DIOCESE OF SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND: November 29, 2006
The 50 th -anniversary Celebration of the Founding of Our Lady of Kazan Convent
On Saturday, November 4, Our Lady of Kazan Convent celebrated its feast day as well as the 50 th anniversary of its founding in Kentlyn (near Sydney). The solemn Liturgy was celebrated by Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, along with the local clergy; Protopriest Joachim Lapkin, visiting from Russia; Protodeacon Basil Yakimov and Deacon Christopher Henderson.
During the minor entrance, Vladyka Hilarion elevated Nun Maria to the rank of hegumenia , or abbess, and before the veneration of the cross, the customary Many Years was sung. Archbishop Hilarion then entrusted Abbess Maria with the staff—a symbol of authority and at the same time of her enormous duty before the sisters and parishioners—saying to Mother Maria: "May the Lord enable you to piously and purely perform your duty, leading the nuns of the Convent 'not by force, but earnestly and in a manner pleasing to God,' serving as an example to the sisters in all things… as a mother tends to her children."
During the pre-Communion prayers, Protopriest Joachim delivered a very interesting sermon, movingly and clearly emphasizing that the Most-Holy Mother of God will never abandon those who turn to Her for assistance, and throughout the history of Russia often delivered her from crises. Wonderful examples of this were the Time of Troubles in the 17 th century and the Napoleonic invasion of 1812.
Despite the poor weather, the church was overfilled with worshipers who gathered from all over Sydney to fervently pray on this important day, in a blessed, prayerful atmosphere, to the Intercessor for all Christians, the Most-Holy Mother of God, and to participate in the procession of the cross around the church.
After the services, everyone was invited by the nuns to a splendid trapeza, offering pirogi, sweets and kvass…
To mark the 50 th anniversary of the laying of the foundation of the Convent church in 1956, an icon of All Saints was distributed to everyone in memory of the recently-reposed Abbess Evpraksia, about whom a brochure was made available.
The following is a brief history of the Convent church:
Former Protodeacon Peter Grishaev of the Sydney Cathedral gave the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand 23 acres of land in Kentlyn. With the blessing and active participation of Archbishop Savva (Raevsky, +1976), a church, monastic cells, a refectory and sundry constructions were built there, and in 1956, a men's monastery was established. Hieromonk Dimitry began to conduct divine services there, and three novices soon joined him. The men's monastic community, however, only lasted two years.
On May 11, 1958, 83-year-old Protopriest Andrei Galushko arrived in Sydney, and Vladyka Savva appointed him to serve, without compensation, at the monastery, and sent a few nuns from Harbin, China, there, led by Abbess Elena (Ustinova), who were living at Protection Parish of Protopriest Rostislav Gan in Cabramatta.
Wherever Russian people settled, the first thing they always did was build a church, no matter the cost. During that period, Russian Australians such as the widow Vera Sergeevna Ushakova settled here, and donated her farm, consisting of several cows and butter-making equipment, to the Convent.
Vladyka Savva, one of our most eminent hierarchs, sponsored Russian refugees from Communist China. The new immigrants lived in the Convent, building barracks without pay and performing other work at the Convent. Life was difficult; they lived without hot water, collecting rainwater in barrels, while the nuns warmed themselves with kerosene stoves.
The barracks housed the Russians from China, and in the 1990's, they provided hospice to recent immigrants from Russia.
At the time, the Australian government did not provide any financial aid to the Convent, but, thanks to the energetic Abbess Elena, and to contacts with Russian Orthodox people in various countries, the Convent obtained many orders for forty-day prayers for the deceased, and was thereby able to survive. In addition, the Tsvetkov couple, who ran a dairy-delivery service throughout Sydney, also provided aid, as did others. The St Vladimir Youth Group headed by Anatoly Zakrochimsky, would visit the Convent to plant trees, clear the pathways and help in the garden.
Thus the first church at Our Lady of Kazan Convent was built. Many Russian Orthodox Christians living in Australia participated in the establishment of the Convent. This was achieved through tedious, selfless efforts, just as the great monasteries of Russia were founded, mainly by the Russian laity.
The Convent of Our Lady of Kazan, from the day of its establishment, has been one of the largest Russian monasteries in Australia. At one time, there were as many as twenty nuns residing there; now there are a total of ten nuns and novices.
The location of the Convent proved ideal; here, in the monastic solitude, one can walk among the trees, breathe in clean, fresh air and visit ones relatives, friends and acquaintances in the neighboring Russian settlement.
Vladimir Vengerov, Sydney
Edineniye ["Unification," the Australian Orthodox periodical]