Spiritual father of Saint Elisabeth Convent - Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok
Communal prayer and worship are essential to our Convent's life and ministry, and neither can be imagined without the priesthood. Our whole life and service as a monastic community would be impossible without them. They are our spiritual guides and mentors, our good shepherds and confidantes, our confessors. They give us much-needed reassurance by their prayer, good-hearted word, and example. According to an old church tradition, we call our priests lovingly our fathers.
Serving at our Convent are 14 priests (including two deacons), and chief among them is our spiritual father, Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok. Their work is truly self-denying and self-sacrificing. A priest's working day begins early at dawn. After the morning liturgy, he goes about his numerous other daily tasks, also called obediences. He performs on-call duty in the church, gives sacraments, carries out pastoral work at the locations of our ministries, conducts routine small services at church, keeps in touch with his spiritual children, gives spiritual guidance to the sisters of our sisterhood.
The service of our priests does not stop for a moment. As says father Andrey Lemeshonok, "A priest is a channel between God and man. He is someone who dedicates his life to the service of God and people. In this way, being a priest is a great ascetic deed and a heavy cross. But it is also a great blessing."
As our paths to God vary, so do the paths to the priesthood. Each of our priests has his own story. Many graduated from secular educational institutions, acquired worldly professions and had worked in them for many years. Others made their choice of career at an earlier age. Some of our priests began to visit the convent when they were children. They went to our Sunday school and were members of our youth group as young men.
But all became priests as an answer to the call from God at some point in their life. "I was impressed by the scriptural parable about a man and the talents given to him by God," remembers Father Sergius Chernyak. "It touched the strings of my heart, and it was keeping me awake at night. What if God gave me a talent and wanted me to use it, and I am hiding it in the sand instead? How will I answer that? These were the kinds of thoughts that motivated me to apply and become enrolled in the seminary at age 27."
Our fathers are well-endowed with versatile talents. Many are artists, writers of spiritual poems and songs, and musicians. But one precious talent that all of them have in common is the talent for building their lives on the solid bedrock of faith. The strong, loving and united families of our priests show for it.
Father Sergiy Khripitsky and Matushka Anna
Large families among them are not rare or exceptional. The family of Fr. Sergiy Nezhbort is raising three children adopted from an orphanage. His namesake Fr. Sergiy Khripitsky is a happy father of ten children. His children are gifted musicians, and several of them have established a family ensemble, performing at many of our concerts and festivals.
As we celebrate the talents and good works of our priests, we also pay tribute to their wives. They are their faithful companions and helpers whom we call lovingly Matushkas, a warm and respectful name for a mother. Many of them serve in our sisterhood and workshops, and all without exception are working hard with their husbands to build their families as a domestic church united in striving for God and the love for Him.
They take much of the credit for achieving the aim of their families’ purposeful life. With their example, they convince us that even in our time the Christian family is neither a myth nor fiction; that a shared yearning to Christ is rewarded with true joy and happiness on earth and life in Him in eternity.
In this section, we write about the service and travails of our priests and their great achievements inspired by their love of God and devotion to Him.