SOUTHBRIDGE – On Sunday, June 20th the parish community of St. Michael Orthodox Christian Church voted to found the St. Columba of Iona Orthodox Monastery on the grounds of the church.
For more than a year, Fr. Peter Preble, the pastor of the parish, has been working to find suitable property to found the monastery. One of the parishioners, Mr. Thomas Andrea, suggested that the monastery be founded at St. Michael’s. “It is funny how you can be looking for something and the answer to the question is right under your nose the entire time” said Fr. Peter. “We have been looking at all sorts of property to include the former Camp Bement in Charlton, Massachusetts but God had other plans.” That plan was the property on Romanian Ave in Southbridge.
The monastery will be housed in the present rectory and use the church and the grounds as well as a newly established chapel for services. A services schedule will be published soon but will include daily services as well as a lecture series that will begin in the fall.
Fr. Peter said, “monasticism has a long tradition in the Orthodox Church and we have been without a monastic presence in this area for far too long. The Church is at it’s best when the local church and the monastery work together for the betterment of the world.”
The new monastery has as it’s patron the 6th century Scottish St. Columba of Iona. Know in the Orthodox Church as Our Father Among the Saints Columba, Enlightener of Scotland. He was chosen due to his remarkable history of founding monasteries and his work with the poor. “We hope to emulate his life and work right here in Southern Worcester County. Monasteries are places of prayer and solitude but also or work” said Fr. Peter. “We need to be active in the word to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ to love out neighbor as ourselves.”
For centuries Monastic Communities have been an integral part of the Orthodox Christian Tradition and life. Today monasticism remains an important and vital part of the Orthodox Christian faith. The focus of monasticism is on theosis, the process becoming more like God, of perfection to which every Christian is called.
Historically monasteries were also centers of learning, evangelization and Church planting. In the Celtic lands monasteries were responsible for preservation of the culture and for large collections of the written word as well as liturgical art. Many believe that the Book of Kells was created at the monastery on the Isle of Iona off the coast of Scotland. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and represents the pinnacle of Insular illumination. It is also widely regarded as Ireland’s finest national treasure – a true work representing Orthodox Christianity.
In 563 St. Columba founded the monastery on the Island of Iona the smallest of the islands in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. St. Columba and 12 companions founded the monastery and then set out on the conversion of pagan Scotland. In this day and age steady rise of secular materialism, totalitarianism and radical Islam there is a greater than ever need for more Monastic Communities here in the United States. It is also the vision of the monastic foundation to create an Orthodox Center for Church Growth and Evangelism; an academic and practical mission to train and raise up men and women who are called and have a vision for Orthodox evangelism, church growth and the establishment of new Orthodox parishes throughout New England and broader United States. This is very much in keeping with the biblical mandate to “go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt.28:19ff) and very same mission that St. Columba of Iona embarked on many centuries ago.
St. Columba of Iona Monastery exists to make visible the Kingdom of God to the world; is dedicated to a life of prayer, worship, work and service of others; committed to support local Orthodox Parishes in their evangelistic and missionary outreach to the broader community; is set apart as a place of prayer, contemplation, spiritual direction, formation and renewal; a holy place firmly rooted in the sacramental life of the Church.
The Monastery is a pan Orthodox and duel Ritual (both eastern and western rite) and is under the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas. The monastery also has a blessing from His Eminence Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Archdiocese.
Anyone interested in exploring a monastic vocation at the new monastery should be in contact with Fr. Peter at email@example.com
more information can be found on the monastery website: www.stcolumbamonastery.org