Highland’s Greek Orthodox Monastery

On July 23, 2008 information was presented on Highland's Greek Orthodox Monastery. Since then additional information has been found.

Founded in 1976, it was not just a church, but a cloistered Greek Orthodox Monastery, located on East Main Street, called Saint Gregory Palamas Old Calendar Greek Orthodox Monastic Community. It caused quite a stir; rumors began, and even harassment. For no one in Highland looked like these people.

Two priest/monks, Rev. Fr. Auxentias, Rev. Dr. Chrysotomos, and Sr. Makrina, dressed in traditional monastic dress and long beards (not Sr. Makrina) even caused concern among the St. Elias congregation. Some thought they were a satanic sect. There were incidents of rock throwing and name calling as they tried to enjoy evening walks around the neighborhood.

One lady finally confronted one of the monks and asked he if was a member of a satanic sect, at which point he showed her the crucifix which he wore around his neck. This seemed to satisfy her.

The Franciscan Brothers in East Highlands [another story] finally intervened and "schooled" the clergymen of the area on the situation so that their congregations could be informed that these were not monsters, merely people who still clung to the religion of their parents and grandparents who lived in Eastern Europe.

And, these were not the illiterate peasants they were perceived to be. Rev Dr. Chysotomos received his Doctorate in psychology at Princeton University, where he taught for three years, and was associate professor of psychology at UC Riverside. He wrote many articles for psychological journals.

Rev. Fr. Auxentias was a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. He received a Bachelor's degree in religion from Princeton University and published many articles on orthodox theology.

Sr. Makrina was a mother of eight and only took her vows in 1976, at age 80.

The trio arrived in the valley about August of 1976. They had a twofold purpose in serving Highland. The first was to serve the few hundred in the East Valley who preferred the more traditional worship.

The second purpose was to train an increasing number of men interested in the "old calendar priesthood."

By 1978, the monastery had grown to five monastics and two or three new novices.

It was also in 1978 that the monastery relocated to new quarters in the nearby mountains.

Today the monastery is located in Etna, California, west of Weed on the I-5.

The Diocese was established in 1988, and in 1989 Rev. Dr. Chysostomos was enthroned as Bishop. In 1995 he was bestowed the honorary title of Archbishop.

Archbishop Chrysostomos stepped down from his administrative duties in 2012. Those duties have been assumed by Bishop Auxentios of Photike.

Next week: a look at a previous owner of the property at 27370 E. Main St., Arthur D. Gonzales.

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