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Archimandrite Panteleimon (+1984)

Interview with Archimandrite Panteleimon,
Founder of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY

From the Editors: Next year, Holy Trinity Monastery will mark its 75th anniversary. In connection with this, we offer our readers an interview with Fr Panteleimon given to Pravoslavnaya Rus' (Orthodox Russia, September 1980), on the 50th anniversary of the monastery:-Fr Panteleimon, it is 50 years since you began your monastic path here in Jordanville, where Holy Trinity Monastery now stands. Where did you perform your monastic labors before that?

-At St Tikhon's Monastery, which now belongs to the American Metropoliate.

-Is that where you took your monastic vows?

-Yes, in 1920. I was 25 years old.

-When did you arrive in America?

-In 1913. It was difficult for my father to support his large family in Grodnenskaya guberniya, where we lived, so I asked my parents to let me go to America, where I would earn money and send it to them, as some of my friends had done. But my mother, who was of profound faith, feared that the same fate would befall me as befell some other young people: they would leave for America believers, but return some time later having lost their faith. So my mother, letting me to go America, gave me these instructions: "My son, do not lose God." To this day I remember my mother's words.

-When you came to America, where did you first go?

-To Chicago. There I worked in a sugar factory. I immediately sensed that it is very easy to lose God in America, since life here was not the same as at home, in Russia.

-How did the idea to become a monk develop?

-In my prayers, I began to ask God that He led me on the right path. Besides, Europe was embroiled in the First World War then, and then the terrible year of 1917 struck Russia. The news from Europe told me, I guess, that I was no longer to return to my Homeland, and I now began to seriously think about settling here in America.

-And what did you decide to do?

-In 1918, I entered St Tikhon's Monastery and two years later assumed monkhood and was first ordained as a hierodeacon, and then a hieromonk.

-How many years did you live in that monastery?

-Ten years.

-Why did you leave that monastery and begin to look for a new place to live?

-Over the course of the ten years I spent at St Tikhon's Monastery, I saw that it was difficult to live a real monastic life there as a young monk, and I began to think about finding a place where one could lead a genuine monk's life. Fr Joseph helped me in this; then he was still Ivan Andreevich Kolos, a choir director and psalm-reader in a parish. I met him at the monastery. He came to live there and revealed to me that he is suffering in his service at the parish and wants to be a monk. I also told him my intentions. And so we decided to save a little money to buy a piece of property somewhere. For this I began work in Sikorsky airplane factory in Stratford, and Ivan Kolos stayed at his parish for the time being.

-What year was it when you found the right place?

-In 1928, we bought a piece of land which is now Holy Trinity Monastery. But we continued to work until the property was paid off in full. During this time, another monk from St Tikhon's Monastery joined us—Fr Jacob.

-When did you finally move to the new site?

-In 1930, in the spring, after Pascha, I left my job at the factory and arrived on the property. Everything here was in a shambles; all was silent, and not a soul around. A few times I would climb the hill in the forest, and revel in the quietude surrounding me, and gazed upon what I owned: an old, two- or three-room shack and a well nearby, there were four other wells in the vicinity, and that was all; everything else was forest and silence; a wilderness. I remember the first thing that I bought: a teakettle. I would exit the house into the yard, I remember; I would ignite some logs between three stones and put the kettle with water on top, while I would go to Jordanville to buy food. I would return by the time the water began boiling, and breakfast was ready.

-Who were the first monks to join you?

-Monk Jacob, the old Deacon Ivan Morozov, Philipp Pisarik, Monk Philaret, and later two choir directors joined us: Peter Ivanovich Kozlov (later Hieromonk Paul) and Ivan Andreevich Kolos (later Archimandrite Joseph). When Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko, +1960) arrived in America, we appealed to him to head our monastic brotherhood.

-What did you occupy yourselves with in your new home?

-First of all, of course, with the performance of all the proper daily services, and in between, organizing the management of the place. We bought a cow and two horses and began to work the land. We began to build a barn for hay and started dairy production. From our own lumber we prepared the materials for our residences, consisting of 16 cells and a house church. This is when a good carpenter joined us, Hieromonk Ilia, and in 1935, the church was finished, which, on the day of its consecration, burned down. This was a tribulation sent by God to test our faith. Such were the first steps taken towards establishing our monastery, which, with God's help, is now growing and growing, and during the 50 years of its existence it has turned into the lavra of the diaspora. Glory to God for everything!