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Author Topic: How do Monasteries Survive Financially?  (Read 3164 times) Average Rating: 0
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Justin Kissel
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« on: April 21, 2010, 10:48:31 PM »

I'm guessing that monasteries survive based on a number of things... sales of things like icons or other products, donations of money and gifts from visitors, large donations from benefactors, help from the diocese/archdiocese/whatever. But what makes up the largest percentage? I just can't imagine that selling icons or getting money from visitors would add up to that much, and I doubt that there are that many affluent folks out there throwing money at monasteries. Does the jurisdiction at large usually have a large part to play in keeping monasteries open? And do some people give their savings to monasteries when they join? I've heard of people selling stuff off and giving it to charity before joining a monastery, but do some sell their stuff and give the money to the monastery that they're joining?
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2010, 11:18:23 PM »

At the Romanian monastery where I occasionally retreat to, getting money from visitors does add up to that much. Hundreds of euro a day on the weekends. There are various places in the church you can drop banknotes, and the visitors know that that is expected of them when they visit. People staying overnight tend to make another, separate donation for lodging, even if they agree to help out with monastery tasks, and at some monasteries like Finland's Valamo monastery, accommodation is run like a business with price lists and various tiers of room quality.
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« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2010, 09:49:16 AM »

Around where I live, mostly on donations. There is one Catholic monastery, however, that sells fruitcake, the proceeds from which pay most of their expenses for the year.
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2010, 10:36:03 AM »

But what makes up the largest percentage?

Depends on the country and the monastery. I can think of two examples where small gifts and selling stuff for several years allowed a very small group of monastics to save up enough to do something significant. But, in general, large gifts are the biggest source of funding, and the catalyst most monasteries need to do major projects (e.g. building a church, remodeling a building, buying big plots of land, etc.). Many of the new monasteries in Romania, for example, have been built because the brotherhood was able to secure anywhere from one to ten large donations. That is also true for most of the Ephraimite monasteries in the U.S. 

I just can't imagine that selling icons or getting money from visitors would add up to that much,

Small donations (i.e. $50 to $5,000) often cover the yearly operating expenses. At the Ephraimite monasteries, for example, it's not unusual for 50 to 500 guests to visit per week. If everyone gives a mere $100, that's $5,000 to $50,000 of cash per week. Of course, there are lots of monasteries in other jurisdictions that have relatively few visitors. However, a lot of the time, those monasteries don't have many expenses, since it's one or two nuns living in rural house somewhere. Don't have to gross more than $50,000 a year in that case. That's not a hard bar to reach through donations alone at all.

and I doubt that there are that many affluent folks out there throwing money at monasteries.

All it takes is one. There are plenty, actually. And, aside from truly affluent folks, one doesn't have to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company to be able to write a nice $100,000 check to one's favorite cause later in life. I've seen solidly middle class people give the church a million bucks in their will.

Does the jurisdiction at large usually have a large part to play in keeping monasteries open?

No. Never a large part, that's for sure. And I can't really think of any example where any funds have been provided by the jurisdiction itself.

And do some people give their savings to monasteries when they join? I've heard of people selling stuff off and giving it to charity before joining a monastery, but do some sell their stuff and give the money to the monastery that they're joining?

In my experience, it is more common to give one's money to the monastery. I've seen that in the OCA, the Romanian church, Greece, and in the GOA. According to the ΓΕΝΙΚΟΙ 

ΚΑΝΟΝΙΣΜΟΙ
, which is the canonical legislation that governs monasteries in the GOA:

Quote
The
 Novice
 retains 
ownership
 of 
his/her 
personal
 possessions
 until 
the 
time
 of 
the
 monastic 
tonsure. 

From
 the 
moment 
of 
the 
tonsure,
 his/her
 personal
 possessions
 become
 the 
property 
of
 the 
Monastery 
in 
which 
he
/she 
is 
enrolled,
 by
 means
 of
 a
 special 
Act
 of
 Transference 
stipulating 
its 
irrevocability.

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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2010, 10:45:21 AM »

One of the monasteries in our Metropolis makes 100% of what they need in a year through their labors - baking bread, selling icons, and making candles.  They deliberately do not want to depend on big donations, and so they work very, very hard.
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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2010, 10:53:11 AM »

Bluntly:  Orthodox Monasteries do not survive financially, they survive spiritually.

U and I need to give to their physical needs for our survivial spiritually (each according to what God puts in their heart).

But I repeat, Orthodox Monasteries survive spiritually not financially, if they do not and receive monies or other alms they are pilferers.

john
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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2010, 11:01:50 AM »

One of the monasteries in our Metropolis makes 100% of what they need in a year through their labors - baking bread, selling icons, and making candles.  They deliberately do not want to depend on big donations, and so they work very, very hard.

Unless they turn away donations or don't have overnight visitors, I doubt they make 100% that way. I know of a couple of monasteries that pay for their own expenses (e.g. health care, clothing, and food for the monks) through selling stuff. But donations are needed to cover the cost of hospitality and capital projects. The less hospitality you do, and the more modest of a facility you have, the less you need in donations.
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« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2010, 12:22:21 PM »

One of the monasteries in our Metropolis makes 100% of what they need in a year through their labors - baking bread, selling icons, and making candles.  They deliberately do not want to depend on big donations, and so they work very, very hard.
Unless they turn away donations or don't have overnight visitors, I doubt they make 100% that way. I know of a couple of monasteries that pay for their own expenses (e.g. health care, clothing, and food for the monks) through selling stuff. But donations are needed to cover the cost of hospitality and capital projects. The less hospitality you do, and the more modest of a facility you have, the less you need in donations.

Well, maybe it is 95-99%.  But they took out mortgages to finance the new property and buildings, and they consider it their task to raise the money to pay the loans off through their labors (and they do it, by God's grace - IIRC their Vasilopita and Tsoureki operation consumes 12+ hours per day - which means multiple shifts - for 4-6 months).  They are certainly the exception to the rule in my experience, but definitely a notable one.
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« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2010, 01:03:33 PM »

I imagine it's harder in the US than it is in the Orthodox countries. The laws and the authorities back home seemed to be a lot friendlier to the existence of monasteries. We had, after 1990 three new sketes pop up in a radius of 20 kilometers of our town, another monastery reactivated after Communism (about 50 km distance) and then, another one at about 5o km in the opposite directions, plus another, older one  in the mountains, all six in a small area.
I guess they live off donations, small and great, selling religious trinkets and books and of course, cultivating their own land and keeping some livestock.
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« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2010, 05:59:43 PM »

Bluntly:  Orthodox Monasteries do not survive financially, they survive spiritually.

U and I need to give to their physical needs for our survivial spiritually (each according to what God puts in their heart).

But I repeat, Orthodox Monasteries survive spiritually not financially, if they do not and receive monies or other alms they are pilferers.

john

I suppose that's a nice, idealistic platitude, but the fact remains that they are still in the world, as much as they strive to separate themselves from it, and still need to have some money to make ends meet and accomplish their mission.  After all, did not Jesus and His disciples have their own common purse?  Iscariot needed a purse in his hand to be able to embezzle from it.
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« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2010, 07:20:40 PM »

Thank you for the answer(s) Smiley I have a few follow-up questions, if anyone has some thoughts. First, if someone doesn't have a specific skill that helps make money, is it less likely that they will be allowed to join a monastery? I mean, someone has to do dishes and cooking and gardening and such, but there are probably only so many spots like that, right? Second, who owns monasteries? By that I mean the actual property and whatever items of value are at the monasteries? And third, can a lay person be an owner of a monastery? Like can a lay person own the property, but just give over control and responsibility for maintenance of the property to the abbot?
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« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2010, 01:17:34 AM »

Monasteries I guess, are owned by the local diocese .
Historically  monasteries owned much land and serfs; now, after the disruption caused by communism, they are getting their land and forests back. Not the serfs, though Wink
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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2010, 01:25:49 PM »

Monasteries I guess, are owned by the local diocese .
Historically  monasteries owned much land and serfs; now, after the disruption caused by communism, they are getting their land and forests back. Not the serfs, though Wink
Of course they have serfs. They just call them "novices." Grin
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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2010, 02:20:05 PM »

First, if someone doesn't have a specific skill that helps make money, is it less likely that they will be allowed to join a monastery? I mean, someone has to do dishes and cooking and gardening and such, but there are probably only so many spots like that, right?

Never been to a monastery that couldn't use an extra pair of hands.

Second, who owns monasteries? By that I mean the actual property and whatever items of value are at the monasteries?

The monastery owns itself. As a unique ecclesiastical entity, canonically chartered by Royal decree or by the local Bishop in accord with his Synod, a monastery is inviolate and exists in perpetuity, according to the canonical tradition.

The ΓΕΝΙΚΟΙ 

ΚΑΝΟΝΙΣΜΟΙ puts it this way:

Quote
The 
Monks/Nuns
 do 
not
 own 
or 
possess
 personal
 property
.
 
However,
 the
 Monastery,
 as
 an
 ecclesiastical
 institution 
functioning 
within 
the 
Eucharistic
 Community
 over which
 the 
local
 Metropolitan
 presides,
 and
 as
 a
 legal
 entity
 from
 the
 standpoint
 of
 both
 ecclesiastical
 and
 civil 
law, 
retains 
the 
prerogative
 of
 owning
 and 
managing 
its
 own
 ecclesiastical 
property.


There is a difference, of course, between the individuals who compose a monastery and the monastery itself as an ecclesiastical institution. For example, Esphigmenou will never go away and its property will always be that of Esphigmenou. But the current inhabitants have been asked to vacate the property, since they are in violation of the governing ecclesiastical and civil laws.

This is all governed, in detail, in the ecclesiastical legislation of Orthodox countries. What would actually happen here in a US court of law, where plaintiffs apparently run about waving copies of the Rudder, who knows?

And third, can a lay person be an owner of a monastery? Like can a lay person own the property, but just give over control and responsibility for maintenance of the property to the abbot?

Not according to the canonical tradition. But, in the diaspora, anything is possible.
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« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2010, 04:48:50 PM »

Thank you very much Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2010, 03:33:40 PM »

Bluntly:  Orthodox Monasteries do not survive financially, they survive spiritually.

U and I need to give to their physical needs for our survivial spiritually (each according to what God puts in their heart).

But I repeat, Orthodox Monasteries survive spiritually not financially, if they do not and receive monies or other alms they are pilferers.

john

I suppose that's a nice, idealistic platitude, but the fact remains that they are still in the world, as much as they strive to separate themselves from it, and still need to have some money to make ends meet and accomplish their mission.  After all, did not Jesus and His disciples have their own common purse?  Iscariot needed a purse in his hand to be able to embezzle from it.

Forgive me, which part was idealistic: the second line?

John
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« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2010, 03:39:38 PM »

Bluntly:  Orthodox Monasteries do not survive financially, they survive spiritually.

U and I need to give to their physical needs for our survivial spiritually (each according to what God puts in their heart).

But I repeat, Orthodox Monasteries survive spiritually not financially, if they do not and receive monies or other alms they are pilferers.

john
I suppose that's a nice, idealistic platitude, but the fact remains that they are still in the world, as much as they strive to separate themselves from it, and still need to have some money to make ends meet and accomplish their mission.  After all, did not Jesus and His disciples have their own common purse?  Iscariot needed a purse in his hand to be able to embezzle from it.

ISTM he's not saying that the monasteries don't need the financial assistance.  I think he's saying:

- The only good monastery is a spiritual one
- We need to support spiritual monasteries
- If a monastery isn't spiritual, then the money/goods/services sent to it are wasted (or they're "pilfering" them by claiming to be a spiritual place so people support them)
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« Reply #17 on: May 01, 2010, 11:27:54 PM »

Bluntly:  Orthodox Monasteries do not survive financially, they survive spiritually.

U and I need to give to their physical needs for our survivial spiritually (each according to what God puts in their heart).

But I repeat, Orthodox Monasteries survive spiritually not financially, if they do not and receive monies or other alms they are pilferers.

john

I suppose that's a nice, idealistic platitude, but the fact remains that they are still in the world, as much as they strive to separate themselves from it, and still need to have some money to make ends meet and accomplish their mission.  After all, did not Jesus and His disciples have their own common purse?  Iscariot needed a purse in his hand to be able to embezzle from it.

Forgive me, which part was idealistic: the second line?
No, the first and third lines, which I read as suggesting that monasteries don't need money to survive.
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« Reply #18 on: May 03, 2010, 10:51:12 AM »

Hmmm... he ponders in his head and replies, "I think it has been well said, "By bread alone man cannot live..." and something like "Render unto him whose image that which your coin does bear...", the former states the absolute without denying the latter, but will keeping the commandment of the latter ensure the survival of any institution Church or State, whether the Temple of Solomon or an Orthodox Monastery? 

I wrote what I wrote and meant what I said...

I think my second line answers the question about the need of a Common Purse.

John

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« Reply #19 on: May 03, 2010, 12:11:57 PM »

Hmmm... he ponders in his head and replies, "I think it has been well said, "By bread alone man cannot live..." and something like "Render unto him whose image that which your coin does bear...", the former states the absolute without denying the latter, but will keeping the commandment of the latter ensure the survival of any institution Church or State, whether the Temple of Solomon or an Orthodox Monastery? 

I wrote what I wrote and meant what I said...

I think my second line answers the question about the need of a Common Purse.

Are my thoughts from above a good summary of your position:

ISTM he's not saying that the monasteries don't need the financial assistance.  I think he's saying:

- The only good monastery is a spiritual one
- We need to support spiritual monasteries
- If a monastery isn't spiritual, then the money/goods/services sent to it are wasted (or they're "pilfering" them by claiming to be a spiritual place so people support them)

With the caveat that a truly spiritual monastery will never lack what they need, since the Lord will provide.
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« Reply #20 on: May 04, 2010, 10:53:41 AM »

Father George: I could not have said it any clearer myself...I confess I lean towards verbosity when writing.

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« Reply #21 on: May 04, 2010, 11:38:52 AM »

Voistinu Voskresse (forgive me for my misspelling, if indeed present)!
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« Reply #22 on: May 29, 2011, 11:30:54 PM »

Many monasteries have something they produce, such as olives or cheese, icon studios, etc.
Donations when they come.

Many seek to be relatively self sufficient.
It's rare in the West, but there are some monasteries that simply don't use electricity, and draw their own water.

Some big ones in the West, such as St. Anthony's, can yield millions a year off of the produce they grow.
Their olive fields alone bring hundreds of thousands. (Some 4000 plus olive trees)
Then they have citrus, such as oranges and grapefruit.
Three big greenhouses with vegetables, date palms all over, etc.
Oh. And the grape vineyards and the revenue from the wine.

Monastics work their butts off (No idle time allowed), and as a result, generally make ends meet.
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« Reply #23 on: May 30, 2011, 11:35:33 AM »

How do monasteries support themselves?  Barely.   laugh

At least in Canada, and from everything I've seen of the situation in the US, it's a matter of "do what you can".  Gardens and such are a bit harder in Canada, depending on the latitude, as the growing seasons can be a fair bit shorter than, say, Arizona.  But, often, monastics try to grow as much as they can, but it's unlikely, at least around here, that they can be completely self sufficient through a garden.

Often monasteries sell candles, and other things like soap.  If they can rig up the equipment, and develop people who know what they're doing with it, this is a good money maker, with a fairly good profit margin.  Plus, it's rather condusive to monastic life in that one can make candles whenever one has time in between services, etc.  Same idea with baked goods, or whatever.  There are a few that have made a go of running a printing press.  They use the talents they have in any sort of "cottage industry" that is viable.  That and of course, they don't turn down donations, but it's actually rare, and somewhat dangerous from the point of view of the monastics, to entirely depend on donations.  They work very hard to avoid that kind of dependance.

As an absolute last resort, outside secular employment has occasionally been used.  It's not the best situation, but hey, at least you don't starve to death.  That's the situation I find myself in at the moment, and I'm not alone, although I'm also not keeping it a secret that I'm taking steps to move to a more established monastery in the US.  Lots of hoops to jump through for US Immigration...

WRT having some sort of skill to make you more "attractive" to a monastery, don't worry about it.  It's often only after a person comes to a monastery intending to stay (as opposed to a pilgrim) that they discover they have talents and abilities that they didn't think they had.  Accountants can discover they have a real knack for making candles - construction workers can discover a talent for administration.  Academics with enough degrees to choke a horse have found real satisfaction in making sure the sidewalks are swept and the dishes done after meals.  Chaps that barely graduated high school can end up translating obscure texts.  More often than not monastics end up doing things that they never dreamed they would be doing when they were in the world.

When they talk about monastic tonsure as a second baptism, and someone starting out a "new life" in monasticism, they mean it.  It's amazing to discover how often new talents, abilities and skills develop within the monastic life.  They really do become a new person.
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« Reply #24 on: May 30, 2011, 03:34:33 PM »

Monk Cyprian (by the way, what is the proper form of address for a monk who isn't a priest or deacon?), you said "Chaps that barely graduated high school can end up translating obscure texts."  Not that my question matters, but do monks often have an opportunity to learn one or more langagues after they join a monastery?
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« Reply #25 on: May 30, 2011, 06:45:44 PM »

Umm...  yeah.  I mean, it isn't formally taught or anything, but there have been cases where someone has discovered a gift for languages after becoming monastic.  It's not the way it works in the majority of cases or anything though.  My point was that sometimes folks end up doing the last thing they ever thought they would do.

As for forms of address, the average Slavic practice with regards to titles is:

Novice - colloquial "Brother" - formal "Novice".
Rasaphore - colloquial "Father" - formal "Monk".
Stavrophore - colloquial "Father" - formal "Monk".
Great Schema - colloquial "Father" - formal "Schemamonk".

First names are used as opposed to last names.

There is some variation from monastery to monastery, so it's not a hard and fast rule.  Generally, they don't get offended if someone calls them by the wrong title.  Smiley
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« Reply #26 on: May 30, 2011, 11:11:22 PM »

Thank you Father
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« Reply #27 on: May 31, 2011, 01:38:08 AM »

In Romania too every monk is parinte ("father") even if he's a 16 year-old kid just starting the novitiate.
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« Reply #28 on: May 31, 2011, 01:40:27 AM »

16 year-olds start the novitiate, in Romania?  In the US I am under the impression that most monasteries want you to be 21 at least (I could be very wrong, having never very seriously considered joining a monastery).
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« Reply #29 on: May 31, 2011, 01:54:52 AM »

16 year-olds start the novitiate, in Romania?  In the US I am under the impression that most monasteries want you to be 21 at least (I could be very wrong, having never very seriously considered joining a monastery).

In Romania the context is different, so the standards will be adjusted accordingly.
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« Reply #30 on: May 31, 2011, 01:59:56 AM »

I didn't mean to suggest I thought there was anything wrong with it (not that I think anyone who could change it would care what I though anyways), I was just a little surprised that it was at 16 that someone could join a monastery.  But then again I was a little surprised when I found out that Cuba's voting age was 16 and Iran's was 15 (until '07).
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