Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

In the icon of the Nativity of Christ, the interior of the cave is black to signify the darkness of the world before Emmanuel (God with us). The star’s light pierces through the darkness and directs our gaze onto the Child, God Incarnate. This light transforms the darkness of our world into a life-giving illumination that cannot be extinguished and transforms the burdens and uncertainties of life into divine serenity and truth. Fix your gaze on the loving countenance of God, and allow your heart to be pierced and engulfed with the light and mercy of the Holy Trinity. Resolve to abide in the Light without reluctance, for “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1).

Mere words fall short in expressing our love and gratitude for the awesome gift you are to us. Our love and gratitude however, will be expressed through our constant prayers for you and your families. Merry Christmas! God is with us!

+Peace,  Mother Theodora

Monday, December 23, 2019

Enjoy our winter issue of Pomegranate Blossoms

We hope you enjoy the newest issue of our newsletter, Pomegranate Blossoms. In it, you'll find:

  • Photos from our canonical establishment
  • The decrees of establishment and approval of our typikon (rule of life)
  • Photos from the Bridegroom's Banquet
  • Photos and quotes from our video, Spiritual Motherhood, which is expected to air on EWTN
  • Photos from other recent events
  • A Christmas message from Mother Theodora

The newsletter also gives instructions on donating toward the remaining matching funds opportunity through the end of the year. We're getting close to our goal! Donations up to $8,854 can still be doubled! Thank you!

We hope that you enjoy a blessed celebration of the birth of Our Lord!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Giving Tuesday: Your donation can be matched!

Our matching donors for the Bridegroom’s Banquet, which took place on Oct. 19, have offered to continue to match donations and pledges until the end of the year, up to the $120,000 goal for the event. Some donations and pledges have already come in after the event, so this means that $12,959 in donations and pledges can still be matched! Please mark “Bridegroom’s Banquet” on your donation to include it in the matching funds opportunity.

The funds will be used for the interior renovations of our chapel, as well as for the general operating expenses of the monastery.

Donation Options:

By Mail:
You may send a donation marked "Bridegroom's Banquet" by cash or check payable to "Christ the Bridegroom Monastery" to:
The Bridegroom's Banquet
Christ the Bridegroom Monastery
17485 Mumford Rd.
Burton, OH 44021
You may also donate or pledge online with your credit card by using this link. Be sure to choose "Bridegroom Banquet 2019" as the "fund" in step 4. Thank you!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Support the monastery while Christmas shopping!

If you don't already support an Amazon Smile charity, you can help support Christ the Bridegroom Monastery while you do your Christmas shopping! When you make a purchase on Amazon, visit smile.amazon.com and choose Christ the Bridegroom Monastery as your charitable organization. If you go to this webpage the first each time you make an Amazon purchase, Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase to the monastery at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Friday, November 15, 2019

"Prayer enlarges our hearts:" The Nativity Fast begins

Forty days is a biblical number of preparation and waiting, and as of today, Christmas is 40 days away! So, Christians in the Byzantine tradition begin today a 40-day fasting period in preparation for the Birth of Our Lord.

Here is a beautiful image to keep in mind during this time of waiting, captured in this quote of St. John Vianney, as well as in the words of many other saints of East and West: “My children, you have a little heart, but prayer enlarges it and makes it capable of loving God." Our hearts are our spiritual womb, and just as a child expands a mother's womb as he or she is growing, God expands our hearts by His presence within us. He makes us capable of loving Him and others.

The icon to the right is called the Platytera icon ("More spacious than the heavens"). It depicts Jesus in the womb of Mary, and her hands are outstretched in prayer. During these 40 days, we can recall the immense intimacy she had with Jesus growing in her womb. We can ask her to help us to grow in this same intimacy through prayer, as we empty ourselves through fasting and allow Jesus to enter into us and expand us.

We are praying for you during this time of preparation and expectation!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

There's still time for your donation to be doubled!

Shortly before this year's Bridegroom's Banquet, another matching donor came forward and pledged $20,000 in addition to the original $100,000 matching funds challenge. We raised $104,845 at or before the event (which is a record total!), but about $15,000 can still be matched, through the end of the year! We would deeply appreciate any help you are able to give, and we are excited to start planning our chapel's interior renovations, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit!

How to Donate

By Mail:
You may send a donation marked "Bridegroom's Banquet" by cash or check payable to "Christ the Bridegroom Monastery" to:

The Bridegroom's Banquet
Christ the Bridegroom Monastery
17485 Mumford Rd.
Burton, OH 44021

You may also donate online with your credit card by using this link. Be sure to choose "Bridegroom Banquet 2019" as the "fund" in step 4. Thank you!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

2nd Banquet Video

This second video was played in addition to our Spiritual Motherhood video at the Bridegroom's Banquet on Oct. 19. It begins with a message from Bishop Milan, includes footage from our canonical establishment and institution of the hegumena on Sept. 30, and highlights the recent and future renovations of the monastery chapel. To help with our newest renovation project, please visit the Bridegroom's Banquet tab!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Our new video: Spiritual Motherhood

A look into the lives of the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery and their experiences of spiritual motherhood. A young lay woman and a priest also share how the spiritual motherhood of the nuns has affected their lives.

This video was produced for the 2019 Bridegroom's Banquet benefit dinner, by David Bratnick. Previous banquet videos can be found on our "About Us" page and "Poustinia" page.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Record total at this year's Bridegroom's Banquet!

We raised a record amount of funds at this year's benefit dinner! ($104,845, which will be matched!) The money raised will go towards renovating the interior of our chapel and our general operating expenses. Thank you to all you joined us and all who supported us! We are incredibly grateful!!

Enjoy these photos!

We will soon share the beautiful videos that were produced for the event!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Fall Issue of Pomegranate Blossoms

We hope you enjoy the Fall 2019 issue of our newsletter, Pomegranate Blossoms!

In it, you'll find:
  • Photos of the newly renovated exterior of our chapel
  • A description of this past summer's projects
  • A list of improvements we would like to make to the interior of our chapel
  • Ways you can help with this next, and very important, project! (It's still possible to make a donation towards the Bridegroom's Banquet, which will be doubled!)
  • Reflections from Mother Iliana and Mother Cecilia
  • Articles about the Boys & Girls Camp and the Mariapoch Pilgrimage
  • Our 2nd set of book recommendations
  • A photo from Mother Theodora's appearance on EWTN Live with Fr. Mitch Pacwa and directions on how to find and watch the show

Monday, October 7, 2019

Deadline extended to Oct. 12 for the Bridegroom's Banquet

The registration deadline has been extended to Sat., Oct. 12, for our annual benefit dinner, the Bridegroom's Banquet, which is taking place on Sat., Oct. 19, at St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church in Brecksville, Ohio. Visit our banquet tab for more info. and to register. Registration is free.

We hope you can join us for a delightful evening of:

  • Prayer--Vespers cantored by the nuns
  • Fellowship with other awesome friends of the nuns
  • Buffet dinner
  • Video about our spiritual motherhood, filmed and edited by David Bratnick
  • Presentation about the recent renovations of our chapel and our upcoming projects
  • Opportunity for your donation to be matched!
  • Magic show by Mark Cook (see the banquet tab for more info. about Mark)
  • Hugs from the nuns!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Help needed!

Celebrate our 10th anniversary and our canonical establishment with us at our Bridegroom's Banquet benefit dinner on Sat., Oct. 19, in Brecksville, Ohio! Your donation will be doubled!! We need your help to fund two unexpected expenses--a new septic system and the waterproofing of our chapel basement--as well as help with the interior renovations of the chapel and the daily expenses of our monastic life. To register, or, if you're unable to come but would still like your donation to be doubled, please visit our banquet page. The registration deadline is Oct. 7. Thank you for your support!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Photos from our canonical establishment

Enjoy this album of photos from our establishment as an eparchial monastery on September 30. The photos include Vespers, Divine Liturgy, the reading of the decrees of establishment of the monastery and approval of the typikon (rule of life), and the institution of the hegumena (abbess).

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Our Canonical Establishment as an Eparchial Monastery!

With joy and gratitude to God, on this feast of the Protection of the Mother of God, we announce the official canonical establishment of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery as a sui iuris monastery of eparchial right by Bishop Milan Lach. The decree was signed on September 27, and was publicly announced at the conclusion of a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at the monastery on the evening of September 30. A decree approving our typikon (rule of life) was also read. On September 29, the stavrophore nuns elected Mother Theodora as the hegumena (abbess), and after the reading of the decrees on September 30, the liturgical service of the institution of the hegumena was celebrated.

We are so grateful to Bishop John Kudrick for his invitation to begin living this life ten years ago, for taking the initial canonical steps in our foundation, and for his spiritual fatherhood. We are also so grateful to our current bishop, Bishop Milan, for taking the final steps needed to reach this canonical approval as an eparchial monastery and for loving us as a father.

We encourage you to read the meaningful text of the decree (click on the photo to enlarge it). We entrust our monastery to the protection of the Mother of God on this beautiful feast day and ask for her intercession and for yours! Thank you to all those who have supported us in so many ways and helped us to make it to this day! We will share more photos soon.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Fall Work Day, Sept. 28

Join us for a day of outdoor and indoor work projects, prayer, food and fun at the monastery on Saturday, Sept. 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 whenever 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, Sept. 23, to 440-834-0290 or christthebridegroom@gmail.com, 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

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Pastoral Letter from Bishop Milan

For the beginning of the liturgical year, Bishop Milan wrote a pastoral letter expressing his vision for the future of the Eparchy of Parma. In this beautiful, insightful letter, our bishop challenges the faithful and clergy of the eparchy, and expresses his expectation for us nuns:

“From the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, I expect that their monastic life will encourage all of us to focus our attention fully on Jesus Christ and to remind us that the fulfilment of deep longings cannot be found in the world, but only in our union with God.”

Below is the full text of the letter:

September 1, 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The celebration of the golden anniversary of the founding of our Eparchy of Parma is slowly winding down. Throughout this anniversary year, with our spiritual programs and festivities, we have expressed gratitude to God for His many blessings and graces in the past fifty years. At the same time, our great anniversary also motivates us to ponder our future — how do we want to move forward? Growing and advancing is not about starting from scratch, but about taking our cues from who we are and what we have at our disposal, and having the courage to see the future with hope. With this letter, I wish to present to you my vision for our future.

The most precious treasure that we have in our Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Parma is you, our faithful, from our youngest children to our eldest believers. For you, we toil in the vineyard of the Lord by proclaiming the crucified and resurrected Christ. You are that pearl of great price, for which we are investing in our future by the building up of the Kingdom of God, irrespective of the fatigue, energy or finances that it may entail, because every human life is a gift of God. Other material things or finances, even if they are important in life, are secondary to me. The Book of Genesis teaches that man was created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, every single person deserves respect in our eparchy. Human life is and should be of the greatest value, from its conception to the moment of natural death.

The demographics of our eparchy have changed dramatically in the past fifty years. The common experience that was lived out in our parishes over this time in the twelve states of the Midwest, from Ohio to Nebraska, is no longer true today due to many factors. According to surveys we have conducted in the past three years, an average of 2,000 faithful regularly attend the Sunday liturgies in our 29 parishes. Of these 2,000, 300 are children, age 12 and under. Many of our believers leave our eparchy for study or work; others move south to retire. Many of our faithful are burdened with old age or illness, and thus are not able to attend our churches. Many of our brothers and sisters have left our parishes because of moral scandals that did not bypass our Church.

The future of our parishes resides in the Spirit of the Gospel that expresses itself in hospitality and openness to life. Therefore, every new visitor at our liturgies should be welcomed warmly. It is my hope and prayer that this spirit of hospitality and openness to new believers will reign in our parishes. We must not lock ourselves in our own world, with our own problems. That won’t help us. I strongly encourage you to reach out. We cannot do without outreach. For example, one of the many possibilities is to be open to Hispanic communities, offering the Divine Liturgy in Spanish in each of our three regions. Let us not be afraid to be open to the diversity of the faithful and of cultures, for only this is the way to a flourishing future. I am firmly convinced that our Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States has a future, because it offers the Gospel, the joyful message of the living Jesus Christ, through a millennia-old authentic experience. We must let others know about it. The following concrete steps will help us to accomplish this vision.

The priority of my ministry as the bishop is to proclaim the Word of God — Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. God’s Word must become for everyone in our eparchy a daily meal, as something without which we cannot live. If we depart from the Logos, the Word of God, we will run the risk of our churches becoming social clubs where people enjoy being together, but do not need anyone else in their company. The Church is not a club; the Church is a community of baptized brothers and sisters. The Church is in motion; she is a pilgrim, moving constantly toward her heavenly fulfillment. Yes, oftentimes the Church is and will be humiliated and rejected, as Christ Himself was. The maturing of God’s Word in us should lead to spiritual fruits. We must be fruitful in faith. The tree is known by its fruit. If we are spiritually sterile, we will have no future. The five points of Theophane the Recluse on the causes of the weakening of faith, which I published in the Pastoral Letter at the beginning of our 50 th anniversary in January 2019 and encouraged priests to incorporate in their homilies, are still relevant, and we need to use them as guidance in our personal spiritual lives.

While in the southwest portion of our eparchy, we have some new faith communities that are in need of priests to establish new parishes, the unsustainability of some parishes in other parts of the eparchy, which are not able to maintain themselves and their priest, will lead me to make the difficult decision for merger or closure. For the good of the faithful, gradually, we will have to examine all of the regions of the eparchy and see what is the way forward. There will be clear criteria for the establishment of new parishes, as well as criteria for assessing the vitality of parishes, such as membership, financial stability, demand and availability of priests for pastoral work, which may lead to recognizing the need for a merger or closure. As I mentioned, parish closure is one of the most difficult decisions a bishop has to make. Accordingly, I have always been and remain open to dialogue. However, at the same time, I am forced to act in order to stop the severe financial bleeding we are experiencing. In this type of situation, it is not wise to attempt to save a building for the sake of the building; we need to stabilize ourselves as a community first.

Today, people across the United States are thirsty and hungry for God and for the spiritual life that our Byzantine Catholic Church can offer them. There is so much potential. We need to get into colleges, to be with the young, to have a vigorous presence in social networks. We need to focus more attention on families and help them with raising their children in the faith. We need to be more flexible and look for new ways to reach people. We need to pray to the Holy Spirit to show us what to do and how to do it. Non-believers must be challenged and awakened in their hearts by our authentic testimony of life, to the extent that they, too, will desire to become members of our parishes.

I cannot do this alone. An undertaking such as this requires holy priests and deacons. The situation has also changed in the United States, as our ancient tradition of married priests has been reinstated. In our eparchy, most of our 23 active priests are married. Within the next eight years, we will need 17 new priests to care for the faithful. I will not invest our funds primarily in buildings and maintenance. Rather, I want to invest funds in high-quality priestly preparation and formation of young men from the United States, who want to serve Christ in our eparchy, as well as in priests from Europe who will come to help us. I have already been in contact with eparchies in Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia, and Slovakia to this end. Furthermore, we must reassess the financial support for our priests, so that they may have adequate sustenance for themselves and their families. We must also care financially for our retired priests, who have served for many decades in our eparchy. My expectation of our deacons into the future is that they will be men of the Church, who are willing to participate in the fundamental mission of the eparchy, to beautify the liturgies with their singing, to bear witness with their family life, and to be particularly supportive of the Church with their gifts and talents. From the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, I expect that their monastic life will encourage all of us to focus our attention fully on Jesus Christ and to remind us that the fulfilment of deep longings cannot be found in the world, but only in our union with God.

I personally renew my intention and dedication to fulfill the essence of my episcopal motto — To serve — with deeds more than with words, for to minister is to take part in the mission of Christ. I want to be an example as St. Paul was for his churches. I greatly desire and pray that all the priests of our eparchy participate in the mission of Christ for the good and salvation of our faithful. We must acquire the same attitude of ministry that Christ had in His service toward His disciples, which is the only right way for us to follow Him. To serve means to love. He who does not love will never serve another person, not at home, or in his family, or in the parish, or on the street. Love must be paramount, even when we are confronted with finding solutions to unpleasant and difficult problems in the Church or in the family.

More than ever, we need to remain faithful to the Catholic Church. I want to support and promote fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic Church through our Byzantine tradition, which manifests itself in the liturgy, in spirituality, in the heritage of the Church Fathers, and in the discipline of the Church. All Christians are called to divinization, that is, to intimate union with God, for this is the purpose of our spiritual life. The Church offers us the means to achieve this end: prayer, fasting, and doing charitable deeds for the poor and the abandoned. In this spirit, the call of Christ to convert ( metanoia) is always pertinent. We need to reanimate in ourselves the understanding that, as a Byzantine Catholic Church, we are a community of sinners, who have undeservedly received God’s mercy and grace. We achieve this through the sacramental life, in which the Church mediates salvation. You, the faithful, whenever there is a need, approach your priests with trust in asking for the sacrament of reconciliation. It would cause me great joy if you were to avail yourselves of the sacrament of confession once a month. We all need to experience God’s mercy and the forgiving love of the Heavenly Father in order to be able to forgive each other’s transgressions and, thus prepared, to receive worthily the Most Holy Gifts of the Body and Blood of our most pure Lord Jesus Christ. The Divine Liturgy is the culmination of liturgical life in all its beauty and fullness, highlighted by song and iconography. Cherish the beauty of our prostopinije, our liturgical chant. We constantly need to work on it. Let us not neglect our traditional liturgical prayers in our churches, whether it be vespers, morning prayers, canonical hours, or molebens and akathists. I encourage my brother priests and deacons to be an example for the faithful with their liturgical prayers and in their personal life. May God’s temple be a place of prayer where sacred silence is kept and appreciated. This is a matter close to my heart.

An indispensable part of the life of the Church and our eparchy is the issue of temporal goods and finances. However, this issue is secondary, which is why I mention it only at the end of my letter. In the past, the chancery often offset the debts of parishes that were not able to pay the required amount to the priests’ pension fund or health insurance plan. At that time, the eparchy had funds at its disposal to loan to parishes. Over time, however, the eparchial finances were used up and were never replenished. Thus, the situation today is markedly different. The chancery can no longer afford to cover for the arrears of parishes because it does not have the requisite funds. In fact, it needs to stabilize itself first and find a new space for its own operations. It is the expectation, however, that the indebted parishes will gradually repay their debts to the chancery in the near future. The amount that is owed to eparchial operations is $2.5 million, including $900,000 for past due assessments, Horizons, contributions to the pension fund and health insurance, and $1.6 million for the repayment of loans from the Parishes Together Fund.

Beloved faithful of our eparchy, to implement the outlined vision and overcome the challenges, we need one another. The priests, deacons and myself alone are not enough. While I am willing to lead and to serve, all of us need to embrace our future together. I hope that you will share my optimism that our future is bright, but we must together embark on the right path. Please pray for me that I may receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially the gift of discernment. I pray for you constantly that, by being united in Christ, in the end we will all meet in His heavenly home.

✠Milan, Eparchial Bishop of Parma

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Filming our Bridegroom's Banquet video

David Bratnick setting up his video camera
It's filming day at the monastery for this year's video for the Bridegroom's Banquet! This year, the topic of the video is "Spiritual Motherhood." In this approximately 15-minute video, the four "Mothers" in the monastery will explain what a spiritual mother is, why spiritual motherhood is important, etc., and two other people from outside the monastery will share about how they have been impacted by the spiritual motherhood of our monastery. David Bratnick, videographer for Horizons Media, is filming and editing this year's video.

We hope you can make it to the Bridegroom's Banquet on Saturday, October 19, in Brecksville, Ohio. This annual benefit dinner is a crucial source of funding for our monastic life and our needed renovations. Admission is free, but registration is required, by Oct. 7. All donations, up to $100,000, will be doubled!!! If you are not able to attend, your donation can still be doubled! Visit the banquet page to register or to find out how to donate.

To view past banquet videos, visit the About Us and Poustinia pages.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A little and great feast

A reflection by Mother Cecilia for the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God

Many of Mary's feasts are about her littleness, but to me, her Dormition is about her littleness in the most profound way. Her death--her last and complete surrender to the Father--seems like it would be utterly fruitless, just like our daily and final deaths. What could come of such emptying, such removal from life, such removal from others?

When Mary's tomb was opened, it was full of flowers--full of life and beauty. When there is "nothing" left of us, when we are totally drained, exhausted, weak, and we surrender ourselves into God's hands, we become vases of the most exquisite flowers--vessels of the Holy Spirit--the perfume of which is wafted abroad (Song of Songs 4:16). We, then, have no more control over our lives, but we who cannot make flowers grow, become a delightful garden.

This feast, which in my eyes is the Marian feast that is most profoundly about Mary's littleness, in the Church's eyes is the greatest Marian feast, and there is no contradiction between the two!

"Though you have been taken up from earth into the heavens, O Virgin, yet all the earth rejoices with you and glorifies your repose. Though your incorrupt body has been enclosed in the heavens, O Virgin, yet your grace pours forth and fills all the face of the earth" (Second Station of the Burial Service for the Dormition).

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

"Clothed once again most brilliantly"

It is a tradition to bless fruit (the "first fruits" of the harvest) on this feast.
Happy Feast of the Transfiguration!

There is so much to reflect upon for this feast. Here is one beautiful thought from St. Gregory Palamas:
"Through the fall, our nature was stripped of divine illumination and resplendence. But the Logos of God had pity upon our disfigurement and in His compassion He took our nature upon Himself, and on Tabor He manifested it to His elect disciples clothed once again most brilliantly. He shows what we once were and what we shall become through Him in the age to come, if we choose to live our present life as far as possible in accordance with His ways."

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Registration open for the Bridegroom's Banquet!

You’re invited to the “Bridegroom’s Banquet,” a benefit dinner for the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, on Saturday, October 19, at St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church in Brecksville, Ohio. We will be celebrating our 10th anniversary!

There is no cost to attend the dinner, but registration is required (by October 7). Adults 21 and older may attend. Enjoy a buffet dinner, entertainment and an evening with us and our guests. Learn more about us, our life of prayer and hospitality, and specifically this year: about spiritual motherhood. Donations given at the event (or designated ahead of time), up to a total of $100,000, will be doubled by a matching donor!!!

Register now using this form. The schedule and more information, including how to donate if you are unable to attend, can be found at our Bridegroom's Banquet page. We hope to enjoy the evening with you on October 19!

About this year's entertainment
Mark Cook has been performing magic since the age of nine. For Mark, the performance of magic is his unique expression of the Joy of the Gospel.

A student of acting, he has performed at amusement parks, private parties, camps, and retreats. He is the 1st place winner of both the International Battle of Magicians Close-up Competition and the Florida Close-up Competition. Self-taught, he incorporates the sleights and techniques he has learned from many experts in the fields of close-up and stage magic.

The magic he performs is meticulously chosen for the feelings of impossibility and astonishment the pieces create. His performances attempt to present the true, good, and beautiful in an artistic and meaningful way through wit and drama. Mark's purpose of every show, therefore, is to give audiences a feeling of wonder and awe and enable them to attribute these experiences ultimately to God.

Mark has served for 2 years as a Marian Missionary of Divine Mercy, under the direction of Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC in Stockbridge, MA near the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. He is currently earning a Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Discernment Retreat, Sept. 20-22

Single Catholic women, ages 18-35, who would like to take a weekend to pray about a possible vocation to the monastic life, are invited to inquire about attending the upcoming discernment retreat at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, Sept. 20-22. Experience the life of prayer at the 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 discernment opportunity, fill out the online Vocation Inquiry Form. Please fill out the form by Sept. 6 for this retreat. Space is limited. Mother Theodora will call you to talk about availability. With questions, call 440-834-0290 or email christthebridegroom@gmail.com. See the retreat brochure for the schedule and more information.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Join us for the Mariapoch Pilgrimage, Aug. 17-18

The Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch (across the street from the monastery), will host the annual eparchial pilgrimage Aug. 17-18. Bishop Milan will give the evening teen and family talk around the campfire Aug. 17. He will also celebrate the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday at 4 p.m. Well-known Catholic radio and television show host Dr. Ray Guarendi will give the keynote on the theme, "Laughter: The Sanity of Family." Here is a link to the full schedule.

We are cantoring many of the liturgical services and are coordinating the teen events and children's activity. We hope you can join us!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Mother Theodora on EWTN Live!

Mother Theodora was Fr. Mitch Pacwa's guest on Wednesday, July 10, on his show EWTN Live. She spoke about her call to monastic life, the icon of Christ the Bridegroom, the Jesus Prayer, the life of prayer and hospitality of our monastery, and more. Enjoy!

Monday, July 8, 2019

10th Anniversary Issue of Pomegranate Blossoms

Enjoy our extra-long, special 10th anniversary issue of our newsletter, Pomegranate Blossoms! 

This issue includes:

  • Our history and old photos
  • An interview with Mother Theodora and Mother Cecilia
  • Memories from the other nuns
  • A reflection and photos from Mother Iliana's Life Profession
  • And more...

We hope you enjoy it! Thanks for all your prayers and support during these 10 years!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Overwhelmed with grace!: Boys & Girls Camp & 50th Anniversary

Bottom L to R: Fr. Flavio Pace (assistant to Cardinal Sandri), Msgr. Walter Erbi (representative of the Papal Nuncio), Metropolitan Fülöp, Cardinal Sandri, Metropolitan William, Bishop Milan; Top R: Mother Maria (hermitess)
Wow, we are still recovering from the exhaustion and the explosion of grace that came in the midst of running Boys and Girls Camp, celebrating the 50th anniversary of our eparchy and of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, hosting Metropolitan Fülöp (the head of the Byzantine Catholic Church in Hungary) and three other clerics from Hungary, and receiving other international guests at the monastery, including Leonardo Cardinal Sandri (Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches), Msgr. Walter Erbi (representative of the Papal Nuncio to the United States), and priests from Slovakia. It was such an honor to receive all of our visitors and to learn from them. We were also so blessed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our eparchy with the clergy and faithful, and we had a blast with all the teens at camp! We are so proud of them for coming with open hearts to encounter the Lord, and we are grateful to God that He is using this camp to help teach them how to pray. Enjoy these great photos from camp! 

The following article is about the Boys and Girls Camp and will also be published in Horizons:

In conjunction with the eparchy’s 50th anniversary celebration, the eparchy’s annual Boys and Girls Camps were combined and held at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.  The change in venue provided teens with the opportunity to participate in the events celebrating this important mile marker in our church’s history.  The camps were led by the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, with the support of many volunteers.

Camp began the afternoon of Wednesday, June 19, and concluded with lunch following the hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Saturday, June 22.  The 33 campers and several chaperones stayed at the cathedral, where they slept, shared meals, prayed together, played together, and learned together.

Thursday night, youth spent two hours praying in the cathedral, going to one of eight confessors for the Mystery of Holy Repentance.  Many campers identified this quiet time as their favorite part of the camp.  Lauren Kattler (13) shares, “When I was getting ready to go to confession, I felt him [God] there.”

Campers participated in several unique events this year.  On Friday, they were joined by some families as they embarked on a walking pilgrimage from the cathedral to Holy Spirit Church in Parma, and back again.  In the cemetery at Holy Spirit, the pilgrims joined the clergy in praying a Panachida for the deceased clergy of the eparchy.  As the pilgrims walked, they sang and prayed, attracting inquiries from observers along the way.

In the afternoon, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches, talked with the youth at the cathedral, conducting Q & A.  That night, campers joined in the eparchial Parastas, and afterward some of them chose to keep vigil until midnight.

The camp’s theme this year was “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16:13-19)  Throughout their days together, campers were challenged by several talks exploring the reality that authentic personal identity only springs from Christ’s identity as the Son of God.  They were able to reflect on the talks together in small groups.

Mother Iliana, one of the nuns, spoke to them about prayer: “God wants to meet us where we are, without masks…God wants to waste time with us… And it’s there [in prayer] you’ll find out who you are.”

Gregg Stovicek, a theology teacher at Lake Catholic High School in Mentor, Ohio, told the campers that when Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus is also inviting his disciples to put that same question back to him. Discernment, he said, is the process of asking God this question and listening for the answer, in order to come to an understanding of one’s true identity.

Recently-ordained Fr. Nathan Adams served as camp chaplain.  Sharing his conversion story with the youth, he said, “I focused all my energies on knowing about God and not knowing God… Don’t be fooled: this is no different than showing up at [liturgical] services and thinking that being there is the same as knowing God.”

Fr. Michael Lee, administrator of St. Luke Byzantine Catholic Church in Sugar Creek, Missouri, spoke of the mystery of our adoption as sons of the Father through Baptism.  “If ever you hear that the Father is angry with you, that’s a lie.  If ever you hear that you aren’t beloved, that’s a lie," because when the Father looks at us He sees his own Son.  He concluded, “Become who you are!  That’s the quest of the spiritual life:  not to become someone else, but to become who you are.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Join us for the Eparchy of Parma's 50th Anniversary Celebration!

Please join us this weekend for the Eparchy of Parma's 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio. This Friday and Saturday event is a wonderful opportunity to gather together, meet people from other parishes, and pray together as a Church for our Church.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches, as well as several other bishops from Europe will be traveling to the United States to join us for this celebration!

Here is the link to the event page. (When you go to the page, click on the various links on the left side for more information.)

Please also pray for us as we run the Boys and Girls Camp that will be held at the Cathedral on Wednesday through Saturday, in conjunction with the event, and pray for all of the participants. Thank you!

Monday, June 10, 2019

"It's great to give everything"

Last week, four of us took a trip to Philadelphia to attend the enthronement of the new leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States, Metropolitan Borys. We also participated in a day-long gathering for clergy and religious. It was a very beautiful and powerful experience. We were moved by the huge number of bishops and other clergy present, by the beautiful singing, and by the wonderful people we met--including a few monastics from Europe, from whom we received wisdom and advice. Here is a link to more photos.

We were especially moved by the remarks of Metropolitan Borys at the end of the enthronement liturgy. His words gave us so much hope in the midst of a Church that is struggling. His words, as well as the words of Patriarch Sviatoslav during a conference for the clergy and religious, empowered us to persevere in striving to be holy and to "give everything." Metropolitan Borys surprised us by singling out Mother Iliana as an example. His words were so powerful that we want to share them with all of you. Please consider watching this video clip of his remarks. Also, here is a link to a video of the enthronement liturgy, starting with the Gospel. If you are unable to watch the video clip, below is a portion of his remarks, including a translation of a part of the remarks that was given in Ukrainian.

"We're going to go together, really receiving in our hearts the gift of the Holy Spirit, because I can't do much and you can't do much...but if we come like we've come this time--together, and open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, we will see amazing things happening, miracles happening.

"We've seen our Church that was supposed to be dead. A totalitarian regime was trying to kill it; it had limitless resources, it had a nuclear arsenal. And this Church is alive. There are bishops here--Vladyka Ihor, for example, the metropolitan of Lviv--who became a priest in the underground. What hope did he have that things could change? Not too much, right?

With two Studite monks from Ukraine
"Today there are young Sisters here. Maty (Mother) Iliana, could you stand up? I want you to look at this young woman. There is nobody that is more free, nobody that has more courage, nobody that is more counter-cultural, nobody that is more non-conformist, than a young woman in the 21st Century who says, 'You know what? I pledge my whole life to God. And I promise poverty, chastity and obedience,' in a time when everybody says, 'Money, money, money, sex, sex, sex, and power.' This is the kind of witness we have amongst us.

Dear brothers and sisters, we, as children of this Church, do not have the right not to be witnesses. You don't have this right. If you have tasted how good the Lord is, go forward and witness. Help the Church to be renewed, as His Beatitude (Patriarch Sviatoslav) encouraged us. It just takes a few people who believe profoundly and are ready to give everything. It's great to give everything."

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Holy Spirit

Happy Feast of Pentecost! Today Bishop John joined us to celebrate this great feast that completes that Paschal Mystery! The Holy Spirit is an incredible gift that allows us to have God living within us. He is "everywhere present and filling all things," as we pray in the "Heavenly King" prayer. Below is a poem that was written by one of the nuns. Each stanza refers to one of the four classical elements of the world: earth, wind, water and fire.

The Holy Spirit

From the barren earth life was made to sprout
as You hovered over the waters, ready to nest.
Man was made of the dust of the earth and Your breath.

“His glorious rest is not enough,” we heard. “Take for yourself and eat.”
Blow!—that what is defiled may be swept clean and filled
and the fragrance of its perfumes may fill this house.

From the mountain Your rivers flow to the depths of Man.
A bubbling fountain leaps up somewhere in his darkness
where deep cries to deep at Your thunder.

“Remove your sandals on this Holy Ground.”
What will become of me if I consume this burning coal?
Yet where in all existence shall I flee from Your Spirit?

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Thank you to our Spring Work Day volunteers!

A great crew of volunteers joined us on Saturday, May 25, for our Spring Work Day. They helped us with many outdoor projects and indoor spring cleaning, including the repairing of a stone wall, assembly of new vegetable garden beds, weeding, tree-cutting, mulching, window-washing, and monastery and chapel cleaning. We closed the day with Vespers and a cookout. Click on the photo to see more photos from the day.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

"Who ME? Contemplative prayer?"

Contemplative prayer may sound like a complicated undertaking that's just for monks and nuns, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that it is "the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer" (2713). In this talk, Mother Cecilia helps us to start from the beginning: "What is God's purpose for us?" From this foundation, she explains what contemplative prayer actually is. She then gives tips for stirring up the flame of the Holy Spirit that is within us. We hope this talk will help your relationship with the One who loves you deeply and wants to pour Himself into you! Click here for the handout.

Talk given at St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church, Brecksville, Ohio, on March 31, 2019.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

"I will not leave you orphaned"

Happy Feast of the Ascension!

A reflection from Mother Cecilia:

A couple of weeks ago I was on my annual retreat, and I was at a retreat center where there was a beautiful path through the woods with the Stations of the Cross. On the second-to-last day of my retreat, it was finally warm enough to entice me to venture into the woods for a prayerful little walk. The sweet scent of Locust blossoms cascaded down from the trees above and mixed with the fragrance of honeysuckle, intensified by the humid air that was permeated by gentle raindrops. I glanced up at each Station as I walked along with my umbrella. Up ahead, I saw three crosses made out of trees, and when I reached them, I saw that the Station, "Jesus dies on the Cross," was nailed to the middle cross. I stopped there to pray for a few moments. Then I continued on and stopped again at the Station of the Resurrection, nailed to a very interesting tree covered in vines. There I thanked Jesus for the gift of His Resurrection and all the graces He had bestowed on me during this Paschal Season, especially for the way He had helped me to better understand the meaning of His Resurrection. I also thanked Him for the graces of my retreat. Then, I looked and saw that the path continued! As I began to follow this unknown part of the path, I wondered, "How far does it go? What is up ahead?" and my thoughts quickly turned to my own life, and I wondered, "How will I integrate into my life what I've learned on this retreat? How will I remember what happened? How will I remember what my spiritual father said to me during this retreat? Will I actually be different when I go home?"Jesus was listening to my thoughts, and He spoke clearly and gently to my heart, "I will not leave you orphaned" (Jn 14:18).

Later that day, when I met with my spiritual father and told him what happened, he said, "This is really important!" I raised my eyebrows slightly and he explained, "Do you see how you were being self-reliant? 'How will I integrate...How will I remember?' Jesus promised that the Father would send the Holy Spirit 'and bring to your remembrance all that He said to you' (Jn 14: 26)! You don't have to do these things on your own!" A wave of peace flooded me. It was so helpful to be shown in a very specific situation how I was being self-reliant. I don't have to be anxious; I don't have to do anything on my own! Jesus will not leave me orphaned. I only have to surrender to Him and let Him do it.

As we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, we might naturally be sad that Jesus is "going away." But it is necessary, so that the Father may send the Holy Spirit, and the Father and the Son may "come to [us] and make [their] home with [us]" (Jn 14:23). That way, they can do everything in us! As we anticipate the Feast of Pentecost--the crowning feast of God's work of salvation--let's ask Him for the grace to see the ways that we rely on ourselves, so that we can instead turn to Him as His little children and not remain as though we are orphans.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

2 days left to register for Boys & Girls Camp; opened to 12-year-olds

There are only 2 days left to register for Boys and Girls Camp - June 19-22, in conjunction with the Eparchy of Parma's 50th Anniversary! The deadline is Friday, May 31st. Since there are still spots open, registration has been opened to 12-year-olds. See our April 12th post for more information.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Join us for our spring work day, May 25

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 25.  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 20, to christthebridegroom@gmail.com or 440-834-0290.

*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

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Entering through the closed doors

This morning before Divine Liturgy, I was praying with the Gospel accounts of Christ's coming among the Eleven in the Upper Room, both on the first day of the week, and eight days later (John 20). I was struck by the fact that He entered, "though the doors were shut," so I prayed about the shut doors in my heart. I've become aware since entering the monastic life that I cannot heal myself. Some of my wounds are so deeply buried that I can't identify them; therefore I cannot open them to the balm of the Spirit. I have to trust the Father to bring them to light in His timing, and to minister to my broken soul in the ways He knows will most heal and purify me.

During Bright Week--from Pascha through Thomas Sunday--the priest leaves the Royal Doors and the deacon doors on our iconostasis open as a reminder that Jesus Christ has burst asunder the doors of Hades and opened to us the way to eternal life. During all our services this past week, I delighted in the unusual sight. At the end of Liturgy today, as our chaplain moved to close the doors, I prayed, "Jesus, every year this makes me sad..." And suddenly, my desire to have access to Christ in the holy place was suffused with the glorious truth of the Resurrection:  We worship the Risen Lord Who walks through shut doors. And in His Love, He enters into our hiding places where we cower in fear.

My prayer for you during this Paschal season is that you, too, would give the Lord permission to penetrate your defenses, to enter into the secret places of your hearts and abide with you, too.

--Sr. Petra

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Eternal Sabbath

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

"For He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth" (Ephesians 1:9-10).

The Resurrection is the beginning of the eternal Sabbath, in which we rest in God--in which we abide in Him. Bright Week is a time to "practice" this abiding--to let God bring about this rest, this union. It is not a time to seek satisfaction in free time, recreation and food. These things cannot fill us. They are gifts given to us to be signs of the sustenance, fulfillment and joy in union with the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

May you be richly blessed during these 40 days of celebration of the Resurrection!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Save the date for the Bridegroom's Banquet

Our Bridegroom's Banquet will be a month earlier than usual, so be sure to save the date! We hope you can join us for a great evening! In the meantime, have a blessed Holy Week & Pascha as we journey together with the Bridegroom as He lays down His life for His Bride, the Church.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

We'll miss you Scout!

Our dear monastery cat, Scout, died on Thursday, with all of the nuns surrounding her. She lived with us for nearly the entire 10 years of the monastery; the month after we moved in, we adopted her from a family member of Mother Theodora. Scout's presence, curled up on Mother's lap, as we gathered for community recreation in the living room, will be missed!

As we begin Great & Holy Week, we are reminded of our own deaths and grateful for the gift of Christ's Resurrection and the renewal of all creation.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Boys & Girls Camp Registration Open!

In honor of the Eparchy of Parma’s 50th anniversary celebration, Boys and Girls Camp will be hosted June 19-22 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, as a joint event for high school students; the minimum age is 13. The weekend will focus on the Christian call to holiness, centered on the question, “But who do you say that I am?” which will be discovered through talks, opportunities for prayer and confession, group activities and discussion groups. Campers will also participate in the Eparchy of Parma’s 50th anniversary celebration, including a pilgrimage walk, prayer vigil and ending with a hierarchical Divine Liturgy for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, our eparchial patron. The weekend will be led by the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, along with a dedicated team of priests, deacons, seminarians and lay leaders. To register, please visit www.parma.org. The registration deadline is May 31; space is limited. Questions? Email youth@parma.org or call the nuns at 440-834-0290.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Great & Holy Week Schedule

Monday, April 15
Great & Holy Monday
3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Tuesday, April 16
Great & Holy Tuesday
3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Wednesday, April 17
Great & Holy Wednesday
8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Bridegroom Matins followed by a light breakfast, for our patronal commemoration (please RSVP to
440-834-0290 or christthebridegroom@gmail.com)
3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts & Mystery of Holy Anointing

Friday, April 19
Great & Holy Friday
7:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.  Jesus Prayer for 15 min., Matins with the 12 Passion Gospels
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.  1st & 3rd Royal Hours
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.  6th & 9th Royal Hours
5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.  Vespers and Burial Procession

Saturday, April 20
Great & Holy Saturday
7:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.  Jesus Prayer for 15 min., Jerusalem Matins
3:00 p.m. - 5:40 p.m.  Vespers & Divine Liturgy of St. Basil

Sunday, April 21
Pascha: The Resurrection of Our Lord!
9:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.  Resurrection Matins & Divine Liturgy

Monday, April 22
Bright Monday
9:00 a.m.                                     Divine Liturgy & Procession

Tuesday, April 23
Bright Tuesday & Feast of St. George
9:00 a.m.                                      Divine Liturgy