In 1979, His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony, then the newly-elected bishop of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of San Francisco, shared his vision for the creation of a retreat and conference center that could be used to provide spiritual programs for the faithful of the diocese, especially the youth. A young priest, Father John Bakas, hearing Bishop Anthony’s words, thought of a friend who had a large parcel of land nestled in a beautiful valley in the Sierra Nevada foothills, just outside of Sequoia National Park. The property, owned by Nick and Sandy Kossaras and family, had once been part of the huge Sally K horse ranch, which in the early 20th century had provided work horses that pulled wagons of ice to homes and businesses in the San Joaquin Valley. The Kossaras family enthusiastically embraced the Bishop’s dream and donated the entire 180 acres to the Diocese.
Immediately, it became a center for retreats and a youth summer camp. In the early days, the old ranch buildings were utilized, the centerpiece being a two-story horse barn built in the 1890’s in which a chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas was built. Before long, a beautiful conference and retreat center took shape. The original 180 acres grew to nearly 300 as additional parcels were purchased. Metropolitan Anthony’s vision was made complete with the opening of the Monastery of the Theotokos the Life Giving Spring, built on a hill overlooking the Ranch, offering a spiritual oasis of Orthodox Christian worship and spirituality.
His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony reposed in the Lord on Christmas Day 2004 and it was only fitting that a place he loved so much would become his final earthly resting place. He is interred behind the altar of the Katholikon at the Monastery, looking down on the Ranch and rejoicing that it remains a thriving ministry of the Metropolis which he lovingly served for 25 years.
Under the spiritual direction of His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos, Saint Nicholas Ranch continues to fulfill its original mission: To provide programs for the spiritual renewal and growth of the faithful, in an atmosphere promoting the wholeness of the individual, body, mind and spirit, and to be a resource center for parish needs, offering religious education, retreats, conferences and leadership development programs for all ages, reaching out especially to the youth.
Saint Nicholas Ranch operates throughout the year and is home to a wide variety of programs and events for our Metropolis faithful including: Family Camp, Adult Resort Camp, Elderhostel, Parish Retreats, Summer Camp, Greek Village Camp, Philoptochos Fall Spiritual Conference, Kids ‘n’ Cancer Camp Agape, Saint John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival, Metropolis Clergy-Laity Assembly, and Clergy Retreats. The Ranch is also utilized by other faith based groups, schools, community organizations, and music ensembles for their educational programs and retreats. These include family reunions, parish retreats, high school retreats, marriage encounters, conferences, and music camps.
The vision of Metropolitan Anthony, of blessed memory, to expand the Ranch facilities has now been fulfilled with the completion of the Alex and Faye Spanos Faith and Heritage Center which officially opened on September 22, 2016. This beautiful new facility provides space for expanded educational programs, administrative offices, conference rooms, worship services in the Saint Photini Chapel, archives, and the Metropolitan Anthony Gallery.