Interview with Mother Agapia (Stephanopoulos), Superior at the Convent of Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker, of the Syracuse Diocese, ROCOR (See pages 6-7 of the Missionary Leaflet)
The first thing that struck me was the overwhelming response from clergy and laity throughout the US and even in Australia to our appeal. It was obvious that the call for a convent, a spiritual center for the ROCA under Metropolitan Agafangel was important to many people both young and old. The letters received from elderly people expressing their deep appreciation for the formation of a Convent were very moving. At the same time it was wonderful to meet young people excited about the idea of coming to visit the Convent. After the ruinous and sometimes bitter separation from friends and family because of the 2007 union between ROCOR and the MP people are deeply in need of a place where they can once again focus on their spiritual life and rebuild their communities in a positive and healthy way. The Convent can help provide direction and inspiration.
I then spent 10 years in Jerusalem at the Convent of St. Mary Magdalene. There was a wonderful young abbess their at the time (Abbess Anna Karipoff) who did much to instill a coenobitic order and inspire the nuns to a deeper spiritual life. Here in a much larger community of 25-30 nuns I was relieved of having to do so much physical labor that a smaller community might entail and aided by good examples and the inspiration of living and often visiting the Holy Sites, I was able to focus more on my interior spiritual life. This sweet period was only to last about a year and a half. Soon the events in Hebron happened (MP seizure of our monastery in 1997) and I was called to assist with administrative matters. As well the upheaval and strain caused by this seizure led to Mother Anna resigning her position and leaving the Convent. This led to other changes in the monastery and I was appointed to run the Convent’s Orthodox School of Bethany The experience of running a school for 325 children, caring for 12 girls from broken homes, managing the property, dealing with teachers and employees, and at the same time trying to live the life of a nun in the Holy Land, going to services and hosting pilgrims, all in a most politicized and sometime violent part of the world certainly honed skills that are most useful as we undertake the formation of a new convent here in the States. Quite frankly while there are challenges here, it somehow seems a lighter burden than those days in Jerusalem.
THE FIRST FEAST DAY
Holy Father Nicholas, pray to God for us!
Source: NFTU News
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I became acquainted with Mother Agapia during my short stay in the Holy Land through Mother Xenia, and through some correspondence with Mother Agapia. Mother Agapia and Mother Xenia were members of the Community of St. Elizabeth, which serves and is served by the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene. The convent and the church are located on the slope of the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem.
In the story above, Mother Agapia mentions the events MP seizure of our monastery in Hebron in 1997 in an offhanded manner. I know something of what happened there and I know Mother Agapia as a hero in those events, and I seem to recall the then Sister Katherine was a hero right along with her. They dared to stare down the dastardly Russians who had been dispatched to seize their little outpost mastery and school. Of course the politically better connected Russians eventually prevailed in that struggle.
The incorrupt bodies of St. Elizabeth and St. Barbara, the good servant of St. Elizabeth can be visited in the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene. Both saints freely volunteered to be martyred with the sainted Russian Czar Nicholas II and the Czarina Alexandra and their children. St. Elizabeth had formerly been the Grand Duchess of Russia, having been married to the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, brother of the czar. This was, of course, before she became a nun after the death of her husband and founded the Convent of Martha and Mary. Click both St. Elizabeth and St. Elizabeth to learn more about this wonderful lady.
Incidentally, Mother Agapia has a brother named George Stephanopoulos. He is the well known television journalist and Democrat political adviser.
- Martyred Priest Daniel Sysoev & American Orthodox Missionary Work (palamas.info)
- Orthodox flock to once-banned holy site in Turkey (reuters.com)
- Turkey: patriarch holds historic Mass at monastery (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- St Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinaï (apostcardaday.blogspot.com)
- Christ is Born! Glorify Him! (mpidirect.com)