Nuns return to St. Barbara’s Monastery as fires continue to spread

Mother Victoria and the nuns of St. Barbara’s Monastery in Santa Paula, California, 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles, have returned to their monastery after being evacuated due to a wildfire outbreak last Monday, reports the monastery’s website.

As previously reported, a fire broke out in a canyon near Santa Paula last Monday evening, after the monastery sisterhood had celebrated its patronal feast day Liturgy earlier in the day. By early Tuesday the fire had spread to about 31,000 acres, leading to the nuns and thousands others fleeing their homes.

“Due to the Thomas Fire which began in a Santa Paula canyon last night, our community has voluntarily evacuated to Oxnard and Santa Barbara,” a message on the monastery’s site read at the time.

Now the site reads, “Our community returned to the monastery this morning. Thankfully, all that burned was our main lavender field and monastery sign at the entrance even though the fire jumped the creek and burned up our bank.”

Furthermore, although the fire had surrounded the monastery, none of the main or secondary structures, including the newly-consecrated chapel, were burnt. The hillside and entire perimeter of the monastery were burnt, however, the message reads. The nuns are still without power and water for the time being.

“They expect there will be ash and other byproducts of the fire to clean out, and there is still considerable smoke in the air for now,” His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco stated on Saturday.

The note ends with a message of gratitude, and an entreaty for continued prayers: “Thank you for your many prayers and messages of concern. Please continue keep those who remain in harm's way in your prayers. Glory to God for all things!”

Several parishioners from St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Camarillo, CA have been evacuated, and one family with small children has lost their home and all their personal belongings, according to the Orthodox Christian Network.

“We call upon God for His protection, for the strengthening of those fighting the fires, for the calming of the wind, and for the comfort of all those who are suffering,” His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese) stated.