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.