The Studite Monastery and Peace Lighthouse was located in Woodstock, Ontario. It belonged to the Studite Fathers, a Ukrainian religious group. Studites work for eight hours, rest for eight hours and pray for eight hours. The Studites are one of the oldest monastic orders of the church. They have a board of directors and monastery located near Rome.
The Studites owned hundreds of acres of land in Woodstock, Ontario which over the years they slowly sold off to property developers.
The Woodstock monastery was operated by a monk named Reverend Evtimy Wolinski (Herbert Wolinski). Wolinski is the last member of his order in Canada. An order dating back to AD 500.
In June of 2000, Wolinski was responsible for establishing the Woodstock Peace Lighthouse of Icons which contained more than 100 religious icons and religious paintings. Wolinski had hoped to create interest in the monastery and attract tourists. By winter construction had halted on the $2.5 million project as the monastery was unable to pay the bills.
The Woodstock Peace Lighthouse was designed by J.L. Cortes Architect Corporation. Construction was started in March of 2000 and finally completed in June of 2002. The cost was approximately $2,130,000 (1). Visitors could walk the lighthouse and view the variety of paintings hung on the walls.
Around June of 2009, a woman named Viktoriya Abelyar was hired by the Studite Fathers to help organize a Ukranian-speaking prayer group known as the “Keepers of the Light”. She volunteered to perform secretarial work and gardening at the church and in return was allowed to live on the property and was provided with food and health care.
In January of 2010 Wolinski and Abelyar began an intimate common-law relationship which resulted in the birth of a child. The church responded by forbidding Abelyar from being on the church property. The church also removed Wolinski from his duties at the monastery. While priests are allowed to marry, monks are not permitted to. Wolinski now survives through his old-age pension.
I’d been keeping a watch on this location. During my second visit in 2014 I walked around the building trying the doors. I thought it was going to be with the same disappointing results until I tried one door and it opened. Adrenaline pumping, I hurried back to the car and gathered my camera gear.The owners then boarded up the windows and doors. This led frustrated youths to begin throwing rocks through the stained glass windows. Someone then kicked in a ground level window board and the church and hallways sprayed painted with graffiti.
I was able to return on another occasion to find the rear door had been broken open and the youths had moved their gathering indoors. There was a table which appeared they’d been using to gather around and smoke. Remarkably other than using the back hall for hanging out, there was still no vandalism.
By 2017 word had spread that this gathering place was open and the inevitable vandalism began. Graffiti was painted on the exterior rear walls and inside the church.
For now, the residents of Woodstock can take comfort as the property has sat idle since purchase and the land was put back up for sale after it’s purchase by PICI.
On November 22, 2020, five people ranging from 17 to 21 from the Niagara Falls area were charged with trespassing at the former lighthouse.
These photos were taken in 2014.
These photos are from December 2015.
And the inevitable outcome.
As for the monestery, it was demolished in January of 2018 after being purchased by PICI investments. The company had planned to build apartments for seniors and young people. They solicitated feedback from the community, who opined that they didn’t want a large apartment building on their quiet street. Regardless, the City of Woodstock granted a permit to build new housing on the grounds of the former monastery. However the property sat idle for a few years and was put back onto the market.
The property stood in limbo from 2021 to 2022 until April of 2022 when the bulldozers arrived, fencing went up, and the last remains of this property and the Studite Monks were torn down.