NAZIANZ — A Divine Liturgy brought together four jurisdictions of Greek-Catholic communities, as well as the local Roman Catholic community, on Feb. 16 at St. Gregory Church. The liturgy celebrated the life tonsure of Fr. Paiisi into the monastic brotherhood of Holy Resurrection Monastery.
Catholics worldwide number around 1 billion, with the vast majority belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. About 20 million belong to the 21 Eastern Catholic Churches. The largest of these are churches of the Byzantine tradition, to which the monks at Holy Resurrection belong.
Fr. Paiisi, whose birth name is Patrick Firman, is a member of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. In honor of his faith background, Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk, eparch of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy in Chicago, joined Abbot Nicholas Zachariadis, leader of the Holy Resurrection monastic community, for the tonsure ceremony, which is equivalent to a solemn profession in the Roman Catholic Church.
Abbot Nicholas explained that 10 Greek-Catholic dioceses/eparchies exist in the United States, made up of four jurisdictions: Ukrainian, Ruthenian, Melkite and Romanian. “Compared to the Latin Rite dioceses, they are small,” he said.
“Holy Resurrection Monastery belongs canonically to the Romanian Greek-Catholic Jurisdiction and is now the largest of these Greek-Catholic monasteries,” he said. “It has always seen its mission as extending to all jurisdictions.”
The tonsure ceremony was a prime example of this collaboration.
Another example is Holy Resurrection Monastery’s outreach to St. George Melkite-Greek Catholic Church in Milwaukee. The St. Nazianz monastery has been in charge of sacramental ministry at St. George Melkite-Greek Catholic Parish in Milwaukee for nearly three years, said Abbot Nicholas, while the pastor, Fr. Philaret Littlefield, recovers from illness in his retirement. Fr. Philaret was also in attendance at the liturgy.
Abbot Nicholas explained that in the Byzantine Church, there are “basically two vocations or charisms of the Christian life: marriage and monastic life. Even priests and deacons are either married or monks.”
“With married Greek-Catholic clergy becoming much more common, even in the United States, the witness of monastic life will be even more important than ever to emphasize the two charisms in the church,” he said. “This tonsure celebrates the witness of monastic life in the Greek-Catholic Churches in the USA and the co-operation between all the Greek-Catholic Churches in order to make this happen.”
The tonsure (from the Latin word tondeo, meaning to shear or shave), is rich with historical symbolism. It consists of cutting the hair of the candidate, a gesture that is found in Scripture:
— “Then at the entrance of the tent of meeting the nazirite shall shave his or her dedicated head, take the hair of the dedicated head, and put it in the fire under the communion sacrifice” (Numbers 6:18).
— “Paul remained for quite some time, and after saying farewell to the brothers he sailed for Syria, together with Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had his hair cut because he had taken a vow” (Acts 18:18).
Before the tonsure rite, Abbot Nicholas addressed the assembly that numbered over 100 people.
“We hope that this will be the beginning of many more associations with the Ukrainian community of Chicago,” he said, in his welcome to Bishop Benedict. The bishop brought with him from Chicago a choir that led the congregation in song.
Abbot Nicholas said the gathering of so many communities bodes well for their future. “This shows a very, very important direction of our monastery and, hopefully, of our Greek-Catholic churches in the USA,” he said. He also acknowledged the presence of six members of Christ the Bridegroom, Ruthenian Greek-Catholic nuns from the Eparchy of Parma, located in Burton, Ohio.
From its establishment 25 years ago, Abbot Nicholas said the monastery has been “unique amongst Greek-Catholic monasteries.”
“We were traditional, we were in America, and we were a monastery especially for all Greek Catholics,” he said. “Not just for Romanians, not just for Ruthenians, not just for Ukrainians, not just for Melkites, but for all Greek Catholics. … I appeal to all the Greek-Catholic jurisdictions in the U.S. to be inspired by this vision, to promote monastic life.”
He said that, unlike the Latin rite churches, the Greek-Catholic churches are small and need each other to succeed. “Each of our jurisdictions is too small, too lacking in resources, too uninformed about the richness of monastic life for each jurisdiction to recreate the wheel of monastic life,” he said.
Fr. Paiisi’s tonsure is a positive sign for the future, added Abbot Nicholas.
“This is a sign to me with all of the different Greek-Catholic jurisdictions — and the Roman Catholic jurisdiction — that we are in this together. I’m very proud this morning to be kind of cementing this reality by receiving Fr. Paiisi, a deacon of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, into our monastery. It may be the beginning of many Ukrainian Greek-Catholic monastic vocations to our monastery. … May Fr. Paiisi, as I will be tonsuring him for life, be a witness and an important witness to that reality.”
With the tonsure of Fr. Paiisi, Abbot Nicholas said the monastery now has 10 members: seven stavrophore (solemn vow) and three rassophore (novice) monks. “We are growing, but the size of a monastic community is not as important as the quality,” he said. “I am very impressed by the quality of our monastic candidates.” Two novice monks are scheduled for life tonsure this year: Br. Seoirse (Tomas O’Muiri) in May and Br. Anthony (Max Romens) in September.
VIEW MORE PHOTOS: To view additional photos of the tonsure of Fr. Paiisi, visit our Flickr page.