This week in American Orthodox history (May 7-13)

This week’s installment of our “This week” series is unusually brief, because I’m in the middle of final exams for law school. I hope you’ll understand, and I should be back next week with a full-length piece.

May 9, 1870: The newly chrismated convert Nicholas Bjerring was ordained to the Orthodox priesthood in St. Petersburg, Russia.

May 13, 1888: The Orthodox of Chicago — mostly Greeks and Serbs — held a meeting to organize a multiethnic parish. I did one of my first podcast episodes on this meeting.

May 7, 1890: Andrij Chahovtsov — the future Archbishop Arseny of Winnipeg – was ordained to the priesthood in Russia.

May 7, 1909: Fr. Alexis Toth died in Wilkes-Barre, PA. From the local newspaper, the Times Leader, later that day:

Father Toth was of princely bearing, not much in sympathy with democratic institutions, but yet very deferential to the customs of the people here. He was a rigid disciplinarian but very popular among the members of his congregation here. His death will be a great surprise. He was ill about five months, but because of his somewhat secluded position few outside the members of his congregation knew of his indisposition.

Toth, of course, had converted to Orthodoxy from Greek (or “Eastern Rite,” or “Uniate”) Catholicism, way back in 1891. He became the leading advocate of the so-called “return of the Unia,” which utterly changed the face of the Russian Mission in North America. The OCA canonized Toth several years ago because of his historical role.

May 13, 1917: Fr. Aftimios Ofiesh was consecrated a bishop by Archbishop Evdokim Meschersky and Bishop Alexander Nemolovsky. Aftimios was given the title “Bishop of Brooklyn,” and, as the Russian-backed successor to St. Raphael Hawaweeny, he was placed in charge of the Syro-Arab Mission in America.

This took place just three weeks after the first Syrian church, St. George of Worcester, MA, declared its loyalty to the visiting Antiochian Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi, rather than to the soon-to-be-consecrated Aftimios. We covered this a few weeks ago; there were now two rival Arab bishops in America, and the Russy-Antacky schism was underway.

May 10, 1966: Bishop Stefan Lastavica, head of what is today known as the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Eastern America, died.

The original version of this article had the diocese’s name wrong. When it was created by the Holy Assembly of Serbia in 1963, it was called the “Middle-Eastern American and Canadian Diocese.” By the time of Bishop Stefan’s death three years later, the name had been changed to the “Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Eastern America and Canada.” In the mid-1980s, the Serbian Diocese of Canada was established, and Bishop Stefan’s old diocese dropped the “and Canada” part of its name. Many thanks to Andy Muha for this information.

May 13, 2006: Jaroslav Pelikan, the great church historian and convert to Orthodoxy, died. Pelikan had joined the Orthodox Church back in 1998, after which he served on the board of trustees for St. Vladimir’s Seminary. For more on Pelikan, see this 2003 article by Fr. John Erickson, which includes this great quote from Pelikan himself: “Everybody else is an expert on the present. I wish to file a minority report on behalf of the past.”

May 12, 2008: Archbishop Hilarian Kapral was elected First Hierarch of ROCOR.

May 8, 2010: Fr. Michael Dahulich, formerly the dean of St. Tikhon’s Seminary, was consecrated OCA Bishop of New York.

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