By Mike Rostad
When the first Orthodox missionaries from Russia came to evangelize the people of Alaska, they traveled in precarious ships during long, trying voyages that tested the durability of the vessels and the men they carried. The Russian dignitaries coming to Kodiak next week to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the arrival of those first missionaries will travel in much faster and more comfortable conditions. But in spite of the vast differences in modes of travel, the two groups share a common goal – the spreading of the Gospel. Reflecting over the trials, adventures and sacrifices, of those first evangelists, His Eminence, David Mahaffey Bishop of the Orthodox Church in America’s Alaska diocese, said their mission was the driving force behind the establishment of St. Herman’s Theological Seminary, which trains men and women to effectively work in the Church. The namesake of the Seminary was amongst those first missionaries, who will be acknowledged during the anniversary celebration, slated for Monday, Sept 23. through Wednesday, Sept. 25 in Kodiak. Most of those missionaries came from a monastery located on Valaam, the largest island on Lake Ladoga in Russian Karelia.
At the Kodiak celebration, Valaam will be represented by Valaam monks Archimandrite Ilya, Assistant to Bishop Pancraty, the administrator of Valaam Monastery, and Brother Herman. Mahaffey said the two-day celebration was planned to accommodate those who will attend the Diocesan Assembly in Anchorage over the weekend. The anniversary celebration begins with a 6 p.m.Great Vespers service at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral on Monday, Sept. 23. Divine Liturgy is scheduled at the Cathedral for Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 9 a.m. Seminary students will get a chance to meet with the Russian entourage at a luncheon in the Best Western Chart Room during the week. Mahaffey said the anniversary celebration is a means of recalling and renewing that first vision that was embraced by the original missionaries.
“The Seminary is built up as a way of continuing the vision of the original missionaries -- to train people to reach out to the people of Alaska,”Mahaffey said.
Recounting the history of the first Orthodox mission to Alaska, Mahaffey said the missionaries left Valaam monastery in 1793. Before boarding the vessels that took them to Alaska, the clerics took a long arduous journey in Siberia. It took them over a year to reach Kodiak, Mahaffey said.
Father Iosaph, leader of the mission, “established the community and set everything up,” Mahaffey said. “He went back to Russia to be ordained a bishop.” Iosaph had other business to take care of in Russia. He brought back written complaints about Governor Alexander Baranov’s treatment of the Native people.
“When the monks first came here they were appalled at how brutally Baranov and his men treated the Native people, Mahaffey said. Unfortunately the ship (that was to bring Iosaph and other clerics back to Kodiak capsized on the way home. “Father Iosaph “perished with everybody else on board,” Mahaffey said. When the Russian clerics established the Kodiak mission, Metropolitan Gabriel was the hierarch in Russia; Catherine the Great was empress of the country, Mahaffey said. “They had a desire to have an Orthodox presence in Alaska.” The225th anniversary) acknowledges “an important time,” Mahaffey said. “This was the first Christian presence in Alaska. “This was a concerted effort to baptize and evangelize the people of Alaska”
Mahaffey noted that Catherine (the Great referred to the Alaska Native people as “’Americans.’ They never were called ‘Natives’ by the Russians. That’s a colloquial American term. They (the Alaska Natives) had equal status under the law as Russian citizens once they were baptized. They were treated the same as every other Russian citizen, even in court.” The Russians “took some of the best and brightest” of the Alaska Natives and brought them to Russia where they were educated, said Mahaffey. Some became renowned navigators, cartographers, political leaders and clergymen.
“We want to continue to realize the mission that the (first missionaries) had,” said Mahaffey. When the monastics first came to Alaska in 1794, “there were some pretty rough things going on between the fur traders and the people. In a way, the modern world is very much like that. It’s hostile to our faith; hostile to people who want to have a spiritual life,” Mahaffey said, pointing out that the Church is not immune from problems, such as alcoholism, that face Alaska. “We’re committed to changing that, by offering at the seminary new programs to help,” Mahaffey said. “We’re going to be able to do more to help people in the villages.” The purpose of the 225th anniversary celebration is to “recall and renew that vision of the mission to the people,”Mahaffey said. While Cathedral and Seminary officials are busy getting ready for next week’s anniversary celebration, they are in the midst of preparing for another milestone anniversary. In 2020, people from all over the world will come to Kodiak to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the canonization of St. Herman of Alaska, one of those first missionaries who set foot on Kodiak soil in 1794. The Holy Synod of Bishops will be here for that event, Mahaffey said.
Ordination of Father Methodius Nicori and Deacon Herman Madsen - 05/15/16
Christ is risen! Kristos Voskerese! Kristusaaq Unguirtuq! There are days when everything sems to proceed smoothly by God’s grace. The altar boys, starosta, servers, readers, deacons and subdeacons, priests, Bishop and the Choir all experienced this abundant grace of God. The Orthodox faithful of Holy Resurrection Cathedral celebrated the bright feast of Myrrh-Bearing Women on May 15, 2016 with joy and thanksgiving.
The Divine Liturgy was especially beautiful given the momentous occasion. The choir, led by Marilyn Kreta, carried the souls of the faithful up to angelic heights. The bass voices of the clergy filled the hearts of the faithful with the fear of the Lord. Everybody prayed, sang, and served in unison. What blessed memories to carry in their hearts for the newly ordained clergy, their family, and friends!
During the Ordination, the clergy had deep emotions of love and gratitude surging through their hearts. The entire congregation witnessed the ordination and affirmed the work of the Holy Spirit by shouting in unison "Axios!" (Greek word meaning "worthy").
The Madsens and the Johnsons families watched with mixed feelings of joy and awe how Subdeacon Herman was ordained Deacon. Mary Erika Madsen, Herman's wife, is now Matushka Mary. What a blessing and what a huge responsibility! The Nicori family gathered together by the ambo to witness the transformation of the father of the family, Deacon Methodius, into Priest Methodius.
On this bright day seminary faculty, parish members, families, and guests experienced great joy and thanked Our Lord for His abundant gifts of grace. Christ is risen! Kristos Voskerese! Kristusaaq Unguirtuq!
St. Herman Seminary Graduation Ceremony 2016 - 05/15/16
Christ is risen! It's graduation time! This year, five students – Priest Joseph Larson, Priest Methodius Nicori, Mother Gabriella (Orgain), Matushka Mary Erika Madsen, and Subdeacon Luke Levi – graduated and Subdeacon James Keene received his Church Reader's Certificate. Also, former seminarian Deacon Innocent received his Clinical Pastoral Education Certificate. Our graduates will go on to serve Orthodox communities throughout Alaska.
Graduations involve speeches, diplomas, congratulations, smiles, tears, presents, a big cake, and tons of pictures! St. Herman’s had all of this and more! Vladyka David, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska, opened the graduation ceremony with a prayer and introduced special guests Dr. David Ford, Professor of Church History at St. Tikhon’s Theological Seminary, and Dr. Patricia Wilson-Cone of Providence Alaska Medical Center’s CPE program. Archpriest Dr. John Dunlop, Seminary Dean, welcomed the gathered guests and thanked the faculty for their sacrifices.
Dr. David Ford offered a beautiful address on unity in Christ. He pointed out that unity in Christ is the very essence of the Church. The Orthodox Church in Alaska holds a very special place in North American Church history because the Church is built on an Alaskan foundation. He urged Alaskans to know that they are bonded in unity with the rest of the Church in America and throughout the world. Through Jesus Christ the whole Body of the Church is kept in oneness of heart and mind. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Dr. Patricia Wilson Cone (Providence Alaska Medical Center Program Manager CPE - Clinical Pastoral Education) shared her appreciation of the hard work of Deacon Innocent and Mother Gabriella toward their CPE certificates. She was overjoyed at the cooperation between St.Herman’s and Providence Alaska Medical Center. In the future this cooperation will only grow and expand. In the future, Dr. Patricia will help mentor more students in the Providence CPE program.
The ceremony continued with Matushka Marilyn Kreta sharing her memories of Father Joseph Kreta, the founding Dean of the Seminary. She presented an archival gift (the first item in the upcoming donations to the Protopresbyter Joseph Kreta Collection) to the Diocesan Archive housed at the Seminary. Finally, Mary Ann Khoury of Outreach Alaska showered graduating seminarians with gifts from their sponsors. Bishop David closed the ceremony with a prayer and a blessing. After partaking of a small homemade feast prepared by seminary cook Matushka Elsie Nicori, clergy, seminarians, their families, and guests had fellowship at the beautiful Afognak Native Corporation building. Everyone had many stories to share and many pictures to take.
In January 2016, Deacon Methodius traveled to New Orleans to participate in a home rebuilding program sponsored by the International Orthodox Christian Charities. Like two other St. Herman’s students before him (Father Joseph Larson and Subdeacon Herman Madsen), Deacon Methodius had enough time not only to do the carpentry work and attend the services at the beautiful Holy Trinity Cathedral, the oldest Greek Orthodox church in the Americas, but also to walk around the beautiful New Orleans, partake of most flavorful Creole cuisine, and socialize and engage in theological discussions with seminarians from St. Vladimir’s, St. Tikhon’s, and Holy Cross Theological Seminaries.
The Altar of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, New Orleans, LA
When asked whether he felt overwhelmed by the vibrant New Orleans culture or intimidated by the knowledgeable seminarians from all over the nation, Deacon Methodius exclaimed assertively, “Not in the least!” In fact, this native of Kwethluk used a week-long trip as an opportunity to promote Alaskan way of life the best way he could: his guitar left in Kodiak, Deacon used his powers as a storyteller to enchant his audience with the descriptions of Alaska’s unfathomable expanses, hunting and dog-mushing stories, and, of course, Native Alaskan food. Deacon Methodius has even taken the trouble to bring some of his Native clothes with him – seal-skin parka and skufia and a pair of beaver-skin mittens. Most popular, however, were Deacon’s stories of Blessed Father Herman, of Saint Innocent of Alaska, Equal to the Apostles and Enlightener of North America, of Saint Yakov (Netzvetov), Enlightener of the Native People of Alaska, and, of course, of Deacon’s fellow Kwethlukian, Blessed Matushka Olga. We can only pray that SHS senior delivered well the powerful message of their Lives to his Orthodox teammates.
Deacon Methodius Nicori, Orthodox Church in America, Diocese of Alaska
And the final touch to the story of SHS itinerant deacon: while on board the plane, Deacon Methodius recognized Jim Caviezel, a devout Catholic actor best known for his portrayal of Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” Never shy to approach people, Deacon Methodius asked for a photo “autograph” which was kindly granted. As he later presented it in a lively report to his fellow seminarians, “I went down south to New Orleans and found … ‘Jesus’”!
Jim Caviezel and Deacon Methodius Nicori at the Airport
For more information on International Orthodox Christian Charities (“Seminary Action Team”) and Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New Orleans, LA, please, follow the links below:
Matushka Bea Lecturing on God's Condescension
Matushka Bea, the wife of Seminary’s Dean, Father John Dunlop, plays not one but many important roles in the life of St. Herman Theological Seminary and Kodiak Parish: she is the Seminary’s Registrar, a New Testament, Patristics, Theology of Marriage, and New Testament Greek Instructor, Holy Resurrection Cathedral Choir Director (part-time), Sunday School Program Coordinator, and, last but not least, the mother of two teenage boys, who excel in math, music, sciences, and ancient languages (no wonder!). In December of 2015, the Sisterhood of St. John Orthodox Cathedral in Eagle River and, specifically, Matushka Bea’s students of nineteen years ago, Khouria (Arabic for “Matushka”) Colleen Polson and her husband Robert (now the Very Reverend Father Robert John Polson of St. John’s Parish) invited Matushka Bea to give a retreat. St. John’s is well known to many Alaskan Orthodox for its “Eagle River Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies,” where many renowned Orthodox speakers lecture on various topics related to Orthodoxy. Around thirty-five women attended the retreat, among them Matushka Xenia Oleksa, wife of Father Michael Oleksa, and Marina Hoffman, St. Herman’s former administrative assistant. Some women outside St. John’s parish attended as well.
St. John's Cathedral Sisterhood Retreat 2015, Anchorage, Alaska
Matushka Bea’s Nativity-inspired topic, “God’s Condescension,” centered on the great mystery of God coming down to live with us creatures and to become one of us. At first, she focused on the meaning of the original Greek synkatabasis – “going down together with” as opposed to its Latin counterpart condescensio – a “voluntary assumption of equality with a person regarded as inferior.” Furthermore, following the suggestion of Robert Hill, a famous translator of St. John Chrysostom, Matushka offered the understanding of synkatabasis as God’s “considerateness,” his coming down together with us. Overall, the major goal of the talk was to reflect on “the God who bends down to create us and bends down to live among us, the one who “bows the heavens and comes down” (Psalm 144:5).”
While at St. John’s, Matushka Bea was impressed, among other things, with St. John’s Catechesis program “Good Shepherd,” which is based on a Montessori Method of developing a creative and interactive approach to each child’s specific educational needs. At St. Herman’s, Matushka Bea has also tried to incorporate this hands-on, project-based learning approach but at St. John’s it is implemented, according to her, “to the max.” Thus, one of the manipulatives, “the Bible,” looked like a beautiful jewelry box that contained all the Books of the Bible represented by numbered (according to their place in the Old and New Testaments) and size-proportionate (according to their textual length) color-coded wooden blocks. Also, at St. John’s children learn the order and meaning of Orthodox services through role-playing at various “stations” – a “Holy Communion Station” has a miniature replica of an altar with a special tray for paten and a heavy metal cup for “Holy Communion,” a “Baptismal Station” with a miniature imitation of a baptismal font, and tens of other Orthodox “stations.” It must be mentioned here that even though St. Herman’s lacks the “stations,” it can boast a popsicle-stick replica of the Seminary Chapel – the final project of the then freshman and now Father Joseph Larson, Matushka Bea’s Sunday school teacher-apprentice.
Replica of the Chapel of All Saints of Alaska
Montessori or not, St. Herman’s Sunday school program is open to all children of Kodiak parish, while providing training for Seminary student to become Sunday school teachers in Alaska village communities. To begin with, all potential Sunday school teachers undergo the obligatory screening and are taught the basics of providing a safe environment for children. Usually, all the incoming students are excited about the opportunity to teach but sometimes they get “tripped up” with the age-appropriate content: thus, the history of Ecumenical Councils covered in a Seminary course will not necessarily interest children. In this case, learning how to talk to children of a particular age group and making lesson plans usually resolves the issue. Another challenge, according to Matushka Bea, is learning to maintain discipline in a classroom. In this case, she teaches her students to be proactive and plan ahead.
Sunday School Classes Always Start With the Prayer at the Seminary Chapel
After a year of assisting a more experienced student and completing a “hands-on” project, the students can choose the age group they feel comfortable working with – preschool, preteen, or teenage. Immediately, the bond is formed between the teacher and the students: children begin to see their Sunday school teachers as a role-models during weekly church services at Holy Resurrection Cathedral and around campus, which, naturally, inspires Seminary students to be better Christians. During the summer, students usually share their knowledge and experience by running Orthodox Youth Camps. Finally, all of Matushka’s “apprentices” help to prepare for the traditional Christmas or Easter performances based on a story from the Scripture.
Most seminarians characterize Matushka Bea as the most challenging instructor at the Seminary: kind, yet firm, she makes it impossible to come to class unprepared. Driven by the desire to teach all those who want to learn, Matushka Bea does it with unfeigned humility and compassion. Moreover, exemplifying the virtues of a Christian teacher, Matushka never hesitates to “come down” from the Ivory Tower of her superb education (B.A. from Yale University, M.A. from St. Vladimir Theological Seminary, and Ph.D. from Boston College) and use both “hands-on” and “minds-on” techniques to teach her students how to write a paper, how to translate a sentence in Greek, or how to understand the writings of the Orthodox Church Fathers. Thus, when asked about advice she can give to future Sunday school teachers, Matushka Bea smiled gently and said, “Love the kids, that’s all.”
(Listen to Them Ringing Bells By Following the Link)
For millennia, portaging on Kodiak Island involved carrying light-weight skin boats (baidarkas) from one bay to another in order to either shorten the route or avoid the perils of open-ocean travel. It has been a traditional way for the ancient people of Kodiak to move around the island that had numerous capes and narrow bays. In addition, ocean waters presented considerable danger, especially near the shore because of strong tidal currents and waves. For all the aforementioned reasons, Native Alutiiq people had a well-developed system of portages, three of which are described in this section of the travelogue – Portage Bay to Kaiugnak Bay, Kiliuda Bay to Orlovo, and, finally, Ugak Bay to Kalsin Bay.
Women's Bible Study Group at St. Herman Theological Seminary, Fall 2015
Left to Right: Elena Levi, Matushka Sophie Larson, Bernice Keene, Matushka Teresa Isaac,
Mother Gabriella, Matushka Roseann Rucker, Mary Madsen
In 2010, Mother Gabriella, an Alaska-based monastic with the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America, was enrolled into St. Herman Seminary. Soon after, the Dean of the Seminary, Father John Dunlop, well aware of her extensive monastic experience, suggested that she started, just once a week, women’s Bible studies and women-led vespers. According to Mother Gabriella, the project was started simply as “a support group meant to provide information and camaraderie for women at the Seminary.” Now, five years later, the project has transformed itself into a well-established institution: every Tuesday evening, Matushkas, seminary wives, and female seminarians put their housework or homework aside and join Mother Gabriella for vespers at the Seminary Chapel. After vespers, they check on kids at home, feed the hungry husbands, and then go to St. Matthew’s classroom, where they first pray, then socialize with other women over tea and cookies, then read the Bible together or, in teams (!), make presentations about female Orthodox Saints. At the end of the session, they always sing Akathist to the Mother of God.
Mother Gabriella admits that the project has expanded from “simply reading the Gospel together to learning to read and sing in church.” At first, the format of the meetings resembled more of a class setting; these days, however, women first have tea, discuss news, and share problems. Also, Mother Gabriella has recently started the study of the lives of female Orthodox Saints, specifically the patron saints of attending women. It is thanks to this decision that Matushka Teresa will celebrate her first Saint’s Day this year! Also, Mother Gabriella has introduced “themes.” This year’s theme, for example, is “Women Serving the Church.” Mother Gabriella strongly feels that the first step in this service is “to know the Gospel, know the life of Jesus Christ, and know what it means to be a Christian. Out of that, through readings or through learning about female Saints, a personal spiritual life can be deepened or developed.”
At first, Mother Gabriella did not have much feedback, and so she was not sure whether the women were interested or they felt forced to come. It was only later that she found out that most of them really enjoyed coming and having “the night for themselves.” Also, fathers of the families were stepping up and making it possible for their wives to be in church and in class. The transformation of village-shy Matushkas into knowledgeable church readers could not happen overnight, however: gaining the confidence to speak loudly was the first step. At the same time, according to Mother Gabriella, who plays the multiple (unofficial) roles of a tone tutor, choir director, liturgics, Old and New Testaments instructor, it does help to have only women around, so that everybody in the group can “feel free to make mistakes.”
Most of the attendees, like Matushka Teresa Isaac, who has now attended the meetings for more than four years, have not had any significant Bible reading experience before, and so reading whole chapters from the Gospel of Matthew was, in a way, new to her. To help the inexperienced, Mother Gabriella, through the Seminary, ordered dictionaries and encouraged the women to write down sentences or passages they did not understand, so that they could discuss them together in class. Even those coming from a long-standing Moravian tradition of women’s Bible studies, like Matushka Sophie Larson, found the meetings extremely useful, for she could keep “learning Orthodoxy” from Mother Gabriella.
Over the years, the dynamics in the group has changed: it is now the “seniors” of the group, Matushka Teresa and Matushka Sophie who are encouraging the “freshmen” Matushkas and female seminarians to learn. As Matushka Teresa puts it, “Once you leave here and go to your parish, they expect you to know everything, especially how the services are put together, how the tones are sung… Without this knowledge, I felt embarrassed… And that is why I try to tell other ladies at the Seminary how important it is to learn the order of services and the tones before they leave. I encourage them to take classes.”
For a couple of years now, the group has been doing an intercessory prayer for one another and for families by singing a portion of the Akathist to the Theotokos. At this point, most women know it and can sing it by themselves or let others in their new parish join them. As for having fun, “we laugh a lot,” says Mother Gabriella. “Also, we always have tea. Occasionally, we go by boat to St. Nilus Island. In fact, nuns from St. Nilus Skete and monks from St. Michael’s Skete pray every day and every week for every seminarian and all of their family members.”
Mother Gabriella also pointed out that the faculty of the seminary (Father John Dunlop, Matushka Bea Dunlop, Deacon Irenaios, Matushka Roseann Rucker) have been very supportive of Women’s Bible Studies. For many years, every spring, Mary Ann Khoury (Outreach Alaska) has provided a sumptuous lunch for seminary wives and female students. Also, experienced Matushkas from and outside Kodiak parish (Matushka Marilyn Kreta, Matushka Daria Trefon, Matushka Susan Philo) gave talks on the topics of raising children and having a balanced family life while serving the Church. As for Bishop David, during his November visit to Kodiak, he attended the almost two-hour long meeting of the Women’s Group, gave a talk, sang Akathist together with the women, and, in the end, said that he would like to come again! “The Bishop does feel,” says Mother Gabriella, “that it is important for mothers, grandmothers, and young women to be involved in the life of the Church.”
Excited about the growing number of female seminarians at St. Herman’s, Mother Gabriella ascribes this phenomenon to the positive role-modelling of the group participants when they go back home for the summer: “people see how much they’ve changed, how much they’ve learned, and how much they have to offer to their village and to their church. The priests themselves cannot do everything: we need catechists, we need singers, we need people who just know their faith and can uphold and pass on this faith for the next generation. And these ladies have so much to give back to their villages, their churches, and to the Diocese as a whole!”
Mother Gabriella encourages all Orthodox women in the villages to come to the seminary and explore their faith, learn how to be of service to others around them and how to embrace a sober, communal lifestyle. “It seems difficult because you have to give it all you’ve got – it is difficult but it is not impossible! Besides, you will be given incredible support.” She also wishes that women at the Seminary would not put on hold their own education till they have gone back home. “Ask your questions now! Utilize what is here now! Think about things! Reach out for knowledge, reach out for understanding!”
Tuesday Vespers at All Saints of Alaska Chapel, St. Herman Seminary, Fall 2015
Interview with Stephanida Wood Regarding the Ordination of Her Brother, Fr. Michael Trefon Jr. - 11/08/15
Ready and Worthy to be Ordained! Axios!
St. Herman Theological Seminary is happy to report one more ordination of a graduate during the last Diocesan Assembly in Anchorage, AK. Deacon Michael Trefon, the son of Father Michael Trefon, was ordained a priest! Below are the excerpts from the interview with Father Michael Jr.’s sister, Stephanida Wood, also a Seminary student in the past and a Seminary wife (husband of a 1st year student, Subdeacon Stephen Wood) in the present.
SHS: Stephanida, when did your brother decide to become a priest?
SW: As far as I know, he never wanted to be a priest, he just wanted to stay a deacon. When my dad told me, I was in shock. I said that I was not sure. You see, I was still protective of my little brother, I did not want him to grow up yet.
SHS: How old is he now?
SW: He is 29. But for me… I just never looked at him growing up as a priest, only a deacon. And when I heard the news, I thought, “Ok, this is different.” I was still unsure, but, in my heart, I knew he was ready and I was ready to let him go. Let him grow up.
SHS: How about Fr. Michael Jr.’s Matushka, Tamara? Was she ready for this?
SW: She is just a very determined person in trying to achieve her goal of getting a teacher’s degree. She is the first in her family to go to college and it is taking longer than she planned – they started a family when still quite young (Matushka Tamara and Father Michael Jr. now have two lovely toddlers – SHS).
SHS: Did you perception of your brother change once he was ordained?
SW: Oh, no, he is still the same person to me. But there was a big change in him when he went to the Seminary: he had really become a different person then. He does want to help people and serve in the Church. And that’s what he’s always been doing since he was a kid. He was already serving in the altar at the age of three.
SHS: And how many brothers do you have altogether?
SW: Three: Michael, Edward (Fr. Michael Jr.), and Gregory.
SHS: Did they all serve in the Church?
SW: Yes, on and off.
SHS: How come it was Michael, of all the brothers, who decided to enter the Seminary?
SW: I think he just wanted to change his life. Also, he wanted to learn more about Orthodoxy. And then he liked it so much that he stuck to it.
SHS: You also went to the Seminary, right?
SW: I guess he saw how much I changed when I went to the seminary.
SHS: Who advised you to go to the Seminary? Your Dad?
SW: Not, it was my own. [It was] because my Dad went to the Seminary here. And growing up, when I was little, being here with my Dad, we enjoyed being here in Kodiak. It was one of our favorite memories of where we lived. It was our happy place, you know. We loved it here and so we both (Stephanie and Fr. Michael Jr. – SHS) came back here seeking our roots, seeking help. And we both found it. Being at the Seminary changed our lives and it keeps changing the lives of other people – we might not see it, but at home, people saw two daughters of my grandmother Evelyn become Matushkas and now my little brother Edward has grown up to be a Father, and people have been saying, “You, guys, are blessed!”
SHS: What was Father Michael’s favorite subject at the Seminary? Did he share it with you?
SW: It was Liturgics. He also started writing his own book of Liturgics. [It is] because he knew the services so well since early childhood, he knew where the people should be in the altar. One day he said, “You know, these books are not so great…” And so he started writing his own!
SHS: Any funny stories you can share with us?
SW: I don’t know if it is funny, but when our Dad studied at the Seminary, Edward always kept playing a priest: he said his prayers and censed around all the time. Also, my grandmother Evelyn has a story of him: at the same age of four or five, back home in Newhaylen, they were trying to get across the lake and it was really rough. So they thought of not going… But my brother got some saltine crackers, crumbled them up in his hand, and made the sign of a cross on the water… Suddenly, it got calm and they could all leave in a boat.
SHS: What do you wish your brother as a priest?
SW: I think Nunapitchuk (Matushka Tamara’s native village, where Father Michael Jr. is assigned as an assistant priest to Father Philip – SHS) is a good place for him and his family to be. They just moved there before ordination and they are doing really great! I hope they stay there for a while, at least until Matushka Tamara is done with school. And I want to say to my brother -- it takes patience if you want to bring people back to Church. Do not be discouraged in trying to change people right away. People are not going to change right away. It is going to take time. Go and visit. This is what our Dad always did. He never waited for people to come to him – my Dad always went to visit people. If he did not see them come around, he would just go back and visit. And so Fr. Michael Jr. can learn from his Dad, how his Dad was just a simple person caring for other people.
SHS: Thank you, Stephanida, and congratulations!
BY MIKE ROSTAD (Kodiak Daily Mirror)
Villages – clusters of people bound by strands of blood, common history and language, a mutual struggle for survival and a shared interest in their children and the beliefs that answer the questions of the soul. Most of the students and their families at St. Herman’s Seminary come from villages on the Yukon/Kuskokwim Delta and Bristol Bay. They converge in the large community of Kodiak to form their own village.
"The campus is a “little community where they’re living in close quarters,” said Fr. John Dunlop, Seminary dean. “People have to trust each other, work with each other, live together, try to befriend each other. As with all villages, sometimes there’s” friction and conflict.
“There is that feeling that we are all one family, no matter where we come from, no matter what we’ve gone through,” said Deacon Irenaios Anderson, academic dean and church history professor. “We’re going through the same things here.”
Anderson said that married men who attend the seminary are caught up in a balancing act of going to classes, doing homework, taking care of the family and participating in church. “Mothers are trying to keep families going, the kids clean.” Keeping that balance is a challenge, he said.
“It’s important for them to cultivate their families while they’re here at the seminary,” said Anderson, “because you see so much of a challenge once people get out into ministry, where they’re not going to have that kind of support. We want to make sure that they’ve laid a strong foundation while they’re here at the seminary."
Deacon Irenaios Anderson (left) and Father John Dunlop (right)
During their time at the seminary, students carry on traditions and practices that remind them of home.
“We worship together every day, receive Sacraments together and, so it becomes very close,” Dunlop said.
Students and staff communally celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas (Nativity) and birthday parties, baptisms and anniversaries. They’ve also been introduced to new customs, such as the All Saints party, a Seminary alternative to Halloween. Children of seminarians dress as a favorite saint, giving clues of their identity to a panel of faculty experts.
“We look forward to seeing the creativity that the children have,” Anderson said. “Some of them actually succeed in stumping our panel of judges.
Rather than centering on the macabre, the event calls attention to the saints, many of whom died for their faith. The seminary is doing what Christians have done for centuries – baptizing pagan customs," Anderson said.
Very often a church will be built on top of a pagan temple. This “baptism” – claiming something secular and pagan for the kingdom of God— appears in the Old Testament where, for instance, the Israelites transformed the Canaanite first-fruits pagan harvest festival into a holy day known as Pentecost, “which then is transferred to the Christian festival of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the first-fruit of people coming into the Church,” Anderson said.
Students learn more about biblical and ecclesiological practices in their seminary classes, which include courses on patristics, Old and New Testament, church history, homiletics, spirituality and missions. Dunlop and Anderson noted that many presume that the seminary’s sole purpose is to train men – preferably Native men— to become priests. While this was the impetus behind the founding of the seminary in the early 1970s, its mission has broadened.
"There is more diversity today with more non-traditional students," Anderson said.
The freshman class includes a non-Native businessman who is looking for ways in which to serve the church and a priest’s wife who realized that she needed training as well as her husband.
“We have quite a few female students,” Dunlop said.
Even though women cannot enter the priesthood, they can lead vital ministries such as teaching catechism, directing the choir or being a church reader.
"These ministries are “important on parish levels,” Dunlop said. “Leadership can come in different shapes.”
“So often we hear there is no ministry for women in the church,” Anderson said. “That’s simply not the case. They can lead a service in the absence of a priest. A reader is a very important position in the church here in Alaska.”
The men noted that many Kodiak Island Orthodox churches have active and effective female readers. Students who aspire to become church readers are given many opportunities to read during services at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak.
Ever since its founding, the seminary has been affiliated with the Kodiak parish. Students and faculty participate in teaching church school, seminary men and their sons serve in the altar and some faculty hold classes that are offered to Cathedral parishioners. Once again, Anderson plans to hold a Great Lenten and Nativity lecture series that deal with current issues in light of traditional Orthodox teaching. Faculty member, Fr. David Rucker, is launching a new catechism class for parishioners and others who are interested. The lecture series and catechism class will be taught at the seminary.
Seminary Faculty (and Two Graduates) During 2015 Graduation: (from left to right: David Young, Matushka Roseann Rucker, Deacon John Kudrin, Father David Rucker, Bishop David, Father John Dunlop, Matushka Bea Dunlop, Subdeacon Jason Chocknok, Deacon Irenaios Anderson, Daria Safronova-Simeonoff, Deacon Innocent Philo).
”We’re partners with the cathedral in trying to reach the community,” Dunlop said.
Another Seminary project that may be of interest to the community is the translation from Russian to English of journals, letters and other unpublished documents penned by Orthodox missionaries in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The translations are available to the public by accessing the Seminary website.The project is led by Seminary archivist, Daria Safronova-Simeonoff. Local historian, Dawn Black, is assisting with the translation projects.
“It’s a totally new venture and (includes) all local history," Dunlop said. "Ultimately, the seminary would like to publish the material in book form."
On a more practical level, the seminary will be offering training courses for counseling those caught up in alcohol and drug abuse. The course is presented by Janet Carter, director of Rural Alaska Drug and Alcohol Counselor Training (RADACT) and funded by the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). Dunlop notes that substance abuse is an invasive problem throughout Alaska and that it’s important that seminarians apply the theology and doctrine they learned in their classes to battle behaviors and lifestyles that threaten the well-being in every community.
Ordination of Father Joseph Larson
One of the happiest events at the Seminary is the ordination of its students. After four years of educational and life struggles, the moment of truth approaches and the student is asked to make the final commitment to Christ and His Church.
Ordinations of seminary clergy usually either take place at the Diocesan Assembly at St. Innocent Cathedral in Anchorage or, if at the end of the school year, at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak. However, this year, on September 24 His Grace Bishop DAVID celebrated the Hierarchical Liturgy celebrating All Saints of Alaska (the patronal feast day of the Seminary chapel), ordaining Dn. Joseph Larson to the Holy Priesthood at the Seminary Chapel. Participating clergy were Fr. David Rucker (OCMC missionary and Instructor at the Seminary), Fr. Innocent Dresdow (Dean of the Kodiak Island deanery and rector of Holy Resurrection Cathedral), Fr. Jason Isaac (attached to Holy Resurrection Cathedral), and Dn. Methodius Nicori (4th year seminarian). Also serving were the following seminarians: Sdn. Luke Levi (4th year), Sdn. Herman Madsen (3rd year), and Sdn. Stephen Wood (1st year). The ordination was further celebrated in the evening with a lavish feast at the Refectory. Axios!
The tradition of pilgrimages to Monk’s Lagoon can be traced all the way to the times of Father Herman settling there. Upon the Elder’s repose in 1837, the flood of pilgrims intensified: almost every Russian missionary serving in Alaska, as well as the pious locals, wanted to visit the grave of the Blessed Elder. In Part V of Father Tikhon Shalamov's Travelogue you will join him and the students from St. Herman Orphanage as they journey to Monk's Lagoon from St. Paul's Harbor (Kodiak) in the August of 1903.
St. Herman Pilgrimage 2015 - 08/07/15
This year’s St. Herman Pilgrimage was blessed with the presence of three OCA hierarchs: His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon; His Grace, Bishop David (Bishop of Sitka and Alaska); and His Grace, Bishop Daniel (Bishop of Santa Rosa, auxiliary to His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin of the Diocese of the West). The Pilgrimage opened with the Akathist to St. Herman of Alaska at Holy Resurrection Cathedral. The light from the newly installed windows (ten windows were broken during the recent act of vandalism) shone brightly upon the faithful, who hailed from the United States and abroad. The akathist was followed by the Bishop’s tea in the Cathedral basement and, after the tea, a tour of the Diocesan Archives located at St. Herman’s Seminary.
On Saturday morning the pilgrims boarded the small fleet of boats (a dozen or so skiffs, seiners, and charter boats) that took them to Spruce Island. Half way to Spruce Island, the thick fog descended and hid the shoreline, making everybody wonder whether it was in God’s will for the pilgrims to make it to the grave of St. Herman. Monks from St. Michael’s Skete on Spruce Island and Father Innocent Dresdow prevented the fleet from losing its way, and soon all pilgrims were delivered onshore.
The Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the chapel, with the choir—directed by Hierodeacon Herman from St. Vladimir Seminary—singing beautifully in English, Slavonic, and Alutiiq. After receiving Holy Communion, pilgrims could venerate the grave of St. Herman located under the chapel. Bishop David served a panikhida at the graves of Father Gerasim Schmaltz and Father Peter Kreta. Stopping on the way back down the trail at Father Gerasim’s cell, Kaluga Mother of God Chapel, and Father Herman’s Spring, hungry pilgrims trickled to the beach, where people from the village of Ouzinkie served a lavish lunch.
Suddenly, after lunch, a rather heavy rain started pouring. Wet but happy, the departing pilgrims were greeted at the Cathedral basement by the St. Herman Sisterhood of Holy Resurrection Cathedral serving borscht, corned beef soup, freshly baked biscuits, and apple and rhubarb cakes before the pilgrims gathered to celebrate Great Vespers. The Sunday Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was marked by the elevation of Reader Stephen Wood to Subdeacon. After the Liturgy the Hierarchs and pilgrims went to the Afognak Native Corporation Building where the St. Herman Sisterhood had prepared a banquet of baked salmon, halibut, and cake. After dessert, the pilgrims shared their reflections on the Pilgrimage, followed by the concluding remarks by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon. Most of the pilgrims left the Island by air within a couple of hours, while the rest waited for the ferry to take them to the mainland. Everything suddenly grew quiet at the seminary . . . until next year’s Pilgrimage.
The Blessing of the Fleet and Saints Peter and Paul Feast - 07/10/15
The life of a village priest is never boring, especially when he has to visit some of the most remote parishes. Father John Dunlop spent this last weekend in the village of Akhiok, located on the south end of Kodiak Island. One hour away from Kodiak by bush plane, the village of 70 people still maintains an Orthodox lifestyle: kids have traditional church names, icon corners adorn the homes, and people still come to the airstrip to greet the priest, whom they call simply “Father.”
While in Akhiok, Father John visited the parishioners, served Vespers and Divine Liturgy, observed and participated in the after-church session of Sunday school, blessed a fishing cabin, and performed a traditional blessing of the Akhiok fleet. To make his stay more exciting, Akhiok Mayor and Church Reader Linda Amodo took Father John halibut fishing. She also showed him around Alitak Cannery, one of the oldest in Kodiak, founded in 1917.
Akhiok fisherman Walter Simeonoff took Father John to Cape Alitak, the mystery-laden place where Native people warred and whaled for millennia, leaving after themselves hundreds of petroglyphs, the largest conglomeration of these in Alaska.
Finally, Father John was weathered in – the scheduled bush plane could not arrive because of the fog and rain, customary in Akhiok. This gave Father a chance to visit some more. The evening plane, however, made it through the fog and Father, laden with gifts of the sea, left for Kodiak to resume his duties as Seminary Dean.
Project Slawilutiiq was started in the spring of 2012 by Kodiak Alutiiq Elders and Daria Safronova-Simeonoff, the Seminary Archivist. The project was supported by Archbishop Benjamin and Bishop David, Kodiak clergy, St. Herman Seminary, and the Church Readers of Kodiak Island village parishes. Stephen Bodnar, a local Kodiak musician, helped to record and put into music the church hymns that existed, for the most part, as an oral tradition before that. This video is a condensed version of the presentation of the project at the Baranov Museum in May of 2015. The stories told by the clergy and the Elders reveal a long-lasting legacy of the 1794 Russian Orthodox Mission to Alaska, as well as to send a positive message of the ongoing reintroduction and revitalization of the once common Orthodox hymns in the Alutiiq language.
IOCC and Outreach Alaska Donation - 06/24/15
Thanks to IOCC and Outreach Alaska, the seminary was in receipt of a huge donation of furniture. The seminary kept a number of beds, dressers, and desks to be used in the student housing. The surplus goods were distributed to other local non-profits and families. A youth group mission team from Church of the Annunciation in Milwaukie, Oregon, did most of the heavy lifting and were assisted by parishioners from Holy Resurrection Cathedral as well as Kodiak's local Roman Catholic priest and volunteers from the Baptist Mission. It was a real community event! The grateful organizations that received the extra furniture included Native Village of Afognak, Kodiak Women's Crisis Center, Kodiak Island Housing Authority, Kodiak Baptist Mission, Kodiak Wildlife Refuge, and others.
The third part of the second installment of Missionary Travelogues has been translated from its 1904 publication and posted. See the rare photographs Priest Tikhon Shalamov took around the island and read about his journey from the villages of Aiaktalik to Akhiok.
42nd Commencement Ceremony - 05/10/15
We had a full seminary as His Grace, Bishop David, arrived in Kodiak for the week of graduation along with various alumni, family from the villages, and many friends. Fr. David Rucker gave the commencement address, and Mat. Bea awarded the graduates with gifts on behalf of Mary Ann Koury and Outreach Alaska.
Congratulations to our grads: Dn. John Kudrin and Subdn. Sergius Chocknok, and to those awarded readers certificates: Elena Levi and Subdn. Herman Madsen.
St. Vladimir seminarians, Fr. Theodor Svane of Norway and Bogdan Neacsiu of Romania, joined the Very Reverend Dr. Chad Hatfield, chancellor/CEO, in several days of travel and ministry to St. Herman Seminary. Father Theodor kept a diary of the eventful trip, read it by clicking the link below.
Christ is Risen! Khristusax aglagikux! Kristus aq ungwektaq! Xris-tusaq Ung-uixtuq! Xristos voskres! Χριστός α̉νέστη! - 04/12/15
Seminarian Dn. John Kudrin and visiting professor Fr. David Rucker visit St. Paul Island while current students, Sdn. Luke and Dn. Joseph, visit St. Herman Seminary Graduate, Fr. Michael, at his parish in Dillingham for Pascha.
The second part of the second installment of Missionary Travelogues has been translated from its 1904 publication and posted. See the rare photographs Priest Tikhon Shalamov took around the island and read more about his experiences.
Part I of the second installment of Missionary Travelogues has been translated from its 1904 publication and posted here on our website! Read about Priest Tikhon Shalamov (Kodiak Parish) and his adventures traveling around Kodiak Island by boat and on foot by clicking the link below.
Children Make Icons in Church School - 03/01/15
Seminarians Teresa Carlson and Elena Levi teach a Church School lesson and project with the children
Hierarchical services - 02/26/15
This week, services were held with the rector of St. Herman Seminary--His Grace, Bishop David of Sitka and Alaska.
Fr. John Serves Over Winter Break
Dean of St. Herman Seminary, Fr. John Dunlop, went to the local village of Ouzinkie to serve during Nativity and The Great Blessing of the Waters.
Click the link below to read the IOCC article.
IOCC Action Team Article
Here we have a bilingual account of the priest Nikolai Kasheveroff's travel journal with entries from 1909 and 1915-1916.
This next installment is a letter written by Fr. Nikolai Kashevaroff in three languages (Russian, Alutiiq, and English combined together), confirming the fact of trilinguacy among the Russian Creoles of Kodiak Island. Unfortunately by the 1960s trilinguacy, specifically in writing, became extinct.
Click below to read:
Missionary Travelogue Part II
Part 1 - 12/03/14
Dawn Lea Black’s and St. Herman Seminary archivist Daria Safronova-Simeonoff’s Project “Kodiak Area Orthodox Priests’ and Missionaries’ Letters and Travelogues from the 19th and 20th Centuries" has published its first translation on the SHS website. This never-before translated journal tells of Orthodox Missionary Hieromonk Anatolii's journey to Spruce Island in the late 1800s. Follow along as more letters, journals, and travelogues will be posted under the "Travel Journal Project" tab on the left of the home page.
Or click the link below
Missionary Travelogues Part 1
2010 St. Herman Seminary graduate, Fr. Andrei Tepper, has a new book released from St Vladimir's Seminary Press that he translated from Russian. He currently is serving as Priest of St. Herman Church in King Cove, Alaska. To view the details of the book and order a copy online click on this link or copy and paste it into your browser http://www.svspress.com/orthodox-christianity-volume-iii-the-architecture-icons-and-music-of-the-orthodox-church/
BY MIKE ROSTAD
Special to the Mirror
St. Herman’s Seminary student, Alexander Larson, didn’t hesitate when asked to help a New Orleans neighborhood that had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and other Gulf storms.
Larson, who is beginning his third year at St. Herman’s Seminary, volunteered with fellow Orthodox Christians of the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and other churches and humanitarian groups to renovate houses in New Orleans’ Bourbon Street district.
“I was glad to go,” said Larson, an Alaska Native from the village of Napaskiak on the Kuskokwim River. “That’s part of my nature – helping others in need. I guess that comes from my family.”
Although New Orleans and Napaskiak are vastly different, the plight of the needy in the Gulf communities struck a familiar cord with Larson. Alaska coastal villages are vulnerable to the ravages of nature. Spring break-up unleashes pent-up waters that flood houses and, in some cases, displace communities.
When you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature, you can quickly become storm-bound, homeless, caught in a very precarious position.
On top of that, economic hardship takes a toll on families.
Larson remembers his parents answering the cry for help – food for empty stomachs, money to pay for heating bills and other needs.
“My family would give to (the needy,) not asking to be repaid,” said Larson.
Larson put that philosophy in practice in New Orleans, using his carpentry skills that were passed down by his father and uncles and developed while living in his wife, Fanny’s, village of Akiachak.
“That’s where these construction and carpentry traits came to my blood,” Larson said. “I built my own house” as well as other homes.
In New Orleans, Larson and fellow volunteers put up siding and sheetrock and took care of other tasks involved in re-building up the damaged homes.
Although Larson had never been to New Orleans before, he had an introduction to the Southeast part of the country while going through boot camp in Georgia for the Army National Guard. Larson has also traveled to Japan and Hawaii.
He said he liked “the country and people,” in New Orleans. “We met some of the residents. They were very happy to greet us and thanked us for helping build their homes.”
But the area they worked in was fraught with temptations, Larson said. The district is notorious for night clubs, strip joints, houses of ill repute and drug dealers.
However, the volunteers were so busy putting up sheet rock, pounding nails and painting, that they hardly noticed the problems.
Reflecting over his time in New Orleans, Larson said he has a deeper appreciation of the Savior’s words, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”
The experience became a joyful discovery, or re-discovery, to Larson, who was taught, by example, to serve.
“I would suggest that anyone who is being called for volunteer work, just do it, and don’t be lazy about it,” Larson said.
Shortly after Larson’s trip to New Orleans, Dan Kristopolos, head of the IOCC group, visited St. Herman’s Seminary.
Larson asked him if IOCC could come to Alaska “to see if they could volunteer up here,” Larson said. “In my area, when there is ice break-up, when the ice goes out to the ocean, there is devastation to the villages. Some lose their own houses, some lose their lives. I would suggest the IOCC and the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) work with the Diocese of Alaska to form some kind of agreement with each other, so they could come up here and not only to other parts of the world.”
Certainly helping Alaska communities lies within the purview of the IOCC. According to its mission statement the IOCC, “in the spirit of Christ’s love, offers emergency relief and development programs to those in need worldwide … and strengthens the capacity of the Orthodox Church to so respond.”
The IOCC was formed in 1992 as the official humanitarian aid organization of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. It “has been helping people throughout the world ‘start again,’” says its website.
The IOCC has responded to natural disasters, such as the tsunami in Southeast Asia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike in America and man-made disasters including the shootings at Virginia Tech and the bombing at the Boston Marathon.
Fr. John Dunlop, St. Herman’s Seminary dean, who encouraged Larson to go to New Orleans, said that Kristopolos “expressed a lot of interest in working with the seminary in its substance abuse training. I’m excited about a growing partnership (between IOCC) and the local church community.”
Participation in the IOCC is “extremely helpful to us,” Dunlop said. “For students, it’s an incredible opportunity to see the wider church. (Through the humanitarian trip to New Orleans) Alex got to meet seminarians from other schools” such as St. Vladimir’s, St. Tikhon’s and Holy Cross Seminaries.
“That’s a positive thing for our students – to see that there is a larger world out there, an Orthodox world as well that we can connect with. There’s a side of partnering with these larger Orthodox organizations which is helpful to our mission financially and spiritually,” Dunlop said, noting that the OCMC, which shares IOCC’s vision to minister throughout the world, would like to fund students to do mission work outside of the US.
“They are interested in helping our students go to Africa, Mongolia, some different area, where they may be able to be effective in global missions,” Dunlop said.
As Dunlop listed the names of places where IOCC and OCMC volunteers get involved, Larson’s face expressed the excitement of an eager servant who sees ministering in the needy places, not something to avoid, but to dive into with a willing heart and a helping hand.
ARTICLE - With tool in hands, Alex Larson works at the New Orleans site.(Courtesy of Alex Larson)
CERTIFICATE – As second-year student, Alex Larsen receives certificate of studies from Alaska bishop, Fr. David Mahaffey. (Courtesy of Mike Rostad)
STUDENT - Fall 2014 Student Photo (Courtesy of Lauren Hamlett)
Saint Herman Seminary Celebrates 2014 All Saints Day - 10/31/14
This “saintly” party was accompanied by a one-of-a-kind “orange food” pot-luck that included orangish-colored salmon, orange carrot cakes, orange-colored orange juice, orange-looking oranges, orange-colored Doritos, orange-colored pumpkins, orange-tasting jello, and orange-covered KFC. The pumpkin carving competition yielded two winners – Alex Larson (carved St. Herman) and Triston Simeonoff (carved Orthodox Cross). Each child presented a Saint whose identity was deciphered by the Seminary’s “panel of experts.” Everybody won by gaining more knowledge of Saints’ Lives. The party ended with the communal feeding of doughnuts to the blind-folded children.
St. Herman’s Seminary Offers a Weekly Class of Church Slavonic for Community Members - 11/05/14
The main audience of the class is Kodiak Elders – they grew up listening to church hymns in Church Slavonic, most of them grew up in Russian-speaking households and some of them even went to Kodiak’s Russian School. The goal of the class it to learn (or relearn) the Cyrillic alphabet and be able to read and write in it. Class starts with Russian tea ceremony during which students share their memories related to Russian language and culture. Class ends with the singing of church hymns and prayers in Church Slavonic.
Subdeacon Joseph Larson ordained to the Holy Diaconate - 10/19/14
Seminarian Joseph Larson was ordained a Deacon at this year’s Alaskan Diocesan Assembly which met in Anchorage on October 18 and 19. Deacon Joseph and Matushka Sophia are from the village of Akiachak which is on the Kuskokwim River. Deacon Joseph and Matushka Sophia have four children: Christina, Alexandra, Alexander and Sophia. Deacon Joseph joins four other brothers who serve as clergy in the Diocese of Alaska. May God grant Deacon Joseph, Matushka Sophia and their family many years!
Welcome back to Seminary - 09/02/14
Orientation for the 2014-2015 school year began on Sept 2; both new and returning students are settling into the cycle of classes and worship at the seminary, gaining practical ministry experience at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in the areas of Altar service, singing in the choir, and teaching church school. This year we welcomed three new students. As we grow together in community we look forward to a new year of training future clergy and laity for “the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12) in Alaska. This year we also welcomed a new faculty member, Heiromonk Fr. Phanourios, into the role of chaplain. Fr. Phanourios is a graduate from St. Tikhon’s Seminary and has spent the past several years doing mission work in South Asia and the South Pacific. He will be teaching Church History, Greek, and Spirituality.
Read details about our students by clicking the "Students" section on the left hand side of this page.
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Memory Eternal - 08/10/14
St. Herman mourns the loss of graduate Fr. Yago Steven. Fr. Vasilly Fisher, Dean of the Kuskokwim deanery, wrote the following about Fr. Yago:
“Fr. Yago was one of the first graduates of St. Herman’s Seminary along with his classmate Fr. Phillip Alexie. He was a 1978 graduate of Saint Herman’s Seminary and ordained to the diaconate and priesthood in 1996 and 1999 respectively. During his priesthood, he served in the rural Alaskan communities of Bethel, Kasigluk, Kwigillingok, and Napaskiak.”
The Diocese of Alaska and St. Herman Seminary keeps Fr. Yago and his family in their prayers. May his memory be eternal!
Celebration of the Glorification of St. Herman - 08/07/14
The 44th annual St. Herman pilgrimage took place this year between August 7-10. His Grace, Bishop David of Sitka and Alaska was joined by His Grace, Bishop Job of Kashira, Vicar of the Moscow Diocese, Administrator of the Moscow Patriarchate in Canada. The Hierarchs joined local Orthodox as well as pilgrims and clergy from throughout the U.S. and Canada for the annual event celebrating the glorification of St. Herman of Alaska. Highlights of the pilgrimage included services, warm fellowship, singing and meals at Monk’s Rock Coffee House, and festal banquet at the Afognak Native Corporation. Pilgrims were also given a fascinating account of the glorification services of 1970 with visiting Archpriest Nicholas Molodyko-Harris. Due to foggy and windy weather, pilgrims were able to gather at Monk’s Lagoon on Spruce Island the evening of August 9. We hope that many more pilgrims will be inspired to attend this annual celebration!
Seminarian Ordained to the Holy Diaconate - 08/08/14
On Friday, August 8th Subdeacon John Kudrin a fourth year seminarian was ordained to the Holy Diaconate by His Grace, Bishop David of Sitka and Alaska with His Grace, Bishop Job of Kashira, Vicar of the Moscow Diocese, Patriarchal Bishop of Canada concelebrating the Divine Liturgy. The ordination took place on the feast of St. Yakov (Netsvetov) Enlightener and Baptizer of the Native Peoples of Alaska. This year marks the 150th anniversary of St. Yakov’s repose. Providentially, the Kudrin family are Aleuts from Atka where St. Yakov also ministered for many years. Deacon John’s wife, Matushka Anna, is also a student at St. Herman’s Seminary. May God grant Deacon John, Matushka Anna, and their families many years!
Teams visit Old Harbor and Ouzinkie - 07/25/14
During the week of July 21-25 St. Herman Seminary hosted two OCMC teams which ministered in the Kodiak Island villages of Ouzinkie and Old Harbor. OCMC, Fr. Achilles Karathanos, and Dean Fr. John Dunlop held youth activities, arts and crafts, and catechism sessions at the annual St. Peter the Aleut Youth Camp in Ouzinkie. The Old Harbor team also sponsored activities and religious educational sessions with youth and elders. The teams were also blessed to hold village services with the visiting myrrh-streaming Hawaii Iveron Icon. Both teams enjoyed blessed and fruitful weeks.
East coast mission team completes projects around the seminary - 06/25/14
On June 25, St. Herman Seminary had the privilege of hosting a team of mostly students sent by the Orthodox Christian Mission center (OCMC). The group included members of two churches--Holy Trinity Church (Egg Harbor Township, NJ) and St. George Greek Orthodox Church (Media, PA) and were led by Fr. George Liacopulos, priest of Holy Trinity and president of OCMC's Board of Directors. The team accomplished various maintenance tasks at the seminary and led a Vacation Church School at Holy Resurrection Cathedral on the topic of summer feast days. The team also venerated the relics of St. Herman, made a pilgrimage to Spruce Island, visited St. Innocent's Academy, and had the opportunity to enjoy hiking around the island. It was a joy to have a team that did such good work here on Kodiak.
Russian Orthodox Bishop PANTELEIMON visits SHS - 06/23/14
His Grace Bishop Panteleimon of Orekhovo-Zuyevo, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry is visiting St. Herman Seminary from June 23-26. His Grace celebrated the Akathist to St. Herman and hosted a meal for local clergy. Vladyka Panteleimon visited the diocesan archives and will make pilgrimage to Monk's Lagoon and the village of Ouzinkie before departing for San Francisco.
2013-2014 School Year Comes to a Close - 05/11/14
We would like to extend a big congradulations to our three graduating seniors and our three new readers who were awarded diplomas and certificates last weekend.
Our graduates are Fr. Simeon Askoak, Fr. Jason Isaac, and Dn. Michael Trefon.
Those awarded reader certificates are Luke Levi, Mary Madsen, and Alexander Larson.
In addition to those in attendance at the ceremony were three alumni-- Fr. Nicolai Isaac, Fr. Thomas Andrew, and Fr. Michael Fredericks. Our chaplain, Fr. Juvenaly Repass, was asked to give a special reflection on his six years of service at our seminary as he will be leaving soon to do mission work.
A special thank you to our good friend, Mike Rostad, for the photographs!
Ordination of Fr. Jason Isaac - 03/30/14
On Sunday, March 30 the feast of St. John of the Ladder Seminarian Deacon Jason Isaac, was ordained at St. Michael Church in Marshall, Alaska by His Grace, Bishop DAVID. After graduating in May, Fr. Jason will begin his parish ministry in the Diocese of Alaska. May God grant him and his family many years!
Visit of Yakutsk Delegation to the Seminary - 03/17/14
On March 17 our Seminary enjoyed a visit from the Yakutsk delegation, consisting of administrative workers, businessmen, and archivists. In just two days or, rather, a day and a half that the delegation spent in Kodiak, they managed to cover it all: they venerated the relics of St. Herman at Holy Resurrection Cathedral, visited the Seminary, went on a pilgrimage to Monk’s Lagoon, attended St. Patrick’s dinner at High Tide, worked in the Diocesan archives, made friends with an Alutiiq elder, ate some local foods, visited with St. Innocent’s Academy, and even took the steam at the Seminary’s banya! Below is our photo-report of some of the events that took place at the Seminary.
IMG 01 -The delegation was warmly welcomed by Father John, Father Juvenaly, Father Simeon, and the seminarians, some of whom seemed to have recognized “cousins” in our visitors. Father Deacon Simeon (Berezkin) presented the Seminary with the gifts from the Diocese of Yakutsk: three journals published by the Diocese and newly published volumes of collected works of St. Innocent, Apostle to Alaska.
IMG 02 - Newly tonsured Reader (and also banya-master) Alex Larson and Archivist Panteleimon Petrov discuss the peculiarities of Yupiq and Yakut steam taking. Later in the evening, Alex Larson and Deacon Jason checked Panteleimon Petrov’s, Alexander Savvinov’s, and Alexander Pavlov’s heat resiliency at the Seminary banya.
IMG 03 - After working in the archives, Panteleimon Petrov shared lunch with seminarians. After lunch he talked about the history of Orthodoxy in Yakutia and about his own ancestors - Orthodox priests. Seminarians asked lots of questions, especially about the original, pre-Christian beliefs of the Yakut people.
IMG 04 - Alexander Savvinov, Chairman of Yakutsk City Council presented Father John with a CHORON, a communal cup for horse milk used during summer festivities in Yakutia.
IMG 05 - Iosif Nikolaev, Alexander Savvinov, and Alexander Pavlov try Alutiiq specialty – frozen salmonberry with sugar prepared by the Alutiiq Elder, Florence Pestrikoff.
IMG 06 - All members of the delegation, with no exception were immersed into reading the journals of St. Innocent, located in the Diocesan archive.
IMG 07 - Russian, Alutiiq, Yakut, and Yupiq: cultures galore! Alutiiq Elder Florence Pestrikoff talks to Panteleimon Petrov, with Zlata Lund interpreting and Alex Larson listening.
IMG 08 - Father John (Dunlop) and Deacon Simeon (Berezkin).
IMG 09 - Father Simeon and Panteleimon Petrov.
Tonsuring - 03/05/14
Bishop DAVID led a Lenten Retreat at St Herman Seminary during the first week of Lent. During the first Wednesday Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts Bishop DAVID tonsured second year seminarian Alexander Larson a reader. He ordained third year seminarians Sergius Chocknock and Sergei Olsen subdeacons.
May God grant His servants many years of service in His Holy Church!
Ordination of Fr. Simeon to the Priesthood - 02/21/14
On February 21, during his episcopal consecration at St. Innocent Cathedral in Anchorage, His Grace, Bishop DAVID ordained fourth year seminarian Deacon Simeon Askoak to the Holy Priesthood.
May God grant His servants many years of service in His Holy Church!
Creation and Created in Orthodox Understanding
Today, I would like to give you three references that should help you to understand what we in the Orthodox Church feel is our responsibility for care of the earth. It is a position that have had for centuries, it is indicated in the teachings of some of the earliest Church Fathers, and in light of the recent attention given the environment, it has again taken a prominent position in the discussion of our call to be good Stewards of all we are given to care for, our churches, our families, our neighbors and our environment.
In the book of Genesis, after God had finished creating everything, He spoke to man and said, And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” [Gen. 1:28] Now there will be some who will point to the “subdue” as the primary directive of this verse, and believe that God implied for man to be conquerors of this new creation. According to Strong’s the word [kavash] translated as subdue has the connotation we would expect, in fact it even implies “take under bondage” as if the earth is meant to serve our every whim.
But the first word of command in the verse is the word “fill”, again with a standard connotation to many that would imply a progenitor and his progeny occupying space on the earth. The problem is that this is not the very good understanding of the word in this case. The Hebrew word [male’] means “to consecrate, to fill the hand”, an indication that man was given a responsibility to take this creation and do something with it that would dedicate is back to God. Adam was put in charge because of his likeness, his God-like image that no other creature in creation, not even the angels, were capable of doing.
This is the first and, if you will, prime directive that God gave to man. In our theology, we are so caught up in the transgression of the eating of the forbidden tree, we forget the only other command that man was given by his Creator, that of being responsible for and caring for, all the earth and all its inhabitants. The command not to eat does not come for some twenty more verses, and considering there were no divisions of Scripture until a much later time, I believe it makes this an even more significant point. The command to consecrate comes in the first creation story, the command to not eat comes in the second one. In both versions of the Creation Story, Adam is given the deciding and primary role, this earth was created for him to care for, to be a good steward of, and to make progress towards his role in relation to his creator. The fall would change almost all of that, and yes, I said almost, but not all. This brings us to our second Scripture reference, Psalms.
In Psalm 104, a description of the purpose of all creation, we find verse 28 referencing man in this way, “Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.” What is his work and his labor? Is this merely a reference to the fact that he has to work so he can have something to eat? Is it a veiled reference to the fall and man’s hard labor to make the ground yield for him, as compared to the fact that God provides for all other creatures in the Psalm? I suppose it could be, but let us look at it in a little greater detail. The phrase “his work” uses the Hebrew word [po’al], also a a reference to a deed, an acquisition (as of treasure); his labor uses the Hebrew word [abodah], a service (of God). So let us try to rephrase this verse and couch it in more terms to benefit our creation Theology, so now we should say, “Man goes to his deed, his treasured acquisition that God gave him, he goes to his service to God, his work of caring, until the evening.” Does this help us understand our relationship to the environment a little better? I hope so, and now to top it all off, here is the capstone, the paradigm of Grace for good environmental Stewardship, the words of Christ, Himself.
When our Lord went to be Baptized by John in the Jordan, John looks at him bewildered and asks this question, “ “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” [Matt. 3:14] “But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.” [Matt. 3:15] This is a most curious phrase without our previous discussion, is it not? We need to separate the phrase “fulfill all righteousness into two parts. The first part, fulfill, is a translation of the Greek word [plearoo], and again we find ourselves looking for a fuller meaning to this word. In this case, we should be thinking in terms of “to bring to realization” or “to render full”. After the fall, we were left incomplete in many ways, as the Scriptures indicate. Crops would not grow without labor, animals developed antagonistic natures, the earth itself would buckle and heave at random, and the elements themselves could bring destruction and ruin to the work of man’s labor for his sustenance.
The second part of that phrase, “all righteousness” is perhaps the easiest to understand. This is to say, if we understand what righteousness is. What does this word actually mean? Can we agree on a common meaning? Its Greek word is [dikaiosynē] meaning, “state of him who is as he ought to be”. Too often we tend to underestimate the power of a word, or we get so accustomed to thinking about a word in a certain way that the power of its real meaning can become lost. We are always looking towards the lofty and high divine meaning of a word or phrase without realizing that it may have a more connected meaning to our own selves, and this is definitely one of those times.
Let’s try to re-state our Lord’s intention with this passage and say it in a more comprehensive way, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for you and I, John, to realization the fact that by doing this we will make possible for all mankind to return to a state as he ought to be, the way he was before his transgression.” That is what the Theophany of our Lord has done for us, his descending into the waters of Baptism rejuvenates the water so that all who follow Him into those waters can return to the state He intended them to be in for his created purpose of being enough like God to do the work he was intended to do, to care for, and to consecrate to God, His creation.
You may ask what proof do I have to say I’m right about this? That is a fair question, and again, we will find the answer in Holy Scripture. Everyone knows John 3:16, or at least we think we do (there’s another understanding of this verse we don’t have time to go into now, maybe if I’m invited back, I’ll speak to it), but what about the verse that follows it? What about John 3:17? For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” It may be assumed that the reference for world is simply the inhabitants of the world, but I think not. Here, the word for world is the Greek word [Cosmos], so the intention should be clear to all of us, God did not send His son to condemn his creation, He sent Him to save His creation. And God gave man the responsibility of continuing that Cosmic Salvation through his Sacramental interaction with his Creator. The Orthodox Church has taken this responsibility very seriously, it is why every year, on the Feast of Christ’s Theophany, His Baptism, we consecrate and sanctify water to use for blessing our homes, the rivers we use and receive our life from, our vehicles, and anything else we use made from God’s creation itself.
So it is imperative that we continue to be the caretakers and guardians of God’s creation, it is for this reason that He created us. The only question remains is of our own Stewardship, shall we be good stewards, like those who the earth as a Sacred gift of God, or shall we be as those who see the earth and its resources as existing for our own passionate, greedy self-satisfactions?
From January 27 - 31 Regional Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor Training (RADACT) was held at St. Herman Seminary. The following courses were offered: Introduction to Addictive Behavior, Introduction to Client Centered Counseling, and Motivational Interviewing. The instructors were Janet Carter, M.Ed., and James Fitterling, Ph.D., from Anchorage, Alaska. Also present was Dan Christopulos, USA representative of International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). All seminarians participated in these trainings along with other members of the Kodiak community, including several Substance-Abuse Counselors from Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA). These courses will help seminarians minister in the Diocese of Alaska where addictions and substance abuse are a continuing problem. The Seminary thanks IOCC for its generous sponsorship.
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!
Angels with shepherds glorify Him,
the wise men journey with a star,
since for our sake the Eternal God is born as a Little Child!
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
ХРИСТОС РАЖДАЕТСЯ! СЛАВИТЕ ЕГО!
With love in Christ,
Faculty, staff, seminarians and families
St. Herman Theological Seminary
Community members are invited to attend or audit an evening Ethics course this semester.
Dates: Oct 7 - Nov 11
Time: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 6:00-8:30pm
Instructor: Archimandrite David Mahaffey, Administrator of the Diocese of Alaska
Course description: This course introduces the student to the field of Ethics from an Orthodox standpoint. Historical and philosophical phases from Ancient Greece to the Modern Era will be examined.
Main Text: Toward a Transfigured Life by Stanley Harakas
During his recent pilgrimage to Alaska, Chairman of the OCA Department of Evangelization Fr. John Parker interviewed Fr. John Dunlop, Dean of St. Herman’s Seminary, for his podcast "Lord, Send Me" on Ancient Faith Radio. Click on the link below to listen to the interview and learn about the Seminary and its Archives, as well as Fr. John's own missionary work in the villages.
Celebrating the Glorification of St. Herman - 08/07/13
Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop Benjamin, clergy and pilgrims from around the world gathered in Kodiak for the annual 3-day pilgrimage celebration hosted by the Diocese of Alaska. The celebration began with the Akathist in honor of Saint Herman at Kodiak's Holy Resurrection Cathedral on Wednesday evening, August 7. After a day delay due to weather, clergy and many pilgrims left Saint Paul Harbor by boat early on the morning of August 9 for Spruce Island (see map below). The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the island’s Saints Sergius and Herman of Valaam Chapel, which marks the original gravesite of Saint Herman.
A monk of Valaam Monastery, Saint Herman came to Alaska in 1794 to serve the Alutiiq people and Russian fur traders. A tireless laborer as a simple unordained monk, Saint Herman established the Orthodox Church in Kodiak, defended the people against arguably outrageous treatment by Russian colonial officials, and cared for orphaned children on Spruce Island. He lived out the last 30 years of his life on the island as a hermit. During this time he pioneered gardening, cared for those in need, and worked many miracles of healing and protection. At his death, a column of light was seen throughout the region rising from the forest to heaven.
For more photos, visit the OCA Photo gallery at http://oca.org/media/photos/43rd-anniversary-of-the-glorification-of-saint-herman-celebrated-on-spruce
OCMC Team Leads Camp in Ouzinkie - 07/12/13
From July 21-16 Fr. Andrew Harrison and Fr John Dunlop along with OCMC Missionaries led the annual St. Peter the Aleut Camp in Ouzinkie village on Spruce Island. Ouzinkie is the Alutiiq village on Spruce Island founded and settled by St. Herman of Alaska’s orphans. The camp included services, arts and crafts, swimming, catechism and hiking. The weather for the camp was unseasonably warm so campers took several swimming trips to the ocean and local lakes. A highlight of the camp included four baptisms of local children. St. Peter the Aleut Camp is a wonderful collaborative effort between OCMC and St. Herman Seminary.
Click on this link http://www.stlukeorthodox.com/html/eventsarchives/2013/july.cfm to learn more about the OCMC team's experience.
2012-2013 Commencement Exercises - 05/19/13
Sunday, May 19, started with Divine Liturgy at Holy Resurrection Cathedral. Later that day St. Herman Seminary held its 40th Anniversary Commencement at St. Mary's School. The Very Reverend Archpriest John Jillions, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, gave the commencement address. Then the Very Reverend Archimandrite David (Mahaffey), Administrator of the Diocese of Alaska, presented the awards to the seminarians. A Diploma in Orthodox Theology was bestowed upon Nathan Anderson, and Reader's Certificates were presented to Sergius Chocknok, John Kudrin, Nicholas Montiegel, Sergei Olsen III, and Leonty Wassilie. Mary Ann Khoury, Coordinator for Outreach Alaska, spoke about the mission of Outreach Alaska and presented Nathan with a final check from his sponsor parish as well as an icon. A banquet followed the commencement exercises, during which staff, community members, and students shared words and songs. Graduate Nathan Anderson gave a wonderful speech reviewing his growth while at seminary and sharing how individuals (e.g., family members, staff, and students) supported him through the years. Another special presentation was the singing of the first-year students, who as group have represented all vocal choir parts, a first for the seminary choir. The seminary choir performed, followed by a duet by David and Nathan. It was a wonderful commencement. Thank you to all who attended, who helped set up and clean up, and who helped prepare food. We are grateful for the generous support of our friends and benefactors for making it possible for those desiring to serve the Church in Alaska to receive the necessary training to fulfill their callings in life.
Sisters in Christ - A Force for Good - 05/17/13
Mary Ann Khoury, coordinator of Outreach Alaska (http://www.outreachalaska.org) projects which support the church throughout Alaska, hosted a Ladies' Luncheon at the seminary refectory. Seminarians, spouses of seminarians, faculty, staff, friends and family gathered together and enjoyed a meal catered by Mill Bay Coffee and a special treat of Antiochian Lenten sweet bread brought all the way from Kansas. It was a time for Sisters in Christ to meet and visit. Mary Ann presented the mission and efforts of Outreach Alaska, engaging attendees to discuss current challenges and how they may be addressed. Ida Wassilie encouraged women by example and word to stand up and be supportive of clergy in their home villages. Mother Gabriella presented participants of St. Herman Seminary Women's Study Group with certificates of completion. We are grateful for all that Mary Ann does on behalf of the seminary as well as for churches throughout Alaska. May we follow her example of giving of our time and means to support the work of God.
Seminary Ministry Trip - 04/11/13
On the evening of Thursday, 11 April, nine seminarians, our Dean Fr. John Dunlop, and eight members of the community at St. Innocent's Academy boarded the ferry to begin our travels to Nanwalek, near Homer on the Alaskan mainland.
On Friday morning, we arrived in Nanwalek. The ocean sparkled and the warm hearts of the people drew us in. We hit the ground running with a morning church service, followed by a delicious meal generously provided by members of the community. We enjoyed a show prepared by the children at their school, then had another great meal followed by two basketball games. The boys from St. Herman's and St. Innocent's were pretty tired after playing the Nanwalek city team AND the highschool team! After the ball games, most of the children in Nanwalek joined us in the community center for fun and games until midnight. A great time was had by all!
Saturday was a busy day, too, with a morning church service, another delicious meal, and Church School classes for the young people. Several members of the team performed community service around the church: cleaning, organizing, and getting everything in tip-top shape for Pascha. Our friends in Nanwalek fed us another amazing meal and we enjoyed spending the evening talking, singing, and strengthening bonds with the community.
Our Sunday morning activities began with small plane rides to Port Graham, four miles from Nanwalek. We joined the community there for a Divine Liturgy service, followed by--you guessed it!--another fabulous meal. Because of a miscommunication with the airline, about half the group ended up leaving shortly after lunch to return to Kodiak. The group that stayed in Prt Graham enjoyed more classic Alaskan hospitality, singing and chatting and even playing a little more basketball! The whole team was back on the island Sunday evening, ready to return to our weekday lives.
We all had a wonderful time during this ministry trip. It was a very great honor to serve and worship with our friends in Nanwalek and Port Graham and we hope to make another trip to these communities during the 2013-2014 school year. This first-ever ministry trip--large scale and completely planned by students--was a success and we look forward to "taking our act on the road" next year!
This amazing trip would not have been possible without the prayers and generous support of friends across Alaska. We would like to thank the following donors for making this adventure possible:
The Nanwalek IRA Council
The Nanwalek Parish Council
The Port Graham Parish Council
The Ouzinkie Parish Council
The Chugach Alaska Corporation
Judge Roy and Linda Madsen
Ben and Hazel Ardinger
Frank and Leslie Johnson
Island Air of Kodiak
Servant Air of Kodiak
Steve Wood & the Kodiak Flying Club
The many Kodiak community members who attended our fundraiser dinner
Thank you all!
--Your very grateful seminarians.
Aleut Orthodox text from 1826 now available on-line
"There you shall bring your ... firstfruits, prayers, voluntary offerings ... and you shall rejoice in all to which you put your hand, you and your households, as the Lord your God blessed you" – Deuteronomy 12:6-7 (SAAS, Orthodox Study Bible)
It is with joy, mixed with sadness, that the parish of All Saints of North America in Hamilton, ON, Canada, announces its latest electronic publication: an Orthodox Christian Catechism in the Unangan-Aleut and Russian languages, dating from 1826.
"As far as we know, this is the first-ever written text in the Unangan-Aleut language which was translated by St. Innocent Veniaminov and Aleut chief Ivan Pan'kov in 1826. This was approximately two years after St. Innocent's arrival in Unalaska in the summer of 1824", explained Father Geoffrey Korz, rector of All Saints of North America Orthodox Church. "It is my understanding that it is a beautiful text in its original version, very touching in its simplicity while explaining eternal truths. As such, it is entirely relevant for contemporary North American society, in an age when many people may not be acquainted with basic Christian teachings. Making it available online for the first time is very timely."
Father Geoffrey continued, "Although never published, the 1826 manuscript is a fascinating text linguistically. It provides the foundation for studying St. Innocent's initial grasp of the Unangan-Aleut language and how this blossomed into his other Alaskan works of the 1830s and 1840s."
The Alaskan Orthodox texts project was saddened to learn of the repose of Archpriest Paul Merculief a few days before the release of this first Aleut-language Catechism. Father Paul had been instrumental in assisting the project since its inception in May 2005 until very recently. His knowledge and guidance, but most of all, his warmth and love for Christ, the Orthodox faith and the Unangan-Aleut language, will be sorely missed.
May God grant that Father Paul's memory be eternal in the Heavenly Kingdom!
May God grant also that the rich Alaskan Orthodox literary legacy entrusted to His Church "may not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord!"
The first-ever Aleut Orthodox Catechism from 1826 may be downloaded from:
The current library of 63 Alaskan Orthodox texts may be accessed at:
(Click on the "Alaskan Orthodox Texts" link on our webpage to access asna.ca.)
Recent Archpastoral visit of His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin to Kodiak - 03/31/13
On March 31--the Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas--His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin celebrated a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak. At this time His Eminence elevated the Diocesan Administrator Hieromonk David (Mahaffey) to the dignity of Archimandrite, and Rector of Holy Resurrection Cathedral and Seminary Field Work Supervisor Priest Innocent Dresdow to the dignity of Archpriest. Also, third-year seminarian Subdeacon John (Simeon) Askoak was ordained to the Holy Diaconate, and seminarians Jason (Sergei) Chocknok, Leonard (Leonty) Wasillie, and Oscar (Sergei) Olsen III were tonsured as Readers. Pictures to come!
On March 7 and 8 St. Herman's Seminary hosted special speakers from St. Vladimir's Seminary. Archpriest Chad Hatfield, chancellor of St. Vladimir's Seminary and former dean of St. Herman Seminary, spoke on "Speaking to Protestants," emphasizing Protestant history and beliefs, as well as Orthodox apologetics. St. Vladimir students Fr. James Parnell and Subdeacon Nicholas Roth--both of whom have served in the military--spoke about the military chaplaincy and ministry to veterans. The special sessions concluded with a trip to the Coast Guard base in Kodiak, where the seminarians had the opportunity to hear from Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant chaplains. Finally, Fr. Chad presented a gift of books recently published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press for the seminary library. There has been a strong historical connection between our two seminaries over the years, and we look forward to strengthening that relationship.
Seminarians have enjoyed playing basketball on the Kodiak City Basketball league these past few months. The St. Herman's Hermits recently played in the championship game, where they were supported by a large cheering section. The Hermits finished the season as runners-up. They have had a successful and fun season, playing hard and being an example of Christian faith to the community.
Local freelance writer Mike Rostad writes in a weekly column in the Kodiak Daily Mirror. He recently reported on an upcoming lecture by St. Herman Seminary professor Dr. Bea Dunlop:
"The history and theology of icons will be the topic of a presentation by Dr. Bea Dunlop, St. Herman's Seminary patristics professor, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23 at the Baranov Museum.
"The free lecture is part of the museum's exhibit featureing old icons donated by former postmaster William Lamme. The icons will be on display during the museum's Faily Day on Saturday, Jan. 19.
"Dunlop will take the audience through centuries of history, which includes reports of miraculous visitations, inter-Church conflicts and clarification on the proper place of icons.
"'It will be challenging to fit everything in,' Dunlop said. She will rely on the use of modern imagery (a slide show) in giving her presentation.
"Icons, which are often called 'holy pictures,' adorn icon walls of Ortodox churches and occupy a corner in the homes of Orthodox faithful. Icons have found their way into Protestant churches as well.
"'Practically all icons are either of the Incarnation (God becoming Man in Jesus Christ), Scripture or something in Church history,' Dunlop said, pointing to an icon of the visitation by the Trinity to Abraham (taken from the Book of Genesis).
"'The lives of the saints and depictions of things that have happened in church history are an extension of the Incarnation--the body of Christ in time and space.'
"'It's amazing that you can walk into a church and you don't have to read name tags to tell who's who.'
"Dunlop said that an icvon is 'more than just a holy picture.' It is part of the theology of the Orthodox Church.
"Some Orthodox theologians refer to icons as windows that peer into Heaven, but that analogy falls short in explaining their significance, Dunlop said.
"'A window implies separation, such as a pane of glass. The experience of the church, the worship in church, is not the experience of separation, but a foretaste of the Kingdom, as if the glass has been removed.'
"Dunlop compares iconography to oral tradition, the passing of stories from generation to generation.
"Story-telling has a very important place in the history of the Church, she said.
"'When people are telling stories, you learn stories,' Dunlop said. 'You try to be true to what the master story teller has taught you.' After all, the one who transmits the story is a step closer to the original story and story teller--the prototype.
"'I see something similar going on with iconography, trying to be true to what the teacher iconographer has taught, what has passed down from generation to generation.'
"'Iconography has been the norm throughout Church history.' Dunlop said. 'It's not just something quaint that Russians do. The making of icons has to do with the Incarnation, that God becoame matter or material. Iconography allows us to depict, in line and color, the Incarnation, saints and people from Church history.'
"An icon depicts the material and spiritual, Dunlop said. 'Since Christ is incarnate, there is an interpenetration of traits of full divinity and humanity. The icon depicts materiala nd spiritual reality.'
"Dunlop said in her presentaiton she will be talking about conventions used in iconography, such as inverse perspective.
"'In post-Renaissance art you have perspective, single or multiple vanishing points (the point on the horizon where parallel lines appear to meet). You're drawn into the painting, the space that is framed.'
"The reverse takes place in iconograpy, Dunlop said. The viewer becomes the vanishing point. 'We're being confronted by reality in the painting. We become the focal point.'
"'This reversed vanishing point is often mistaken for primitive depiction, as if the iconographer didn't know any better,' Dunlop said. 'But this is deliberate. The icon confronts us with reality or relationship of the icon to us. It is focused on us.'
"Dunlop said this is analogous to the reader who falls under the scrutiny of Scripture rather than being the one who scrutinizes it.
"Dunlop said there seems to be an increaed understanding of iconography, not only in Kodiak, but in the rest of the museum world.
"'We're not treating icons as just paintings that should be kept in a museum, but we see the context of how they are used in Orthodox life,' she said."
Fr. Michael Oleksa speaks at seminary - 12/13/12
From December 13-18 the students at St. Herman Seminary learned about the history of the Church in Alaska from Archpriest Michael Oleksa, noted author and chancellor of the Diocese of Alaska. After celebrating the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Holy Apostle Andrew, students learned about the lives of the Saints of Alaska and the history of Russian America, and also the broader understanding of culture and the more contemporary history of the Church in Alaska and the United States.
St. Herman Hermits - 12/19/12
During this past semester the seminary team, St. Herman Hermits, has played in the Kodiak city basketball league. This week the team is playing in a tournament with those students who are staying on campus for the Nativity break.
Father John Dunlop, dean of St. Herman's Seminary in Kodiak, has a positive outlook for the school year.
"I feel a sense of vitality and vision for where we're going," said Dunlop, who has been dean of the school since 2007. "We have a good group of students who seem" to be eager to learn the ways of the Orthodox Church, he said.
This year the seminary is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the school, which was founded by the late Fr. Joseph Kreta in Kenai. The seminary moved to Kodiak a year later.
Not only is this an anniversary year, but a transitional one, Dunlop said, alluding to the impending election of a new bishop for the Alaska Diocese of the Orthodox Church. In the meantime, the Diocese has been served by Archbishop Benjamin Peterson, who resides in San Francisco.
This year the seminary has a "full house" of 17 students, most of whom represent Alaska Native groups. "We have a broad ethnic spectrum" Dunlop said. "This year we have more single students than usual. About half the student body is single. That's a unique feature."
Many of those students are children or nephews/nieces of Native Orthodox priests, carrying the names of Trefon, Nick, Askoak, and Larson. "It's good to know that the next generation is interested in serving the Church," Dunlop said.
Realizing the close-knit, family oriented nature of the villages represented at the seminary, the administration attempts to bring those features to the Kodiak campus.
We've been having community gatherins and meals in village style to gather together as community," Dunlop said. "We try to do that regularly as family, as community, which is similar to village life. In a lot of ways, we're like a little village."
The seminary also is "trying to incorporate village ways of singing," Dunlop said, noting that Alaskan melodies, tones, and languages are used in the seminary choir.
While the seminary looks back at the contributions made by the clergy and parishioners of the past, it looks ahead to evangelizing and teaching an ancient Christian faith.
"We have a strong involvement and interest in missions," Dunlop said, nothing that missiology "is another added feature to our program. We're focusing more on missions."
The seminary is working with the Orthodox Christian Mission Center in inspiring students to get involved with mission work.
In addition to his duties as dean and professor at St. Herman's, and his work as a priest, Dunlop also has been a student himself. Recently he acquired a doctor of ministry degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. With that accomplishment, Dunlop will share the title "doctor" with his wife, Dr. Bea Dunlop, seminary registrar and professor.
Fresh faces at seminary - 09/13/12With the coming of fall, St. Herman Seminary welcomes a new class of students. Joining our returning students are (in alphabetical order) Erika Johnson, Alexander Larson (along with his family), Gulga (Sdn. Luke) Levi, Sarjus Moonin, and Jackie Nick. The seminary is filled to capacity with 17 students and we look forward to the challenges of our fortieth year as a seminary community serving the Diocese and peoples of Alaska.
Missions experience for seminarian - 05/21/12Being recipients of the Church's missionary efforts here in Alaska, it is a special joy to see seminarians participate in the work of missions to others. This summer, St. Herman Seminary student Oscar Olsen III had the opportunity to go to Albania on an OCMC missions team with 11 other seminarians, learning about the missiology of His Beatitude Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana and all Albania. This team was led by Fr. Luke Veronis, who taught a seminar on missions here at St. Herman Seminary this past spring. Here are some of Oscar's thoughts on this trip:
"This summer God gave me a wonderful experience that broadened my perspective of the Church. I was given the opportunity to study in depth the life, missiology and writings of Archbishop Anastasios with eleven other students. We were also able to learn about the resurrection of the Church in Albania, visit Albania and see what has been done and what still is being done there. Learning and seeing these things not only inspired me to delve into the life of the Church both inwardly and outwardly it also has opened my perspective on how we can be witnesses to the Faith. This experience was very 'eye-opening' in my understanding of the life of the Church.
"Studying the life, missiology and writings of Archbishop Anastasios was one way that broadened my perspective of the Church. We not only got to study his life, missiology and writings but we also got to meet him. When we talked with him and even while reading his books he didn’t seem like he was trying to convince us to believe a new belief, but to bring us into the realization that being witnesses through missions has always been a part of who we are and that we have 'forgotten,' or lost sight of this, and that we, the Church, should be more 'apostolic' like we used to be. He talked about this not only while we were with him but throughout his life in serving the Church. He not only talked about this throughout his life but acted upon it in many ways, one way was by the resurrection of the Church in Albania.
"Archbishop Anastasios says that witnessing the faith is central to who we are. There are many ways of offering a witness to our faith. One way of witnessing our faith is like what St. Seraphim of Sarov says, 'Save yourself and thousands around you will be saved.' Another way is like St. Innocent of Alaska, who actually went out with a purpose of bringing the good news to people. This second way of being a witness is what the missiology of Archbishop Anastasios is focused on.
"He points out that God is the first to show this missionary zeal towards all mankind throughout the Bible. He says a 'Universal Spirit' started from the very beginning when God created man and woman, showing that we are family. In the Old Testament God had chosen people not because he favored them, but He had chosen them so that they can bring all nations back to Him. These New Testament verses show God’s missionary zeal: 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved' (John 3:16-17). So after looking at the perspective that the Father sent the Son, Archbishop Anastasios points out that Jesus, the Son, now sends us out as missionaries, using Jesus’ last commandment, 'Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' (Matthew 28:19). He also uses many other examples in the Bible to point out that we are a missionary Church, such as Christ’s first time speaking in the synagogue, St. Symeon’s prayer, the whole book of Acts, etc. Archbishop Anastasios speaks often about the Church being Apostolic.
"He not only put emphasis on the 'apostolic' view of our Church but also on the 'catholic' perspective of our Church. He points out that we are a global Church. He says that to be 'catholic' we shouldn’t have an attitude that only takes care of 'our own' (i.e., our local parish). He points out who 'our own' is. He says that we shouldn’t have a local understanding of 'our own' but a global understanding. 'Our own' is not only the people we see, but also everyone in the world that is part of the Orthodox Church. So with this understanding of who 'our own' is, we will really know what it means to be a catholic Church. I was very busy studying in Boston, but it was great to know that I would be heading to Albania afterwards.
"After studying in Boston, we were given the opportunity to visit Albania. It was an amazing experience. We spent two weeks in Albania, but in those two weeks we did at least two months’ worth of activities and events. We had a very busy schedule. We got to see the development of the Church in Albania, meet many wonderful and inspiring people and see a lot of the programs run by the Orthodox Church. We traveled to many different places in Albania as well.
"Since the time of St. Paul there has always been an Orthodox Church in Albania. When St. Paul speaks of preaching the Gospel in Illyricum (Rom. 15:19), he is speaking of Albania), but since Communism banned religion in Albania from 1967-1991, the Church there dramatically collapsed. In 1991, just after the fall of Communism, Archbishop Anastasios became the head of the Orthodox Church in Albania, and it has been developing ever since.
"Although it has developed in many ways, it is still developing and much attention is still needed in Albania. There are many people in Albania that we’ve met who have dedicated a lot of their time to the development of the Church in Albania, including Archbishop Anastasios. There are many programs that are very inspiring in Albania. One such program is 'Diakonia Agapes.' This program is inspiring because it tries to be a witness to the faith in any way that it can. The program’s theme is 'Love That Makes a Difference,' which is apostolic in itself. There are also missionaries from America that we’ve met who are helping in Albania in any way they can. They are all contributing a lot of time and effort into the development of the Church. I will always remember the people I’ve met and the places I’ve seen in Albania.
"After studying in Boston and experiencing Albania, I couldn’t help but to want to delve into the life of the Church both inwardly and outwardly. There are many ways we are able to offer a witness to the Faith.
"No matter how we offer a witness to our Faith, the first and foremost way to share the good news is to live a life for God. Again, I will say that St. Seraphim of Sarov spoke of this way when he said, 'Save yourself and thousands around you will be saved.' To witness our faith is not only to share it but also to live it. St. Francis of Assisi says, 'Preach the Gospel always; if necessary, use words.' We all have our own part in the Body of Christ. The Bishop, Priest, Deacon, Subdeacon, Reader, Altar boys, choir director, starosta, missionary, laymen all play a part. We all have our own part to play in the Church. We all have our ways of serving God. One way may be more honored and have more responsibilities than another, but that doesn’t mean one way of serving God is less important than another. I’m not saying that we should stop showing respect to Bishops, Priests, etc., when I say that one way is not more important than another; we still have to honor people given a position in the Church because God gave them that position, but I’m saying that we are all called to serve God in different ways.
"Another way we can witness our faith is to be missionaries. To choose to live among a foreign people, to try and understand them and at the same time offer a witness to the Faith. I’ve learned that being a missionary is not just going to another country and giving big theological speeches about our Faith to many peoples but it’s as 'simple' as just living with other people, talking with them, and at the same time submitting ourselves to God. I understand that many of us won’t be called to be missionaries, but there is a way we can be missionaries while still being at home. One way to do this is to help out a missionary in any way that we can. By helping out a missionary we participate in what they are doing because we make some of the things they are doing even more possible. (If anyone wants to help out a missionary there are places missionaries and details about them can be found at the OCMC website.)
"Another great way we can offer a witness to our faith is to participate in the life of the Church in our very own communities. We can be witnesses to the Faith not just by attending services, but also by starting programs. Programs can be simply coffee hours, Sunday Schools, choir practices, Bible studies, youth Bible studies, gathering to read an Orthodox book together to learn more about our Faith, chanting practices, youth camps or activities, starting an Orthodox store, etc. There are many programs that can be done and these are very good ways of being witnesses to the faith.
"Altogether, this trip was an amazing experience. It has broadened my perspective in many ways. Studying in depth the life, missiology and writings of Archbishop Anastasios and seeing the resurrection of the Church in Albania have 'opened my eyes' in many ways on how we can be witnesses to our Faith. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to have this experience."Take some time to look at the extensive photo album that shows some of Oscar's experiences in Boston and Albania.
OCMC Mission Team at Ouzinkie - 08/13/12During the week of August 13 through 19 the Nativity of Our Lord Church in Ouzinkie hosted a 12-member mission team from the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), who ministered in the annual St. Peter the Aleut Youth Camp.
The camp, whose theme was "Transfiguring Our Lives," was staffed by seminary clergy and 12 OCMC missionaries from around the U.S. and Canada. Campers hiked, played sports, did arts and crafts, and learned in catechetical classes on the theme of Christ's Transfiguration. Close to 40 youth participated, with many villagers also attending meals and services.
Highlights of the camp included a baptism and festal Transfiguration services. St. Peter the Aleut Camp exemplifies the ongoing partnership between OCMC, the Seminary, and the Diocese of Alaska. Many thanks to the village of Ouzinkie and OCMC!
St. Herman Seminary television interview - 08/15/12Recently KTUU, a television station in Anchorage, aired a story about the Seminary, its archives, and the discovery of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in Alutiiq commissioned by St. Seraphim of Uglich around 1910. The book is a Rosetta Stone for the Alutiiq language and could be instrumental in its revival.
KTUU interviewed Seminary archivist and instructor Daria Safronova, Seminary Dean Fr. John Dunlop, and Alutiiq elders Katherine Chichenoff and Irene Coyle.
The elders noted how the Orthodox Church is vital in the revival of Alutiiq literacy. The fluent Alutiiq-speaking elders are translating the language written in Cyrillic characters, which are read by Ms. Safranova. Church and liturgical terms are referred to Fr. John for clarification. This team effort is bearing much fruit and drawing attention to the Alaskan treasures in the Seminary's archives.
Pilgrims from across the world traveled here Wednesday to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the canonization of St. Herman of Alaska.
The annual pilgrimage drew around 100 people who arrived by boat to visit the holy site where Orthodox Christianity celebrates it roots in America.
Bells rang as the Orthodox ministers arrived and made their way up the path to the St. Herman's Chapel [SS. Sergius and Herman of Valaam Church], followed by the crowd of pilgrims.
St. Herman was part of the Russian mission that came to Kodiak in 1794. He helped convert the Native population to Christianity, but eventually came into conflict with the Russians about their treatment of the Native people. As a sort of exile, he moved to Spruce Island where he lived a monastic life in the early 1800s.
"St Herman who lived here on spruce Island is a Saint who is known throughout the Orthodox world," said Archbishop Benjamin Peterson of San Francisco and the West, and acting [bishop of the] Diocese of Alaska. "I think a lot of people feel connected to him because he's closer to our time. He's not really a remote figure."
St. Herman was canonized in 1970, and is buried in Kodiak. He was the first Orthodox saint in North America.
The divine liturgy lasted about two hours and included prayer, Scripture readings, a sermon and communion. Twelve members of the St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church in Kalskag led the choir services; it was the group's first time on the pilgrimage.
After the divine liturgy, some pilgrims paid tribute to St. Herman by visiting his original grave site located underneath the chapel.
Pilgrims also visited St. Herman's spring to drink fresh holy water, and the homes and grave sites of Father Peter Kreta and Rev. Archimandrite Gerasim Schmaltz, the men who came after St. Herman and carried on his legacy. [Note: More correctly, the home and grave of Archimandrite Gerasim, who carried on St. Herman's legacy, and the grave of Kodiak priest Fr. Peter Kreta, who wanted to be buried on Spruce Island.]
Bishop NIkolai of Salavat and Kumertau, head of Bashkiryan Metropolia in Ufa, Russia, traveled from Russia with eight other pilgrims.
"This holiday is very important, not only for Alaska or for Kodiak, but for Christians from all over the world," he said, "You can see that today. It's amazing because it's a very small place."
People in attendance were from Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Mexico, Pennsylvania, Missouri, California, Alaska, and other places in the U.S.
Metropolitan Christopher, Archbishop of Prague and the head of the Orthodox Christian Church in the Czech Republic and Slovakia was supposed to be in attendance, but had to return home due to a death in the church.
After the divine liturgy, the pilgrims had a picnic on the beach before heading back to Kodiak.
Russian pilgrims visit in growing numbers - 08/03/12Kodiak Daily Mirror writer Nicole Klauss reported the following news regarding Russian pilgrims in Kodiak.:
"A Russian priest stopped in Kodiak while on a pilgrimage that retraces the steps of St. Innocent, the first Russian Orthodox Bishop of Alaska.
"Father Eugenii Startsez and a two-man crew arrived from Dutch Harbor last week on the boat, the St. Innokentii.
"Father John Dunlop, St. Herman Seminary dean, said people are interested in traveling to Kodiak because there has been a renewed interest in the Russian history of Alaska.
"'One of the things of interest in Russian is Russian-American history,' Dunlop said. 'People want to rediscover their roots.'
"While in Kodiak, Startsev visited St. Innocent Academy, the St. Herman Seminary and the downtown area.
"One can't be indifferent to the cultural heritage on the island," Father Eugenii Startsez said. 'Kodiak is a well-known place on the map of Russian America, and it is a great attraction for Orthodox people around the world.'
"Startsez also hopes to build relationships with the youth in Alaska during the pilgrimage. 'In the long run we want to establish community bridges between the youth of Russia and the U.S. to understand better,' Startsez said.
"Startsez and his group will head next to Juneau and then Sitka.
"Professor Alexander Petrov and Hieromonk Makarii Komogorov also traveled to Kodiak from Russian to do research using the seminary's archives; they are not traveling with Startsev.
"During their time in Kodiak, they plan to search through archives with St. Herman Seminary archivist Daria Safronova.
"Petrov is a Russian scholar who has spent much of his life studying Russian American history. Kodiak historian Dawn Black and Petrov worked together in the past when they coauthored a book about the Shelikhov family in Kodiak. The Shelkhovs played an important role in the Russian settlement in Alaska. This time Petrov is looking for different information.
"'We hope to find all related materials to the development of the Orthodox Church,' Petrov said.
"Specifically, he's hoping to find material that will help him understand the development of parishes and why they were built in certain areas.
"Although Startsev, Petrov and Komogorov are completing separate trips, they are working on the same overall project. Everything they learn on their trips will help the Russian Orthodox Church understand its history with the U.S. and Alaska.
"'The most important thing is to understand America better,' Startsez said. 'We share not only a common history, but a common future.'"
Alutiiq texts and literacy - 07/26/12
Recently Brianna Gibbs of local Kodiak radio station KMXT visited the Diocesan archives at St. Herman Seminary and interviewed Seminary Dean Archpriest John Dunlop and archivist Daria Safronova to discuss the recent discovery of a handwritten Alutiiq book containing quotes from Alutiiq Gospels as well as the history of the Church’s involvement in attempting to preserve Native languages.
“Yesterday KMXT’s Brianna Gibbs told you about the recent rediscovery of a book, handwritten in Alutiiq and containing numerous gospels from the Bible. The book was found in the archives of St. Herman Russian Orthodox Seminary, along with dozens of teaching documents from church schools founded by Orthodox missionaries in the early 1900s. Today, Brianna takes us into the history of what is now thought to have been one of the world’s most literate civilizations.
“Thousands of historic documents line the archive walls at St. Herman Seminary. The well-lit, slightly chilled room is home to some of the seminary’s most precious literature, and recently rediscovered proof of the astounding literacy of Alaska Natives.
“Daria Safronova is an archivist and teacher at the seminary. She sits at a wooden table in the back of the seminary’s library, surrounded by dozens of aging books and transcripts. Gently, Safronova takes a paperback book from her stack of documents and begins to flip through the pages.
“‘This is an Alutiiq ABC book, again printed in St. Petersburg in 1848, and there were hundreds and hundreds, and we even have hundreds and hundreds of these books. And what is unique about it, it’s bilingual as well. It starts in Alutiiq and at first you learn to read syllables in Alutiiq, but in Russian letters, in Slavonic letters, and then it is in Slavonic.’
“Safronova said a majority, if not all, the documents and books are multilingual publications.
“‘It seems mind boggling at first, especially for people who don’t deal with linguistics. Because we are dealing here with three languages, actually four. We are dealing with Church Slavonic, the language of the church. We are dealing with Russian, which is like modern English, where everyone communicated in that language. We are dealing with Alutiiq language that was used at home. And we’re dealing with English language that was introduced when Russians left.”
“Father John Dunlop is the dean at St. Herman Seminary and said he isn’t surprised that much of the documents in the archives are multilingual. He said teaching literacy through Church documents was one of the Russian Orthodox missionaries’ primary goals.
“‘I think one of the general principles of the Russian mission to Alaska was translating liturgical material and biblical materials into the native languages. That went throughout the course of the mission here, and it’s really one of the keystones of Orthodox missionary is to translate things into local languages.’
“The result of this work, according to Safronova, is the creation of an extremely literate culture, more so than any other indigenous people during that time.
“‘That it was done in 1848, it was unprecedented in all the lower 48 states where the only example of native literacy was the Sequoyah from the Cherokee tribe who created his own literacy. But otherwise there was some missionary work done in Dakota states and Catholics were interested in translating the gospel. But what’s unique about this is it is bilingual, and the native people themselves were active participants of the process.’
“Because Alutiiq people could read, write and speak so many languages, including Russian, it is now thought that at one point they were perhaps even more literate than the majority of the population of Russia.
“‘But then the history gets even more interesting, just to finish with education process, it was not only bilingual books that were used, but also monolingual Alutiiq and monolingual Church Slavonic. So these people were more educated than people in Russia, where majority of the population of peasants were illiterate. So to understand that, if more people knew that it, it would reinforce native pride in how literate these people were.’
“Safronova said in a way, the last half century has been a dark age for literacy, meaning these multilingual skills have been lost over the years. However, she said she has hope for a linguistic renaissance, especially with Kodiak College offering classes in both Russian and Alutiiq this fall.”
Handwritten Orthodox Church Volume in Alutiiq Discovered - 07/25/12
Brianna Gibbs of local Kodiak radio station KMXT reported on a recent discovery in the Diocesan Archives at St. Herman Seminary:
"The recent rediscovery of a book, handwritten in Alutiiq and containing numerous gospels of the Bible, could play an important role in the on-going Alutiiq language revival on Kodiak Island.
"Daria Safronova is an archivist and faculty member of St. Herman Russian Orthodox Seminary and came across the volume when she received a tip that someone had seen it in the seminary's archives.
"Safronova said the book and its culturally significant contents were previously discovered by the late anthropologist Lydia Black, and was even put on display for a time. However, only recently, as scholars from the seminary and Alutiiq Museum with the help of elders try to revive the endangered language, was its importance realized."'Maybe it was not the time for it to surface at that point. Now during the Alutiiq language revival, this is an incredibly important document because this is basically a Rosetta stone. This is a literary language preserved and the elders still understand it. A good proof of that was a recent event in Old Harbor, that Father Michael [Oleksa] read from the gospel of St. Matthew during Divine Liturgy, and it did it first in Alutiiq, then a couple of versus in Slavonic, and then in English. Well Old Harbor has a congregation of people who still speak Alutiiq, and they understood what he said.'
"In addition to the biblical text, Safronova found dozens of teaching documents from church schools founded by Russian Orthodox missionaries in the early 1900s. Classroom records, Alutiiq ABC books and even lesson plans written in Alutiiq, Church Slavonic and Russian are now crucial clues that will help the revival."'And this is Alutiiq language in Alutiiq cursive. We can even say there existed Alutiiq cursive. And how we can say that, well if you were consistent and you were forced through the ABC book, you would have known that the difference between Russian alphabet and Alutiiq miraculously is seven letters. Because the sound system is very close. So this for example is "n," I immediately understood that this is not Russian because it is a "n" sound. But it is an Alutiiq person writing it, and it's incredible.'
"Because of the similarity of Russian and Alutiiq alphabets, Safronova, who speaks fluent Russian, is able to read the handwritten Alutiiq text found in the archives. She said she understands some of it, only because she knows the gospels and prayers in Russian. As for the parts she doesn't understand, Safronova and Father John, the dean of St. Herman Seminary, meet with Alutiiq elders once a week to read and go through the dense biblical text. Safronova is able to read the Alutiiq cursive, and Alutiiq elders can understand what she is saying. Words or phrases that are unknown to both parties are filled in by Father John, who uses his liturgical knowledge to translate the missing pieces of the gospels.
"It's a slow, collaborative process, according to Safronova. But she said it is something that must be done to gain enough knowledge of the rediscovered materials to use in teaching younger generations.
"'Kids are the fastest to learn. At this point it was a perfect demonstration in Old Harbor, an 8- and 6-year-old, they learned the alphabet and learned how to read basic words in less than one hour. It's just letters, and then you can learn how to read. And for kids it's like a code. So there is a big potential in this thing and the elders support it and whatever hard feelings may have existed, for the Church, because they couldn't understand Slavonic, but now it is clear that the church was actually trying to introduce multiple languages.'
" For now, the rediscovery process continues, and Safronova says St. Herman Seminary has opened up its archives to the public, and anyone who would like to come in and learn about the language is more than welcome. She said the process must be inclusive, because it will take input from many different directions to help revive the language.
"Safronova teaches Russian language at Kodiak College and plans on incorporating the similarities between Russian and Alutiiq alphabets this fall."
Metropolitan of Czech Lands in Alaska - 07/25/12
Local radio station KMXT recently reported on the upcoming historic visit of His Beatitude KRYSTOF [Christopher], Metropolitan of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, to the Diocese of Alaska:
For only the second time, the head of an overseas branch of the Orthodox Church will be visiting Alaska. The Primate of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovak, Metropolitan Christopher, the Archbishop of Prague, will spend two weeks in Alaska, attending dedications of new Russian Orthodox Churches and attending the annual Pilgrimage of Saint Herman in Kodiak. Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow visited in 1993 on the bicentennial of Orthodoxy's arrival in America.
Archpriest Michael Oleksa, acting chancellor for the Orthodox Diocese of Alaska, will be the metropolitan's tour guide for much of his visit. Father Michael has known the metropolitan since studying overseas many years ago. The Alaska visit was facilitated through a visit made by Bishop Benjamin to Prague.
"Consequently, he being bishop of Alaska and so forth, and they being very interested in Alaska, after he concluded his visit to Slovakia and the Czech Republic, he reciprocated (and asked), 'Why don't you come to Alaska?' And they had specifically asked for an invitation to Alaska in fact," Father Michael said. "Although he's bishop of California as well, they weren't too interested in San Francisco and Los Angeles as they were in the land of Saint Herman. So the bishop said, ‘Fine, let's plan on it next summer,' and that's how this all got started."
Father Michael says the metropolitan will have a busy schedule as soon as he gets to Alaska, including attendance at the groundbreaking of a new Orthodox church in Wasilla, but he will get two days to fish and bear-watch on Lake Clark. After blessing the newly renovated church in Nondalton, the metropolitan and his entourage will head for the Kuskokwim River, where several stops are planned.
"In Tuluksak they're actually going to break ground for a new church named for Saint Prince Rastislav, the Prince of Moravia who invited the Orthodox missionaries to his principality back in the 800s. This is the first church in America dedicated to Prince Rastislav. And I think the delegation is bringing a special icon to present to the community there as they begin construction of their church. When Bishop Benjamin told them last year they were going to build the Saint Rastislav Church, they said they'd have to be there for that."
Before coming to Kodiak for the annual Saint Herman Pilgrimage to Spruce Island, Metropolitan Christopher will visit two coastal villages.
"We're going down to Eek where they built a new church. And to the village of Quinhagak, where Saint Juvenaly, a colleague and member of the original Valaam mission to Kodiak with Saint Herman, where Father Juvenaly and his Athabaskan companion were martyred in 1797 or 1798. We have a community there that wants to build a church, and it will be the Saint Juvenaly and his Athabaskan Companion Orthodox Church."
Father Michael says the metropolitan is coming to Alaska at a time of rapid growth for the Orthodox Church in the state:
"I think we've never had more clergy than we have now. The seminary has produced more priests than we've ever had in the diocese. We're building as you can tell. I can count five new churches going up, so expanding into communities where there haven't been Orthodox churches in the past. Mostly because of intermarriage. It's the same story: Orthodox people on the Kuskokwim marry Moravians. Now there's 80 Orthodox in Quinhagak. It's still a thousand Moravians, but there's 80 Orthodox want a church of their own. The Moravians want to help them out and give them the land. So we're going to Quinhagak to meet with that community."
Metropolitan Christopher is scheduled to arrive in Alaska on Saturday, and he will be in Kodiak for the Pilgrimage August 7-9.
Tuesday, August 7
6 p.m. Akathist to St. Herman (Holy Resurrection Cathedral)
Wednesday, August 8
8 a.m. Boats depart for Spruce Island (St. Paul Harbor)
9 a.m. Divine Liturgy for those not able to go to Spruce Island (Holy Resurrection Cathedral)
10 a.m. Hierarchical Divine Liturgy (Spruce Island)
Noon Picnic on the beach (Monk's Lagoon on Spruce Island)
4-6 p.m. Soup dinner (Holy Resurrection Cathedral)
6 p.m. Vigil (Holy Resurrection Cathedral)
Thursday, August 9
9 a.m. Hierarchical Divine Liturgy (Holy Resurrection Cathedral)
Noon Grand Banquet (Sun'aq Tribal Hall)
A love offering of $25 per pilgrim or $50 per household will be collected to help offset increasing fuel costs for the boats providing transportation for pilgrims to Spruce Island.
From Indiana to Alaska - 06/03/12On June 3 we welcomed a pan-Orthodox mission team from Indiana. Although they had planned on serving elsewhere on the island, when those plans had to change they quickly adapted and graciously volunteered to take care of construction and maintenance issues at the Seminary and Holy Resurrection Cathedral here in Kodiak. Although they only had 10 days, they accomplished many needed projects, including completely replacing two staircases at the single student residence, needed maintenance at the Seminary chapel, installing a new door and ramp at the Cathedral . . . all with great joy. We gratefully thank our brethren of this mission team for their supporting our ministry to the Church in Alaska.
For more pictures and comments about this trip, visit the blog of one of the team members at http://2012alaskamission.wordpress.com to see more photos and read his reflections on this experience.
Vladyko, Brothers and Sisters, Graduating Class, Seminarians:
I would like to remember Protopresbyter Joseph Kreta and Archbishop Gregory, who did a lot for us in Alaska and St. Herman’s Seminary.
We as Christians seem to have a yearning to be with God and be a part of God throughout our lives. When we look back in our lives, as Natives we are taught to share—sharing of what we have, what we’ve caught, or what we’ve gathered, sharing in our happiness and sadness. We are taught and encouraged to be kind and considerate, being respectful to each other and every one. No matter where an individual may stand in a community, he or she has something valuable to contribute to the community; so respect should be shown to everyone, the youth and the Elder.
Even in the villages we are inundated with much activities that require our time and effort; sometimes we have to leave them up to God, and as we are taught by God and our Elders, these are provided. So in a way we have to calm our minds and concentrate on achieving our salvation. Although preparing for the future is important—especially gathering subsistence foods—there is a time and place for those also. When we gather anything, we do it so we too may be able to share with those who may not be able to. As clergy and families of clergy we have to be aware also of the time and events that go on in our Church so that we can take care of those and at the same time take care of our subsistence activities; our example teaches our fellow Christians.
Our people always want to learn about God and be in good terms with Him. You remember the annual conferences, how we enjoy seeing and meeting each other from different villages, all the endless hours of meetings, and all the information and instruction we received. It seemed like the questions we asked and the information we received almost every year were repeated the following year. Even so we still yearn to learn and dwell in the love and forgiveness that our Lord has bestowed upon us.
Many of our people treasure what they have learned or heard. Even we do the same thing. We are fortunate to have had people who served in the Church and are very good examples to all of us. The pious devotion they showed and the love they taught us still exists today. We in our turn and in our own way pass on what we have learned. Just like when we hear and love what we’ve heard about God from our immediate Elders, we hold in high respect the people who have taught us well. We shouldn’t be surprised when we hear that Father So and So or someone did or talked about God in a certain way, making our opinion or how we teach or serve seem not so valid or the right way. It shouldn’t be, because in the end what they have learned is being passed down to us in their own way. These events happen especially with our immediate Elders. I’m sure we also do it today also, but it should be viewed as a teaching method for us. When we sit and think about what was said to us, we will realize that it is a teaching about how we express God’s love, a learning experience for us—we in turn pass this down to people who we serve in our own way.
With God’s help, when we become teachers or leaders in our small communities we will think about how our Elders taught us. Although we may have a respectful position, we have to remember that what we’ve learned has led us to this day. Many of our communities cannot support us especially financially, but we shouldn’t hold that against them or use it as an expression of their love for us. Just like when they struggle to survive, putting up subsistence food, storing woods, preparing for the immediate future, we too have to humble ourselves and make things work out. When we look at ourselves and the high position we may hold we tend to think that people should think about us as we think about ourselves. This will only disappoint us and we will think less of the people that we serve. Out of the love that we show of the loving God, we should put our pride aside and—as they say—“roll us our sleeves” and help our parish or people that we serve and, if possible, get a job . . . of course putting our service to God first. Some communities may be blessed with large financial situations; but, as I’ve said, be ready to “roll up our sleeves.” When we sit back and start thinking of how high we are, we tend to get into trouble with ourselves and the people that we serve. Remember that God gave us the strength and the people to help us; we are not alone, but sometimes we can put ourselves into that feeling. One of the recently converted parishioners told someone when they were very stressed, “put your thrust in the Lord,” because that’s who we get our strength from.
Just like anybody we yearn to learn who? what? how? why? and so on. If someone tells us that Father or Matushka So and So or someone did things in a certain way, we shouldn’t take it as a personal insult but a way of learning. A few years back, when I spoke at the local conferences, when I was done I told one of the esteemed Priests that I felt inadequate in how I expressed the topic I was talking about. He made me feel good when he said that I spoke in “village language,” not that it’s different from the world’s, but it was in a way our people understand. We are curious to learn, and we learn in our special ways . . . and so do the people that we serve.
In small communities a lot of us know each other, and develop close bonds, especially with people that support and encourage us, and we tend to favor them over others. This close bond may drive others away from the Church. What is helpful is to be neutral with them all, even with those who we become close to. Again we can teach them not only to love those that love us, but also show respect and love to those that may show intolerance to others and us, from our esteemed Elders to our youth. Be merciful to everyone.
When we show people that we respect them, they in turn learn to love and respect each other. In small communities the people seem to group up, and certain groups may vie for our support. These groups can be family members; in a way we have to show them that God’s love is not limited to that certain group, but also outside the certain group. When we think about it, maybe small community groups are not much different from larger community groups. We have to remember that God shows mercy to both the simple and the wise.
Many times we have to counsel people that we know and even Elders. It gets hard especially, because we are taught to respect our Elders. We may be well versed and know what the solution may be, but sometimes out of respect for our Elders we can confront them by first asking for their advise and touching on the problem they may have. Talking to the youth may be a little easier, because we may be able to relate to them. Again, consulting with our Elders will help. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help; this way, we will not look down on the people that we serve. Asking for their help gives us the feeling of working together to achieve a common goal.
Sometimes we feel like we are alone, even having Church services may be attended by only family members or just by the Readers or choir members. When someone asks who was there, sometimes I tell them that my Godparents—God rest their souls—or someone who has fallen asleep were there; the next time they may attend, possibly to see if they are really there. It’s better to show them appreciation when they come; doing little things for them also encourages them to attend Church services more often, not only on Feast days or special days. Not pin-pointing their sins also helps; we have to remember that we all sin. Especially talk about the “Good News” that our Lord and Savior brought to us.
Being there and doing what you are called to do is always the right thing to do. Our fellow Christians appreciate and respect our efforts. At first we may be met with resistance, but when we make our point clear our efforts will be met with open arms . . . they may even offer help us. We should never be afraid of reasonable criticism or even be offended; after all, these are our Parents, our Elders, our relatives, our fellow Christians, and we are all trying to help each others get closer to our God.
Remember that God chose us to serve Him. What we have learned in or outside of St. Herman’s Seminary, we do it to help others. In the secular world we learn to achieve a status and a position in life; here we learn in order to show others and ourselves how we can be pleasing to God and each others. We are given a direction of how we can approach our salvation. It is not in vain we call each other brothers and sisters; we do it because our Savior made it all possible. All of you that are finishing your Seminary education need to apply what you have learned here to the outside world to keep it alive and ongoing. As our beloved St. Herman said, “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us praise God above all else.”
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
An ending but also a beginning . . . - 05/27/12On May 27, 2012, St. Herman Seminary graduated Priest Michael Nicolai and Deacon Andrew Wasillie, who now are entering a life of ministry after having spent years preparing for service to the Diocese of Alaska. His Eminence Archbishop BENJAMIN presented the graduates with their Diploma in Orthodox Theological Studies as well as a certificate from KANA (Kodiak Area Native Association) for their field work in substance abuse counselling. In addition, His Eminence awarded Reader's Certificates to Deacon Jason Isaacs, Monk Timofey [Kozaki], Subdeacon John Askoak, Subdeacon Michael Trefon, and seminarian Wasillie Guy.
Over the years, the parish's web development team has managed to locate and electronically publish a total of 60 texts and manuscripts in a diverse collection of Alaskan languages: Unangan-Aleut, Alutiiq, Tlingit, Yup'ik, and Russian, dating as far back as 1816. The latest text published is a series of two bilingual Unangan-Aleut/Russian sermons delivered by Fr. Alexander Panteleev (later Bishop ALEXEI) on Akutan Island in 1910 during one of his many pastoral journeys throughout the Aleutian Islands.
"When this project started 7 years ago, we merely had hoped to publish one text, but here we are at number 60, with about another 20 manuscripts still to go! The extent and richness of the Alaskan Orthodox literary legacy is greater than we could have imagined," continued Fr. Geoffrey. "It is our hope that, through the prayers of all saints who have shone forth in Alaska and North America, the Lord Jesus Christ may continue to bless this work, so that the work of the saints may not die but live and declare the works of the Lord" (Ps. 117:16, LXX).
Visit www.asna.ca/alaska to download Alaskan Orthodox Texts electronic publications in PDF format.
We at St. Herman Seminary share the vision of supporting the continuation of our Native Alaskan languages and the proclamation of the Gospel among all our peoples.
Special speakers continue relationship between seminaries - 04/26/12
On Thursday and Friday, April 26-27, the students and faculty of St. Herman Seminary took time off of classes to participate in seminars held by visitors from St. Vladimir's Seminary. As has been his habit for the past few years, Fr. Chad Hatfield, chancellor of St. Vladimir's and former dean of St. Herman's, brought special speakers to supplement our normal curriculum. In his own presentation, our seminarians considered with him an often-neglected element of pastoral formation, that of pastoral character. The associate dean for student affairs at St. Vladimir's, Fr. David Mezynski, presented a session on desert spirituality, focusing on the background and role of asceticism in the Christian life, giving counsel from the letters of St. Barsanuphius. Also speaking was Ian Jones, a 2009 graduate of St. Vladimir's who currently is pursuing doctoral studies at Fordham University. His presentation of "Animals and Orthodox Theology" was of particular interest, given the Native Alaskan hunting ethic and traditional interaction with the created world. The class considered the words of St. Basil the Great and St. Isaac the Syrian as well as the example of such saints as St. Seraphim of Sarov and our own St. Herman of Alaska, whose restoration of the human image through Christ drew wild animals to them as was true of Adam in Paradise.
In addition to speaking to the seminarians, Fr. Chad met with the seminary wives over "tundra tea" and led their retreat to the women's monastery on nearby St. Nilus Island. Our guests joined in our prayer of the Akaathist to St. Herman with the Kodiak community before venerating the Saint's relics, with Fr. David providing a reflection after the prayers.
This ministry organized by Fr. Chad is the result of an endowment generously established by a supporter of St. Vladimir's Seminary and provides an opportunity to continue to ongoing and growing relationship between our two seminaries.
Walking with Christ - 04/08/12Christ is risen!
Like Orthodox Christians around the world, our seminarians had the opportunity to "walk with Christ" through the triumph of our Lord's raising Lazarus from the dead and entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday through the final week of our Lord's ministry, Passion, death, and glorious rising from the dead. Although some went to other villages on Kodiak Island, many remained to celebrate the most holy time of the Church year with the faithful of Holy Resurrection Cathedral here in Kodiak. They assisted with altar service, singing in the choir, and reading Scripture as well as decorating the church for the services. Now, as we prepare to begin classes again, the spirit of the joy of our Lord's Resurrection fills our hearts as we continue to help prepare our students for service in the Church.
At the St. Herman Pilgrimage last year, young moviemaker Dmitry Trakovsky came not only to connect with his Russian heritage but to photograph the Pilgrimage. In addition to experiencing the Pilgrimage, Mr. Trakovsky witnessed the ordination of St. Herman Seminary student Fr. Michael Nicolai. This visit also produced a seed about a future film project about Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska. This project tentatively is entitled "Arctic Cross" and is the focus of a recent article in the Anchorage Daily News. Visit http://www.adn.com/2012/04/01/2401472/young-filmmaker-hopes-to-capture.html to learn more about this promising project.
Joy at an ordination - 03/18/12On March 18, the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross, second-year seminarian Jason Isaac was ordained to the Holy Diaconate by His Grace, Bishop Benjamin. locum tenens of the Diocese of Alaska.
Deacon Jason was joined by his Matushka Theresa and five children at St. Innocent Cathedral in Anchorage. Deacon Jason's parents and St. Herman Seminary graduates Fr. Maxim and Matushka Theodora of St. Paul Island also were prayerfully present at the ordination. Deacon Jason will complete his seminary studies, preparing to serve the Diocese of Alaska upon his graduation.
We pray that the Lord will grant many fruitful years of ministry to His servant, the newly ordained Deacon Jason and Matushka Theresa. Axios!
Special speakers impact seminarians - 03/05/12From March 5-9 visiting speakers from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology addressed St. Herman seminarians, impacting them greatly.
Cyril admits that he's not sure why he's there. Because he is estranged from his wife, he cannot seek ordination to the priesthood. However, seminary is for those who want to learn about the Orthodox Church and its teaching, and Williams badly wants to learn.
"It's pretty amazing to find myself understanding a lot more of the Scriptures and church services than I ever did," he said.
Yet much remains a mystery.
"I'm overwhelmed being here; it's almost like being a kid again. I'm learning that I have so much to learn."
One of the many things Williams is learning is the variety of tones and melodies that are sung in various languages in church services.
"When I come to church, we have all these different tones that we can sing. They change every week. It is totally amzing, all these different ways to sing."
He can hear parts of the service in Yup'ik, Alutiiq, and Slavonic in addition to English. He looks forward to hearing his Native Tlingit in the services.
As a child Williams heard Tlingit words, but he and his siblings were discouraged from speaking them. "My grandparents and uncles discouraged me from speaking Tlingit."
Williams grew up in the Southeast village of Hoonah, but he had to adjust to "city life" when the family moved to Sitka in 1969. He was 11 at the time.
"It was pretty devastating--physically, psychologically, and spiritually--going from a mud-puddle road to blacktop. In Hoonah I knew where I could get food to live on. (We were very poor.) In Sitka I couldn't go to the beach to get cockles, gum boots, China man caps."
Williams' father fished cod, halibut, and salmon. His mother, Emily, worked in the canneries.
Once an Orthodox seminary was opened in Kenai, Michael decided to enroll. The seminary later relocated to Kodiak.
After ordination, Fr. Michael Williams served parishes in Hoonah, Sitka, and Juneau.
Cyril said he paid a heavy price for being a priest's kid. When the Williams family walked down the street, people would confront his parents, reminding them of their "drinking days," he said. "They yelled and screamed at us. My parents would make us put our heads down."
Williams also suffered abuse from church members. The painful ordeal was made worse by his elders' response. "They said, 'Don't talk about it. You'll shame your family.'
"I thought the abuse only happened to me. Once my parents died, I found out differently as I listened to my brothers and sisters tell about the insanity they went through."
Williams decided to be self sufficient as soon as possible. When he was 14 he got his first job, working for the Forest Service in a summer youth program at 90 cents an hour.
When Williams got punished for something he didn't do, he decided to run away from home.
"Dad said I'd come home crying. That became a strong driving force in my life never to go back. I lived anywhere and everywhere I could, just so I wouldn't be at home."
Williams said he and his father later were reconciled. "I was blessed in that I did have respect for my dad."
In 1976 Williams enlisted in the Army, spending tours in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Guam, and Australia. He stayed in the military for 16 years. About half that time he was away from his family.
Once Williams was back in Alaska, he settled into the routine of regularly attending church services. Somewhere along the line he had a falling out with God, he said.
"I decided I didn't have to do this any more. My brothers and sisters didn't go to church, so why should I?"
Attending St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Juneau for what he thought would be a final visit, Williams made a break with the church in which his father was ordained. "I felt at peace and walked out. I felt like a burden had been lifted. I was happy."
"I went to other churches, but I never found the peace I had found in the Orthodox Church. Something was missing. I had wanted to close the door on the Orthodox Church."
But he didn't close it tightly.
In December of 2010 Williams went inside the Cathedral in Sitka, telling himself that he would let go of the demons of the past.
Before the service was over, he realized he had no intention of leaving the Orthodox faith. In the fall of 2011 he enrolled in the seminary that schooled his father.
Now a student, he is hungry to learn more about God and the Orthodox Church.
He is acquiring insights that he wished he would have had when he was younger.
"I'm here because my Heavenly Father chose me," said Williams. "I wouldn't be here on my own. I regret that I didn't come earlier."
At times Williams has doubts about his decision to attend seminary. "I think I'm too old, that I don't belong here. But God doesn't want me dancing in confusion anymore. He wants me right where I'm at. I'm at a stage in my life where I'm too afraid to disobey God. I don't want to know the consequences of disobeying Him."
Now his faith in God is "more of a personal relationship," Williams said.
"Before I kind of, sort of, prayed. Now I talk to God on a daily basis. I realize that I belong to Him. Getting on my knees is far easier than I expected; being submissive is easier than I would have expected."
(adapted from "Son of first St. Herman's Seminary graduate attends school," an article written by Mike Rostad for the Kodiak Daily Mirror)
This is the faith which has established the universe! - 03/04/12On the first Sunday of Great Lent every year, Orthodox Christians gather to commemorate the restoration on this day in 842 of the Holy Icons to the churches after a prolonged persecution by the iconoclastic emperors. To mark this occasion, the Seminary community joined with our brethren from St. Innocent's Academy at Holy Resurrection Cathedral for the Liturgy and procession of the Icons, culminating in the reading of the Synodikon of Orthodoxy:
"As the prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the teachers have dogmatized, as the Universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth, as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented as Christ awarded. Thus we declare, thus we assert, thus we preach Christ our true God and honor . . . in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons; on the one hand worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord, and on the other hand honoring as true servants of the same Lord of all and accordingly offering them veneration. This is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this is the Faith which has established the Universe!
Preparation for Pascha - 02/27/12One of the most spiritually intense times at the Seminary occurs during the first three days of Great Lent when classes are cancelled so the Seminary community can gather for a more full liturgical celebration of Lenten services (Matins, the Hours, Vespers, Compline with the Canon of St. Andrew, and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts). In addition, the seminarians were privileged to hear our Lenten Retreat speaker Fr. Thomas Andrew speak on the realities of parish ministry in the Diocese of Alaska.
Well done, good and faithful servant - 02/03/12As we in Kodiak gathered at Holy Resurrection Cathedral to pray the Akathist to St. Herman last night, we learned of the repose of the servant of God the Protopresbyter Joseph Kreta. It seemed appropriate that his panikhida was prayed immediately after our prayers to St. Herman, to whom in the minds of us in Alaska Fr. Joseph's name is inexstricably linked. A man used mightily of God in the Diocese of Alaska, in his ministry at Holy Resurrection Cathedral, and as the founding dean of St. Herman Orthodox Seminary, he will be greatly missed. We extend our most sincere condolences to Matushka Maria and the rest of Fr. Joseph's family and assure them of our continued prayers for them and for the repose of the soul of the newly departed servant of God, the Protopresbyter Joseph.
This morning a panikhida was prayed at the seminary, in which our Dean, Archpriest John Dunlop, told the students that the greatest legacy of Fr. Joseph is that our seminarians remain faithful to their calling to prepare to serve the Church and people of Alaska.
As we consider the life of this faithful servant of the Lord we echo the words of the Wisdom of Solomon: "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and they are at peace. God proved them and found them worthy for Himself. As gold in the furnace hath He tried them and received them as a burnt offering. Those who put their trust in Him shall understand the truth, and such as be faithful in love shall abide with Him; for grace and mercy is to His saints, and He hath care for His elect."
As we rededicate ourselves to the work begun by St. Herman and continued by the Protopresbyter Joseph, may we hear those words of Christ that Fr. Joseph no doubt hears from the Lord he served so faithfully: "Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord."
May his memory be eternal!
by Mike Rostad
Kodiak Daily Mirror
February 3, 2012
Shelikov and Baranov came to Alaska to conquer. Daria Safronova, Church Slavonic language and Russian church history instructor and archivist at St. Herman's Seminary, is not here to colonize, but to be colonized by the Native people of Alaska.
Most of her neighbors on campus are Native Alaskans, mainly of Yup'ik Eskimo, Aleut and Tlingit origin, whose cultures she is trying to understand. She is also trying to learn Alutiiq, the first language of Kodiak Island.
Safronova, 35, also teaches Russian at Kodiak College.
As an archivist, Safronova is continuing the work of the late Lydia Black, who also was from Russia.
Safronova is a linguist who studied Latin, Old English, Gothic and ancient Germanic languages at the University of St. Petersburg, where her parents were professors. She is a doctoral candidate at the Ohio State University Department of Slavic Languages and Literature.
"All of my degrees, to some, may seem chaotic, but they are needed here," she said.
Safronova considers her move to Kodiak and the way things have worked out "miraculous and providential." Those are unlikely words from someone who calls herself a "Soviet child."
You couldn't be incorporated into (Soviet) society without being a Communist."
Born in St. Petersburg in 1976, Safronova "grew up the epitome of a Soviet child, caring about other children. I didn't live for myself. We were good Soviet people. I never had much money but I did not really need it.
"We had all the Christian values without the doctrine of Christianity. We didn't have Jesus Christ, but Marx and Lenin. The Bolsheviks, during the Russian Revolution, substituted the concept of Christ with Lenin and Marx and Engels. They created an unholy trinity."
Her father "became an important man from an obscure Siberian village," she said.
Serving the Russian Army during World War II, he lost both legs below his knees after stepping on a land mine. Yet, after he was equipped with prosthetic legs, he could dance and drive a car. He became the dean of St. Petersburg State University. He taught history of the Slavs and the influence of Orthodox missionaries Cyril and Methodius.
Her mother taught Russian at the university.
In spite of living in a supposedly atheistic family, Safronova was exposed to people of faith.
"I never read a Bible as a child, but I knew it through the works of Feodor Dostoevsky."
Through reading Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Safronova understood that something was missing in her life. After the main character in the novel reads the Bible, he is converted.
"You couldn't find Bibles in Russia."
That changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Safronova's father started publishing Bibles and created a society for biblical studies at the university.
"He said it was impossible to study the Slavic culture without understanding the mission of St. Cyril and Methodius, missionaries to the Slavs. They united the tribes of the Slavs."
Like many of her peers, Safronova was baptized into the Orthodox Christian faith.
Expected to continue her parents' legacy as a university professor, Safronova studies language and literature of the University of St. Petersburg.
In 1998, she received a master's degree in the department of English philology and translation studies.
While she was in the process of writing her dissertation, an acquaintance called her out of the blue, asking her to go to America to teach one year.
"You must give your answer in five minutes," her friend said. Without hesitation, Safronova, a true adventurer, said "yes."
She spent the first four years in the Massachusetts teaching Russian language and culture, English and Russian literature and translation studies and taking courses she liked.
"I started a Russian club. It was an incredible time. Everyone loved me. It became my home."
She learned that it's best to "operate by hat you have in common," she said. "That redefined my life. One shouldn't focus on differences but similarities."
The same principle applies in Kodiak, she said. Whether Baptist, Catholic or Orthodox, "The language of the Gospel can unite us all."
Once Safronova left Massachusetts, she taught at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and finally, Ohio State University.
She worked at the Resource Center for Medieval Slavic and taught Russian literature while pursuing a doctorate in Slavic languages and cultures.
While at OSU, "My mind opened," she said. Instead of focusing on the Slavs, she saw them as part of a larger cultural production.
During her time at Ohio State, she went to Arizona and traveled on bicycle to a Navajo reservation.
"My heart was with the Native people," said Safronova, who was given the name "white dove."
She also visited St. Anthony monastery, where the chapel displayed an icon of St. Herman of Alaska, who lived and died on Spruce Island near the city of Kodiak. When she learned about St. Herman, a Russian from Valaam, she was inspired to come to Kodiak.
Arriving on the island in summer 2010, Safronova taught Russian at Saint Innocent Academy for three weeks.
Father Paisius DeLucia, dean of St. Innocent, is "strict but loving," Safronova said.
"Mary (his wife) is the gentlest spirit and best cook in the world. Anna Spencer (the secretary) kindly gives to lost pilgrims in her wonderful house.
"The souls of these often troubled boys and girls who attend the academy seem to undergo a miraculous transformation. They transform into a team of do-gooders."
While In Kodiak, Safronova made contact with St. Herman Seminary's dean Father John Dunlop, whose college friend happened to be the director of the research library at OSU.
When Safronova returned to OSU, she started preparing to return to Kodiak, where she was assured of work She also changed the focus of her doctoral dissertation from Scythianism, a Russian literary movement associated with Mongolia, to the revival of Eastern Orthodoxy on Kodiak Island.
The St. Herman Seminary community has been keeping Protopresbyter Joseph Kreta in our prayers after hearing of his very serious illness. Please keep our founding Dean Protopresbyter Joseph, Matushka Marie, and their family in your prayers. What follows is a brief description of the work Fr. Joseph accomplished in founding St. Herman Seminary, first printed in the 1985 history of St. Herman Seminary, The Arctic Willow: A History of an Alaskan Seminary.
HISTORY OF ST. HERMAN SEMINARY
The future of Orthodoxy in Alaska looked pretty dismal that autumn day in Kodiak, Alaska, as the faithful met for the 1972 Diocesan Assembly.
More Priests are Needed
Nine priests serving the needs of 84 Orthodox Christian parishes scattered over an area one-fifth the size of the Lower 48 United States at a time when the Diocese of Alaska was in spiritual turmoil.
The Diocese had the feeling of being orphaned after its bishop, now Metropolitan Theodosius, was transferred to the East coast. Just a handful of church schools to teach the youth and virtually no one trained to start new ones.
On the brink of bankruptcy, only faith kept the Diocese functioning.
Solution to the mountainous problems was to increase the number of laborers in this "vineyard of the North." Clergy from the Lower 48 could not be expected to come to needy villages where there were no homes for them and their families; no salary; and lack of communication, since in many areas, English was not the language of the people.
One alternative was to send Native Alaskans to the Orthodox seminaries located in New York and Pennsylvania. But financially, this was very impractical. Only three Alaskans had graduated from the schools on the East coast.
A Viable Solution
But there was a more viable solution. Archpriest Joseph Kreta, administrator of the Diocese, addressed the body on that September day with the proposal that the Orthodox Church start its own pastoral school and train its own priests, readers, teachers, and leaders.
Although admitting there was little chance of success, the delegates agreed the idea was a good one. Unanimously they approved the proposal and scheduled an opening for February of 1973. This was the beginning of St. Herman's Pastoral School. Just two years before faithful from all over the country and other nations had gathered in Kodiak for the canonization of Father Herman, the only saint of the Orthodox Church canonized in this hemisphere.
However, as Scripture says, "With God, all things are possible." At a meeting called in Kenai, the Kenaitze Indians of Cook Inlet invited several Church leaders to visit the newly acquired Wildwood Station. This former Air Force facility had been turned over to the corporation only days earlier, and the Board was hard at work establishing priorities to utilize the facilities as soon as possible, in the most fruitful manner.
A Home for St. Herman's Seminary
Within minutes of that meeting between the Church and Corporation leaders, a handshake sealed the agreement whereby Wildwood Station served another purpose, and St. Herman's Pastoral School had a home.
A compound of three buildings at the station was converted into school offices, faculty and staff quarters, married and single student quarters, and dining area.
The Wildwood chapel, which also had classroom facilities, was transformed into a traditional Orthodox chapel. Volunteer carpenters and laborers from many miles away pitched in and helped. The library was made available as well as the gymnasium and auditorium.
The physical plant was ready. People began exclaiming, "With God all things really are possible!"
But who was going to teach these Alaskan students and take care of other seminary matters? Father Joseph Kreta flew to Anchorage and made an appointment to meet with Father Paul Merculief, his wife, Matushka Elizabeth, and their five children. Coming to the new seminary would require tremendous sacrifices from Fr. Merculief. He had a job with which he supported his family and kept up mortgage payments on this home and car. He had been assigned to the St. Innocent parish in Anchorage.
At that first meeting, the Merculiefs recognized this high calling as the Will of God and an opportunity to help their people. They agreed to have Fr. Paul quit his job, put their house up for sale, and start packing. There was no salary guaranteed at St. Herman's Pastoral School and if there was one, it would be sub-poverty level. Few people would give consideration at working for such a sum. In their faith and love of God, the Merculiefs picked up their cross and followed Christ's calling.
Sister Victoria Schnurer, a graduate from St. Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood, New York, was in charge of a home for girls; this gave her a true sense of fulfillment. Also, she had an opportunity to teach at the University of Alaska. But upon the first invitation to work and teach at St. Herman's , she left all and followed.
Joanna Buttlar quit her job as a secretary and joined the little caravan going to Kenai. She volunteered secretarial and other services at the school.
This little group--Father and Matushka Kreta, their three children, the Merculiefs; Sister Victoria; and Joanna Buttlar--moved to Kenai in minus 40-degree weather.
They became the original administration, faculty, staff, office personnel, and caretakers of St. Herman's School.
Following his consecration in May 1973, Bishop Gregory of Sitka and Alaska, offered his assistance at St. Herman's. He taught several courses.
The school received a certificate of approval from the Alaska Department of Education and a board of trustees was formed. His Beatitude Metropolitan Ireney became president; Bishop Gregory, vice president; other members were His Eminence Archbishop Kiprian, rector of St. Tikhon's Seminary in South Canaan, Penn.; the Right Reverend Alexander Schmemann, dean of St. Vladimir's; U.S. Senator Ted Stevens; and Honorable Don Young, U.S. Representative.
Ted Stevens was the school's keynote speaker at its first banquet. Saint Herman's Pastoral School was blessed in February of 1973, with Metropolitan Vladimir officiating. There were 12 students.
St. Herman's Move to Kodiak
In the summer of 1974 the school relocated to Kodiak, a community situated on the north end of Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. This was a very significant location for the seminary, taking into consideration that Russia's first missionaries to Alaska landed here in 1794. Among them was Father Herman. Kodiak is considered the home of the oldest Orthodox parish in North America.
Land was given by the Orthodox Church in America, about 100 yards east of the church. The land overlooks the Near Island Channel, which is flanked by canneries.
On the Feast of St. Herman in August, groundbreaking for the new school took place.
Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church became the center for the seminary. In the small church basement students attended classes, studied, and dined. The basement also served as a library. Classes were conducted in the choir loft as well. And where did the students sleep? A room in the Kodiak Island Borough building was a dormitory. Later, a 2-story house near Potato Patch Lake also served in that capacity. The building was St. Herman's first piece of real estate.
In time, St. Herman's would grow in numbers--and stature. About the time construction of the seminary's first building got underway, the Holy Sobor of Bishops on the other side of the continen5t officially recognized St. Herman's as a theological school.
The school's first building consisted of 10 living units upstairs and a kitchen and dining hall, classroom and office downstairs. Later, the office was converted into a student chapel.
Winter in Kodiak - 02/01/12Although much of the United States is enjoying a mild winter, in Kodiak we--and most of Alaska--have been hit with an especially snowy and cold winter, breaking the record for the usually mild Island. In fact, many say that this is the hardest winter they've seen in Kodiak since records have been kept! However, although we keep praying for "seasonable weather," we hope you enjoy the pictures of our snow-covered campus and remember us in your prayers.
Seminarians serve at local services - 01/06/12Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Nativity, St. Herman, and slaviiq - 12/25/11As we draw near to celebrate the Nativity of Christ, we also remember our patron, St. Herman of Alaska on December 25/26. As our neighbors celebrate the coming of Christ on December 25, we in Alaska remember the one who brought us the light of the Gospel, both by his words and deeds.
Perhaps no other activity is so identified with the Orthodox Church in Alaska at this time of the year as the custom of starring (slaviiq). Here are some thoughts on this custom; may the light of Christ illumine your hearts during this blessed season!
The Story of Starring
The custom of following a large pinwheel-shaped “star” from house to house (and in some places even from village to village), singing Orthodox Christian hymns and Christmas carols originated in the Carpathian Mountains, an area on the border between Russia, Poland, Slovakia and Romania. The peasants in this region observed the Feast of the Nativity of Christ by composing folk carols and “following the star” as the Magi did, to worship the newborn Savior.
How this custom arrived in Alaska really is not known. Certainly there were frontiersmen and settlers in Siberia who brought the custom of “starring” here and some eventually and remained in Alaska when the territory was part of the Russian Empire (1741–1867). They sang these hymns and folk carols and taught them to their wives and children, and the custom has survived since that time.
Within Alaska, customs differ, with lots of singing and then feasting and even gift giving in the Yup’ik homes along the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers. In Bristol Bay, along the Nushagak River and around Lake Iliamna, there is less visiting and the singers travel more quickly around their own village before heading for the neighboring communities, where most households give a gift “to the star” as a donation to the parish church the singers represent. Many homes host elaborate memorial dinners during the holiday, if a family member has passed away during the previous year.
The repertoire everywhere includes the tropar of the Feast: “Thy Nativity, O Christ Our God, has shown to the world the light of wisdom, for by it those who worshipped the stars were taught by a star to adore Thee…” the ancient hymn that inspired the custom of “starring.”
The singers in most regions enter each house singing “Glory to God in the Highest,” the song of the angels at Christmas, which in Slavonic is “Slava v vyshnikh Bogu,” from which the name Slaaviq is derived. We give slava (glory) to God, praising Him for sending His Son and adoring Him as Emmanuel, God with us.
The most popular folk carols include “Nebo i Zemlya” (Heaven and Earth), “Divnaya Novina” (Glad Tidings) “Nam Rodilsya” (He is born for Us) and “Vefleyemi Novina” (There is Joy in Bethlehem).
Everywhere, the singers conclude with the hymn “Mnogaya Leta” (God grant you many Years), invoking His blessing on all who have participated in the celebration and asking God to grant them prosperity, peace, and health for many more blessed years.
"All who love Nicholas the saintly . . ." - 12/19/11With the coming of the feast day of St. Nicholas, the fall semester at St. Herman Seminary comes to an end. After the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, the staff and students of the seminary enjoy a feast (and a little candy for the children) before many head back to their villages for the Nativity break. We also enjoy the presence of several of the faithful from Holy Resurrection Cathedral as together we share the joy of the day.
Early Christmas message - 12/14/11
Although we won't be celebrating Nativity for a while, we wish to give an early Christmas greeting. Here in Alaska, the Nativity of
Our Lord is celebrated with special zeal and joy. On wintry nights following the liturgical celebration, carolers
follow the “Star of the East” from home to home, bearing the glad tidings of
our Savior’s birth. Like the Magi and wonder-struck shepherds, young and old
alike, adore the newly born Christ child. So, on behalf of the Seminary students and staff, we wish you a most blessed Nativity season.
Addressing addiction and recovery - 12/05/11
On December 5-9 St. Herman Seminary held a seminar on substance abuse counseling for our students. The speakers at this event were the Seminary’s adjunct instructor in substance abuse, Floyd Frantz, who is a missionary with the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. For the past 11 years he has served as director of the St. Dimitrie Program, a treatment and outreach ministry in the Archdiocese of Cluj in Romania, which focuses on community education and treatment of substance abuse. Also speaking were Fr. George Aquaro, priest at St. Matthew Church (Antiochian Archdiocese) in Torrence, California, a recently accepted missionary candidate with OCMC. Fr. George spoke on the spirituality of addiction and recovery and hopes to bring that experience to Alaska. Joining him were Fr. Andrew Harrison from St. Luke Church in Palos Hills, Illinois, who has extensive experience in family systems and addictions programs, and Dr. Basil Spyropoulos, a psychiatrist with experience in substance abuse treatment and education. Fr. Andrew spoke on how addiction affects the family, and Dr. Basil spoke on the disease aspect of substance abuse.
All of our speakers have served with the St. Dimitrie Program in Romania, an Orthodox country that suffers much from substance abuse. St. Herman Seminary is unique in that it is the only Orthodox Seminary in North America that provides training in substance abuse counseling training as a part of its standard curriculum.
Our speakers expressed appreciation for their time among the students and will continue to be involved in our training program.The seminar was well received by the students and will serve as a springboard for future substance abuse counseling training at the Semi nary and, God willing, in the Diocese of Alaska as well.
St. Herman HermitsEveryone needs a little time off. For our students, that means spending one evening a week playing basketball in the Kodiak city league. The student-initiated basketball team St. Herman Hermits plays other teams from Kodiak, giving the seminarians an opportunity to take their faith to the courts. The seminary families enjoy getting out and cheering on the team and spending time together. Go Hermits!
From My Youth - 11/21/11Recordings of the St. John's Girls Octet from the early 1970s have been re-released on a CD entitled "From My Youth: An American Orthodox Journey," available from Musica Russica. The octet was invited by the then-newly elected Bishop of Alaska, His Grace GREGORY (Afonsky), on a 6-week tour of Alaska, where they sang before thousands of Native Alaskan Orthodox faithful. This CD was launched in connection with the 16th All-American Council of the OCA. A portion of the proceeds of the sale of this CD will be donated to St. Herman's Seminary. Visit www.musicarussica.com or call 1-800-326-3132.
Alaska at All American Council - 10/31/11From October 31 to November 5 the All American Council of the OCA met in Seattle. Due to the Diocese of the West hosting the AAC so near to us, we were able to send 50 delegates from the Diocese of Alaska. Both the Seminary and the Diocese had displays and were able to share the life of our Diocese with the many people who stopped to visit our booths. Seminary staff Fr. John Dunlop, Archimandrite Juvenaly (Repass), and Dn. Irenaios Anderson attended the Council as well as seminarians Fr. Michael Nicolai and Dn. Andrew Wasillie. Our seminarians spent many hours in assisting the work of the Council, and our heartfelt thanks goes to them and the many volunteers who made this Council possible. The clergy of the Diocese led the 500-plus delegates in prayer at the Akathist to Our Lady of Sitka. It was a wonderful opportunity to visit our brethren in the "Lower 48" and remind them of God's work in His northern vineyard.
Continuing the work of the Alaskan saints - 09/24/11On September 24 we celebrated the feast of All Saints of Alaska (originally the feast day of the Alaskan martyrs St. Juvenaly and St. Peter the Aleut). On this day the mission from Valaam Monastery arrived in Kodiak not only to provide for the religious life for the members of the Russian-American Company but also to bring Orthodox Christianity to "the Americans," as the monastics called the Native peoples of Alaska.
We celebrated Great Vespers and Divine Liturgy, after which new seminarians were blessed to wear the cassock. With joy we continue the apostolic labors of St. Herman, St. Juvenaly, St. Innocent, St. Yakov, St. Peter the Aleut, and "men, women, and children known only to God."
On September 16, 2011, the Kodiak Daily Mirror published the following interview journalist Mike Rostad had with Fr. Michael Nicolai, fourth-year seminarian at St. Herman's and recently ordained priest:
Newly ordained priest Michael Nicolai has been inspired by family members, elders, teachers and priests, but when asked to identify a powerful force that influenced him to pursue the Orthodox priesthood, he referred to a book whose title doesn't sound particularly spiritual or theological. The book I Dare You was recommended to him more than 10 years ago, when Nicolai first attended St. Herman's Seminary.
"Archimandrite Innocent put in a seed that bothered me many years," Nicolai reflected. Even though he left the seminary after a year, he kept telling himself to come back. He made good on his urging. He is now a fourth-year student.
As the title implies, the book carried a "be all that you can" message.
"It made you want to do more. It clicks your mind," and whets the appetite for adventure. "All the things I learned and wanted to learn was because of that book."
When Nicolai first attended the seminary, he intended to be some king of church leader, such as a Sunday School teacher.
"I didn't know what to expect when I first came. I wanted to learn more about our church. There is a lot of stuff I didn't understand. That first year helped me a lot."
Nicolai said the book helped him in other areas. Growing up around construction and mechanics, he said the book pushed him to learn more about these trades. After his first stint at St. Herman's, Nicolai worked as a journeyman electrician, confident that he was up for the challenge.
But books can go only so far in shaping a person. Nicolai has had mentors who helped him along the way. Many of the words were spoken in Yup'ik, Nicolai's first language.
Nicolai grew up in the Kuskokwim River village of Kwethluk, which spawned many priests who shared their wisdom.
If Nicolai is tempted to think too highly of his position or view it as just another job, he will remember the words of Fr. Stephen Epchook (also a St. Herman's Seminary graduate) who said, "All glory belongs to Jesus Christ," Nicolai recalled. In understanding that "we gain humility." That wisdom came from the mouth of Nicolai's grandfather.
A visiting priest also had words of wisdom for someone such as Nicolai, who was considering the priesthood.
Some of his best advice came from his family.
Nicolai will never forget what he learned from his great-grandparents, Wassillie and Anna Andrew. Their influence is like the Orthodox cross he wears around his neck. Their love and wisdom are always with him and that knowledge gives him a sense of peace and security.
"My great-grandparents played a big role in raising me."
He also recalls the words of his grandfather, Wassillie Nicolai, whose son, Fr. Martin Nicolai, is also a priest.
"My grandpa once told me that "if God calls you, your heart is going to get soft."
Nicolai learned by watching the behavior of his elders, such as his father-in-law, Fr. Stephen Heckman, rector of Transfiguration of Our Lord in Pilot's Station.
"He has been a good example of a good spiritual father," Nicolai said,. "Watching him serve and helping people makes me think that's a good thing."
Heckman's daughter, Roseanne, Nicolai's wife, has been helpful in her own way.
"My wife helped push me," Nicolai said. "It pays to have a good wife."
It also pays to have a good mother. Margaret Ayapan, Nicolai's mother, "pushed us to go for the greater good," he said. "She taught us not to profit for ourselves only, and that everything is given by God."
In July, when Nicolai went to his village for a diocesan conference, he told his mother he was leaning strongly toward ordination.
"My mom confirmed my decision," he said. "She gave me more strength. When I told her that I was going to get ordained, she said she felt like her life's work was complete.
"Going home helped me a lot to prepare for the service" of ordination, Nicolai said. "It was more of a spiritual trip for me than anything else. I didn't know what to expect when I went home. My family was very positive and very happy that I was going to go through with (the ordination).
Many family members traveled to Kodiak for the service, which occurred during the annual St. Herman's Pilgrimage and was officiated by Orthodox Church in America's Metropolitan Jonah Paffhausen.
"For some reason, I was in prayer" during the service, Nicolai said. "I felt that a part that was missing got filled."
Bea Dunlop, one of Nicolai's teachers, was one of many Orthodox faithful who witnessed the ordination.
"When I saw his family drawing near to the royal doors to watch, I felt strongly that this was the right thing. I was very moved by the whole thing," she said.
Nicolai holds a title of ordination, but he has yet to receive a certificate of graduation. He has one more year of school at St. Herman's.
"It's a good thing to be ordained before I graduate," he said. He'll have a whole year to adjust and learn more about the services before being sent to a parish.
"Seminary is a good place to be trained," he said. "I can be corrected here."
Right now Nicolai is "waiting for orders," he said. "There's always a church in need. I want to go where the need is."
Wherever Nicolai is sent, he will consider his wife and their children. "It's not just me that was ordained, it's all of us," he said.
Feast in Port Lions - 09/21/11Seminary priests and several seminarians travelled to the Native Village of Port Lions, approximately 20 miles by air from Kodiak, to celebrate the patronal feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos Church with the faithful. The village was founded by the people of Afognak after the destruction of their village in the tsunami of 1964. St. Herman Seminary graduate Fr. Alexei Knagin, originally from Port Lions, celebrated with Fr. John Dunlop, Archimandrite Juvenaly (who currently is serving the church there), and student clergy Fr. Michael Nicolai and Dn. Andrew Wassillie.
Baptism: a new beginning - 09/10/11On September 10 the Seminary community welcomed a new addition as Tikhon Peter Askoak was baptized in the Seminary chapel. We offer our thanks to God and "Many Years" to Tikhon, his family, and sponsors. At the beginning of this school year when we are welcoming the addition of a new class of seminarians, we celebrate the new beginning of Baptism and the growth of the Church.
2011-2012 Academic Year Begins - 08/30/11
On August 30 St. Herman Seminary began orientation for the 2011–2012 academic year. Now our students are settling in to the cycle of classes and worship at the seminary, gaining practical ministry experience at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak in the areas of Altar service, singing in the choir, and teaching church school. This year we welcome 7 new students, bringing our community to 15 full-time students, from various regions of Alaska and with varying life experiences. This year we have students from among the Alutiiq, Aleut, Athabascan, Tlingit, and Yup’ik peoples . . . as well as a couple of non-Native students from our Diocese. We also are excited about having 25 children on campus! As we grow together in community we look forward to a new year of training future clergy and laity for “the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12) in Alaska.
We also welcome a new faculty member, Daria Safronova, a doctoral candidate from Ohio State University. A native of Russia, Daria has 8 years of experience in teaching Russian and most recently has served as a graduate research associate at the Hilandar Research Library and Resource Center for Medieval Slavic Studies, which possesses the largest collection of medieval Slavic manuscripts on microform in the world. She will be teaching Slavonic as well as Russian Church History and Literature at the seminary as well as overseeing the care of the Diocesan Archives and the seminary library. In addition, she will be teaching Russian at Kodiak College, our local branch of the University of Alaska system.
Pilgrim from Greece - 08/23/11
On August 23-24, St. Herman
Seminary was graced by a visit from Archimandrite Methodios (Alexiou), who travelled to Alaska from Greece. Fr.
Methodius made pilgrimage to Spruce
Island and venerated the
relics of St. Herman. While here Fr. Methodius spoke with the faculty and
seminarians about his ministry with the youth of St. Gregory Palamas Cathedral
Visit www.neoiagp.gr to learn more about the
good work that is being done among the youth in Thessaloniki.
St. Vladimir's has a long history of supplying our seminary with faculty. Recently Archpriest Chad Hatfield, Chancellor of St. Vladimir's and former Dean of St. Herman's has conducted seminars here at the seminary in Kodiak.
Seminary Dean Archpriest John Dunlop commented: "The historical link between the two schools is paving the way to closer cooperation, particularly in the field of missions and evangelism. We trust that God will give more opportunities for our seminaries to cooperate in our common vision to serve the Church."
St. Herman Seminary gratefully acknowledges its debt to such gracious benefactors of St. Vladimir's Seminary that allow our ministry to continue.
Transfigured marriage - 08/19/11Seminary Dean Archpriest John Dunlop and faculty member Archimandrite Juvenaly joined Diocesan Chancellor Archpriest Michael Oleksa and the clergy and faithful of the Yukon Deanery at the annual Yukon Deanery Conference. The conference took place during the Feast of Transfiguration at St. Seraphim of Sarov Church in Lower Kalskag and was hosted by Priest Nikolai Isaac, a St. Herman Seminary graduate. The conference theme was "Marriage in the Orthodox Church." Fr. John spoke on various aspects of marriage, which then were discussed by hundreds of participants from area villages. Area clergy and faithful enjoyed the majestic forested setting of the Upper Kuskokwim, fruitful discussion, and joyful services. The conference was the perfect setting for the seminary to continue its pastoral and educational ministry to the Diocese of Alaska.
Welcoming pilgrims to Kodiak - 08/07/11
At the St. Herman Pilgrimage this year we welcomed His Beatitude Metropolitan JONAH, His Grace Bishop BENJAMIN, and His Grace Bishop MAXIM of the Western Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America to Kodiak. Also present were many clergy, monastics, and pilgrims, including some members of the OCMC mission team that ministered in Old Harbor.
Pilgrims venerated the relics of St. Herman and visited Spruce Island, where the Saint ministered to all he met, especially the Native people of Kodiak and Spruce Island, who continue to venerate St. Herman as they always have.
So many people helped to make this Pilgrimage happen. Among them were the skippers of the boats who transferred people from Kodiak to Spruce Island, the clergy and faithful of Holy Resurrection Cathedral and St. Innocent Academy, "those who serve and those who sing," those who put in extra hours preparing the "new" Cathedral gift shop and serving the Pilgrims as well as those who worked extra hours at Monk’s Rock, providing hospitality and service to all those who attended, the faithful who came from Kodiak and the rest of the Diocese of Alaska, . . . and the people of Kodiak, who opened their arms to make pilgrims feel at home. Finally, a special thanks to the Sisterhoods of Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak and Nativity of Our Lord Church in Ouzinkie, who provided food and hospitality to our guests. As usual, our brethren of St. Innocent Academy offered openhearted hospitality and joyful singing to the Pilgrimage.
The Pilgrimage culminated with the ordination of Deacon Michael Nicolai to the Holy Priesthood. The presence of several Diocesan clergy and their families helped make this a joyful and memorable event. May God grant the newly ordained Father Michael and his family many years! Axios, axios, axios! Fr. Michael will be entering his fourth and final year of seminary this year and serving on Kodiak until his graduation, then ministering elsewhere in the Diocese of Alaska.
Go into all the world - 07/29/11The St. Herman Seminary community welcomed Presbytera Renee Ritsi and the OCMC mission team to Old Harbor to Kodiak for their orientation. Led by Fr. John Parker, priest of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church (OCA) in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, this pan-Orthodox team will be leading a youth camp in Old Harbor. The orientation began with Presbytera Renee giving an introduction to OCMC and Orthodox missions and Seminary Dean Fr. John Dunlop welcoming the team with a brief history of the Church in Alaska, focusing on Kodiak and Old Harbor. The team learned more specifically about Old Harbor and ministry on the island from Fr. Innocent; Dn. Irenaios Anderson gave an introduction of cross-cultural communication and missiology; and Matushka Bea Dunlop spoke on Patristics and cross-cultural teaching and ministry among Native peoples.
At the end of orientation the Seminary community was invited by the Team to a dinner, before they headed out to Old Harbor for a week of ministry. The Alaskan apostolic mission continues!
Sailing into Kodiak harbor - 07/21/11On July 21 the people of Kodiak welcomed the crew of the Pallada, a training vessel of the Far Eastern State Technical University of Fisheries based out of Vladivostok. The cadets, most from Kamchatka, enjoyed shore leave in Kodiak. In return, the people of Kodiak were invited on board to learn about Russian America, including a presentation of a Russian perspective on Alaskan history. In addition to introducing people to Russian explorers, special attention was given to the place of St. Herman and St. Innocent in the history of Russian America. The Pallada next sailed to Sitka before visiting other American Pacific ports.
Working as service - 07/13/11From July 13-20, St. Herman Seminary hosted a mission team from the Church of the Annunciation in Milwaukie, Oregon. Led by Archpriest Matthew Tate, a dozen youth and adult leaders worked on several projects at the Seminary and Holy Resurrection Cathedral. While here the team was able to venerate the relics of St. Herman and make pilgrimage to Spruce Island. It was a joy to have them here . . . they even made the front page of the local newspaper!
During the 2015 St. Herman Pilgrimage, Metropolitan Tikhon, Bishop David (Bishop of Sitka and Alaska), and Bishop Daniel (Bishop of Santa Rosa) visited the Diocesan Archive at St Herman Seminary. The hierarchs were given an extended archive tour by the Seminary Archivist, Daria Safronova-Simeonoff, and shown the letters of St. Innocent of Alaska and the log-journals of St. Yakov Netzvetov. Vladyka Tikhon was especially impressed with the oldest artifact of our collection, a 1697 Menaion that arrived in Kodiak with the first Russian Orthodox Mission to Alaska.