Since this is the first year in the monastery's history that the May Pilgrimage will not be held, here is a look back at the first Pilgrimage in 1905.
The first pilgrimage to the newly-purchased site was held on July 18/31, 1905, when His Grace St. Raphael (Hawaweeny), of Brooklyn, the vicar Bishop of the North American Diocese, traveled from New York to South Canaan, to dedicate and bless the newly acquired orphanage building (farm-house) and the site for the future construction of the monastery corpus (cells) and church.
From various eyewitness accounts of the first pilgrimage, the participants traveled by foot from Mayfield over the mountains to the site in South Canaan, a distance of over ten miles. One eyewitness from the Mayfield parish, who was a young boy at the time, recalled the experience of traveling to the monastery for the first pilgrimage:
All the transportation was done by horse and buggy and large groups of people in the 50’s and 100’s would start out about 5:30 A.M. It would take them three to three and one half hours to walk. The Model T Ford car was not invented until 1910.
The celebration actually started two days prior to the dedication, commencing with the arrival of the Bishop by train in Mayfield along with Father Elias Klopotovsky from Scranton. The Bishop was warmly greeted by a huge crowd composed of thousands of parishioners from Mayfield and neighboring communities who had assembled for the occasion. Being escorted by the parish local orchestra and four brotherhood organizations attired in full parade dress uniforms, the Bishop, riding in a carriage, was led through the main street of Mayfield to the site of the Church, continually blessing the people as he rode past them.
Upon his arrival at the church, the Bishop was greeted at the steps of the church by the church school children who were attired in their best clothes. The leading parishioners of the church awaited the hierarchs entrance at the door to the church holding banners and the processional cross. Father Alexander Boguslavsky greeted the visiting hierarch with the cross, after which the Bishop, now vested in the purple mantia of his office entered the beautifully decorated and candlelit church, to the singing of the Hymn to the Theotokos by the overflowing throng that had gathered within the edifice.
Following the veneration of the icons by the Bishop, he was officially welcomed to the Mayfield parish by Father Arseny who, in his address, pointed out that His Grace had come to Mayfield “as the first hierarch of the Syro-Arabian Church in America, in order to share with the Russian people the joy of the opening of the orphanage and the establishment of the Holy Community...”
"At the request of Fr. Hieromonk Arseny, the rector of the Mayfield parish, His Grace Raphael arrived at 8:00 p.m., on Saturday, July 29, in Mayfield, in order to celebrate a hierarchical service on the eve of the festival. His Grace Vladika was met at the railroad station by Fr. Arseny and his parishioners while the Mayfield [parish] orchestra played stirring music as the train pulled into the station. Four brotherhoods stood in parade dress, and the captains of the brotherhoods stood with drawn sabers in two rows alongside the carriage in which sat His Grace Vladika, Fr. Arseny and Fr. Elias Klopotovsky who had met Vladika in Scranton and accompanied him to Mayfield. The festive procession proceeded to the church along the street which was lined with Russian people who, greeting him, received continual Archpastoral blessings. At the church the school children greeted Vladika along with the people carrying crosses and church banners. At the porch of the church Fr. Alexander Bogoslavsky [of Simpson] presented the holy cross for veneration. Having been vested in mantya, Vladika proceeded into the church, which was brightly illumined by candles and filled to overflowing with people." Having venerated the holy icons, St. Raphael listened to the complimentary greeting of Fr. Arseny, which began: "'Your Grace, Right Reverend Master! The flock in Mayfield is fortunate to greet you joyously this day of your arrival in our midst. We have not yet recovered from the feelings of joy we experienced at the recent visit of our first hierarch, Archbishop Tikhon, and now the Lord has given us this opportunity to receive and greet with proper festivity Your Grace, and once again to see a hierarch and to hear the celebration of the hierarchical service. You have come to us as the first hierarch of the Syro-Arab Church in America, in order to share with the Russian people the joy of the opening of the orphanage and the establishment of the holy community . . .'"
In his response to the greetings of Father Arseny, His Grace, St. Raphael, in Russian, expressed his gratitude and joy for having had the opportunity to travel to Mayfield and be the representative of Archbishop Tikhon at this, a great milestone in the history of the Holy Orthodox Church in America, the dedication, and blessing of the ground upon which the first monastery in America would be constructed. He concluded his remarks by thanking the people of the Mayfield parish for their support and efforts in the acquisition of the land and their generous donations towards its purchase.
"After this vespers began, during which St. Raphael prayed in the altar. After vespers, having given his archpastoral blessing with the veneration of the cross, Vladiko retired to the parish house for the night." The next day, St. Raphael presided at the Sunday matins and Divine Liturgy in the Mayfield Church, assisted by Fr. Arseny, who preached a sermon on the theme of the Paralytic, and spoke of the great Christian spirit of charity which prompted the organization of the new monastery and orphan's home. After a meal in the parish home, His Grace St. Raphael and Hieromonk Arseny left for South Canaan and the scene of the upcoming festivities.
Later in the afternoon, St. Raphael left Mayfield along with Father Arseny traveling over three hours by horse and carriage, to the site of the monastery in South Canaan. Upon their arrival at the monastery, the Bishop and Father Arseny were greeted by Mother Maria, a Syro-Arabian nun appointed director of the orphanage, and the orphans, who were already housed within the converted farmhouse on the former Wagner farm.
"At three o'clock [we] left in a carriage for the farm which from this day on receives the name of 'monastery.' Along the way, taking no regard for the falling rain, Vladika, with delight, fell in love with the wonders of nature and the fruit orchards, extending his archpastoral blessing, not just on the people living there, who were found to be greeting him, but also the soulless nature. At six o'clock in the evening we arrived at the Orphan's Home. At the home flags were waving and garlands made of living blossoms had been woven by the zealous neighboring Russians. On the porch of the home, the Nun Maria, who was administering the Orphanage, greeted His Grace Vladika, and led the orphans to him for his blessing. Having examined the Home and resting a while after the journey, Vladika made preparations for the vigil, which was celebrated in a hallway which had been prepared into a chapel and adapted for the celebration of services. This was at about eight o'clock in the evening. In the hallway-chapel a gathering of Russian farmers and a few Americans began to come in. I vested in mantiya and klobuk and went out to Vladika to announce that the time [to begin] had arrived. Vladika entered into our modest little church, made a reverence before the icons and took his place in the tiny sanctuary. The bishop gave the blessing for the celebration of the service.
That evening the Bishop gave the blessing for the celebration of the first Vigil service in the small makeshift chapel that had been created in the orphanage building by the staff. The service was well attended by the various clergy who had assembled for the dedication, the staff and the children of the orphanage, some of the local Orthodox farmers who had donated the funds which enabled the mission to purchase the site and several non-Orthodox people who lived in the area surrounding the new community.
To be continued...