Syosset, New York
March 1, 2005
To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics, and Beloved Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America
Dearly Beloved in Christ:
In September 2003, I had the honor of visiting the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Poland at the invitation of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw. The visit held very special meaning for me, as it had been many years since I had visited Poland, and I was deeply impressed by the vibrancy of the life of the Church there after the fall of communism some 15 years ago.
I was especially struck by the work of the nuns at the Monastery of Saints Martha and Mary on the Holy Mount of Grabarka northwest of Warsaw, and by the growing number of homes for the elderly that the Church was struggling to establish. During my visit to Grabarka, Metropolitan Sawa made a special request of the Orthodox Church in America, asking that we sponsor an appeal to provide financial assistance for the work of restoring the monastery and supporting its important work.
History records that, while Orthodox monastics had inhabited the vicinity of Grabarka since the 13th century, it was not until 1947 that the present women’s monastery was established. The present sisterhood consists of many young nuns who have devoted themselves to the work of expanding the monastery, ministering to the needy, and offering hospitality to the tens of thousands of pilgrims who find solace and spiritual comfort on the holy mount. In many ways, the Saints Martha and Mary Monastery is to the Church in Poland what our own Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery is to our Orthodox Church in America. Passing through the Grabarka monastery’s gates, I immediately felt the same blessings that all of us have felt so many times when passing through the arch of our own beloved monastery.
The social ministry of the Church of Poland has become an example to other Orthodox Churches throughout the world. With countless elderly individuals living on or below the poverty line, often without family to tend to their needs, the faithful have opened their hearts to establish a number of centers to house and care for them. The Bethany Home in Stanislawowo, near Warsaw, has distinguished itself in a special way, offering a place where the elderly can live in safety and the dignity which they justly deserve.
During Great Lent, we are called not only to fast and pray, but to give alms to help “the least of the brethren.” And with this in mind, I humbly request that each of our parishes set aside a portion of their lenten almsgiving to benefit these two rapidly growing institutions in their quest to share the joy of the Kingdom of God to those who otherwise might not experience it. Recently, I was pleased to learn that a single, generous parish in the Diocese of the Midwest had already raised nearly $4,000.00 to assist the monastery in Grabarka during the Nativity Fast, and I am confident that other parishes also will consider devoting a portion of their almsgiving efforts during Great Lent for the same worthy causes.
In an effort to bring these worthy needs to the attention of our faithful, an interesting article on the holy mount of Grabarka is being featured in the March 2005 issue of “The Orthodox Church,” while photos and additional information also appear on our newly redesigned and upgraded web site at http://www.oca.org.
Donations may be sent to the:
OCA Grabarka Fund
PO Box 675
Syosset, NY 11791
Finally, I would like to suggest that students in our parish Church schools consider writing letters and sending photographs to the residents at the Bethany Home as a way to brighten the lives of its residents. Letters and photographs, especially those depicting the life of your parish, may be sent to the:
OCA Office of Communications
One Wheaton Center 912
Wheaton, IL 60187
The children’s letters and photographs will be delivered personally at the home after Pascha.
Wishing you a spiritually profitable fast, and remembering you in my daily prayers, I remain
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada