Dewdney BC All Saints of North America Canadian Orthodox Monastery 1973

From Canadian Orthodox History Project
Jump to: navigation, search

All Saints of North America Monastery.jpg

Dewdney, BC, All Saints of North America Canadian Orthodox Monastery, 1973


In 1968, during a visit to Mount Athos, Lev Puhalo and Vasili Novakshonoff developed the idea of founding a Canadian Orthodox monastery. Discussions with some of the monks on the Holy Mountain brought to mind the fact that monasticism is very much at the heart of the development of national Orthodoxy in every country where the Orthodox Faith has flourished. Since some monks whom they visited on Mount Athos had advised them not to delay, but to act at once on their calling, Lev and Vasili immediately set about developing their plan.

First hermitage, 1969

Having no financial resources for the undertaking, they began their struggle in a tiny hut east of Rosedale, British Columbia. The building had only a dirt floor, and in the late autumn of 1969, they built a platform of scrap lumber over half the floor, while the other half remained earthen. During the first winter (which was exceptionally cold and damp) the 2 strugglers found that their roof had several leaks. That year witnessed several ice and snow storms in the upper Fraser Valley region, and the 2 beginner ascetics endured much from the cold winds which blew through the poorly built walls of the skete. Since the building was uninsulated and it had no source of heat, they stretched 2 sheets of plastic over a rope line, placed a small kerosene burner between them, and these 2 make-shift tents became the first cells of these first Canadian-born Orthodox monks.

A symposium titled “Forgotten Voices, Women in the Early Church” was held at the monastery in the spring. It introduced both Orthodox Christians and a large number of Protestants to some great women saints of the early Church, such as Saints Zinaida, Philonella and Hermione. A large number of people attended from Metropolitan Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and the state of Washington. In fact, not everyone could be comfortably accommodated in the auditorium and some were left to stand throughout the talks. The success of this symposium can be measured by the invitations from various Protestant churches for Lev to speak on the same subject to their congregations. Speakers at the symposium included David Goa and Anna Altmann from Edmonton.

The kitchen of this skete was in the area of the hut which had the earthen floor. This kitchen consisted of only a Coleman stove and a single tap with cold water. There was no plumbing. In such conditions, the 2 translated the “Life of Saint Theophil, the Fool-for-Christ of the Kiev Caves” and the “Life of the Blessed Xenia” (both published at Jordanville, New York), and a significant portion of “The History of Russian Imperial Coronations” for the Russian Orthodox Youth Committee, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR).

Lev was ordained to the Holy Diaconate in 1972, and he remained in the Jordanville Holy Trinity Monastery of the Russian Church for 1 year, before being assigned to serve in a parish in the USA for another 3 years. He then returned to Canada to resume the development of the first Canadian Orthodox monastery. Deacon Lev travelled a great deal, and he gave lectures and talks in Orthodox parishes for young people. During these years, he developed a deep feeling of compassion for the isolated Orthodox Christians living in areas where church life was not available to them. His service to isolated Orthodox Christians was to become a central feature of the service of the Canadian Orthodox Monastery of All Saints of North America. Deacon Lev was, in fact, the first Orthodox missionary in the late twentieth century to seek out and serve isolated Orthodox Christians in Canada and in the USA.

The second monastic site, 1973

The second monastic site was somewhat more substantial than the first. It consisted of a tiny 4-room cabin in the mountains above the Chilliwack River Valley, south of Chilliwack, British Columbia. There was no plumbing or running water in this building either, but it was insulated and it had a sound roof. The development of the first Canadian Orthodox monastery continued on this site in 1973. Because of Deacon Lev’s frequent absences, Vasili carried on much of the struggle alone. It was at this time that the Synaxis Press was founded. It thus became the first Canadian Orthodox publishing house. Publication of the “Canadian Orthodox Missionary” began in 1973, and the first edition of the “Synaxis Theological Journal” appeared in 1974.

During the first years of the new monastery, the monks heated themselves and cooked food with an ancient stove. Deacon Lev cut and split many cords of firewood each autumn. In 1974, he installed a pipeline that brought cold water into the monastery from a spring on the mountainside above the monastery building. This second monastic building never did have hot water or indoor plumbing.

Vasili continued with full-time secular employment in order to finance both the monastery and the mission to isolated Orthodox Christians. Deacon Lev built a chapel onto the monastery building for regular services. This chapel would become the site of the first English-language Orthodox parish in Western Canada. These were years of hard work and struggle for the monks. Their service, purpose and goals were not understood by ultra-ethnic jurisdictions and similarly, the idea that Orthodoxy could be expressed in worship and in writing in the English language was strongly resisted. At the same time, Deacon Lev was one of the most active Orthodox Christian missionaries in North America. He often travelled as much as 16,000 km (10,000 mi) on Greyhound and other buses during a year in order to help isolated Orthodox Christians in small communities. While he was there, he spoke to many non-Orthodox groups about the Orthodox Faith. As a result of his tireless but exhausting efforts, many people were converted or returned to Orthodoxy. All this activity was financed by the monks from their own labours.

In 1980, a small group of Canadians of Romanian descent living in the Chilliwack area came to the monastery and asked whether they could worship in the monastery chapel. Bishop Irenej (Kovačević) of New Gračanica ordained Deacon Lev to the Holy Priesthood in order to serve the new parish of Saint Tikhon, and to serve the monastery.

When Father Lazar was called upon to go to New Gračanica, north of Chicago, to help found the Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Seminary for the New Gračanica Metropolitanate, Metropolitan Irenej ordained Father Varlaam to the Holy Priesthood in order to serve the Saint Tikhon parish. Father Lazar spent most of the next 5 years at New Gračanica, and during this time, he rebuilt the Saint John the Baptist parish in Cedar Rapids, IA.

In 1985, the parish of Saint Nicholas in Langley, BC appealed to the monastery for help and for a priest. Saint Nicholas Canadian Orthodox Church in Langley became the second English language Orthodox parish in British Columbia.

Because pure beeswax candles were not available locally, Father Varlaam built a small candle factory to produce hand-dipped, pure beeswax candles in the 2 parishes and the monastery.

The Feast-day of the icon “Theotokos, Joy of Canada” was established in 1984, when Metropolitan Irenej of New Gračanica presented the monastery with a small icon of the Theotokos as a blessing to the Canadian Mission of the New Gračanica Monastery.

Joycan.jpg Icon "Theotokos, Joy of Canada"

20171109 Theotokos Joy of Canada day b.jpg The Feast-day of the Icon of the “Theotokos, Joy of Canada”

Third monastic site ; permanent establishment of the monastery, 1991

In 1990, Father Lazar was ordained to the Holy Episcopate. At about the same time, the monks felt that it was necessary to develop the monastery further. With prayer and fasting, and less than $5,000.00 in the bank, they began to search for new property. By God’s mercy, the monks were able to acquire a 40-acre property with a 744 square metre (8,000 square-foot) main building, all divided into large rooms. This particular building required considerable repairs and renovations. Nevertheless, the Canadian Orthodox Monastery of All Saints of North America was able, by God’s blessing, to take possession of the new property in November, 1991. This property was at Dewdney, not far to the east of the city of Mission. Nearby Mission, on the top of a hill, is the Roman Catholic Benedictine Westminster Abbey. Not far from them also are a community of Poor Clares, and to the north, a new Discalced Carmelite community.

When the monastery was purchased and established, Vladika Lazar named the property itself “New Ostrog” after the famous Ostrog Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Montenegro. The candle factory was dedicated to the protection of Saint Vasili of Ostrog.

With God’s help, and the prayers of the faithful, the monastery continued to grow and thrive. The conference series, held under the auspices of the Saint Maximos Centre for Canadian Orthodox Studies (located in the New Ostrog complex within the monastery grounds) became a standard feature of Canadian Orthodox life and development. By God’s blessing, 25 years of lonely, patient struggle for the spiritual development of Canadian Orthodoxy began to bear fruit.

Move to the Orthodox Church in America, and the Archdiocese of Canada

In 2003, the monastery was received into the jurisdiction of The Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

Events in 2004

The monastery sponsored an exhibit commemorating the 800th anniversary of the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by the Crusaders. The monastery hosted the Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers, co-sponsored by the Fraser Valley Orthodox Clergy Association. On All Saints Sunday, Bishop Seraphim celebrated a Healing Service together with many clergy and faithful. The annual pilgrimage and Feast of the “Theotokos, Joy of Canada” was celebrated in August, with a Cross-procession that included the carrying of relics and icons. On 1 October, the monastery, together with the Orthodox Peace Fellowship and the Simon Fraser University Orthodox Club sponsored a peace forum in Vancouver. On 2 October, a new exhibit of icons by Canadian iconographer Heiko Schlieper opened as part of the monastery’s gallery. In November, a special forum was held, called “Conversations on Mars Hill” and featured dialogues on a wide variety of subjects between Archbishop Lazar and leaders of civil and secular society, moderated by Canadian philosopher David Goa. Finally, during 2004, some of the Synaxis Press publications were translated into Romanian, Russian and Greek.

Events in 2005

The Monastery began a new outreach for serving Russian- and Ukrainian- speaking people by serving the Divine Liturgy once a month in Church Slavonic. This was met with great enthusiasm. It enabled people who live farther away from Vancouver to come to the monastery for liturgies, baptisms, and other services and sacraments. The monastery also continued to serve weddings, baptisms and other services for Orthodox Christians living in isolated areas of British Columbia.

The monastery’s video and DVD filming outreach continued to develop. With the co-operation of David Goa, Director of the Chester Ronning Institute in Edmonton, and Father James Matta (of the Greek Orthodox Vicariate for the Palestinian/Jordanian Orthodox Christian Communities in California), the monastery produced several new videos and DVDs. All the recording was done in the Heiko Schlieper Icon Museum, but work continued on remodelling a sitting-room into a filming studio. Videos are available, and many of these same videos have been transferred to DVD.

An Anointing Service was held on the Feast of All Saints, with the following clergy participating : Archbishop Lazar, Bishop Varlaam and Hieromonk Moses from the Monastery of All Saints of North America ; Archpriests Michael Fourik and Stephen Slipko of Holy Resurrection Church, Vancouver ; Father Iohanna Ayoub from Prophet Elias Arabic Church, New Westminster ; Archpriest Lawrence Farley of Saint Herman of Alaska Church, Surrey ; Priest Nicolae Lapuste of Holy Trinity Romanian Church, New Westminster ; and Priest John Bingham of Saint Nicholas Church, Langley. The outdoor service was celebrated in several languages (English, Slavonic, Romanian, Arabic and Greek). A Cross-procession followed, with clergy and laity carrying relics and icons.

Archbishop Lazar made 2 trips to Romania in 2005. In the spring, he gave some talks, particularly to students at various universities in Romania. In the autumn, he travelled again in order to speak at an international congress, which was sponsored by the Romanian Academy of Sciences, the Romanian Patriarchate and the Templeton Foundation. Vladika Lazar spoke in both Bucharest and Constantsa. In that year alone, 3 of his books were translated into Romanian and published. Two of his articles have appeared in the official journal of the Romanian Academy of Science, and the Academy also translated and published his book “The Evidence of Things Not Seen”.

The popular book, “God’s Fools”, published by Synaxis Press and reprinted many times, was translated into French. It is readily available in France under the title of “La Vie des Fols-en-Christ : Folie du monde et Sagesse de Dieu”. In August, “God’s Fools” was translated into Greek and published on Mount Athos.

There was a great joy when it became possible to set out for veneration 2 new relics : of Saint Paissy of Niamţ and of Saint Haralambos, both of whom are greatly loved by Orthodox Christians.

In that year, the annual “Theotokos, Joy of Canada” Feast-day was marked by a special Cross-Procession. In previous years the icon of the Theotokos was carefully carried by 2 clergy. This time, however, a special icon case had been built for it, as well as a structure which allowed the icon to be carried by 4 people.

The “Theotokos, Joy of Canada” icon made its first journey out of British Columbia when it was taken to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and to Edmonton, Alberta. In Saskatoon, it was received at the Holy Resurrection Sobor with the chanting of the Akathist Hymn composed for it, and a Divine Liturgy. The reception of the icon was almost overwhelming in the love and sincerity shown by everyone. From there it was taken to Edmonton where it first visited Holy Trinity Church. There, Vespers and an Akathist were served. It also visited Saint Herman’s Sobor, where an Akathist was served. This was the first pilgrimage away from the Monastery of this holy wonder-working icon. The feast of the “Theotokos, Joy of Canada” is the first truly Canadian Orthodox feast, and it is appropriate that the icon should make pilgrimages throughout Canada as a blessing to our nation.

The Monastery of All Saints of North America sponsored a lecture and display commemorating the centennial anniversary of the Russo-Japanese War. Following a Slavonic Liturgy, Elena Koutarjevskii gave a spirited and illuminating talk in Russian about the significance of this war to Russians. An English translation of the talk was arranged by George Patrikeeff.

The monastery, mainly through the efforts of Archbishop Lazar, has made a very substantial outreach, first to local universities by means of talks, discussions and seminars, and to the states of the USA where similar lectures were given. Vladika Lazar’s extensive tours in Romania are a part of this outreach.

Several new titles were published by Synaxis Press and older titles were reprinted, such as “The Guardian Angel” (which has been reprinted numerous times). As well, the 2006 Traditional (Julian) Calendar was prepared and made available.

The monastery’s web-site was updated and consolidated, with an effort to make material more accessible to viewers.

Events in 2006

In 2006, the Monastery of All Saints of North America had a constant flow of pilgrims and visitors. They were all warmly received, given a tour, offered tea ; and in the case of Orthodox visitors and pilgrims, they are taken to the Church to venerate the many relics and icons in it.

The monastery’s web-site was further developed and updated, thanks to a concerted effort by several of the faithful. Its Russian-language page was greatly expanded and the web-site began to be truly Canadian in its multi-lingual approach.

Archbishop Lazar led some retreats during the year in Washington, DC, Virginia, Florida, Michigan and Baltimore, as well as in Regina, Saskatchewan and in Sifton, Manitoba. As usual, he gave many lectures. He was the keynote speaker at the Orthodox Christian Laity Association’s annual convention in Baltimore, Maryland.

Synaxis Press continued to re-print various titles and to add new ones. More books written by Archbishop Lazar were translated into Romanian, and they were becoming increasingly popular there. Permission was also given to have titles translated into Russian and published in Russia.

The main events at the Monastery of All Saints of North America continued to be : the Sunday of Orthodoxy celebration ; Paschal Vespers service and agape ; the Anointing Service on the Sunday of All Saints (attended by more than 500 faithful that year) ; and the Feast of the monastery’s icon, the “Theotokos, Joy of Canada” which is the All-Canadian Orthodox Pilgrimage.

In August, Archbishop Lazar led a pilgrimage from the prairie provinces to Sifton, Manitoba, which had by then become a provincial heritage site because of its Orthodox Church, cemetery and former monastery. The 2 Canadian pilgrimages — one to the Feast of the “Theotokos, Joy of Canada” and the other to Sifton, Manitoba — made an indelible mark on the Orthodox Faithful, and certainly those of Western Canada.

The agricultural aspect of the Monastery had again not been very successful, since the bears ate most of the blueberries, apples, plums, cherries and pears. However, the monastics have become accustomed to sharing with the surrounding wildlife.

Finally, much outside publicity was given to the monastery, especially in a 3-page article in the “Vancouver Sun”, which is Western Canada’s leading newspaper.

On 31 July, 2017, the Monastery of All Saints of North America in Dewdney, British Columbia, celebrated its feast 'The Joy Of Canada' on the last Sunday of July. Each year, there is a concern about the weather, because the weather can be so unpredictable. There is usually little to worry about except midsummer heat that can be intense. This year was no exception and, after the Divine Liturgy, a procession began with the monastery's Russian bells, donated by dear friends in Florida. They rang melodiously. Because of the heat, many of the older people and those with small children did not participate in the procession.

At the monument, with its large metal reproduction of the Joy of Canada icon, surrounded by lush greenery, those holding icons and relics stood up front and the moleben began. Some people had driven great distances to be present and, indeed, after the agape meal and a period of rest, there was the baptism of a baby girl whose parents had driven from Alberta especially to have her baptised here at the monastery. The monks are perpetually grateful to God, and to the Theotokos.

Lprocession.jpg Procession of the Icon of the Theotokos

In October, 2017, Archbishop Lazar suffered from 2 strokes. He recovered miraculously quickly from the first one, after which another one came, for which he received treatment.

Since that series of reports, the life of the monastery has continued in much the same manner. The main difference, however, has become evident in the effects of age on the senior monks. Because of age and physical illnesses, their activities have come to be somewhat limited in comparison with the multitude of previous works. Nevertheless, the regular daily, weekly and seasonal cycles of life in this monastery continue as before. The rational sheep of Christ (near and far) continue to be fed. The Lord continues to provide what is needed.

On Sunday, 15 July, 2018, at All Saints of North America Monastery at Dewdney, British Columbia, Archbishop Irénée (Rochon) served the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the Temple of the Theotokos, Joy of Canada. Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo) and Bishop Varlaam (Novakshonoff) were present. During the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Irénée (Rochon) ordained the subdeacon Mircea Markel Tihon to the Holy Diaconate. Deacon Mircea was assigned to serve at the monastery.

Deacon Mircea Markel Tihon was born in Moldova, one of a set of triplets. His twin sister Galina is a member of the congregation. Deacon Markel’s wife Rodica is one of the chanters who leads the congregation in singing on Sundays. They live in Port Coquitlam. Deacon Markel Tihon completed his seminary training in Romania, and he has served as reader at the monastery for some years.

00m3CS.jpg Ordination photo

This monastery follows the Old (Julian) Calendar.

The Altar Feast-day of this monastery is the Feast of All Saints of North America, the Second Sunday after Pentecost.

In 2017, the abbot of the monastery is Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo), retired. He is assisted by Bishop Varlaam (Novakshonoff), retired.

Address :

All Saints of North America Canadian Orthodox Monastery

37323, Hawkins-Pickle Road

Dewdney, British Columbia

V0M 1H0

Telephone : 604-826-9336

Web-site :

E-mail :

Directions :

The monastery is located in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, about 70 km (43 mi) east of Vancouver.

From Vancouver and points west :

Travel east on the #7 (Lougheed) Highway through Mission, or drive on the #1 Highway east to Abbotsford, then north to Mission on the #11 Highway. Where Highway #11 and #7 meet in Mission, it is 5 km (3 mi) east to Dewdney. At Dewdney, DO NOT turn right over the railway tracks, but continue driving straight ahead onto Hawkins-Pickle Road. Turn left at 37323, Hawkins-Pickle Road. There is a large sign at the gate that identifies the monastery.

From the east :

From the Hope region, drive westwards on Highway #7 (Lougheed Highway) or Highway #1 (Trans-Canada Highway).

On Highway #7, continue driving westwards past Agassiz, Harrison Mills and Deroche. As soon as the road crosses the railway line, turn right onto Hawkins-Pickle Road (DO NOT turn left). Turn left at 37323, Hawkins-Pickle Road. There is a large sign at the gate that identifies the monastery.

On Highway #1, from Hope, drive to Abbotsford. At Highway #11, turn right (northwards). Drive on Highway #11 to Mission. At the junction with Highway #7 in Mission, turn right onto Highway #7. It is then 5 km (3 mi) east to Dewdney. At Dewdney, DO NOT turn right over the railway tracks, but continue driving straight ahead onto Hawkins-Pickle Road. Turn left at 37323, Hawkins-Pickle Road. There is a large sign at the gate that identifies the monastery.

From Sumas, Washington, in the USA :

Follow Highway #9 northwards. Cross the international border in Sumas. On the Canadian side, it is Highway #11. Continue northwards through Abbotsford, over the Trans-Canada Highway. Drive straight on, on Highway #11 to Mission. At the junction with Highway #7 in Mission, turn right onto Highway #7. It is then 5 km (3 mi) east to Dewdney. At Dewdney, DO NOT turn right over the railway tracks, but continue driving straight ahead onto Hawkins-Pickle Road. Turn left at 37323, Hawkins-Pickle Road. There is a large sign at the gate that identifies the monastery.

Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo), abbot

37323, Hawkins Pickle Road

Dewdney, British Columbia

V0M 1H0

Telephone : 604-826-9336

E-mail :

Deacon Markel Tihon

2362, Whyte Avenue #202

Port Coquitlam, British Columbia

V3C 2A4

Telephone : 604-441-7634

E-mail :

References :

Orthodoxwiki article

Monastery web-site

Additional information :

Archdiocese listing

Wikipedia article

Facebook page

OCA listing

Synaxis Press web-site

Wikipedia article

Orthodox Canada: The Canadian Journal of Orthodox Christian Thought and Theology

Orthodox World listing

Archdiocese of Canada web-site article, 2017 pilgrmage

Ordination of Deacon Markel Tihon, 15 July, 2018

'Monastery holds healing service' in "Canadian Orthodox Messenger" (Autumn, 2004), p. 9.

'A holy procession' in "COM" (Winter, 2004/2005), p. 14.

'All Saints' Day at BC's monastery' in "COM" (Autumn, 2006), p. 7.

'An Archbishop in "retirement"' in "Canadian Orthodox Messenger" (Winter, 2007/2008), pp. 3-5.

'Monastic community to be site of Orthodox peace fellowship conference' in "COM" (Summer, 2008), p. 4.