Preparation and Serving of Funeral for Bishop Varlaam (Novakshonoff)

February 17, 2020 to February 22, 2020

Monday, February 17 – Volunteers are needed for funeral preparations, such as cleaning the church inside and outside, which will start at 9 a.m. We want to make the monastery setting as nice as possible in preparation for the arrival of Vladika Varlaam on Friday.

Friday, February 21 – Vladika Varlaam will be brought to the monastery at 4 p.m. and then a vigil will start at 4 p.m. and go on throughout the evening and night, until Saturday morning.  The Psalms will be read continually, in a multitude of languages, until 11 a.m. on Saturday when the funeral service will begin.
A list has been created with the names of those people who are willing to read the Psalms and the times when they are available to do so. Please contact Father Mircea (Markel) @ (604) 441 – 7634 in order to add your name to this list; all are welcome to volunteer to read.

Saturday, February 22 – The Funeral Service for Vladika Varlaam will commence at 11 a.m. at the monastery.
The funeral procession will accompany Vladika Varlaam to the Heritage Gardens Cemetery, located at 19082 16th Avenue, in Surrey, B.C.
The Interment Service will begin at approximately 2:00 p.m. at the cemetery.
A memorial meal will be held at the monastery afterwards.

We want to thank all of you for your help, prayers and support during this difficult time.

The Life of Bishop Varlaam

Source: Orthodox Canada

Basil (Vasili) Novakshonoff was born in 1935, near Buchanan, in east-central Saskatchewan, Canada. As is usual in Canada for his given name, he was called “William” in English. His parents were Russians of the "Old Believers" and "Doukhobor" ancestry, members of families that had immigrated from the Caucasus region in south Russia to the region of Verigin, Saskatchewan in 1899. 

In the context of that history, Basil was raised as an Orthodox Christian, in the Orthodox Christian Faith in Saskatchewan.

Following his early education in Saskatchewan, Basil studied Slavic languages and culture at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, where he also taught the Russian language for some time.

In 1968, after having visited the of Mount Athos monasteries of Mount Athos, Greece, Basil joined Lev Puhalo in the founding of the Monastery of All Saints of North America in the Province of British Columbia, Canada. The initial site of the monastery was east of Rosedale, British Columbia (which is near Chilliwack). The original facilities were very primitive. In this monastic venture, he became known as Vasili. 

During the early days of the yet germinal monastery, Vasili continued working in the Fraser Valley Regional Library system in British Columbia in order to finance both the monastery and its missionary work. As part of their missionary endeavours, Vasili translated several Russian spiritual and theological works into English. He also conducted symposiums and spiritual talks for both the English- and Russian-speaking communities. Amongst his early translations were the "Life of St. Theophil the Fool for Christ of the Kiev Caves", and the "Life of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg", and they were published by Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. He also translated various works of Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) into English. These were published by his own monastery in British Columbia. 

Involved in the publishing of books, booklets and pamphlets was the acquisition of printing machines. With these machines, the two were truly able to publish their own works. They developed what became known as "Synaxis Press", the purpose of which was to provide quality Orthodox educational material both for domestic monastic use, and for missionary purposes. 

In 1973, the monastery moved to better facilities in Chilliwack, British Columbia.

In 1981, Vasili Novakshonoff was tonsured to be a monk, and given the name Varlaam by the Hieromonk Lazar (Puhalo). 

Earlier in that year, Lev Puhalo had been ordained to the Holy Priesthood and tonsured to be a monk with the name Lazar.

In 1983, Metropolitan Irinej (Kovacevic) of the New Gracanica Metropolitanate ordained the monk Varlaam to the Holy Diaconate and then to the Holy Priesthood in order to serve the monastery and its associated parish.

In 1985, the Hieromonk Varlaam (Novakshonoff) answered an appeal from the new English-language parish of Saint Nicholas in Langley, British Columbia to serve as their priest. Father Varlaam also started a small candle factory to make beeswax candlesthat were difficult to find in their area. Finding affordable beeswax locally was very difficult, and it had to be brought in from a distance.

In late 1991, the fathers moved the monastery to a new property in Dewdney, British Columbia, which was east of the town of Mission. The new property had a large main building. However, when the monks took possession, this building needed considerable repairs because of the neglect of the previous owners, and because there had also been a fire. The monastery continued the name of the “Orthodox Monastery of All Saints of North America”, but it was also affectionately referred to as “New Ostrog” (after the Ostrog Monastery in Montenegro). The monastery in Dewdney was, at that time, under the jurisdiction of a branch of the Authentic Orthodox Church of Greece (Old Calendarist).

In 1994, the Hieromonk Varlaam (Novakshonoff) was ordained to the Holy Episcopate, and he was given the title Bishop of Vancouver. The ordination took place at the Church of Saint Nicholas in Langley, British Columbia.

From the time of the episcopal ordination, Vladyka Varlaam continued his activities within the monastery. However, he also served in one or another parish in accordance with the need and the blessing. Characteristically, he has constantly been loved and respected.

In 2003, the monastery and its clergy were received into the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America. This reception included Bishop Varlaam as a retired bishop, and he was given the title “Former Bishop of Vancouver”.

In 2007, Bishop Varlaam retired from his pastoral duties at Saint Nicholas’ Church, Langley, British Columbia, which he had been caring for until then. This reduction in activity was required because of his weakening health. He began serving only at the Monastery of All Saints of North America in Dewdney, British Columbia. 

Bishop Varlaam was known for his linguistic competence and for his pastoral work, which includes caring for recent immigrants from Russia, Ukraine and Moldova. Because of these particular personal gifts of Bishop Varlaam, the monastery was able to offer services in English from the beginning, and at the same time to serve various immigrants from Slavic-speaking and Romanian-speaking countries who had recently made Canada their home. They had been seeking to recover the Faith of their fathers and mothers, and they had thus come to a richer understanding of their ancestral Faith through his pastoral service. Many of these new Canadians in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia (raised during the Soviet period in Soviet territories) have been baptised and entered into the life of the Orthodox Christian Church with joy. 

Along with his translations of the theological works of Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) from Russian, Bishop Varlaam prepared a series of children’s books for catechetical purposes. Bishop Varlaam and Archbishop Lazar both used their particular gifts in order to prepare elegant translations of many liturgical texts into English.
Vladika Varlaam (as did Vladika Lazar) began in the decade following 2010 to suffer from cancer. He was given various treatments, and he was feeling stronger again for a substantial amount of time. 

However, in 2019 in particular, his health began to weaken, and it was made clear to him that his situation would be terminal. Although he continued to attend services in the monastery as usual, he was sometimes unable to be present because of pain. There were also treatments which he received, and which sometimes limited him. In February, 2020, he encountered a crisis, and after being taken to hospital, he was admitted to palliative care in Abbotsford. Father Moses and others shared news of him through the internet, since visiting was now quite restricted.

On 13 February, 2020, Bishop Varlaam (Novakshonoff) fell asleep in the Lord.

Vladyka lived a difficult but happy life in Christ : he constantly demonstrated joy.

The Lord allowed Vladyka Varlaam to bring us comfort in life situations, prayed firmly for us, instructed and strengthened in Faith during confession, in sermons, and in person.

Through the personal charm of Vladyka, his extraordinary smile, his simple words – we felt unity with the Almighty.

Earthly life is short. Our common memory of the Bishop Varlaam will outlive us all.