Holy Dormition Convent (Nanuet, New York)
|Holy Dormition Convent|
|Superior||Abbess Irene (Alexeev)|
|Approx. size||4 monastics|
|Location||Nanuet, New York|
|Music used||Russian Chant|
|Official website||Official Website|
Holy Dormition Stavropegial Convent (Novo-Diveevo) is a female monastic community in the jurisdiction of Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, located in Nanuet, New York. It is home to the largest cemetery in the Russian Diaspora, and also operates the ROC Old Peoples Home (OPH). It is named for the Holy Trinity Serafimo-Diveyevsky Monastery in Russia, where St. Seraphim of Sarov served as an elder.
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The concept of a Russian convent in America was formulated in 1946 by the newly-arrived Bishops Nikon (Rklitzky) of Florida and Seraphim (Ivanov) of Holy Trinity as a home for displaced female monastics in the Russian Diaspora. The Diocese of North America and Canada prepared measures for its implementation, but nothing concrete occurred until the arrival of a group of Russian and Ukrainian refugees led by Archpriest Adrian Rymarenko on August 31, 1949 in Rockland County, New York via the Tolstoy Foundation. The flock included such notable figures as Prince Dmitry Vladimirovich Myshetsky, Dr. A.P. Timofievich, choir director P.P. Didenko, and Subdeacon Oleg Mikhailovich Kontzevitch. Before the Revolution, Fr. Adrian had studied at the St. Petersburg Polytechnical Institute in Russia, and was the son of an industrialist. Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) of Detroit blessed him to work under the supervision of Bishop Nikon to create the new spiritual center and to serve as its spiritual father. Bishop Seraphim styled it Novo-Diveevo (New Diveevo).
Upper Nyack resident and renowned yogi Dr. Pierre Arnold Bernard (better known as The Omnipotent Oom or Theos Bernard) took pity on the refugee's plight, and offered his empty elephant stable at the Clarkstown Country Club for their uses, known as the Elephant House. The expansive structure allowed for Fr. Adrian set up a temporary church and construct monastic cells. The iconostasis was built out of cardboard and the only icon hanging on the wall was an original portrait of St. Seraphim of Sarov that Fr. Adrian had recovered and taken with him into exile from Kiev. The first service held was the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God.
The parish savings added up to 50 cents, but as word spread of a new spiritual center being built north of New York City, volunteers began arriving on a regular basis to help in any way possible. The arrival from Germany of Abbess Emilia with a group of elderly nuns and her novices the Countess Golovina and Yulia Popova began monastic life in the convent. Soon Russian émigrés began settling Nyack and bolstered the number of volunteers. One of the first secular residents was established immigrant K.N. Maleev, who donated his entire $5,000 retirement fund to the convent's cause. Fr. Adrian moved the community into a large house on Midland Avenue, paying $200 a month in rent. This property still did not meet the needs of the convent, so a daily akathist and other prayers were said before St. Ambrose of Optina's copy of the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God, which had been rescued from destruction by Fr. Adrian.
Refugee nuns on the Island of Samar and from Gorny Convent in Jerusalem were invited to Novo-Diveevo, and Abbess Elizabeth (Ampenoff) appointed superior. The official opening of the monastery took place on the Feast of the Presentation of the Theotokos, 1949. Bishop Nikon officiated the Divine Liturgy in the Chapel of the Dormition, with Fr. Adrian, Archpriest John Legky, and hierodeacon Pimen (Kachan) as concelebrants. Prominent figures in attendance included President Sophia Mikhailovna Dragomirov-Lukomsky of the Russian Christian Labor Movement, Baroness Elena Petrovna Meyendorff (née Wrangel), and Rossiya newspaper editor N. Rybakov. Countess Golovina and Yulia Popova were soon tonsured as Catherine and Barbara, respectively.
In 1950 it became known that a piece of land belonging to the Roman Catholic Institution of Mercy in Nanuet, New York, was being sold for only $30,000, with the only stipulation for acquisition that its historical sanctity be respected in the future development of the property, to which the nature of Novo-Diveevo obliged. Fr. Adrian travelled to New York City to secure a loan, with Prince Dmitry as his translator. They visited ten banks on foot in the rain, but were denied interest-free loans because they could provide no financial guarantee. Finally, Charles W. Hawkins, president of the First National Bank in Spring Valley, agreed on a $15,000 loan. The remaining half was donated by Maleev. The land was officially purchased in May of 1951.
The severity of the Arab-Israeli Conflict effectively stranded Abbess Elizabeth and her nuns from Gorny inside East Jerusalem. In January of 1951, Metropolitan Anastasy (Gribanovsky) of Kishinev released her from rectoral duties, appointing Nun Catherine (Golovina) as temporary administrator. A superior was found in the newly-immigrated Schema-abbess Mikhaila (Mertsalova), who had fled the Moscow Patriarchate's takeover of her convent in Peking. Mother Mikhaila and her nuns were halted in San Francisco due to the failing health of the elderly Mother Juliana, only arriving upon the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord. They were welcomed by Abp. Nikon, who served a Moleben of Thanksgiving.
Expansion and Influence
Through the generous donations of the churchwarden Prince Sergei Sergeievich and Princess Florence Beloselsky-Belozersky, A.A. Pashkov, and others, Fr. Adrian was able to build a cemetery for the Russian Diaspora, divided into five tracts and able to fit approximately 5,000 graves. On August 24, 1952, Metropolitan Anastasy led the blessing of the cemetery before the Kursk Root icon of the Mother of God, co-served by Archbishop James (Toombs) of Manhattan, Bishop Seraphim of Holy Trinity, Bishop Nikon of Florida, Archimandrite Averky (Taushev), Fr. Adrian, and Priest Seraphim Slobodskoy, among others. An antiphonal liturgy was served, with the monastic choir under the direction of P.P. Didenko and neighboring Nyack choir under M.M. Rodzianko. Approximately 500 faithful attended the services, travelling anywhere from Washington DC to Seattle. The rite was researched by Abp. Vitaly through Serbian sources.
After the festal celebrations, Fr. Adrian saw a need to build a larger, freestanding church dedicated to St. Seraphim of Sarov. He enlisted Protodeacon Cornelius Chigrinov as head architect, whose occupation was house painting. The impoverished émigré artist Nicholas Alexandrovich Popkov painted the frescoes and designed the iconostasis and chandelier, asking only for a roof over his head and a bowl of soup in return. After the completion of St. Seraphim Church, Popkov became a well-respected iconographer and was invited to fresco many more ROCOR churches.
On October 3, 1963, Protopresbyter Adrian Rymarenko's wife Matushka Eugenia Grigorievna fell asleep in the Lord, and was buried in the Novo-Diveevo Cemetery. On October 14, he was tonsured a monk with the name Andrew and elevated to Bishop of Rockland in 1968, all the while continuing to reside in the convent next to the new church. That same year, the New York Transit Authority had publicized their intent to transform Ramapo Valley Airport, a neighboring flight school and small airport, into a hub for jet planes and other large air taxi services. The Transit Authority's plan included the requisition of a sizable chunk of monastery property, which would have made it near impossible to live in a monastic fashion. The invested financiers had made it very clear that the convent grounds could not be extricated.
A court battle between the NY Transport Authority and Novo-Diveevo Convent ensued. Bishop Andrew rallied Rockland County locals, and both church and secular circles of Russian society, through which eventually came support from influential figures in New York City, providing the convent the ability to hire expert lawyers. Under their experienced advocacy, the New York State Assembly unanimously agreed to kill the project in 1970. The influence and prestige of Novo-Diveevo and Bishop Andrew had grown from this event to such that a stream of letters and congratulations came to them from New York State assemblymen, Rockland County locals and officials, and celebratory and interest articles written in local newspapers. The amount of nuns grew to 40, and as many as 50,000 Orthodox made pilgrimage to Novo-Diveevo a year. During this time, Mother Mikhaila reposed in the Lord in 1969 and her assistant Mother Christina was appointed superior and elevated to the rank of abbess.
By this time, Russian Émigré society experienced a growing population of elderly people left without family. In 1972, Bp. Andrew took to erecting a main building for Novo-Diveevo, with an attached old peoples home. The structure of the complex would allow for the nuns to live on one side, and the elderly on the other. The cost of the center would cost $600,000 dollars, most of which was borrowed from local banks, though much was accumulated by the deaness. The convent fell short of the price, but the contractor agreed to complete construction on credit. For his accomplishments, Bp. Andrew was raised to the rank of Archbishop of Rockland, and was congratulated by President Richard M. Nixon and Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, who remembered his accomplishments in preserving Novo-Diveevo. In 1973, P.P. Didenko succumbed to illness and Boris I. Mitrohin was appointed to temporarily fill the position of choir conductor, which he did until his death in 2012.
In 1975, Novo-Diveevo was visited by the exiled Soviet activist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Archbishop Andrew of Rockland fell asleep in the Lord on July 12, 1978. A second wing of the old peoples home was constructed in May of 1982 under the supervision of Fr. Alexander Fedorowski. Plans for the addition had been drawn up but never realized in Abp. Andrew's time. The current superior, Abbess Irene (Alexeeva) was appointed in 1992.
Novo-Diveevo was selected as one of three hosts for the first Joint Pastoral Conference of the Eastern American Diocese (ROCOR) and Russian Orthodox Church in the USA in celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Reunification of the Russian Church and appearance of the Myrrh-streaming Hawaiian-Iveron icon of the Mother of God from October 11-13, 2012. Participants in the conference celebrated the All-Night Vigil before the Hawaiian icon at Novo-Diveevo on the evening of October 12. The service was led by Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of New York, who was co-served by Archbishop Justinian (Ovchinnikov) of Naro-Fominsk, Bishops George (Schaefer) of Mayfield and Jerome (Shaw) of Manhattan. Metropolitan Pavel (Ponomarev) of Ryazan was also in attendance as a representative of His Holiness, Patriarch Kyrill (Gundyayev) of Moscow. The service was sung by a combined choir from St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary, Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, and the Eastern American Diocesan Youth Choir.
The convent has many sacred items including:
- A full-length portrait of St. Seraphim of Sarov painted during his lifetime
- A cross from the Ipatiev House, where the Royal passion-bearers were killed
- A copy of the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God which was gifted by St. Ambrose of Optina to Kiev
- Two icons of Christ belonging to Nicholas II of Russia
- A rounded ancient hand-painted icon encased in silver which was an heirloom that he kept with him at all times.
- A copy of the Image Not-made-by-hands painted on wood.
- 8:30 am - Hours
- 8:50 am - Liturgy
- 12:00pm - Lunch
- 6:00 pm - Vespers & Matins (with an Akathist to St. Seraphim on Wednesdays)
Sunday & Vigil-rank Feast Schedule
- 6:00 pm - Vigil
- 9:00 am - Hours
- 9:20 am - Akathist to the Holy Theotokos
- 10:00 am - Liturgy
- 9:40 am - Hours
- 10:00 am - Liturgy
Convent/Cemetary Main Office Hours
- Weekdays: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (closed for lunch)
- Saturdays: 10:15 am - 2:00 pm
ROC Old Peoples Home Main Office
- Weekdays: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
- Обитель преподобного Серафима Веселкина, Татьяна. Православие.Ru, Встреча с Православием: Святые и святыни. 15 января 2010 г..
- Novo Diveevo: Lest We Forget Lunina, Lyudmila. РУССКИЙ МИР.RU, №1. 18 January 2009.
- Архiепископъ Никонъ (Рклицкiй). (1975). Мой трудъ въ виногадникѣ Христовомъ, томъ I. Diocesan Publishing House, Bronx. pp 241-254.
- Moss, Vladimir. (2010). The Golden Chain. pp.89-93 PDF
- У ВРАТ НОВОГО ДИВЕЕВА В США Немировский, П.. Монастырская Хроника, №7 (170). Март 2003.
- «Хроника Церковной Жизни: Изъ жизни Новодивѣевскаго Монастыря въ Наякъ». Православная Русь, №1 (475). 1 января 1951 г..
- «Хроника Церковной Жизни: Прибытiе монахинь съ о. Тубабао въ Новодивѣевскую обитель». Православная Русь, №4 (479). 28 февраля 1951 г..
- The Russian Community and The Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY
- Spring Valley Airport / Ramapo Valley Airport (N24), Spring Valley, NY Freeman, Paul. Abandoned & Little Known Airfields, Southeastern New York State. Revised 4 February 2013.
- Nanuet, NY: Met. Hilarion awarded the Synodal Order of the Sign 1st Class, to the Abbess of the Holy Dormition Convent "Novo-Diveevo" Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese, January 25, 2012.
- Novo-Diveevo, NY: Holy Dormition Convent’s Longtime Choir Director Boris I. Mitrohin reposed in the Lord Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese, August 7, 2012.
- Novo-Diveevo: Metropolitan Hilarion led the 50th anniversary of Archpriest Alexander Fedorowski's clerical service Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese, July 14, 2011.
- Novo-Diveevo: On the Second Day of the Joint Pastoral Conference, Metropolitan Hilarion led the All-Night Vigil in Holy Dormition Convent Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese, October 13, 2012.
- Program of the Joint Pastoral Conference of the Eastern American Diocese & the Moscow Patriarchate (October 11-13, 2012)
- Visitation Schedule of the Hawaiian Iveron Icon of the Mother of God within the Eastern American Diocese Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese, September 28, 2012.
- Ново-Дивеево. Штат Нью-Йорк. США. kotoshka, Wise-Travel.Ru, 2009. (Russian)