St. Simeon Skete, Taylorsville Kentucky USA

With St. Simeon, the God receiver, as our patron, the skete seeks to practice the ideals found in our Rule, The Thousand Day Nazareth. In simplicity and poverty, the skete embraces the struggle of inner life through the practice of the Prayer Rope.

See our website at

Donations should be addressed to: Nazareth House Apostolate, 185 Captains Cove Drive, Taylorsville, Kentucky 40071.

Important Notice: All writings, posts, graphics & photographs in this blog are the copyrighted property of (unless otherwise indicated) Nazareth House Media, a division of Nazareth House Apostolate and cannot be copied, printed or used without written permission from NHA Media, Taylorsville, KY.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Good Bye Freetown; Hello Kabala

In Kabala, right now, the workers are frantically trying to complete the extremely hard task of building the well.   Without it, obtaining water at our new NHA Compound in Kabala will be a real back-breaking task, requiring long hikes to fetch water and haul it back - several times a day.   It will also mean bathing in streams, along with the laundry. 

Seeing these guys digging deeper and deeper in search of water, I think of the Samaritan at the well in Scripture from John 4: 6-23.  It has always been one of my favorite Bible Stories and I think of it every time I see a well.   The Well Scene pictures forgiveness, renewal, refreshment - new beginnings.

I remember last year in Kabala at a different well; Seraphim went to draw some water, there was a lady who came upon the well at the same time he did.   Knowing he was a priest, she respectfully refused to allow him to draw water and drew it for him.   Seraphim was humbled by her gesture,  knowing that she also knew the Scripture - it was a beautiful moment for all of us that witnessed it.  

The construction of the new well for the NHA Compound

Looking at how deep this well is already and no water in sight, knowing the rickety tools the workers must use, I think of prayer.  The workman's safety, the general need of water - we definitely need to  soak this situation in prayer.  

The work continues at the NHA Compound, building for change!  Its what we are all about - CHANGE.  Changing lives by bringing about better life, better education, better health.  

NHA students slowly make their way to the NHA School.

For a year now,  Nazareth House has been working to complete the NHA Compound in an effort to serve the poorest of the poor in a meaningful way.   We were lead to Kabala because of the needs of that   area.  We knew that  NHA could be most effective there, not only because of our type of work, but because the NHA School is already located there - right across the dirt road from the site of our new compound. To minister to the people,  it is important to live in the community in which we serve.  Hence the move to Kabala.   Simply visiting from time to time doesn't give you the keen awareness needed to make a genuine real difference.   Relocating our staff and center to Kabala is a practical and prudent move.

Our first order of business was to establish a permanent residency in the area. We were fortunate to find a trustworthy contractor and after much prayer we began to build.   From that moment we all have worked together, raising the money to fulfill this vision and meet the challenge.   At this writing we continue to hover at the $12,000 range owed on the NHA Compound.   NHA relies entirely on God as he works through those who listen and hear Him, putting it into action.   As part of our family of supporters, you demonstrate the power and potential of collective love - showing the world that Matthew 25:31-46 can be realized when people are willing to share.   Together we have accomplished so much in Sierra Leone by restoring hope and providing help.   Its time to embark on the final steps of the NHA Compound journey and move forward into new avenues of loving and caring for our brothers and sisters in need.  

NHA does not receive government grants, we rely on individuals, organizations and churches to provide the care and meet the needs of the poor in Sierra Leone.    

This weekend is it! We have squeezed out every second of our stay at St. Laurence House in Freetown and now the truck is loaded with the last of the belongings and it is over.   St. Laurence House is no longer.   The new compound, our center of operations in Kabala will be named "Nazareth House, Kabala".   

Loaded truck, Kabala bound

James, Kadijah, Lucy, Ann Marie and Roo are Kabala bound - despite the fact that their new home, the NHA Compound, is not ready for us to house them.   We take a deep breath, inhale a huge dose of faith and do what we have to do.   The Mansaray family is no different, so in faith, they move to Kabala.   

Ann Marie, packing up - moving out

Kadijah, however, is suffering a little more than the rest of the family, she's having to make the move ill - suffering from vomiting and nausea.  Please keep her in your prayers.   

Kadijah and Mama Vicki at a Kabala Well

The rough drive to Kabala is a long one and much worse when you are not feeling well.  

Kadijah at the NHA School, March 2010
So as we move on to establish a permanent residency and further the aid in and around Kabala, we ask your prayers and support.   Share the work, share the love...

Goodbye, Freetown!

Thank you for your consideration.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

So What is This Skete Thing?

The move from Louisville to Spencer County in order to bring St. Simeon Skete to life has been and remains an adventure.  

In a world filled with self-indulging, flash and unending stimulation, the skete’s peaceful, disciplined and sacrificial life makes it a target for inquisitiveness.  

From time to time curiosity seekers drive onto the grounds to check us out. 

 Most don’t stay to ask questions, they simply want a quick view of  “what’s going on” here. 


 There are those who do come in order to understand the Skete life lived, others only want to see what “changes” we have made and then there are those who simply come to see if we “really got rid of the pool!”.  

A swimming pool is not conducive to life at the skete and it was our first priority to do away with it.

 (During the recent 90 degree weather we noticed several who drove in hoping to sneak a dip in the pool.)  

pool removal

the grassland where the pool once was 

Today, I again heard the crackling of rolling tires on gravel.  As I peered out the window, I noticed a car drive down behind the Chapel to a hidden area where the pool once was.   Most viewers drive around the circle and back out.   

I decided I should make myself visible.  As I walked onto the parking lot, the car is backing up the hill from behind the Chapel, it turned around and headed right to me.   In times past, and I must admit that I’ve become weary of this, people come here looking for a vacation rental house or a reception hall. 

Some people aren’t aware of the transfer of ownership and I understand this, but what I don’t quite understand is when I explain that Nazareth House Apostolate owns the property and what it is being used for people still say “well, will you guys rent it to us?”  As if we’d stop the prayer, move out and let them stay for a couple of days. The most puzzling to me is when they realize there are no more vacation rental houses, the people then look around and see that the lodge is now a chapel complete with Altar, pews, etc. Seeing the transformation, they say “well can we rent this out for a party?”   Amazing.   

As the car approached me, I thought to myself “here we go again, can I book a party here?”   As they drove a little closer I could see it was a car full of teenage girls, maybe 16 - 18 years old, although they looked even younger.   The driver gestures towards the chapel and says “Is that the restaurant?” just as a girl in the backseat pops her head out of the window and says “Where are the monks?”.   The other girl sitting next to her, swats her and says very strongly,  “you can’t see monks, they hide!”  In the meantime the front seat passenger is repeating “I want to see a monk, I want to see a monk”.  I want to laugh at the scene, but I don’t want to offend them so I answer, “the former lodge (pointing to the Meeting of the Lord Chapel) is now a chapel and this is now a skete, a place where people come to live the life of prayer.”   Another girl asked “what do the monks do all day?”  “They pray”, I replied.  The driver looked around, all wide-eyed, her eyes look towards the lake and she says, “ boy, they are gonna love this place.” 

Recently St. Simeon Skete welcomed a (planned) visitor, Fr. Gabriel Harty OP of Ireland.  Fr. Gabriel and Seraphim met for a personal Rosary Retreat.  

Fr. Gabriel came all the way from Ireland for the retreat.

Fr. Gabriel had these words to say about his visit:

What a surprise it was to receive an email from Kentucky to come to St. Simeon Skete to share on the subject of the Rosary. 

I had heard of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky chicken and of their famous Bourbon whiskey. But Simeon Skete, what was that? 

 I couldn’t find the term Skete in any dictionary.    It was explained to me that the Skete-life combines the best of community and solitary life.  Members of a Skete have their own separate dwelling place but come together for an evening meal each day.

I was a few months short of ninety years of age and most of my colleagues thought I was mad to attempt the 4,000 mile flight on my own.  I have long ago learned that if God is in the venture it will be an adventure in grace. And so it proved to be. They spoke to me about jet-lag, but all I could say was,  what jet-lag?  The adventure did not knock a feather out of me, thank God.The invitation had come from Fr. Seraphim who has lived the life of a desert Father for many years, most recently in a small room in Louisville.  He had led the solitary life of prayer also in Sierra Leone and in India where he was influenced by some holy men.  

Seraphim with children in Sierra Leone

He met up with Sufis and Muslims and together they shared in the use of prayer beads and meditation.  He describes himself not as Protestant, nor as Roman Catholic, but simply as Catholic. Resulting from his ministry in Sierra Leone, Seraphim was drawn to his co-worker, Vicki, a grace-filled lady, and sought advice from his bishop about getting married to her.  She is the information technology person that keeps information and administration flowing. When Fr. Seraphim gets up around 4am to begin his round of prayer-watch, Vicki finds it is the ideal time for her to be in touch by phone and email with her co-missionary friends in Africa. At that early hour in Kentucky, the African day is in already in full swing.
Fr. Gabriel and Vicki

I would have thought of a hermit as one who lived alone, and wondered how he could be at the same time a married man. But everything seems to work out according to a well-tuned Divine plan.  Grace and nature walk hand in hand under the inspiration of Simeon and Anna who are the Patron Saints of the Skete.   Seraphim looks to Simeon who moved only in the Holy Spirit as he watched and waited for the Messiah. Watching and waiting are at the heart of this blessed venture.  The large and comfortable the Guest House is named after the Prophetess who is part of the same Fourth mystery of the Rosary. 

Anna House

They call it Anna House.  I will treasure the lovely icon of St. Simeon with the child in his arms, which Vicki gave me. 

 I may even be tempted to put aside, the two names Seraphim and Vicki and think of them as Simeon and Anna.  And I will remember how each night at Compline, they would ask me to sing Simeon’s song, the Nunc Dimittis, Now you can dismiss your servant in peace, O Lord, for my eyes of seen the salvation you have prepared for us. 

This Mystery of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the temple will forever bring me back to Kentucky and to the serene Taylorsville lake that lies below this blessed sanctuary of peace and prayer.

Taylorsville Lake

Fr. Seraphim speaks of combining the spirituality of East and West.  While they celebrate Mass and believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament which is reserved in an Upper Room shrine, their chapel is adorned with Russian style icons.  Beads and meditation and the recitation of the Jesus Prayer are part and parcel of the day and the night.

Their attachment to the Rosary was high-lighted by the custom of placing the beads on a gilded plate and bringing them by way of gifts to the altar at the Offertory. Only one who had plumbed the Christo-centred depths of the Rosary, would have the temerity to do as Fr. Seraphim does as he lifted up the blessed beads in the awesome context of the Mass.  It brought to mind what Lucy of Fatima said about the Hail Mary: “It is a Eucharistic prayer with the name of Jesus at its centre and giving expression to the greeting that is at the heart of the Mass: The Lord is with you.”

Seraphim has steeped himself in the traditions of our own Marian Rosary. Although I have been involved in the preaching of the Rosary all over Ireland and abroad, never in my whole life have I seen such a vast collection of Rosary literature. For over twenty years he has been reading every book and article I myself have done on this subject. He was able to give me a copy of one book of my own long out of print, He had two copies.  

Fr. Gabriel signing copies of his book "Riches of the Rosary" that he brought to the Skete

All through Sierra Leone he has used my small work: The Healing Light of the Rosary.

I mention this simply to bring out the fact, that this strange hermit has a deeply Catholic and Marian heart.

During the week, I never saw Seraphim without the beads in his hands, and with another hanging from his belt.
One of the most moving and humbling moments of my stay at the Skete was went this gracious man when down on his knees and took hold of my beads and asked that the Rosary-grace given to me might pass into his own person. He saw this gesture in the line of an older man passing on his gift to a younger one. I have no doubt but that this gesture was two-way flow of grace, for the fragrance of that week with Vicki and Seraphim will linger for long in my soul.
Fr. Seraphim’s most earnest desire is to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes and spend time alone in the Grotto, as did the French Dominican Saintourens (1835—1920),  who went on to found so many Convents of the Perpetual Rosary in North America. He gave me a large volume from his collection detailing the fortunes of all these foundations—many now extinct.  Judging by way Fr. Seraphim had marked and underlined so many passages in the book, and by his desire to follow in the footsteps Fr.Saintorurens to Lourdes, it became clear to me that he was wishing for some re-flowering of this Dominican of Perpetual Rosary at the Skete.  On returning to Ireland, I wrote a report of all this to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Louisville, saying how much I impressed I was by all that I had seen and heard and been touched by.

Fr. Seraphim and his wife Vicki met with me for about ten sessions over and eagerly drank in all that I had to say about the Dominican tradition of the Rosary as L’Evangile a genoux as Lacordaire called it, as well as the original thrust of the Rosary as more a method of preaching than of praying.  Rosarium magis est modus praedicandi quam orandi as the Latin so neatly puts it. However, it was far from being a one-way traffic. I could not fail to be moved by the commitment of my hosts to the continual Rosary-meditation on the life of Jesus and their profound reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I came away from St. Simeon Skete with renewed devotion to the Rosary as an instrument of  evangelisation and as a grace-filled means of contemplative prayer. From an ecumenical point of view I am glad of having had the experience, though it was not easy coping with the Divine Office of Morning and Evening Prayer plus Compline each day– much longer than ours and chanted chorally with the King James version of the Psalms and Readings.
St. Simeon Skete has given me a new Old Kentucky Home, for everything there confirmed my long established appreciation of the Gospel-value that underlies our traditional Marian Rosary. Fr.Seraphim and his beloved wife brought me back to the words of the Prophet Jeremiah: 6,16 Halt at the cross-roads, look well and ask yourselves which path it was that stood you in good stead long ago. That path follow, and you shall find rest for your souls.


It is the practice at St. Simeon Skete to do manual labor every day.

Although he was on Retreat, Fr. Gabriel was willing and ready for any chore the Skete might have!  

It was a great pleasure to have Fr. Gabriel among us and
 we hope that the chance will come for him to return 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Journey continues

Life is a journey, we all have to work our way through it.   And so it is with Nazareth House Apostolate.  

The Nazareth House Compound continues to be a work in progress.  There is still much to be done and that depends on the funding.  Our contractor buys the materials and pays the laborers with each cent we send him.  At this very moment, if someone made a single donation of $12,750, the contractor could finish the project and Nazareth House could move forward - putting the compound to its intended use.  A single donation could happen and it would be wonderful, however, Nazareth House is about teamwork.   Through prayer and teamwork, we were brought to this point and it is sure that it will bring us further in the future.  We need to spike up the adrenalin for one more fundraising rally to get this accomplished. 

James and Kadijah have 5 more days left in Freetown.  Then, maybe, they can stay in the NHA School (there is no running water, there is no electricity or doors to lock up at night).  Its all uncertain.  In the past, we've pulled together and raised over $15,000 in a month for the rent of St. Laurence House in Freetown or for Mission Trips - Let's do it again.   We've proven we can do it.   

As we dig into our pockets and engage others to give for our current needs, lets also remember the goal of 1000 people giving $25 per month.  The American population is rather large and 1000 people is not a huge number to involve in an organization.  Many people have 1000 or more friends on Facebook.   

$25 per month is a reasonable amount, some of us spend more than that on Lattes and Fast Food that simply add unhealthy weight to our bodies.  If we arrive at the goal of 1000 giving $25 it will allow us a dependable budget for all avenues of Nazareth House Apostolates work and the emergency appeals such as this post would decrease and/or hopefully become non existent.    

While we work to bring the NHA Compound to completion, I'm thinking of the journey.  

A journey made together, walking side by side from both sides of the Atlantic, with parts of NHA dipping their toes in the Pacific.   

There is a bond that transcends the physical yet pronounces the things of the heart and brings about unity.


In Nazareth House, together, we're accomplishing that bond, that unity - a fete that many organizations  cannot lay claim.    

When you think of NHA, you think of Africa - namely Sierra Leone, but Nazareth House is made up of people all over the world. 
Fr. Gabriel Harty OP, visiting St. Simeon Skete from Ireland

In the coming weeks through this blog you'll get to know more and more about this NHA Team and the faces that make it up.  
Katherine (Chico, CA) made needlepoint Pocket Crosses and sold them to raise money for NHA.
Here she is presenting Vicki with the proceeds. 

We started out by taking baby steps; 

and then we did a little running...

 Sometimes the path became cold and slippery, 

sometimes the load is heavy.  

Sometimes the load is lighter. 
We've broken down, 
and got back up and started running again,

Awkward loads, rough roads - the journey continues.  

There have been times when we just have to rely on someone else to come and carry us further. 

 There are narrow paths across water.

We've released our share of tears, 

but when the road is steep, 

someone always steps up to help shove us to the top.
 Sometimes it seems we are running in circles 
but there is always  helping hands to reach out 

and keep us going, giving us a strong and  steady pull there
... together your NHA Team climbs the hill.   

And in doing so, we've been able to leap over huge obstacles, 
 even though we've scraped our knees, twisted our ankles, 
Together we keep on pushing onward, more importantly we've kept on loving.  
  NHA will stay on the journey because the path we follow is LOVE 

Pray Love Walk - a - thon:  St. Augustine Anglican Church, Chico CA 

("He that loveth not knoweth not God; for GOD IS LOVE." 1 John 4:8)

Please send your tax deductible donations (remember small or large every donation brings us closer to meeting our goal) to:

Nazareth House Apostolate
185 Captains Cove Drive
Taylorsville, KY 40071

or through our website