The decision was made “in light of the present circumstances and the spiritual needs of the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom, and for the good of the people of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma for the Ruthenians.”
Bishop Milan Lach's decree was given Sept. 27. As a sui iuris monastery of eparchial right, the community does not depend on another monastery, it is governed by its own typicon (rule of life), and it was erected by its bishop.
Sister Natalia, a rasophore (novice) of the community, explained to CNA that “our canonical establishment is a promise that our eparchy is here for us and desires our presence. It’s a promise, too, that we are here for our eparchy, as we are for the world – dedicating our lives in prayer, fasting, and hospitality.”
She said that “what we hope to give to our eparchy, and to the world” is “a witness of the joy and love that come from radically loving Christ as our Spouse.”
With the canonical establishment, the monastery feels “a greater responsibility to live the life laid out in our typikon,” Sister Natalia reflected. “There is also a tangible change in the atmosphere of our community – an abundance of joy and peace, fruits of the Holy Spirit.”
Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, located in Burton, Ohio, fewer than 40 miles east of Parma, was first established in 2009; Bishop Lach's decree completes the canonical process of its founding.
The bishop wrote that through the community of Christ the Bridegroom, the eparchy “has experienced in a fruitful way the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In religious consecration, the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom express and model in a new manner the gift of monastic life.”
“In silence, prayer, and hospitality, the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom are called to rediscover the spousal language from the falsifications of our culture, displaying faithfully not only that monastic consecration refers to mankind's union with God in Heaven, but also that longings of human hearts for the beloved are meant to be fulfilled in the intimate union with Christ and participation in the life of the Holy Trinity.”
The monastery “seeks to hark back to the original call of God for all baptized Christians to seek the Kingdom of God above all else with the holiness of their lives,” Bishop Lach reflected.
In accord with the monastery's formal establishement, the stavrophore (life-profesed) nuns elected Mother Theodora as the hegumena (abbess) Sept. 29, and the following day, the decree was publicly announced and Mother Theodora's institution as hegumena was celebrated.
“We are so grateful to Bishop John Kudrick for his invitation to begin living this life ten years ago, for taking the initial canonical steps in our foundation, and for his spiritual fatherhood. We are also so grateful to our current bishop, Bishop Milan, for taking the final steps needed to reach this canonical approval as an eparchial monastery and for loving us as a father,” the monastery said Oct. 1.
The community has six members (four stavrophores and two rasophores), who observe poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Bishop Kudrick, who was Ruthenian Bishop of Parma from 2002 to 2016, outlined his vision for the monastery in January 2008. He saw it as a response to St. John Paul II's 1995 apostolic letter Orientale Lumen, which called for a renewal of monastic life among the diaspora of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
The community first formed in April 2009, and was received into the eparchy as a community in March 2010. Mother Theodora became the community's first stavrophore nun in November 2011, and in August 2015 the community was established as a public association of the faithful.
The monastery typically has Divine Liturgy on Sundays and one other day during the week. On weekdays, the daily schedule begins with Matins at 6:30 am and goes until Compline, which ends at 9:30 pm. At noon the community prays one of the Hours, as well as special intentions and the day's epistle and gospel, and Vespers is celebrated in the evening. The remainder of the day has time set aside for exercise, personal prayer, silence, work, free time, recreation, studies, and meals.
The monastery includes several poustinias (small retreat houses) for guests to make short retreats.
The community will hold a benefit dinner called “The Bridegroom's Banquet” Oct. 19 at St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church in Brecksville, Ohio.