The founder and spiritual father of this monastery is Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen).
Vladyka Jonah serves as a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and currently as pastor of St Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church in Stafford, Virginia. Previously, he was the First Hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America.
St Demetrios’ monastic foundations come from the spiritual, theological and monastic formation of Vladyka Jonah. While at Santa Cruz, he came to know several remarkable monastic figures in the Russian Orthodox Church in the Bay Area, including Bishop Mark, the last monk of Old Valaam; Bishop Basil (Rodzianko) of San Francisco; Archimandrite Dmitri of Santa Rosa; Fr Anastasy, and Father Seraphim Rose; all of whom played a role in his formation. After finishing a B.A in Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he went to St Vladimir’s Seminary, and completed the Master of Divinity degree, then later a Master’s in Dogmatic Theology, which included studies at Fordham University and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. He later entered a doctoral program at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. While studying at Berkeley, he was offered the opportunity to spend time working and living in Russia.
Living in Moscow in 1993, he visited Valaam Monastery, and found his spiritual father, Archimandrite (now Bishop) Pankratiy, who took him to his Staretz, Elder Kyrill at the Trinity St Sergius Lavra, who blessed him to become a priest-monk. Partly because of the coup in Russia, it was decided he could do more for Valaam in America than to remain in Russia. He returned, and was ordained a hierodeacon in February, 1994, in Los Angeles. After spending several months that year in Valaam, he returned to California, and was ordained hieromonk (priest-monk) in October of that year. Initially he served as a mission priest for two years, and as a mission-planter, based in Merced, but also serving a small women’s monastery in Santa Rosa, California. He also frequently served a convent of nuns in Dunlap, California, with Abbess Markella, under the guidance of Elder Ephraim.
Fr. Pankratiy visited America, and a meeting was set up with Elder Ephraim, of Philotheou on Mt Athos, who was looking to establish a monastery in Arizona. At that meeting, the Abbot of Valaam and the Elder of Philotheou blessed and gave the obedience to Hieromonk Jonah to start a monastery. With the blessing of Bishop Tikhon of Los Angeles, the Monastery of St John of San Francisco was begun in October of 1996, in Point Reyes Station, California. A community formed, with immense support and guidance from the fathers at Valaam and the other local monastic guides. After ten years in Point Reyes, the community completely outgrew the facilities there, and was able to acquire the property in Manton, California, 250 miles to the north. In Manton, the monastery soon doubled in size to over twenty brothers, and there was a sense of stability and permanence. Sadly, that did not last there.
Many of the elements of this new Monastery of St Demetrios were worked out at St John’s Monastery. The rule, the house rules, the basic way of life, all reflect the work done there to set up a strong cenobitic community reflecting the monastic traditions from Valaam, and influenced by Mt. Athos and St John the Baptist Monastery in Essex. Through a number of visits to Essex, and spending time with Fr Zacharias there, we try to incorporate elements of the vision of St Sophrony into our life, particularly the use of the Jesus Prayer.
There is a Benedictine maxim, “Moderation in all things.” The Rule of St Benedict is an ancient Western Orthodox monastic rule. This maxim is absolutely applicable to our situation in the Orthodox Church today. We strive to work out our salvation, mindful of our sins and weakness, in a spirit of repentance; but not losing touch with the joy that is the fruit of life in Christ.
Having left the position of Metropolitan, he eventually came into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. This transition was very painful, but very fruitful spiritually. One learns to rely completely on God, especially the Jesus Prayer.
During this transition, after finding safe harbor in ROCOR, there was tremendous support from the monastic elders in Russia, from Elder Zacharias in Essex, and from the Holy Mountain, encouraging him to establish a new monastery. Hence, the formation the Monastery of St Demetrios.