Diocese of Australia and New Zealand: August 14, 2013
Kazan Convent in the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand Celebrates the Namesday of its Late Abbess
On Wednesday, August 7, 2013, the feast day of the repose of Righteous Anna, Mother of the Most-Holy Mother of God, the Holy Deaconesses of Olympia (409) and St Eupraxia the Virgin of Tavenna (413), His Grace Bishop Nikolai of Salavat and Kumertau celebrated Liturgy along with Protopriest Nikita Chemodakov, Rector of St Nicholas Church in Sydney and Dean of New South Wales; Priest Dionisy Khalima, Assistant to the Chief of the Indonesia Ecclesiastical Mission; and Deacon Samuil Vishnevsky of St George Church in Carleton. On the evening before, he performed vigil and matins at Novoe Shamardino Convent of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in Kentlyn (Sydney), NSW.
Vladyka Nikolai also performed a pannikhida for Abbess Evpraksia (Pustovalova, +2006), the former head of the convent.
During the services, the new abbess of the convent, Mother Maria (Miros) prayed and sang on the kliros with the other nuns, as well as Abbess Ioanna (Smolina) of the Convent of the Tabyn Icon of the Mother of God in Kurort, in the Gafuria region of Ufa Diocese.
Novo Shamordino is located in the town of Kentlyn, 50 km from Sydney, a part of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, on a parcel of land donated by Protodeacon Peter Grishaev of Sydney’s SS Peter and Paul Cathedral.
In 1955, when Archbishop Savva (Raevsky +1976) became the Ruling Bishop of the Australian Diocese, he wished to establish both men’s and women’s monasteries within its territory, and a year later it was decided to establish a men’s monastery honoring All Saints.
On the feast day of the Holy Spirit (also the holidays of St Onouphry the Great and St Peter of Athos), June 12/25, 1956, a moleben was performed by Vladyka Savva, who then examined the site of the future monastery together with Hieromonk Dimitry (Obukhov) and Fr Peter Grishaev.
On this historic day, Fr Peter transferred the parcel to the diocese for its first monastery. Later that year, on the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God (June 23/July 6), a moleben was performed on the monastery site and the locations for the future monastery buildings consecrated.
Very soon after, on Sunday, September 3/16, the first hierarchal Divine Liturgy was performed in a garage-turned-sanctuary, and the site of the monastery’s future main church blessed, which would house the church and monastic residential cells. Preparation of the parcel began, which was until then an overgrown meadow with low-growing eucalyptus trees, littered with broken glass and barbed wire.
The handful of brethren, including three people (novices Michael Sorokin, Alexei Plenin and John Boiko), headed by Fr Dimitry, began the work with the help of other Russians and even neighboring Australians.
Vladyka would visit every Saturday with a brigade of volunteers, who would work in all kinds of weather, even cold and rain. Soon the main monastery corpus arose, with a small number of cells and a temporary church. Fruit trees were planted along with grapevines, which would later yield Liturgical wine.
Protopriest Rostislav Gan concurrently headed work on establishing a convent in Cabramatta (near Sydney), where several nuns from the Chinese city of Harbin, led by Nun Elena (Ustinov, sister of the renowned actor Peter Ustinov), found a home in the old house of the Russian Benevolent Society.
The Synod of Bishops issued an ukase on November 9/22, 1957, blessing the opening of a monastic community under the auspices of Holy Protection Church, where Fr Rostislav served, with Nun Elena confirmed as its abbess. Another ukase of the same date awarded Nun Elena a gold pectoral cross. The celebration of the opening of the convent and the award to Nun Elena took place on January, 1958, during Liturgy and Protection Church, celebrated by Archbishop Savva. When the nuns lost their residence in Cabramatta, the question arose of where to relocate them. At the time, two of the most valuable volunteers left the men’s monastery, and problems arose. Because of Fr Dimitry’s poor health, he was forced to leave the monastery and asked to be assigned to a parish.
Having received approval, Fr Dimitry left for Brisbane. According to a request by the convent’s spiritual father, Fr Rostislav, in which he asked Vladyka Savva to give the men’s monastery property to the nuns, and transfer the remaining brethren to St Vladimir Church, an ukase was issued on January 16, 1959, signed by Bishop Savva, and soon the convent was moved to Campbelltown and elevated to the ran of full monastery. It was given the name “Novoye Shamardino” (one of the nuns, Mother Mikhaila, was tonsured by one of the Optina Elders). Monastic life in Campbelltown was thus reinvigorated with the arrival of the nuns. The humble and meek Protopriest Anthony Galushko was appointed the spiritual father of the convent, who lovingly donated all his free time to the monastic community. The artist VP Zagorodnik and his son-in-law VS Saltykov and wife Zinaida Pavlovna helped contruct the iconostasis, painted the Crucifixion and adorned the church in other ways.
The further development of monastic life continued under the guidance and direct participation of Archbishop Savva, who continued to visit the convent until his health failed. A dairy and poultry farm was established and 1,000 chicks purchased, along with a tractor; the fruit trees were cultivated and the rest of the grounds planted with trees. The work was so difficult that nuns often hid before Vladyka Savva’s arrival. The land was rocky, and the plans for a cemetery were rejected, since graves would have to be dug with explosives. Watering was all done by the bucket, which was brought by the barrel from Campbelltown. There was no hot water for ten years. The floors in the cells and the church were unfinished. A special place was set aside for a permanent church, where a tall cross was erected on a stone foundation. During feast days, a procession of the cross would go there and a litany performed. VP Zagorodniuk designed tall wooden gates in the Russian style at the entrance, with four massive columns and a wooden roof. They were built by the elderly master MV Artemov and some helpers. Some time later he built the bell tower.
The convent played a major role when the Diocesan Refugee Committee began to take in exiles from China. Three large barracks were hastily erected, along with some auxiliary buildings. Russian society enthusiastically responded to Vladyka Savva’s call, and dozens of cars would bring workers for construction, labor and field work on off days. The “Vladimir Youth” selflessly and actively participated, too. When the refugees would leave the convent, the barracks were turned into hostels for pilgrims visiting on days off and summer vacations and in order to prepare for Holy Communion.
The idea arose to build small residences for retirees near the monastery, where Orthodox Christians could spend their final days near the church and convent. A “Brotherhood of the Holy Cross” settlement was established, and a hostel for the feeble and sick, which opened on August 4/July 22, 1963. Two years later, a few hundred meters away, they began to build a men’s monastery in honor of St John the Forerunner, where Monk Gury and Brother Michael Sorokin settled. The latter exerted a great deal of effort in establishing the diocesan candle works and workshops. The candlestands for the convent were made there.
Present at the establishment of the monastery were:
In its best days, the number of nuns reached 20.
After Fr Anthony, Protopriest Timofey Klopov became its spiritual father. During its existence, a great number of clergymen participated in its spiritual life—Fr Rostislav and Fr Nikita, Protopriest Michael Klebansky, Protopriest Michael Konstantinov, Protopriest Nicholas Grant, Protopriest George Skrinnikov (from Canada), Protopriest Sergei Okunev, Protopriest Serafim Gan, Protopriest Boris Ignatievsky, Priest Vladimir Tsukanov, Hieromonk Cosmas (a Greek), Hieromonk Joachim Ross (a native Australian), and Hieromonk Evfimy (Samorukov). Many newly-ordained priests and deacons sought to gain experience by serving in the convent if possible. In addition to participation in daily services, the nuns also baked prosphoras for most of the churches of greater Sydney. Other obediences have included tending to the church, lighting lampadas and candles, singing and reading on the kliros, working in the kitchen and refectory, cleaning and adorning the church, gardening, mowing grass, greeting pilgrims, handicrafts such as making prayer beads, embroidering vestments, painting greeting cards and Paschal eggs, tending to the sick (nuns, locals and pilgrims), office and bookkeeping, buying produce, tending bees, sewing for the nuns, cleaning and making candles.
After the death from esophageal cancer of 93-year-old Abbess Elena (Ustinov +1984, on Great Friday), Nun Evpraksia (Pustovalova +2006) was appointed abbess. A new, main brick church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God was erected during her reign, and fully consecrated on February 4/17, 1990, by His Eminence Metropolitan Vitaly (Oustinov, +2006) of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, as well as a new brick monastic residence, a bell tower, a main gate with an archway, and accommodations for the churchgoers.
After twenty years of work, Abbess Evpraksia was awarded the right to wear a second pectoral cross. After she was stricken with paralysis, she suddenly died on July 6/19, 2006, having been ill for only one day, but not before having Holy Unction performed over her and receiving the Holy Gifts. Abbess Evpraksia was buried on their “second feast day,” the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, on July 8/21, 2006. The fortieth day of her death coincided with the feast day of the Prophet Mica, an icon of whom she had received as a gift on the day of her elevation to the rank of abbess, and whom she had always revered. Mother Evpraksia was born in Tsarist Russia, but after two revolutions—in Russia and China—she moved with her mother to Australia and chose the monastic path.
On the feast day of the Transfiguration of the Lord in 2006, Nun Maria (Miros), having been the cell-attendant of Mother Evpraksia for 19 years, was appointed the new abbess. On the feast day of the Kazan Icon, in November of that year, she was elevated to the rank of Abbess.
The holy items of the convent include a portion of the Live-Creating Cross of the Lord; relics of the Optina Elders and Elder Ambrose; of Holy Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna (in the altar table); St John of Shanghai and San Francisco; St Moses; Great Martyr Barbara; Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon; St George the Victory-Bearer; St Makrina; SS Job and Amphilochius of Pochaev; 82 relics of saints of both the Near and Far Kievan Caves; Abbess Sophia, first abbess of Shamordino Convent; Hieromartyrs Avxentios, Kharlampius and Philipp; Martys Tryphon and Mamant; Martyrs Agnes, Lucia, Cecilia and Agatha; Blessed Matrona of Moscow; a relic of the Infants of Bethlehem; and stones from holy sites in the Holy Land.
The self-brightening icon of St Seraphim of Sarov was brought to the monastery by relatives of Protopriest Anthony Galushko as a plain white board. In the early 1980’s, the outline of an epetrachelion appeared, the following year the face. Every year the icon gains more and more detail and color.