My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Bless! The Lord!
Here at the Skete, we have been struggling to do what is necessary to live. This winter has been a real “doozy” with much snow, cold, ice, frozen water and sewer pipes, and all of the other complications of a real Wisconsin winter which has not really been present here for many years. Just this weekend I did the laundry for the Guest House in my office as the sewer line in the Guest House is frozen, so the washer will not work, and last night I put on the beans in a crock-pot for today’s lunch. Since last Thanksgiving both of the young men left who were postulants that had come originally to just help us out and then decided to see whether monastic life was their calling. God bless Josiah and Oliver for trying and for all their help. Since we were already short-handed, this has put all the practical work on Father Anthony and myself for cooking, cleaning, housework, guests, on top of our already busy schedule.
Even the roofs had to be cleared of snow beside the many paths between the buildings this winter, and the snow comes regularly. I did get some better shovels to make this work more easily accomplished about 10 days ago. We broke about four shovels earlier this winter on the ice dams on the roofs. We did go out to the spring next to St. Nicholas Church to bless the waters on Theophany, but it was so cold that for the first time we said the beginning prayers in the church and just went out for the actually blessing of the water. This time I didn’t hang precariously on a board over the stream but tied the cross to a pole and went down near the waters and dipped it in for the blessing. I enjoy now the cooking, cleaning, and other physical work as it is easy to see concrete results, and that is refreshing for many times my other work isn’t so immediately visible. Today we have freezing rain coming down now as I am writing this, and some roof leaks, but whatever the winter problems are, it is already February and so Winter is passing in any case, it is just a matter of time.
- Theophany 2008 -
We are in the process of moving all of our extensive files of icon images into the digital realm so that they can be printed out right from the computer to our color copier. This is a big job as we have more than a thousand images of just stock icons or regular custom icons already identified, this will take some time. After they are scanned, then they are color adjusted if necessary, and then put into files especially made to print them in each size to best use the space on each size of paper. What is so good about this process is that in the end we will have the ability to have completely consistent imagery in every size and our website and catalogue, so you would always be able to see exactly what you will get. Because much of this imagery was being purchased from overseas suppliers and much of that was imagery in public domain, we can reproduce those images here now with better quality and faster turn around and in many more sizes. It is a large improvement in our icon reproduction. Another improvement is finally finishing part of the long-term process of writing icon summaries for each particular icon that we produce with an additional short paragraph on iconography in general, and now a color reproduction will be attached when the scanning progresses. We hope this will begin to be available by this Fall.
Work on reviewing our educational efforts for Orthodox curriculum is also a focus right now, as a first step in revising them and getting them ready for publication in house. We have the equipment here now to make these in color at a reasonable price. These will take some time to complete and produce, but it is the end of a long dream of making our work for the elementary school here available to others, and there is a need for Orthodox curriculum materials, especially now with so many families looking at better means for educating their children by homeschooling. Please pray that this work can begin now in more earnest and in God’s time be completed. I will be spending much more time in this area beginning this week. Thank you for your prayers.
Father Anthony and Brendan Kulp
with Icon Studio display
Mother Elizabeth is feeling better overall now and has more energy to help with special projects. She will help with the Educational work revision as she was the main teacher for five of the eight years our grammar school operated. She will also help with the classification and handling of the materials in our Educational library and all of the other books on premise. It is good to have Mother Elizabeth’s many skills available again to do this work. She also helps out in many other ways at the nearby Convent and at the Mission Center. We are looking for a small group of donors to help with the Convent support by making pledges of a small amount each month, anywhere from $20 to $50, and we are asking for your help here if possible. Mother Elizabeth is a diabetic and this is very taxing on her health and energy, especially as she is getting older.
Father Anthony is coordinating St. Isaac’s Icon Studio, scheduling the work, getting new orders, doing customer service, and also painting icons on top of all the other practical details of life that come up on a daily basis. It is a juggling act, with more things in the air at any given time than ever before. He and I are learning to do this more each week, as more things get added on. Since Christ is a maximalist, not a minimalist, and the fullness of Faith is found in the Church, and He only asks us to do what we can do, then this must be possible and so we too try to do what we can. Pray that we always are grateful and thankful for whatever we are asked to do. The icon studio is looking for more commissions as our time to complete them has come down considerably as we have had time to make our production fine tuned. Hand-painted icons done traditionally in egg-tempera are very spirit-bearing and a treasure that will last for generations. If you have an interest, visit our website for more information.
The work on St. Nicholas Church is on a time out. The last trimming of the baseboards and tiling in the second bathroom are waiting for the snow to melt some so they can be cut to size before applying them. This is the finishing touches to the floor. After the tiling is done in the second bathroom, the fixtures need to be installed and they are here ready to go. Hopefully this Spring, this will happen with about a week or two’s work, and the labor for this will be about $500. We already have all of the materials here and paid for. The iconography for the principle icons is going forwards now as Father Anthony has time to commit. The first one is about a third completed, and we have the boards for the next three besides and a sponsor for the first two. We are actively looking for more sponsors for these icons to complete our beautiful hardwood iconostasis. Please pray to see if you would like to help with this project. The icons are $2,500 each to sponsor.
Iconostasis in St. Nicholas Church
Common Monastic Building
This Spring we will look at landscaping and pricing the domes for the church, and also the pricing on the more expensive lighting fixtures that have not been installed. Each part completes the work of beautifying God’s Holy Temple dedicated to St. Nicholas. If you would like to donate towards any of these projects, we would be most appreciative. The appeal for donations for the tile for the floor of the Common Monastic Building did not bring in any significant funds, so we have had to wait. I have the volunteer to do the project for free, we just need the $3,500 to get the tile for the floor while it is still available at such a reasonable price. If this is meaningful to you, please specify this in your donation.
Mostly, however, I am asking now for support in general funding to help defray the costs of the monastic life here at the Skete and Convent, and for the Mission Work that we do so regularly. This winter has been especially hard with the extra snow plowing, and extra snow shovels, the large propane bills for the extra heating needed because of the cold (we do have programmable thermostats to best save energy in each building), and the food, clothing, and other expenses that keep us warm and functioning. Mission outreach, church maintenance, guest facilities and hospitality take time and money to keep and we feel this is a natural and loving part of our outreach here at the Mission Center. If you have ever visited us, you know how important this is to us. Please give generously as we are short right now of operating funds needed to maintain everything.
When I first came to these wooded hills here in Wisconsin I never asked for help. I lived in extreme poverty and that was fine with me. It did make hospitality rather rough, and little room to grow either in our monastic life or in Mission outreach. Later I realized that although I could and did live this way, it was harder for others who came and so would limit in time our growth and range of being available and “being all things to all men” as St. Paul mentions in his Epistles. I love this ideal, both monastically and in Mission work, and now feel the financial limits of available funds limiting our outward giving. We give alms too, but mostly in love, work, and prayer, but also at times for those in need. I have just spent much time helping set up a Free Medical Clinic in Boscobel to help those who cannot help themselves. It was a long and cherished dream to help do so, and now it looks as if we will be able to expand this to include a Free Dental Clinic too. This has come about rather quickly in the last six months. There are many poor families and individuals in this rural part of Wisconsin who live well below the poverty line. As increased alms-giving is one of the three pillars of Great Lent, please take a moment and think and pray if you can help us help support spiritual life in our monastic endeavors and to love our neighbors too through Mission work. A donation of $50, or $100, or $200 or more right now would be most helpful and most appreciated.
God bless you and keep you in His Holy Name,
Keep us in your prayers and love,
Your Brother in Christ,
Father Simeon, Abbot and Archimandrite
and the brotherhood of St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and the sisterhood of St. Silouan’s Convent
and the community of St. Nicholas Church