The Saints of North America
The Saints of North America

Saints of all times, and in every country are seen as the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem fallen humanity. Their example encourages us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us” and to “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The saints of North America also teach us how we should live, and what we must expect to endure as Christians.  In addition to the saints depicted below, we also honor those saints who are known only to God, and have not been recognized officially by the Church. As we contemplate the lives of these saints, let us remember that we are also called by God to a life of holiness.

 

St. Herman of Alaska, Wonderworker of All America
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Commemorated December 13 and August 9

In 1793 a spiritual mission was organized made up of monks of the Valaam Monastery. They were sent to preach the Word of God to the native inhabitants of northwestern America, who only ten years before had come under the sovereignty of Russia. St Herman was among the members of this Mission.

St Herman came from a family of merchants of Serpukhov, a city of the Moscow Diocese. His name before he was tonsured, and his family name are not known. He had a great zeal for piety from youth, and at sixteen he entered monastic life. First he entered the Trinity-Sergius Hermitage which was located near the Gulf of Finland on the Peterhof Road, about 15 versts from St Petersburg.... (read the life)

St. Juvenal, the Protomartyr of America
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Commemorated September 24

Saint Juvenal, the Protomartyr of America, was born in 1761 in Nerchinsk, Siberia. His secular name was John Feodorovich Hovorukhin, and he was trained as a mining engineer. In a letter to Abbot Nazarius of Valaam, St. Herman says that St. Juvenal “had been an assistant at our monastery and was a former officer.” After his wife died in 1791, John entered a monastery at St. Petersburg and was tonsured with the name Juvenal. Three years later, he went to Alaska as a missionary.

During 1794, the hieromonks Juvenal and Macarius spent two months in the area around Kodiak teaching the inhabitants about Christ and baptizing them. They traveled in small boats.... (read the life)

St. Peter the Aleut
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Commemorated September 24

Saint Peter the Aleut is mentioned in the Life of St. Herman of Alaska. Simeon Yanovsky (who ended his life as the schemamonk Sergius in the St. Tikhon of Kaluga Monastery), has left the following account: “On another occasion I was relating to him how the Spanish in California had imprisoned fourteen Aleuts, and how the Jesuits (actually Franciscans) were forcing all of them to accept the Catholic Faith. But the Aleuts would not agree under any circumstances, saying, ‘We are Christians.’ The Jesuits argued, ‘That’s not true, you are heretics and schismatics. If you do not agree to accept our faith then we will torture all of you to death.’ Then the Aleuts were placed in prisons two to a cell. That evening, the Jesuits came to the prison with lanterns and lighted candles. Again they tried to persuade two Aleuts .... (read the life)

St. Innocent, Enlightener of the Aleuts
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Commemorated March 31 and October 6

St. Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow, Enlightener of the Aleuts and Apostle to America (in the world John Popov-Veniaminov), was born on August 26, 1797 in the village of Anginsk in the Irkutsk diocese, into the family of a sacristan. The boy mastered his studies at an early age and by age seven, he was reading the Epistle in church. In 1806 they sent him to the Irkutsk seminary. In 1814, the new rector thought it proper to change the surnames of some of the students. John Popov received the surname Veniaminov in honor of the deceased Archbishop Benjamin of Irkutsk (+ July 8, 1814). On May 13, 1817 he was ordained deacon for the Irkutsk Annunciation church, and on May 18, 1821, he was ordained priest. The missionary service of the future Apostle of America and Siberia began with the year 1823.... (read the life)

St. Jacob, Enlightener of the Peoples of Alaska
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Commemorated July 26

Father Jacob (Netsvetov) of Alaska was born of pious parents in 1802 on Atka Island, Alaska. His father, Yegor Vasil’evich Netsvetov was a Russian from Tobolsk. His mother, Maria Alekseevna, was an Aleut from Atka island. Yegor and Maria had four children who survived infancy; Jacob was the first born, followed by Osip (Joseph), Elena, and Antony. Yegor and Maria were devoted to their children and, though of meager means, did all they could to provide them with the education which would help them in this life as well as in the life to come. Osip and Antony were eventually able to study at the St. Petersburg Naval Academy in Russia, becoming a naval officer and a shipbuilder, respectively. Their sister, Elena, married a successful and respected clerk for the Russian-American Company.... (read the life)

St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre
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Commemorated May 7

Our holy Father Alexis, the defender of the Orthodox Faith and zealous worker in the Lord’s vineyard, was born in Austro-Hungary on March 18, 1854 into a poor Carpatho-Russian family. Like many others in the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Toths were Eastern Rite Catholics. Alexis’ father and brother were priests and his uncle was a bishop in the Uniate church. He received an excellent education and knew several languages (Carpatho-Russian, Hungarian, Russian, German, Latin, and a reading knowledge of Greek). He married Rosalie Mihalich, a priest’s daughter, and was ordained on April 18, 1878 to serve as second priest in a Uniate parish. His wife died soon afterwards, followed by their only child—losses which the saint endured with the patience of Job.... (read the life)

St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow
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Commemorated April 7 and October 9

St Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Apostle to America was born as Vasily Ivanovich Belavin, January 19, 1865 into the family of Ioann Belavin, a rural priest of the Pskov diocese. His childhood and adolescence were spent in the village in direct contact with peasants and their labor. From his early years he displayed a particular religious disposition, love for the Church as well as rare meekness and humility. When Vasily was still a boy, his father had a revelation about each of his children. One night, when he and his three sons slept in the hayloft, he suddenly woke up and roused them. He had seen his dead mother in a dream, who foretold to him his imminent death, and the fate of his three sons. She said that one would be unfortunate throughout his entire life.... (read the life)

St. Raphael of Brooklyn
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Commemorated February 27

Our holy Father Raphael was born in Syria in 1860 to pious Orthodox parents, Michael Hawaweeny and his second wife Mariam, the daughter of a priest of Damascus. The exact date of Raphael’s birth is not known, but he estimated it to be on or near his Name Day, the Synaxis of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven. Due to the violent persecution of Christians, at which time their parish priest, St Joseph of Damascus and his companions were martyred, the Hawaweeny family was forced to flee to Beirut for their safety. It was here that the future saint first saw the light of day, and not in the city of his parents. Indeed, as the child’s life unfolded, it was evident that he would have no continuing city in this world, but would seek the city which is to come.... (read the life)

Priestmartyr John Kochurov of Chicago
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Commemorated October 31

On October 31, 1917, in Tsarskoye Selo, a bright new chapter, full of earthly grief and heavenly joy, was opened in the history of sanctity in the Russian Church: the holiness of the New-Martyrs of the twentieth century. The opening of this chapter is linked to the name of the Russian Orthodox shepherd who became one of the first to give his soul for his flock during this twentieth century of fighters against God: Archpriest John Kochurov. Father John Kochurov was born on July 13, 1871, in the village of Bigildino-Surky of the district of Danky in the Ryazan region, to a pious family of many children. His parents were the priest Alexander Kochurov and his wife Anna. Father Alexander Kochurov served almost all his life.... (read the life)

New Martyr of Russia Alexander Hotovitzky
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Commemorated December 4 and August 7

The New Martyr of Russia Alexander Hotovitzky was born on February 11, 1872 in the city of Kremenetz, into the pious family of Archpriest Alexander, who was Rector of the Volhynia Theological Seminary and would later be long remembered in the hearts of the Orthodox inhabitants of Volhynia as a good shepherd. Young Alexander received a good Christian upbringing from his parents, who instilled in him love for the Orthodox Church and for the people of God. The future pastor was educated at the Volhynia Seminary and the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, from which he graduated with a Master’s degree in 1895.  After graduation from the Academy, he was sent for missionary service to the Diocese of the Aleutians and North America.... (read the life)

New Martyr Archpriest Vasily Martysz
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Commemorated May 4

The holy New Martyr Archpriest Vasily Martysz was born on February 20, 1874 in Tertyn, in the Hrubieszow region of southeastern Poland. His father Alexander was a judge in Molczyce near Pinsk. After his retirement, he was ordained a priest and became rector of a local parish.

Orthodoxy had arrived in Alaska with the coming of the monastic mission from Valaam in 1794. At the start of the twentieth century, climatic and social conditions in this vast territory remained difficult. In his pastoral work, Fr Vasily met Russian settlers and indigenous inhabitants of the region, Eskimos and Aleuts. He also encountered gold rush pioneers quite often.... (read the life)

St. Sebastian of Jackson and San Francisco
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Commemorated November 30

On May 29, 2015, the Holy Assembly of Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church added Archimandrite Sebastian (Dabovich), clergyman and preacher of the Gospel, God-pleasing servant of the holy life, and inspirer of many missionaries, to the Diptych of Saints of the Orthodox Church upon recommendation of the Episcopal Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North America.  Born to Serbian immigrants in San Francisco in 1863, Archimandrite Sebastian Dabovich has the distinction of being the first person born in the United States of America to be ordained as an Orthodox priest, and the first native-born American to be tonsured as an Orthodox monk. His greatest distinction, however, lies in the tremendous apostolic, pastoral, and literary work he accomplished during.... (read the life)

St. Mardarije of Libertyville
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Commemorated December 12

Saint Mardarije was born Ivan Uskokovic in Podgoritsa, Montenegro, in 1889.  In 1907, he embraced monasticism at the Studenitsa Monastery and then relocated to Russia to study at the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy.  After graduation, he was ordained by the Russian Orthodox Church and sent as a missionary to America.  In 1919, he was one of five Serbian Orthodox priests who participated in the Second All-American Sobor, held in Cleveland, OH in February 1919, at which time it was recommended that the Serbian Church in Belgrade advance him to the episcopacy to organize a Serbian Orthodox Diocese in America.  Unfortunately, at this most chaotic time in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, it was impossible to secure the written blessing.... (read the life)

St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco
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Commemorated July 2

Archbishop John was born on June 4, 1896, in the village of Adamovka in the province of Kharkov in southern Russia. He was a member of the Little Russian noble family of Maximovitch, to which St. John of Tobolsk also had belonged. He received at baptism the name of Michael, his heavenly protector being the Archangel Michael. He was a sickly child and ate little. He received his secondary education in the Poltava Military School, which he attended from 1907 to 1914. Upon completing military school he entered Kharkov Imperial University in the faculty of law, from which he graduated in 1918, before it was seized by the Soviets. Kharkov, where Vladika spent his formative years, was a true town of Holy Russia. Kharkov, where Vladika spent his formative years, was a true town of Holy Russia.... (read the life)

St. Nikolai of Zhicha
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Commemorated March 18 and April 20

Saint Nicholas of Zhicha, “the Serbian Chrysostom,” was born in Lelich in western Serbia on January 4, 1881 (December 23, 1880 O.S.). His parents were Dragomir and Katherine Velimirovich, who lived on a farm where they raised a large family. His pious mother was a major influence on his spiritual development, teaching him by word and especially by example. As a small child, Nicholas often walked three miles to the Chelije Monastery with his mother to attend services there. Sickly as a child, Nicholas was not physically strong as an adult. He failed his physical requirements when he applied to the military academy, but his excellent academic qualifications allowed him to enter the St. Sava Seminary in Belgrade, even before he finished preparatory school.... (read the life)

St. Brendan the Navigator
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Commemorated May 16

 

The Divine Likeness has been perfected in you, O holy Father Brendan,
For taking up the Cross you did follow Christ,
And by your deeds you have taught us to disdain the flesh for it passes away,
But to cultivate the soul for it is immortal:
Wherefore, O holy father, your spirit rejoices with the Angels.

—Troparion, Tone 4

 

Related Reading
Recommended Listening
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Fr. John Parker, rector of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina and Chair of the OCA's Department of Evangelization, shares his thoughts about the Sunday of All Saints of North America on Ancient Faith Radio, and gives a challenge for us to follow the examples of the missionary saints. Click here to listen to this podcast.

 



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