To our readers,
Glory be to Jesus Christ! It is with great pleasure we share a post reflecting a recent trip to the Ellwood City monastery, written by a fellow staff member! Please enjoy!
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In the last three weeks being here at Camp Nazareth, I have gone to visit the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration three times, probably more than I normally would in an entire year just in this last month. My grandparents, Matuschka Anne and Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory, lived only down the road from the monastery. Fr. Tom served at the monastery for the last fifteen or so years of his life, providing for the monastics their spiritual needs as well as daily companionship and wisdom. I, as a child, went with my family to go and visit with them both and continue to do so to this day. The monastery happened to be the consequential meeting ground for services and therefore, a joint visit with them was also made at the same time.
The weekend of March 22nd, 2015, was when all the funeral services were held for Fr. Tom at the monastery. I stayed in the St. Bridgette house for four days, my daily routine involving meals, visits with family and friends, the daily services (including panikhidas and trisagions), but also private time with several family whom I haven't seen in years. That was one of the longest stays at the monastery, revealing to me how gracious and willing not only the nuns were, but also the surrounding community from across the state of Pennsylvania and beyond. The nuns, under the direction of Mother Abbess Christaphora, planned the entire funeral and prepared for everything that could happen, revealing how this particular monastic community was so set apart from other monastic communities around the world. It was set apart in that they knew what the outside world was and weren't afraid to be a part of it. They work tirelessly to not only find inner truth and spirituality within themselves as monastics, but to help find it in others as well. They want visitors and pilgrims to see orthodoxy for what it should be as it is displayed in not only the grounds of the monastery, but also within the nuns themselves.
My reflection upon my most recent visits to the monastery revealed all these things to me. It is not often that you have such a community being willing enough to help those in need, no matter who they are or what they are seen as, and enjoy doing it. Their ministry is to spread the truth of the Orthodox Church to all who seek it and are willing to take on themselves burdens that several others would not be able to handle. God has blessed them in this ministry, just as he has blessed the other hundreds of thousands of people with different tools and talents to serve Him in a manner befitting for Him. My prayer is that we, as the laity of the Orthodox Church and beyond, be able to find our ministry and serve him to the best of our ability as this monastery already does and will do under His blessing forevermore.