Yandex Metrika
We Begin Building a Monastic Almshouse!

From Loneliness to Love: Building a Haven for the Infirm

A long-awaited project is finally coming to life: land has been allocated, plans are being developed, and soon construction will begin on a monastic almshouse. What will this place be like, who is it for, and how will it be organised? Father Andrey Lemeshonok, the spiritual advisor of our Convent, and Dr. Tatyana Poloyko, a medical specialist involved in the project’s development, shared their insights with us.

“I would love for there to be a spirit of God’s love there”

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok:

— With God’s grace and the prayers of many, the Lord has provided us with a site to build our monastic almshouse. It is a remarkable location because, just meters away stands the church of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, frequented by patients from the psychiatric hospital. A hospital is nearby, and there are doctors there, so medical assistance will be accessible, and we hope for collaboration. Additionally, the nuns living in our monastery will participate in caring for the residents of this God-given home.”

Feast day
Feast day
Feast day
Feast day
Feast day

Feast day at the Church of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco at Saint Elisabeth Convent, Minsk

Human solitude in old age is a profound issue, when people remain alone in the twilight of their years. Not everyone has cultivated an inner prayer life; not everyone is prepared to spend their remaining years alone, dedicating their free time to prayer. Many suffer and require tangible support — medical care, assistance with household tasks — as their strength wanes. We must help these people so that their final years are not spent in despair or meaningless existence. If they receive pastoral care, sacraments, medical support, and hopefully organised leisure activities to keep them engaged and cared for, I believe this would be greatly pleasing to God. It is important because, sooner or later, we will all find ourselves in the same situation, regardless of our current health.

Elderly parishioners
Elderly parishioners
Elderly parishioners
Elderly parishioners
Elderly parishioners

Elderly parishioners of Saint Elisabeth Convent

I would love for there to be a spirit of God’s love there, a spirit of service to our chargés, to make it a pleasant place for them. And of course, having everything nearby is so essential for us! There will also be workshops attended by those who are not yet ready to integrate into the everyday life of this world; they need support. We already operate two such workshops where they can work and interact, which is probably vital for them.

We have a home care service that currently supports about a hundred people. But it’s very exhausting for the sisters to travel from one place to another; much energy is spent on commuting. Concentrating these services in one place will transform the way care and support are provided. Furthermore, we are blessed with dedicated Christian doctors who will assist us. I hope — and we always hope and ask without knowing the outcome — that this almshouse will become a peaceful haven for the elderly, for those who have probably worked hard all their lives.”

Sisters of Mercy

Sister of Mercy from St. Elisabeth Convent in Minsk

Similarly, we encounter people deeply wounded by sin, who crawl into the monastery, unwanted and unaided by anyone. Where can these people go? Nowhere. Few will accept them because of the life they have led. It’s paramount to recognize that these are human beings who also need care. Our farmstead is currently overwhelmed with disabled people, and we simply cannot take it any more because the farmstead requires labour, and has its own way of life. However, this new facility could potentially provide a base — not for rest, but a place where they can live and gradually reconnect with God as they prepare for eternity.”

Charges of Saint Elisabeth Convent struggling with alcohol and drug dependency

Charges of Saint Elisabeth Convent struggling with alcohol and drug dependency

— Father, when will the construction begin?

— The design phase is nearly complete. We do not have time to delay as we are working within specific deadlines. The authorities are already asking us, ‘When will you build? You’ve been given the land.’ Indeed, it was a miracle to receive part of the hospital land, thanks to some very compassionate people who assisted us. We are extremely grateful to them. We hope that soon the walls will start to rise, especially since it’s not just any project — it’s beautifully planned, perhaps it will even serve as a gathering place for the Sisters of Mercy who visit hospitals and care homes. I believe it will become a centre of assistance and a haven of love in this often cold and indifferent world.”

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok gives a talk to brethren

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok gives a talk to brethren with alcohol and drug dependency residing at the Convent’s farmstead

— Will there be just white sisters working there?

— Everyone will be involved. Different people. I think we will find medically trained individuals who have turned to God and wish to serve. God gathers His flock; He brings people together. From our 25 years of construction experience here, we’ve seen that when someone leaves, it seems dire — what do we do? Stay calm, and breathe deeply — God knows everything.

People often ask me, ‘How did you manage to build this? It sounds like a fairy tale!’ You see, when there are wealthy sponsors and funding, building is not particularly challenging. But when every penny is hard-earned — as it always has been and will be for us — God will probably provide, but we also need to work hard and be humble. If anyone wishes to contribute to this project, which I believe is blessed by God, we would be immensely grateful for every penny, every dollar, every euro that people can spare to give to God.”

An almshouse is about serving God for the sake of God

Dr. Tatyana Poloyko, Medical Specialist:

— Under the guidance of Father Andrey Lemeshonok, we have begun designing the almshouse — a place for those requiring constant care: the lonely, the elderly, the frail who have no relatives or whose families are unable to care for them for various reasons. For many believers, entering the almshouse is a way to draw closer to God, to leave behind earthly concerns at the end of their days and to focus their minds on the Lord. It is expected that in such places, the soul heals and physical ailments are alleviated.

The term “almshouse” carries a profound meaning: it is about serving God by giving alms for the sake and because of Him. However, in the modern world, the term can evoke negative connotations, associated with abandonment and destitution. Our mission is to ensure that future residents of the almshouse never experience these feelings and that God’s love for humanity is manifested through the care and compassion of our staff.

The life of an elderly person is almost always accompanied by illness, hardships, and frailty. The staff must work with particular sensitivity towards the residents, striving to optimally meet the needs of each individual, given their age and health condition. This requires immense patience, resilience, kindness, and love for one’s neighbour.

As Father Andrey says, the primary goal of the almshouse is to prepare people for eternity. However, caring for the soul separately from the body is likely impossible. Therefore, cleanliness, comfort, quality nutrition, and sanitary care are essential components. In our facility, there will be medical monitoring of residents’ health, with necessary treatments prescribed and medication intakes controlled. If needed, we will arrange for consultative medical assistance and hospitalization for those requiring treatment. Medical support will include physiotherapy procedures, therapeutic exercise, and massage. Psychological support will also be provided. Our work will focus on preserving the health of the residents and extending their active longevity. We plan to organize various workshops where residents can engage in activities as much as they are able.

banner Luke book

Of course, an almshouse cannot replace a family, but we will strive to make living conditions as close to home as possible, creating a favourable environment where strangers can become like family.

Let me introduce you to the preliminary project. The almshouse will be located opposite the Church of St. John of Shanghai in a three-storey building with a basement and an attic. Residents will live on three floors in cosy rooms equipped with en-suite bathrooms and showers. All rooms will have a balcony overlooking the church.

The basement will house technical and storage rooms, as well as a laundry and ironing department. The ground floor will feature a lobby and an admissions department with an isolation room. The second floor will have a dining area with a music zone and a relaxation area. Also on this floor will be a nurse’s station for round-the-clock monitoring of the residents. The third floor will house medical offices: a doctor’s office, head nurse’s office, treatment room, therapeutic exercise room, physiotherapy and massage rooms, and a psychologist’s office. The attic will contain a multifunctional hall and workshops (sewing, weaving, etc.).

The almshouse building will be designed as an accessible environment with wide corridors equipped with ramps and handrails.

Each floor is designed to include cosy spaces where residents can celebrate birthdays, gather, and socialise. The almshouse also features a guest room.

The exit from the facility leads to a garden-park area, designed for easy accessibility across the grounds. Additionally, there is a car park located close to the main entrance of the building.

The task ahead is both serious and responsible. Elderly people often live with chronic illnesses that require constant monitoring and control, and when their condition worsens, timely and professional medical assistance is necessary. We plan to collaborate with healthcare institutions to promptly address the health concerns of our residents.

If you wish to contribute to this noble cause — the construction of the almshouse — you can donate following this link:
Make a note “almshouse”.

Recorded by Olga Kosyakova

May 15, 2024
Views: 981
Ratings: 5/5
Votes: 5


Dio benedica la vostra Santa Iniziativa e con la Sua Provvidenza moltiplichi gli ospizi affinché tutti si sentano accolti e amati da Cristo stesso

Father John Holoduek, OCA

Christos Voskrese!

This project is clearly a God-Inspired Gift!

I pray that the Lord's Own Graciousness will be matched by the Generosity of the People of God!

+Blessings, Love, and Peace!

Father John Holoduek, OCA