Monastery of the Exultation of the Most Holy Cross

The Monastery of the Exultation of the Most Holy Cross (Holy Cross) was a Byzantine Catholic monastery founded in 1982 and located in Miami, Florida. The abbot of this monastery was Archimandrite Gregory Wendt, and his second in command was Igumen Damian Gibault.

In 1985 the monastery began an affiliated school, Holy Cross Academy. Among the students at the academy were teenaged boys recruited from the Ukraine. The youths attended school at the academy and lived at the monastery as novices.

In 2001, an eighteen year old monk-in-training, Mykhaylo Kofel, murdered a Holy Cross nun, Sister Michelle Lewis. The novice was quickly apprehended and confessed to the killing.

However, in his confession Kofel also claimed that Wendt and Gibault had sexually abused him since he arrived from the Ukraine as a 14 year old. The two priests have steadfastly denied these allegations. Moreover, the other novices testified that they were not abused, and that they did not observe Kofel being abused.

In 2003 the monastery was received into the Orthodox Church in America by Metropolitan Herman Swaiko. At this time it was renamed Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos Monastery.

In 2005, Kofel pled guilty to the charges against him, and received a 30 year sentence. When he completes his prison sentence, he will be deported to the Ukraine.

Following sentencing, Kofel gave a complete statement concerning his alleged abuse to law enforcement. A copy of this statement, which is a matter of public record, is linked below.

Subsequently, the monastery sold their Miami properties and relocated to Weaverville, North Carolina.