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As the community grew, Orthodox Christians of all backgrounds came to attend the twice-daily services, and it soon became apparent that the chapel was far too small to hold the increasing number of faithful pilgrims. In 1959, a new chapel was built on the grounds—a replica of the 1812 Fort Ross chapel. Under the leadership of Andre Tchelistcheff, a local winemaker, money was raised for this important project.
The community continued to thrive through the 1960s and 1970s, drawing people from all backgrounds through its serenity, beautiful surroundings, and spiritual presence. In the mid-1980s, the monastery extended its outreach far beyond its borders through the work of priest-in-charge Fr. George
Benigson, who broadcast regularly on Radio Free Europe. His radio talks became known as an inspired voice of Orthodox Christianity that touched millions around the world.
Benigson, the monastery fell into disrepair. The nuns were gone and buildings were dilapidated, even condemned. It was an unfortunate period of which some took advantage, using the buildings as a free shelter. They disrespected and abused the monastery, piling enormous amounts of debris in the sagging buildings and grounds. The grounds themselves were barren; nothing grew. On [[January 1]], 1998, a restoration of the property began.
An ambitious restoration of the entire property began in 1998 through the efforts of [[Igumen]]
Sergious Gerken, the new [[abbot]] of the monastery. Following an encyclical and the advice of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch [[Bartholomew I (Archontonis) of Constantinople|Bartholomew]] and his concern for the environment, the grounds have been transformed into a lush garden oasis, a tranquil place ideal for reflection and contemplation. Much-needed retaining walls were built to hold back the annual flooding of the Napa River (one more is needed). The historic chapel has undergone extensive renovation and improvements. A [[rectory]] was purchased and is being renovated. The main historical building which will house the nuns and serve as the hospitality center has been retrofitted and reinforced with concrete floors and steel beams which would withstand most any earthquake. A new roof was added and new cedar siding is being installed now. The grounds are graced with new statuary, church bells, and a koi pond. A small community of dedicated monastery friends has formed. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been generously and sacrificially donated to this project through the love and efforts of Father Sergious.
With official blessings but without financial support, little by little the Holy Assumption Monastery began its transformation. The monastery has taken on a completely new focus and direction to better serve the faithful. It is not only being renovated but working to become a major monastic center, with nuns coming from Greece to train American novices in the ancient practice of monasticism. Daily life revolves around worship services, tending to the needs of the community, offering hospitality to all visitors and pilgrims and providing spiritual counseling and pastoral ministry to those in need.
Calistoga, CA 94515
Sergious Gerken, Abbot<br>