BY DAVID FALCHEK
SOUTH CANAAN TWP. — People from across the region gathered at St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary this weekend for a spiritual reunion, rejoicing and renewal.
Nearly 3,000 people made the pilgrimage commemorating the founding of the monastery in South Canaan and serving as a homecoming of sorts for its sister seminary.
For Maggie and George Zlatkowski, of Cherry Hill, N.J., the weekend has become a time to meet old friends. They have long hosted seminarians in their home, including one who is now a bishop. They also use the pilgrimage as a chance to renew spiritually.
This is part of the life and tradition of our faith,” Mr. Zlatkowski said. “When I leave this beautiful place, I feel satisfied, happy and calm.”
That sense of calm and fulfillment will be more valuable in these trying economic times, said the Rev. John Kowalczyk, pastor of St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church in Jermyn. With shaky economic prospects and the skyrocketing price of energy, he thinks more people are finding solace in the stability of faith.
“I see people’s anxiety around the economy, and they are looking for something constant beyond the material world,” he said.
Monday’s festivities began with a procession of clergy and laypeople into a pavilion serving as a makeshift church for services. Later in the day, people lined up to be anointed. A large cemetery nearby allowed visitors the chance to see the burial sites of family and religious leaders, including dozens of Orthodox bishops. Priests were available for short graveside services. A festival with ethnic foods and events for children followed.
As the first Eastern Orthodox monastery North America, St. Tikhon’s holds an important place for Orthodox Christians.
When Orthodox Christians immigrated to the United States a century ago and built churches in their communities, they needed a monastery as a spiritual anchor and place for retreat, said the Rev. Kowalczyk. They selected the rolling hills of Wayne County. St. Tikhon’s was dedicated and consecrated on Memorial Day in 1905. The Rev. Kowalczyk said Memorial Day was probably selected because most people had the day off and could attend.
Three decades after the monastery was founded, the monastery gave birth to the seminary, which today boasts a record enrollment of 101 students — most of them converts from other faiths, the Rev. Kowalczyk noted. The seminary is planning to build housing for the growing number of seminarians with families.
The Rev. Gregory Sagan, a 1995 graduate of the seminary, brought some members of his congregation from Endicott, N.Y. Terry Peet was among them.
“We are looking forward to the Divine Liturgy and meeting old friends coming up from D.C.,” Mr. Peet said.
Mr. Peet’s car had a personalized license plate that caught some attention: “IC NIKA,” a Greek abbreviation of “Jesus Conquers.”
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