New Skete

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New Skete Monastery in the snow.

New Skete is the collective term for three Orthodox Christian monastic communities in Cambridge, New York (geographically in the neighboring town of White Creek):

  • The Monks of New Skete, a men's monastery founded in 1966 by Laurence Mancuso, their first abbot,
  • the Nuns of New Skete, a women's monastery founded in 1969, and
  • the Companions of New Skete, a community of married monastics founded in 1982.

All three communities are under the omophorion of the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America. They are best known in the world at large for their breeding and training of German Shepherds as companions and guide dogs, and the training of all breeds in basic obedience. The Monks have written several dog-training manuals, including The Art of Raising a Puppy and How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners.

They are unique in that they have instituted wide-ranging reforms to the divine office and eucharistic liturgies of the Eastern Orthodox Church, aimed at rendering the services more comprehensible. They maintain an open stance regarding ecumenical contacts with other Christian groups; the nave of their newer temple features iconographic portraits of prominent non-Orthodox such as Pope John XXIII, Archbishop Michael Ramsey, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta,[1] and the communities celebrate the feast of the Roman Catholic saint Francis of Assisi. This openness has brought them criticism from Orthodox conservatives and traditionalists; but the Monks and Nuns strongly defend their renewal of liturgy and monastic life as a necessity if Orthodox monasticism is to be more than "museum-keeping" in the modern world. The monastery has also attracted the presence of a small but vibrant lay community of cradle Orthodox Christians[2] and converts from the surrounding area.

On 16 April 2007, the television show Divine Canine premiered on the cable television channel Animal Planet. The show features the dog training program of the Monks of New Skete.[3]

Monks of New Skete[edit]

As a monastic community, the Monks of New Skete live with the conviction that an authentic and vibrant monasticism is an essential ingredient to healthy Church life. By nature, the monastic vocation is contemplative and apostolic, challenging both the Church and the world at large to fuller life; therefore, they see their primary responsibility as being authentic monastics. However, they believe this cannot be done by simplistically reproducing previous expressions of monastic life. Monasticism has always incarnated itself within a particular cultural context, so throughout their history the monks have worked to express the mystery and dynamism of their vocation in a manner appropriate to modern culture and times.

Working toward this end, the Monks' daily schedule reflects an integrated blend of liturgical and personal prayer, work, study, and prudent openness to the world. Anchored in a daily cycle of matins and vespers (with Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days), they try to make themselves available to all who come to the monastery, in a manner that is in keeping with their vocation. Many people visit the monastery each year, either to make retreats, attend services, or visit the gift shop and grounds, or as dog customers.[citation needed]

Nuns of New Skete[edit]

The Nuns of New Skete, originally a group of Poor Clares, moved from Indiana to live near to the monks in 1969. They support themselves by baking New York-style gourmet cheesecakes for sale in their gift shop and on their website.[4] [5]

Companions of New Skete[edit]

The Companions of New Skete are married couples living under monastic orders. They were formed in 1983 and operate a bed and breakfast nearby.[5]

Publications on Religion/Spirituality[edit]

Publications on Raising and Training Dogs[edit]

Synopsis: The Monks of New Skete have been world-renowned for their mastered skills in dog training and dog behaviour, as well as linking the connection between dog and human. The Monks focus mainly on German shepherds, but also work with other breeds to support adequate information and intelligence for other dog owners. This book sharply takes you through the fine steps of owning a puppy, starting with the decision whether or not to adopt one. From there it talks about the best ways of finding a puppy, house-training, foundations of training, reading to your dog, becoming the pack leader, basic training, enjoying your puppy, discipline and common puppy problems, and general care for your puppy. This book also includes chapters on socialization, puppy aptitude testing, and microchipping.

  • Divine Canine: The Monks' Way to a Happy, Obedient Dog, The Monks of New Skete, Hyperion, September 18, 2007, ISBN 1-4013-0925-9
  • I & Dog, The Monks of New Skete, John Sann, and Monique Stauder (Photographer), Yorkville Press, November 3, 2003, ISBN 0-9729427-3-4


  1. ^ Wall icons of the Church of the Holy Wisdom.
  2. ^ A "cradle Orthodox Christian" is someone who has been raised in the faith from infancy.
  3. ^ Divine Canine, Animal Planet website
  4. ^ Hoffman, Jan. "Mixing Scripture Into the Batter--The Nuns of New Skete Make Cheesecakes". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  5. ^ a b The New York Sun, "Laurence Mancuso, 72, Leader of Dog-Training Monks" June 27, 2007.

External links[edit]