We recognize August 22, 1999 as the birthday of St. Elisabeth Convent. It was on that day that the Most Rev Philaret, Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, tonsured first novices and blessed the Rev Andrew Lemeshonok to establish a convent in honor of the Holy Martyr Grand Princess Elisabeth.
Our Convent is 18 now! Here are 18 facts about our Convent. Let’s read the pages of our history together!
Fact 1. St Elisabeth Convent originated from the Sisterhood with the same name. The first lay sisters of mercy together with Father Andrew began their ministry in the Psychiatric Hospital in Novinki in 1996. They celebrated the first Liturgy on the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. They had their first meeting during the Paschal season and decided to establish a Sisterhood in honor of the Holy Martyr Grand Princess Elisabeth.
Fact 2. The sewing workshop was the first workshop of St Elisabeth Convent. This fact can be easily explained: the sisters required white robes to visit the sick. At first, they were sewing the white robes at home, using sewing patterns from old textbooks. Currently, the sewing workshop is one of the biggest workshops of St Elisabeth Convent. The sisters make wonderful church vestments and clothes for lay people, as well as baptismal and wedding sets, towels, and tapestry. Learn more about the workshops here.
Fact 3. Elder Nikolai Gurianov blessed the construction of our Convent. Archpriest Nikolai had been the spiritual father of Father Andrew for many years. The construction of our first church near the Psychiatric Hospital in Novinki faced major obstacles: we did not have any financial support and locals were strongly opposed to the construction. Father Andrew went to Zalita Island to visit Elder Nikolai and ask for his advice. Father Nikolai resolved his doubts: he handed Father Andrew a small Russian coin with an image of a church and added, “People will bring you the rest.” The foundation of St Nicholas Church was laid in December 1997.
Fact 4. The first sacred object in our Convent was a particle of the relics of St Elisabeth. Father Andrew brought the particle of St Elisabeth’s relics to St Elisabeth Convent from Jerusalem in 1997. This is how he described his experience, “This sacred object came to us at the right time. When you look at your own weak flesh, you feel hopeless. But when you kiss the glorified flesh that became holy, the flesh of the Holy Martyr Elisabeth who defeated death and all her weaknesses, you regain strength, faith, and hope!”
Fact 5. The Chapel in honor of St Xenia of Petersburg is our first church in the boarding home. The Holy Table of the chapel in honor of the Blessed Xenia of St Petersburg was consecrated in the Boarding Home for the Elderly and the Less Able No.3 on February 6, 1998. It appeared on the territory of the boarding home for a reason. This is what Zinaida Lobosova, the Senior Sister of the Sisterhood, recalls, “The majority of those who live in the boarding home are not allowed to go out. Most of them grew up in a similar facility for children, and then were transferred to this boarding home. When we started visiting the Psychiatric Hospital, and then the boarding homes, when many patients got the opportunity to take communion, we naturally wanted them to have Liturgies as well. This is why we decided to establish a church within the walls of the boarding home.”
Fact 6. One of the first lay sisters of mercy to became the Mother Superior of the Convent later became the Abbess in the monastery in honor of the Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple. Sister Helena Sysun was tonsured and renamed Elizabeth on August 23, 1998. The tonsure happened in St John the Theologian Convent. Today Nun Elizabeth is the Mother Superior of the Convent in honor of the Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple, situated near v. Bohušy, HR.
Fact 7. Abbess Euphrosinia (Laptik) is the Abbess of our Convent. She became Mother Superior in 2002, and Abbess in 2005. Click here to read an interview with the abbess.
Fact 8. Men’s Rehabilitation Center was founded at the farmstead of the Convent, or, to be more precise, on the 120 hectares of vacant land, which were allocated to our Sisterhood by Minsk Raion Executive Committee. Today people call this place holy. It is here that many people with difficult fates find shelter and try to begin new lives. God and the Convent help them to do so.
Fact 9. Women’s Rehabilitation Center was established in 2011 not far from v. Nialidavičy. It became the second home for many women who had found themselves in a difficult situation in life. Nun Barbara (Atrasievič) who is in charge of the rehabilitation center, believes that this place will one day become a unique center, combining the functions of a shelter, an orphanage, and a crisis family center. Right now, they have almost completed the construction of the Church in honor of Saint Sergius of Radonezh.
Fact 10. The first book and the first audio recording were published in St Elisabeth Convent in 2002. The first film was released in 2006. The first book prepared by our Publishing House was printed in 2002. It was a book of Letters of St Macarius of Optina. The first tape with sermons and talks of Father Andrew Lemeshonok was released by our audio studio the same year. The Path of Love, our first film, was released in 2006. By now, we have published over a thousand book titles and released a variety of audio records, ranging from literary and children’s tales to music albums and lectures. We have produced several documentaries and a fiction series called Three Parables.
Fact 11. The Catalogue of St Elisabeth Convent website catalog.obitel-minsk.com together with the official english vesion blog The Catalog Of Good Deeds were launched in recent years. The Catalog showcaes handmade items made in St.Elisabeth Convent while the blog features articles, videos, and photos showcasing news related to the convent as well as Orthodoxy in general.
Fact 12. His Holiness Alexis II, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, visited our Convent in the autumn of 2008. He consecrated the biggest church of our Convent – the Church in honor of the Reigning icon of the Mother of God.
Fact 13. The Convent organizes many festivals, both outside (such as Kladez Orthodox Culture Festival and From Heart To Heart Festival) and within its walls. The Royal Voice Music Festival is an excellent opportunity to listen to the best examples of church music. Niabiosy Festival gathers batleika puppet theatres. Lenten concerts were held this year at various venues around the city of Minsk on April 1 – 7 this year.
Fact 14. Our sisters carry out their ministry not only in hospitals but also in universities. The first Spiritual Education Center was founded in the Belarusian State Agricultural Technical University in 2006. Today such centers have been created on the grounds of the University of Informatics and Radioelectronics, University of Medicine, University of Culture and Arts, Medical College, and Decorative Arts College.
Fact 15. There is a private school run by St Elisabeth Convent. IKHVIS Private Kindergarten and School opened its doors on September 1, 2014. Its first pupils will go to the fourth form this September. IKHVIS School has experienced and professional teachers, interesting and various extracurricular activities and clubs, and an opportunity to study the Orthodox culture.
Fact 16. There is a Visiting Nurse Service operated by St Elisabeth Convent, launched three years ago. “Our Visiting Nurse Service does not only provide sanitary and hygiene care for severely ill patients. The sisters are always spiritually attuned to their patients, each of whom has their own personal traits. In fact, you cannot carry out this obedience without Christ who stands between the sister and the patient,” Anna Kovalevskaya, the head of the Visiting Nurse Service, believes.
Fact 17. A new Pilgrims’ Center was consecrated last year. Father Andrew Lemeshonok remarked during the consecration, “The Pilgrims’ House is not just a hotel. It must help people to get involved in spiritual life. That’s why those who will receive guests have great responsibility. Having seen the divine beauty in you, our guests should be willing to connect with God and come back to the Convent.” The Pilgrims’ Office of St Elisabeth Convent does not only provide accommodation to our guests but also organises pilgrimages.
Fact 18. There are 124 nuns in the Convent right now. The latest tonsure was performed on March 15, on the feast day of the Reigning icon of the Mother of God. The heavenly patrons of the newly-tonsured sisters are holy new martyrs of the 20th century.