Great Lent 2021 Newsletter and Donation Appeal

Icon of the Crucifixion – F149
Icon of the Crucifixion – F149

The Lenten Spring Draws Near

Our Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

     Bless!  The Lord!

Each year we begin again this blessed season of increased fasting and prayer and generosity to others that are the three pillars of Great Lent and the means to become truly more and more like Him Who died and rose for us.  Although it is still winter, and we have had recently so many winter storms here and in so many other places throughout America and Canada (some that were so unexpectedly severe), we are not that many weeks before spring will come and the weather will turn warmer again.  Meantime, however, here at the Skete we have had again a perfect storm of troubles that have hurt us deeply, and left a wake of damage that is essential to repair right now.  So in this season of repentance with mercy towards others, we again are asking for your help to avert even more troubles and damage so that we can get back to a more even track and a more peaceful life.

To repent means to change, and actually it really means (from the Greek word metanoia) a profound change of mind and heart to be open to God and to be loving towards Him, and then to all men and women that we know and may touch in our lives.  It is first of all internal, for if we wish to love others more than just ourselves, we have started down that road towards Golgotha where He walked until He died for us in love, and then not bound by death, He was resurrected to offer this same blessedness to us in the Light of His Resurrection.  Willingly He went forth, and we need to willingly go forth too, until death is swallowed up in us when that great Light shines in us.  May it ever shine in our hearts from His mercy and love towards us.

Our Big Challenges Right Now

Since our last newsletter we have faced much severe weather affecting every part of our living and working facilities here at the Skete both in the front valley and in the back.  In the front, many of the roofs have had heavy snows and ice dams full for some time, and just in the last few days have begun to melt some, with leaking in some places that we thought were fixed.  Something more will have to happen this spring before this becomes even more of a problem.  More troublesome, the water froze in almost all of our buildings and even the drains froze in many of them, so we only have had two functioning toilets already for many weeks now, and some water is still not flowing into the buildings.  This is very, very inconvenient to function and even to clean up after ourselves in both work and even in where we sleep.

The propane bill has soared up especially large in this last month of artic chills, and we need $2,400 to just cover the oldest parts to get more propane even by mid-March, and are asking your help so that all the buildings in the front do not freeze without their heaters running.  It is cold here in Southwestern Wisconsin, and the snow days can continue until at least mid-April and at times even into the beginning of May.  Also, our electric bill has been much higher too because of the extra use of electric heaters to offset the coldest areas that the furnaces could not keep up with, and we are having trouble even paying for our past due bill there to avoid them turning off the electricity.  This is now about $1,600 to cover the overdue part and just some of the current bill.

Some of the doors into some buildings do not work and are still frozen shut and will need readjusting to work properly again. We lost our previous handyman who also worked in the shop when he left to move to Kentucky this last fall, and need to find someone meantime to fill in even part time as we are having trouble trying to keep up with removing the ice dams and fixing the doors and keeping the paths clear for entrance by some decks and ramps that have had snow and still have it upon them. One of the monks who is now 75 is having to clear these as he can, and also run the snow blower, and hasn’t been able to clear them all from the last snow storm as he was extra exhausted from the last time doing this a week or so before this last snow.

In the back valley, however, is where the most damage has occurred.  The Common Monastic Building is entirely green and runs on its own off-the-grid stand-alone electrical system and the solar panels and the deep cell batteries that keep this functioning.  The solar panels work best when the sun is shining, but the solar batteries have lost now all of their functioning life.  The new batteries are in Madison now waiting for delivery to us for the last two weeks after being manufactured and sent to our battery outlet after a three week delay, so the entire system doesn’t work even part of the night, and sometimes even during the day.  The batteries will cost $4,000 to have them delivered and get our electricity functioning in a more normal manner, and this then runs the well and heating systems too, as well as the lights and any other practical use in this building.  We don’t have enough money to get them delivered, and so we are just stuck. Please help with this if you can. It is the center of what is wrong in the back valley.

Also because of the lack of electrical function at times, even when running our portable generator as we can, now at least some of the water lines have frozen and then leaked in the radiators in the greenhouse, draining the water shell around our wood fired boiler.  Because of the weather, we have not been able yet to get the well and its pump and pressure tank fixed although a donation has been received from our last donation appeal to do this.  Thank you, our dear donors, so much for helping us with this and the other amount to fix our computer system from the September hack!  The boiler takes about 400 gallons of water to fill up, and we don’t know just how many other gallons are in the lines of the loop to and from the boiler and out to the radiators, totally hold.  With the well still out, we have to carry water in cartons of six jugs of three quarts each, and haul them to the back, walk them up a ladder on the side of the boiler, and pour them into the fill spout, and have been doing this already for weeks, and still haven’t quite filled up the boiler jacket yet. Without the electricity working, however, the well still wouldn’t work even after the well repairs were made to avoid hauling the water.

Outside the Common Monastic Building in the Snow
Common Monastic Building in Winter

St. Nicholas Church in the Front Valley in the Winter
St. Nicholas Church in Winter

Monastic Cell in Skete Back Valley
Monastic Cell in Skete Back Valley

Icon of the Resurrection (Detail) – F138
Icon of the Resurrection (Detail) – F138

Our Present Urgent Needs

We really need your help!  Besides all these specific needs from these specific troubles, this has all affected our ability to make the icons (two heaters or furnaces already went down and had to be replaced this winter in the icon production facilities), and our workers have been unable to come in during some snow storms or lack of heat to timely fill the orders as is more normal in our quick turnaround times.  The monks are so pressed with outside emergency work to just keep the damage from getting worse and so are pulled away from their normal work of managing more effectively the advertising and fund-raising and office duties which provides more sales and the ability to keep things running at their best.  Between the Covid troubles and our shut down from this for over two months, and the computer hacking which shut us down again, this time between six weeks to two months for most functions, and now with this severe cold and damages, it has been a perfect storm indeed.

Because we feel close to you all, and have a relationship with all that visit our web site, that buy icons from us, and that also may have donated to us before, we feel that we can ask for your help, and are definitely asking for your contributions just now, especially since the early winter months are often slower in orders, and the last donation appeal has now finished most of its response.  Won’t you see and pray if you can help us now?  Everyone can send more prayers to God on our behalf, and we ask you all to do that right away, and remember us as we try to move forwards in this Great Lenten season.  Some can also give us the financial help as they can, and every little bit will help, however small it may be. Some may inspire to give us more. Whatever your prayer may inspire you. Please give in whatever way you can with a generous heart as we turn to you in our need, and know that we will be praying for you all this Great Lenten season, and so that we will together greet the Risen Lord in the radiant Light of His Resurrection on the third day!  Amen.

Your Brothers in Christ,

The monastics of St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and the community at St. Nicholas Church

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