Fr. Irvine & the Orthodox women’s college of Brooklyn

Irvine and his wife Emmalena (far left) with what appear to be Syrian Orthodox Sunday School students (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 11/28/1915)

Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on November 28, 1915:

The Holy Orthodox Russo-Greek Catholic Church has established a college for young women at the corner of Pennsylvania and Glenmore avenues, in the East New York section. About nine years ago Archbishop Platon and the priests of the Russo-Greek Church decided in their Convention that it would be advisable to found a college for young women of their own faith. This was thought especially desirable for the reason that many of the daughters of the clergy as well as of the laity could not gain as much attention in the secular institutions of this country in the branches of learning most needful to the Slavic population as in an institution of their own denomination. In time they were to take their places as polished and educated young Slavic-American citizens of the country; and, while devoted to their Church, still equally so to this republic as Americans. They would have to become factors in its life and progress. Russians move slowly but surely. Their Church in this country and in Canada has made very great strides. Their objects have been especially to gather in their own people who, for a time, from necessity, have been left here and there without a shepherd; to so work as to conform rigorously to the established laws of the United States without in any way grasping political power or drawing upon public State funds to help their Church institutions, but depend upon the pockets of their own children, however poor, to share for the common good of all; and, finally, to establish monasteries, nunneries, schools, orphan asylums, seminaries for theological students and colleges for the higher education of their young women.

The first of these latter institutions, the one in East New York, was founded by the Most Rev. Evdokim, the present Archbishop of North America, on the 14th of last September, which date, according to the Russian Julian Calendar, was September 1. The building was formerly the Russian Orphan Asylum, but on that institution having been demoved to the State of Massachusetts, it opened up the way for the far-seeing Archbishop to occupy the premises for the new venture.

Pupils from several States of America and the Balkans are already in attendance. They are a very bright and intelligent set of young women, ranging in age from 16 to 25 years. They are a serious and determined number of students, who realize much the object of their presence in their Church’s college. Indeed, from among their number many will become the wives of future priests of the Orthodox Church, fully equipped, both educationally, socially and religiously, as helpmates to their husbands.

The Russian priesthood is a Class in Society and their wives are expected to be refined and educated to fit into their lives and church interests. Of course, it is voluntary on the part of the Greek Orthodox Catholic clergy to marry or not, but they must marry, if at all, before they enter the priesthood, according to the ancient rule of the General Councils. And if, after marriage, a priest’s wife dies, he cannot remarry. The bishops are always selected from among the unmarried monastic, or “Black Clergy,” as they are called in contradistinction to the “White Clergy,” or secular priests, that is, the married, parochial clergy.

The general supervision of the college is under His Grace, Archbishop Evdokim, who, himself, visits regularly and acts as a professor in one of the branches. Besides the Archbishop there are nine other professors, five of whom are women, viz., Mrs. A.S. Meschersky, Miss Chervobawa, Mrs. Turkevitch and Mrs. Kohanik. The men professors are Very Rev. L. Turkevitch, Dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral; the Rev. Peter Kohanik, secetary of the North American Ecclesiastical Consistory; G. Cherepin and the Rev. Dr. Ingram N.W. Irvine. Mrs. E.A. Krilova is the house superintendent and Mrs. Meschersky is her local assistant.

The college is divided into two departments, namely, the Russian and English. The English department is under the Rev. Dr. Irvine, who, for a time, was a professor in the Russian Orthodox Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, Minn., and has been used as a utility priest in all departments of the Holy Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. In the theological seminary he was the lecturer for six chairs of instruction. He has been used in a versatile way in his Church and has ever been a great favorite with all the young of the different nationalities who are represented in the Russo-Greek and, in fact, the whole Holy Orthodox Church of America.

For some years Dr. Irvine was associated with the late Bishop Raphael of Brooklyn, head of the Syrian-Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America. The doctor was his theologian and he always consulted him on matters of importance. They were old and fast friends till the bishop’s seemingly untimely death. Dr. Irvine on the death of his personal friend was retransferred to St. Nicholas Russian Cathedral, Manhattan, at the request of the Russian clergy, with whom he is quite a favorite. On the opening of the college in Brooklyn by the present Archbishop he was placed in charge as rector of the English department and the preacher at the chapel as well as associate at the Liturgical Service.

Few men of any nation have had a more varied experience than Dr. Irvine. He is acquainted with many characteristics of the Slovanic, Grecian and Oriental races, which make up the membership of the Holy Eastern or, as it is technically known, the Greek-Orthodox Catholic Church. The doctor is an Irishman by birth, but came to America as a youth, studied in the United States and graduated in the great Episcopal General Theological Seminary, West Twentieth street, New York City. A class of men now fast passing away were his associates. The present Episcopal Bishop Burgess of Long Island and Dr. Irvine were seminary rectors. In fact, Dr. Irvine in his early ministry was rector of St. James Church, Smithtown, Long Island, and through his influence Mrs. Stewart gave the money to build Garden City Cathedral Church.

The Rev. Dr. Irvine’s wife has been in his long ministry his fellow worker and is equally loved with him by all who know her. It is a pathetic sight to see the Syrian children, whose spiritual welfare was looked after for years in Brooklyn by the doctor, gather around him and Mrs. Irvine when they enter the section of Brooklyn or Manhattan where the Syrians reside, and embrace them. It matters not how the little faces look, clean or unclean, they are filled with pleasure.

Into St. Mary’s Russian College he takes the same love for and interest in the young priests who were his students in the West and who are now scattered through the States and Canada, holding his name as a household word. Another institution of learning has been added to Brooklyn’s long list and the Russian Church has selected a Long Island man to head her English department, especially a priest who thoroughly understands American life and the peculiarities of many denominations.