Fr. James (Deschene) Abbot

This ROCOR monastery is exceedingly traditional in both its liturgical and theological practices.   Founded as a Benedictine monastic community in 1910, Mount Royal’s mission and work continued as an independent body until 1962. In that year the community was received into the patriarchal Russian Orthodox Church by its American exarch, Bishop Dositheus (Ivanchenko) of New York. For several years, the monks of Mount Royal staffed a western-rite chapel in the Russian Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Manhattan, later moving to Woodstock, New York. Bishop Dositheus’ successor, Archbishop John (Wendland), blessed and confirmed the western-rite observance and mission of Mount Royal and the leadership of its Abbot, the Rt. Rev. Dom Augustine (Whitfield).

In 1975, under Abbot Augustine, Mt. Royal was received into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia by His Eminence, Archbishop Nikon (Rklitzsky), who again authorized and blessed its mission and observances. In 1993, the former Prior of Mount Royal, Dom James (Deschene) founded Christminster in Rhode Island with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Hilarion of Manhattan to carry on the work of western-rite Orthodoxy in ROCOR.

From its beginnings, this work and mission have been guided by the spirit of Saint Benedict and his Holy Rule- the sixth-century foundation document of Orthodox monasticism in the west. It was the vision of Mount Royal’s founders — a vision firmly adhered to under Abbot Augustine and lovingly maintained at Christminster — to preserve the contemplative and eremitical dimensions of the monastic life as much as possible.

From Rhode Island to Ontario

Skufia St John Maximovitch

In its home in Rhode Island, Christminster had no room to grow. In fact, as it was, the monks could not live together under one roof and there was no space available for developing a monastic industry that would enable the monastery to be self-supporting. The monks all worked outside the monastery in order to support themselves.

Meanwhile, in Ontario, a small group of people were hoping for the establishment of a Western Rite Orthodox mission — the first of its kind in the Dominion of Canada. Led by a Reader, this group converted two adjacent buildings in the City of Hamilton (a beauty parlor/café and an auto body paint shop) into an Oratory, fellowship hall, and residence.

After the group’s initial approach towards another jurisdiction failed to bear fruit, Fr. James, Abbot of the monastery, was invited to consider moving Christminster to this facility and undertaking monastic life and the pastoral care of the mission on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. With the blessing of His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, the help of God, and the generosity of a benefactor, the monks of Christminster were able to accept this unexpected offer and with its new opportunities for growth as a community and English-language, Western Rite Orthodox mission.

Fr. James arrived in Hamilton to take up residence in April of 2008.  Fr.  Joseph, who had remained behind in Rhode Island to complete medical treatments, rejoined Dom James in December of that year. Monk Michael (from the Monastery of St. John of San Francisco, Manton, California) joined the brotherhood in March of 2009.

On Sunday, 1 March/16 February 2009, notice was received from Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, that the monastery of Christminster and Our Lady of Glastonbury Orthodox Church, in Hamilton, Ontario, would henceforth be directly under the archpastoral oversight of the Metropolitan himself, assisted by his Vicar Bishop Jerome of Manhattan. His Grace Bishop Jerome, the former Father John Shaw, is a longtime friend of Christminster and a scholar deeply learned in western-rite liturgics.

Christminster Monastery

Christminster chapel