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Man seeks to create Russian Orthodox monastery

NIAGARA FALLS -- A religious leader looking to help establish a Russian Orthodox monastery hopes one day to stir souls in the heart of the city.

But first he will start with stomachs.

The Rev. Nicholas Iuhos will begin selling pierogies this week that he and others are making in a new factory at 1410 Main St.

Iuhos, who heads Father Nicholas International Pierogies, plans to open his store to the public on Wednesday. The small business, formerly a video shop and a dry cleaning business, stands across the street from the Earl W. Brydges Public Library.

He was able to purchase the building in January for $12,000 from Daniel P. Kneepel of Niagara Falls.

Iuhos said he has worked hard to get just the right recipes for his pierogies, which come in several varieties, including cabbage, potato and cheese, prune, ricotta cheese and sauerkraut.

His brainstorm came after receiving permission from the Rev. Herman Swaiko, head of his church, to allow him to begin the Holy Cross Orthodox Monastery. The idea to sell the pierogies came from a need to make some money to support the monastery, Iuhos said.

The few workers at the factory, all of whom are volunteers, can produce tens of thousands of pierogies per week, Iuhos said.

With the help of his diocese's $50,000 grant, he was able to purchase the building and some machines to make the pierogies. However, workers need to make a few kinds of the tasty treats the old-fashioned way.

"Sauerkraut and cabbage we have to make by hand because the stuffing can go through," Iuhos said.

Plans for the monastery include organizing special spiritual retreats and lectures for those interested in learning more about the Orthodox faith, spirituality and more.

The monastery, built in the former Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church at 3920 Pine Ave., needs many repairs, Iuhos said. The 3.5-acre property includes a brownstone church, rectory, garage, and separate building with three apartments upstairs. There also is a hall, a kitchen, a future library and a basement.

Repairs are needed for the main building, including a new roof, new windows, new electrical wiring and a new heating and air conditioning system. Once restored, Iuhos said, the monks will be able to live in the building.

The Rev. Paul Solberg, of St. George Orthodox Church in Lewiston, said some of his members help out Iuhos. The help has included modifying the church into a monastery.

"They love Father Nicholas and we love the taste of the pierogies, too," Solberg said.

Some of his members also have helped by welcoming Russian visitors into their homes while they work at the pierogi operation.

Solberg said, "We're happy that we have a monastery in our community."

Iuhos said he plans to bring monks from Eastern Europe to start living the monastic life and hopes to attract other candidates from the United States and Canada as well. He said he already has a few candidates ready to come to the monastery, which he hopes can be a tourist attraction in the future.

Part of the income derived from the pierogi factory will be used to help needy military families and to set up scholarships for their children, Iuhos said. He also plans to construct a shrine at Holy Cross dedicated in memory of American soldiers.

Another portion of the profits will go toward providing the monks with health insurance, Iuhos said.

Other volunteers helping Iuhos with his new business include members from SS. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church in Buffalo.

Iuhos pointed out that pierogies are "not just a Polish thing. The pierogies are actually an Eastern European thing."

Anyone hoping to buy a dozen pierogies, which sell for $5 to the general public, can just stop in at the new store, Iuhos said. He will sell them in wholesale bundles to businesses at a lower price, he said.

Those looking to familiarize themselves with the operation can go to www.holycross-niagarafalls.org, or call the business at 282-3694.

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>Barbecue benefit

In other religion matters, volunteers from the Shawnee Sno-Chiefs are sponsoring a chicken barbecue and basket auction to benefit Michael Mueller, an 8-year-old Cambria boy who is undergoing 42 weeks of chemotherapy treatments for a rare childhood bone cancer called Ewings Sarcoma.

The event, held from noon to 6 p.m. May 19, takes place at the Cambria Fire Hall, 4631 Cambria-Wilson Road. Adults will pay $15, while children under 12 will pay $5. The day's events will also include raffles.

Michael's mother, Cindy K. Mueller, said recently that she and the rest of her family are relieved the community has been helping out with expenses, which recently included traveling to Boston to see a specialist.

e-mail: pkowalik@buffnews.com

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