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Contributed by Anna Williams
Many of you may remember the Convent of Our Lady of Vladimir, formerly of San Francisco, led by Abbess Eugenia Mungalova and Abbess Isihia Mungalova. The convent left ROCOR (now ROCOR‐MP) in 2001, and remains in the jurisdiction now known as ROCOR‐Vl, under Archbishop Vladimir Tselischev. ROCOR sued the sisters for their property in 2002, embarking them on a prolonged, arduous legal battle.
The court case cost them dearly both financially and emotionally, causing terrible suffering for the sisters and especially for the elderly Abbess Eugenia. Abbess Isihia launched a vigorous public campaign defending the convent’s right to religious freedom, endeavouring to win the court of public opinion. The court case eventually ended in settlement, allowing the sisters several years to vacate their property.
Now, Abbess Isihia, in the name of Abbess Eugenia, is spearheading a battle of her own against a convent in Canada — the Convent of the Holy Protection. First established in 1930 as a parish for the community, this picturesque convent is located in rural Alberta and currently houses a sisterhood of nine nuns, led by
Schema‐Abbess Ambrosia Martens. Abbess Ambrosia was appointed as the convent’s superior in 1993 by Metropolitan Vitaly Oustinov (of Blessed Memory), and she and the sisters have spent the past eighteen years establishing and maintaining the grounds, churches, numerous buildings and cemetery. The convent is a valuble and active part of the Orthodox community in Alberta. But since 2008, Abbess Isihia has attempted to take control of the convent.
The Protection Convent belonged to Metropolitan Vitaly, who passed away in 2006. He willed the convent to Abbess Eugenia, but at the time of his repose he left behind six different wills, which are currently being investigated in a court case in Quebec.
Disregarding the fact that the legality of his wills is in dispute, Abbess Isihia went to the Protection Convent in 2008. She arrived with only a few hours’ notice and announced to Abbess Ambrosia that she was taking over the convent’s administration and moving in the next day. She also called the county offices and claimed to be the convent’s new administrator. A few months later, Abbess Ambrosia received an email from Abbess Isihia’s lawyer stating that Abbess Isihia and several others would be arriving the next day and that they were to be allowed to perform church services and occupy any of the buildings. However, Abbess Ambrosia followed the advice of the police and did not allow Abbess Isihia access when she arrived with a priest and several other people.
The Protection Convent was also originally in ROCOR, but sought refuge under the authority of the Greek Synod in Resistance in 2007, before ROCOR unified with the Moscow Patriarchate. Both the Protection Convent and Abbess Isihia’s Convent of Our Lady of Vladimir left ROCOR for the same convictions of faith, but ROCOR‐Vl does not recognize the Synod in Resistance and so Abbess Isihia attempted to compel the Protection Convent to submit to her authority and join ROCOR‐Vl.
Currently the legal status of the Protection Convent is unclear.
I knew Abbess Isihia well and staunchly supported her in the years that the Convent of Our Lady of Vladimir was being persecuted by ROCOR. I witnessed the pain and grief the sisters went through, and I wrote articles on their behalf detailing their legal battle. I find it tragic that Abbess Isihia is now treating Abbess Ambrosia and the sisters of the Protection Convent in a similar manner, acting as if she has the right to govern them because they do not belong to ROCOR‐Vl.
After suffering through her own terrible ordeal with ROCOR, how can she inflict the same suffering on another convent? Where does Christ teach that it is acceptable to behave in an unChristian manner towards those we disagree with?
Please keep Abbess Ambrosia and her sisters in your prayers.