Seeking Stakeholders to Save a Byzantine Catholic Monastery

Holy Resurrection Monastery—a traditional, cenobitic Byzantine monastery in full communion with Rome—is in the midst of a fundraising campaign that may determine whether our community can survive in its current form

In our most recent co-authored Catholic World Report article, “Beauty and Tradition in the ‘Church of the Poor’,” we discussed the coexistence of liturgical and artistic splendor with frugality and simplicity of life, especially among some of the historic churches of the Christian East.

Something that was not said in the article, but which bears saying now, is that we were speaking partly from our monastic community’s own experience of poverty. Holy Resurrection Monastery (a traditional, cenobitic Byzantine monastery in full communion with Rome) is in the midst of a fundraising campaign that may determine whether our community can survive in its current form.

Ironically, this financial difficulty comes at a time when our monastery is thriving both in terms of vocations, and the outreach of our various apostolates. Holy Resurrection has more new and prospective monks than ever before in its 20-year history; and our move to Wisconsin in 2011 has allowed us to become engaged with the work of evangelization and catechesis, in the Green Bay area and elsewhere.

Nonetheless, while our community is thriving, our facility is not. Living in the historic village of St. Nazianz (originally founded as a Catholic commune by German immigrants), we occupy a building that has been in continuous use by religious orders since the 19th century. This facility is now badly in need of restoration, and could eventually become unusable if repairs are not undertaken soon.

More information about our needs can be found on the monastery homepage, at our GoFundMe page, and in two recent articles – from the local paper in Manitowoc and the Green Bay diocesan newspaper. Rather than repeat what has been said there, we would prefer to give a summation of what one is investing in, by supporting Holy Resurrection Monastery’s efforts to remain in St. Nazianz.

An investment in this building-restoration appeal is really an investment in three areas: religious, cultural, and historical.

RELIGIOUS: Holy Resurrection Monastery has a very unique identity in the American religious landscape. It is Catholic; it is from the Eastern Christian tradition (specifically, the Church of Constantinople); and it is a traditional, liturgically-focused Byzantine monastery, following one of the most ancient models of religious life (comparable to the Rule of St. Benedict in the West, which drew heavily from Eastern sources).

This identity allows us to contribute in crucial ways to the Church’s program of New Evangelization. An experience of Eastern Christianity can help all Christians to grow in the liturgical, historical, and contemplative aspects of their faith. At the same time, we are in a position to assist the Catholic Church in the work of ecumenical dialogue, and the search for authentic revival in consecrated religious life.

CULTURAL: The Byzantine Christian tradition – among both Catholics and Orthodox – involves a potent synthesis of faith and culture, one that has formed many great artists and writers (historically and in modern times). Exposure to this tradition can inspire the urgent work of cultural renewal in the West.

Likewise, in these times of global conflict – often taking place along “East/West” lines – it is especially important for American Christians to encounter and understand the heritage of their Eastern Christian brothers and sisters, who number in the hundreds-of-millions worldwide.

However, our monastery is entirely English-speaking and does not have an “ethnic” character. We see ourselves as helping to develop an Eastern Christian presence in America that is both true to its roots, and at home in its surroundings. A presence of this kind will aid global understanding while enriching Western culture.

HISTORICAL: Holy Resurrection Monastery, which came to St. Nazianz, Wisconsin four years ago, is the third Catholic religious presence in the village since its foundation in 1854. St. Nazianz is quite unique, in that it was founded as a Catholic utopian community by Fr. Ambrose Oschwald and the group of settlers that traveled with him from Baaden, Germany.

(Interestingly, while the settlers had no direct ties with Eastern Christianity, their village became the only U.S. locale named for an Eastern saint – the early bishop and writer St. Gregory Nazianzen.)

The building which houses Holy Resurrection Monastery was built by the Oschwald community as an orphanage and hospital from 1866 to 1870. The Salvatorian Sisters moved in and made it their convent in 1895, and built the chapel in 1908. The sisters also built another wing in 1980.

Along with a series of major structural repairs to the facility, we are also hoping to restore certain historical features, such as a Byzantine-style onion-dome that was once a distinct visual feature of the original property.

Divine Liturgy at Holy Resurrection Monastery on Palm Sunday, 2015 (hrmonline.org)

Our Monastery and the Year of Consecrated Life

Our effort to restore this building is, in some ways, symbolic of a greater Church-wide effort to revive the state of consecrated life.

Our monastery is deeply invested in the Church’s project of renewal in consecrated religious life, through a return to the founding charisms of religious communities. Traditional Byzantine monasticism, of course, has no “religious orders,” as such; so our historic founders are simply the founders of organized monasticism itself: St. Anthony of Egypt, St. Pachomius, St. Basil the Great, and others. We believe their vision is no less relevant today – for the life of the entire Church, and “for the life of the world” – than it was in the fourth century.

We also hold to the vision that St. John Paul II affirmed, in his apostolic letter Orientale Lumen, when he urged that monasticism should be helped “to flourish once more in the Eastern Catholic Churches, and that support be given to all those who feel called to work for its revitalization.” In that same document, the Pope explicitly said that this hope did not pertain only to the historic homelands of Eastern Christianity, but also encompassed those Western nations with an Eastern Christian presence. In those territories, too, “the presence of Eastern monasteries would give greater stability to the Eastern Churches in those countries, and would make a valuable contribution to the religious life of Western Christians.”

We are striving, day by day, to fulfill the mandate made clear by St. John Paul II. But we cannot do this alone, without the help of the broader Church. And we can only continue in our current form, if support is found to restore the building we call home.

Our monastery is still usable at the moment – open to the public, and hosting retreatants from across the country and the world. But it will not remain in this state indefinitely, without these much-needed repairs. During this Year of Consecrated Life, please consider supporting Holy Resurrection Monastery.

About Abbot Nicholas Zachariadis 4 Articles
Archimandrite Nicholas Zachariadis is the founding abbot of Holy Resurrection Monastery, an Eastern Catholic monastery in Saint Nazianz, Wisconsin.