Our parish of St. Vladimir Russian Orthodox Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, was happy to host a visit from His Eminence, Metropolitan Demetrius, the head of the Greek Old Calendar Church in North America, who recently took us under his omophorion. The Diocesan Chancellor, Archimandrite Agathangelus, accompanied the Metropolitan. St. Vladimir’s church building is over a hundred years old and sits on a double city lot. It was purchased and established by Archbishop Ioasaph in the 1930’s, and was the cathedral church of the ROCOR of Western Canada. Bishop Savva of Edmonton lived here and it was the podvoria of Metropolitan Vitaly.
The Metropolitan and Fr. Agathangelus arrived late Thursday, Nov. 24, n.s. They spent the first night at the Dormition Skete in Wildwood, Alberta, about 1 ½ hours drive west of Edmonton. Metropolitan Vitaly founded the Skete in the 1950’s. It is on a large acreage of about 140 acres, with woods, muskeg and fields, with several out buildings. A small wooden, country church is near the main house. Archpriest Andrew Kencis, who is the rector of St. Vladimir parish, lives with his matushka there at Dormition Skete. A small prayer chapel dedicated to St. Seraphim is on the main floor of the house. Ryassophore monk Seraphim, the last surviving member of Metropolitan Vitaly’s brotherhood, from Mansonville, PQ, lives in a small cabin on the other side of a large vegetable garden.
On Friday, Fr. Andrew gave a tour of the place, starting with the church, then the print shop of Monastery Press, and an adjoining candle shop where beeswax candles are made for parish use. In the evening, a vespers service was served for St. John Chrysostom. Fr. Andrew served; his matushka was in the cliros.
On Saturday afternoon, we all drove into Edmonton to St. Vladimir’s parish church. We would spend Saturday night there in the residence part of the church. Archbishop Ioasaph built the residence onto the back of the original church building. He established a small brotherhood there and had several priests who would travel to serve at the many Orthodox country churches surrounding Edmonton.
A Saturday night vigil was served at 6:00 PM for the Apostle Philip. Almost all the parishioners were present for the vigil, with many preparing to receive Holy Communion at Sunday’s Divine Liturgy.
After the vigil service, there was a small meal in the “little trapeza”. Several parishioners stayed to have more time to meet and speak with Vladika.
The Sunday Divine Liturgy was well attended. The Metropolitan gave an inspiring sermon. It has been recorded and placed on the parish website (stvladimirs.ca). After the service there was a meal in the “big trapeza room.” When the meal was over, chairs were brought up into the nave of the church. Vladika gave a talk to the parish and then answered questions. The parishioners felt blessed to hear such an uplifting and edifying talk. That Sunday evening we returned to Dormition Skete.
The next day, Monday, Nov. 28, n.s., before we drove out to the Holy Protection of the Mother of God Convent, the Metropolitan and Fr. Agathangelus were driven to the small, rural cemetery owned by St. Vladimir parish. St. Vladimir Chip Lake Cemetery is situated a few miles west from Dormition Skete. There are a number of graves there, the earliest dating back to 1939.
From there we headed out to the Convent, about an hour and a half drive away near the hamlet of Bluffton, into the heart of Alberta farmland. The Convent property was donated to Vladika Ioasaph and established as a monastic habitation in the 1930’s. The current Abbess is Great-schema nun, Mother Amvrosia who with her mother, Nun Theodora, re-established monastic life there over 20 years ago, with the blessing of Metropolitan Vitaly. Presently there are seven nuns living there. Tall pines surround the buildings and a large grassy lawn and a variety of smaller trees give the convent a park-like setting. The nuns have a house church, and the renowned log church and bell tower next to a tidy cemetery. They keep goats and chickens and a large garden. They maintain a full monastic cycle of services. Many faithful from Calgary and Red Deer, Alberta, who were displaced from their home parish by the union of ROCOR with the MP, are regular visitors there. Parishioners from St. Vladimir parish also visit there and feel a warm and spiritual connection to the Convent.
A lenten meal was served. Vladika answered many questions. Afterwards, Fr. Andrew and his matushka left to return to Dormition Skete. The Metropolitan and Fr. Agathangelus stayed in a guesthouse adjoining the convent property. The next morning, Tuesday, Nov. 29, n.s., the nuns drove them to the Edmonton airport for their return flight back to New York State, to the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai.
All the parishioners of St. Vladimir’s in Edmonton have thanked God for a very spiritually profitable trip from His Eminence, and were happy to meet Archimandrite Agathangelus. Metropolitan Demetrius’ visit has greatly strengthened our bond to him and provided a great consolation to us in our personal struggles.
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