Appeal for Aid for the Sisters of the St. John the Forerunner Convent on Mt. Kissavos
In response to an appeal from the sisters, MAFA is now, for the first time, providing support for a convent for women outside of the Holy Mountain, one that has historic associations with Mount Athos.
Located high on Mt. Kissavos (a.k.a. Mt. Ossa) in central Greece, this monastery was founded by the blessed martyr St Damianos (of Philotheou Monastery, Mt Athos) in the 16th century. After the last monk of the original monastery died in 1889, the local village of Anatoli took care of it until monks from Karakalou Monastery of Mt Athos arrived in 1981 to begin building a new structure next to the old monastery. Unfortunately, the monks from Karakalou left in 1985, unable to finish the new building.
In 2000, a group of determined and intrepid sisters from the Holy Monastery of St Paul the Apostle in Lavrion (on the southeastern tip of the Attic peninsula), under the guidance of Fr. Dositheos Andrianopoulos of Dionysiou Monastery, Mt. Athos, took possession of it. Under the energetic and charismatic leadership of Sister Theoctiste, who is well known to the Friends of Mount Athos, the sisters brought renewed vigor to its rehabilitation.
Sister Theoctiste recently informed MAFA that “Our greatest longing from a materialistic standpoint has been keeping the old monastery from ruin and restoring its church together with its precious frescoes from the 16th century. By the grace of God and help of others, we were able to accomplish this a few years ago, but it has drained our finances, as well as any funds from our relatives and friends.” And, the monastery has a pressing need. The vibrancy of this sisterhood has attracted new sisters, who are much appreciated because they are needed to sustain the Convent into the future. The problem is, there are no cells for the new sisters, who are having to double up in existing cells and crowd into any available nook or cranny in the existing buildings.
Members of the Friends of Mount Athos who have met Sister Theoctiste or participated in the recent FoMA zoom session with her will understand her charisma and the inspiration that enabled the sisters to succeed where the monks had failed. Here is her description of the community of sisters:
What makes our community special, apart from our simplicity and devotion as Orthodox monastics, is our multi-ethnicity and involvement in organic farming. Having sisters from 13 different countries means we can converse in Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Persian and Russian. This makes it possible for us to welcome guests from all over the world. Our community has also helped teach other monastic communities in Greece how to start up and run an organic farm. In addition, we participate in the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms of Greece (WOOFG, www.wwoof.gr). It is part of a worldwide movement linking visitors with organic farmers to promote cultural and educational experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchange. We are also active in Peliti (Πελίτι, www.peliti.gr), an organization for the preservation and distribution of traditional seeds.
Some of us on the MAFA Board of Directors who have a history of connection to the American Farm School outside of Thessaloniki will recognize and appreciate the significance of this organic farm. The mission Convent on Mt. Kissavos is an inspiring complement to the far-sighted and groundbreaking work of the Farm School, now serving a new region in central Greece at the same time that it has preserved a historic 16th-century monastery.
The sisters have managed with their own hands to preserve this old 16th-century monastery, carrying out small projects one at a time while supporting themselves and the costs of restoration by the produce from their organic farm. The sisterhood has grown, the result of its early success, with an enthusiastic group of younger women now helping to grow and sustain the farm. But funds are urgently needed to construct a new building to house the younger sisters. We urge you to go to the MAFA website and make a donation to this richly deserving project. And to see the Convent for yourselves, we urge you to view Sisters of the Earth on their You Tube channel: Sisters of the Earth, Documentary Trailer and to learn more about them by visiting their beautiful website, www.saintjohns-monastery.gr. (To view in English, click on the English flag or click here: www.saintjohns-monastery.gr.)
MAFA wants to help, and you can make it possible.
MAFA initiated its support for the sisters with a $1,000 gift with promise of more and a pledge to conduct an appeal. We will be making additional contributions in the weeks ahead, but the cost of a new dormitory – estimated in 2020 at nearly 85,000 Euros ($100,830) far exceeds the limited funds of our still young foundation. The cumulative result of many donations, large and small alike, will help this amazing group of women to achieve their goal.
Please donate to help build new housing for the younger sisters at St. John the Forerunner.
Click on the Donate Button below and choose “Sisters at Mount Kissavos” in the Appeals list.