In the course of a lifetime you may be fortunate enough to be inspired by someone who is truly making a difference. Someone whose only goal in life is to help others. Someone who works selflessly, tirelessly and against all odds, to make the world a better place.
Such a person is Abbot Nektariy Haji-Petropoulos.
Although barely into his ‘50’s, and in spite of his own ill health, the Abbot Fr. Nektariy has accomplished more in his life than most of us could even imagine.
Even though he prefers to stay out of the spotlight, it’s time to shine a light on this remarkable man, with the purpose of making his plight known and providing him with financial help.
Fr. Nektariy’s mission…
Although he is not Russian himself, Fr. Nektariy, along with two other monks, opened a Russian Orthodox monastery in Mexico City in 2007. As head of the Holy Trinity Monastery and the Deanery of Mexico, Fr. Nektariy looks after the needs of over 12 different parishes throughout Mexico. Most of his parishioners are from a Slavic background, many of them only speak Russian, and as a result often feel lost and isolated.
As Fr. Nektariy explains:
“…the women get married with Mexicans…they lose their roots, they are not able to worship in an orthodox church and then their children are baptized Catholics or anything else or not even baptized, so they lose themselves. And at the end they lose their identity, they lose their faith, they lose their spiritual traditions.”
And with Mexico City being such a treacherous, unstable part of the world, it’s no wonder that Russian immigrants, particularly women, find themselves vulnerable and at risk.
Fr. Nektariy has determined that it’s his sacred duty to protect and help the Russian community throughout Mexico. His name has become well-known in Mexico due to his selfless service and dedication.
“When the brethren came and founded a monastery here, I think it became the best moment for all the Russians who have lived in Mexico for a long time.” ~ Olga Kruchkova, parishioner.
Testimonies from parishioners…
For many, the Holy Trinity Monastery in Mexico City has become a haven of safety and security – a place where parishioners can go for comfort, support and practical help. “This church brings them together as family and at the same time we are the point where people come for help and they know they are not alone because we help them in many different ways.” ~ Fr. Nektariy
Many of Fr. Nektariy’s parishioners describe him as being like ‘family.’ Alla Kopylova, one of Fr. Nektariy’s devoted parishioners, says:
“…he is a person of tremendous kindness, and tremendous love. He accepts everyone who comes to him with unconditional love. Whoever comes to him for advice, comfort, or with a request, he accepts them unconditionally…”
Olga Kruchkova is another of Fr. Nektariy’s parishioners who has nothing but respect and admiration for her priest:
“…he helps for free… He doesn’t ask: how much, when, where… He simply helps people. People come. People who have nothing to do with the monastery – they still come. They come and ask Fr Nektariy for support – in different circumstances…He has never said: “No.” He always helps everyone.”
More than just a safe haven…
The harsh realities of life in Mexico have resulted in Fr. Nektariy stepping in to actually save lives. Despite countless threats to his own personal safety, he continues to save women and children from the evils of sex trafficking.
He has also saved countless women from domestic violence, and without complaint suffers constant threats from the husbands whose wives he has helped.
A daily struggle…
The diocese is extremely poor. Fr. Nektariy and the other monks work outside of the monastery to make extra money to help it survive. Fr. Nektariy is currently working 14 hours a day in different jobs, just in order to pay the rent. The owners of the building often raise the rent (illegally), by 100 or even 200%.
In addition, there are his priestly duties and his most beloved but difficult job - his work with his parishioners. When he comes back from work, he meets with parishioners, answers calls, emails, text messages... For many years he has only slept 3-4 hours a night.
“…honestly I feel that I cannot continue anymore with this task, it’s very heavy for me. I haven’t told them [the parishioners] about how I feel, but this is the way I feel… We became monks because we wanted to wait on the Lord, to serve the Lord, and the church and the people. But instead of that we are selling cakes and working elsewhere.” - Fr. Nektariy
And yet, he has spent at least 9 years to keep the monastery open for the people. The easiest solution would have been to give up, work at one job, and live comfortably in a nice appartment. Especially, since due to his extreme poor health with painful kidney stones, diverticulitis and other ailments, Fr. Nektariy is also faced with the high cost of monthly medical bills.
But Fr. Nektariy is not the kind of person who lives for himself. So, when when a parishioner needs financial aid or help paying costly legal fees, he or she will never be turned away.
Fr. Nektariy is desperate to continue his work, but needs to find a new building. He is in dire need of proper medical care and rest, and by all accounts hasn’t taken a single day off in many years:
“…I love them. They are my children. They need me but they see me as their father…I’m the one also who pay the bills, all the bills from the monastery. It is not that I’m not willing to do it, but it goes beyond my control. I can’t make this much money to pay expenses…How am I going to tell them, listen I lost my job from the University and now I won’t be able to pay the rent anymore…How can I tell them that?"
For those of us who live lives of comfort and security, it’s hard to imagine such suffering and dedication. This man is literally laying down his life for his community. In his own words:
“I will fight for my parishioners no matter what.”
$70K should pay rent for the next 2 years. With rent taken care of, he will be able to cut down on his outside jobs and spend more time with his parishioners.
We have the power to change it all. Along with our utmost respect and admiration, let’s step up to give this man the financial support he needs.
And a final plea from Fr. Nektariy himself:
“Our hope is that God moves your hearts and all the heart, in order to support the work of God. We’re not asking for ourselves. We could easily support ourselves, but at this very moment we can’t support all these people by ourselves. We need your help.”