

And a few other guests and retreatants have also brought their joy.

Please pray for our sanity, patience and joy, for the safety of the workers, and for successful projects! Thank you again to all of our benefactors! We are at 88% of our goal.  So close! ;)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Join us for our spring work day & cookout!

Saturday, May 9
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Vespers & Cookout

As always, there are many projects around the monastery, and we need your help!

Join us for a day of outdoor and indoor work projects, prayer, food and fun at the monastery and the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch on Saturday, May 9.  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 Monday, May 4, to 440-834-0290 or, so that the appropriate amount of food can be prepared.

*Please RSVP with:
1. The number of adults (include teens) and the number of kids (12 and under)
2. Will you be here for lunch or dinner or both?
3. The dish you plan to bring

Facebook Event

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"How wonderful is this doubt of Thomas!"

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Happy Thomas Sunday!

"Although the doors were locked, You appeared to Your disciples, O Christ; but through providence, Thomas was not with them. For he said: I will not believe until I see the Lord, until I see the side from which the blood and water of our baptism came forth, until I see the wound by which He healed all people from the great wound, and I see that He is not a pure spirit, but a person made of flesh and bones. Therefore, O Lord, who trampled Death and made Thomas firm in his belief, O Lord, glory to You!" (From the stichera at Vespers for Thomas Sunday).

In the prayers of Vespers we also sing: "How wonderful is this doubt of Thomas! It brought the hearts of believers to the knowledge of God." God chooses to use our weaknesses for His glory! May we never become discouraged by our weaknesses, but cry out instead, "My Lord and my God!" and turn quickly to Him, offering Him the very things that seem to us to be stumbling blocks in our relationship with Him. Let us approach with confidence the wound of Christ "by which He healed all people from the great wound"--the great wound of sin we received by listening to the great lie of Satan: that God does not love us and does not intend for us to be like Him. Jesus' first words to His disciples were, "Peace be with you!" He did not come and condemn them for abandoning Him in His Passion...He came bringing peace and mercy.

Here at the monastery, our celebration of Christ's Passion and Resurrection was a powerful experience for each of us personally, as well as a community. A Byzantine Carmelite priest, Fr. Cyril, came from Chicago to stay with us and celebrate the services here from Great & Holy Friday until Bright Monday. It was a great gift to be able to celebrate all of the services in our chapel, and to spend this holy time with another monastic. Other priests from our eparchy helped out as well, and Bishop John celebrated Bridegroom Matins here on Holy Wednesday.  Our photos may not be able to convey the deep spiritual beauty of this time, but at least they can give you a little glimpse!