Tuesday, March 14/27, 2012 marked the two hundred and forty fifth anniversary of the repose of Colonel Philip Ludwell III, a native of Williamsburg, Virginia. The metrical books of the Russian Orthodox Church in London, England record that Ludwell died at his home in London at 5p.m. on March 14 O.S., 1767, having previously been confessed and received holy communion and holy unction. His funeral was served several days later in the London church. He is the first known convert to Orthodoxy in the Americas, having traveled from Virginia to be received at the Russian Orthodox Church in London, England in 1738. Further details of his life may be found elsewhere on this site.
With the blessing of Archimandrite Luke, Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, a memorial (panikhida) was served in English by Archpriest Gregory Naumenko, rector of the Protection of the Mother of God Church in Rochester, New York, who teaches pastoral theology and homiletics at Holy Trinity Seminary. Responses were sung by a small choir of seminarians under the direction of Reader Ephraim Willmarth, who is the administrative assistant to the dean of the seminary. Members of the monastic community and local Orthodox believers also joined in the prayers. Archpriest Gregory also remembered the other known Orthodox members of Colonel Ludwell’s family: his daughters Hannah, Frances and Lucy, and the latter’s husband John Paradise. A short reflection on the significance of Colonel Ludwell’s life for the Orthodox Church in Russia and the Americas, and his role in early American history, was offered by Nicholas Chapman before the commencement of the memorial.
On the evening of the same day a pahikhida was also served at the St. John of Kronstadt Russian Orthodox Memorial Church in Utica, New York. The parish’s rector, Archpriest Michael Taratuchin, when announcing the service on the previous Sunday, had noted that his own place of birth was very close to the church in the East End of London, where Colonel Ludwell was buried in 1767. Archpriest Michael chose to remember Colonel Ludwell as a voina (warrior) because of his role in the appointment of the young George Washington as a colonel in the colonial militia and his work with Lord Loudon (Commander in Chief of British Forces in North America), with whom Ludwell interceded for the strengthening of the Virginia frontier.
Both memorials were served with the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion, the first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia, in his capacity as the head of the ROCOR diocese of Eastern America. It is not known to the writer at the present time whether other memorials were held on the same date elsewhere or on the date of Ludwell’s repose according to the revised Julian (new) calendar.
May Colonel Philip Ludwell’s memory be eternal!
Nicholas Chapman, Herkimer, New York, March 28, 2012
March 25, 1886: The future Greek Archbishop and later Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras Spyrou was born. Athenagoras led the Greek Archdiocese from 1930 to 1948, when he was elected Patriarch of Constantinople. He served in that position for nearly a quarter-century, until his death in 1972.
March 25, 1891: St. Alexis Toth and his Greek Catholic parish in Minneapolis joined the Russian Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.
March 22, 1892: The French Orthodox convert priest Fr. Vladimir Guettee died. Guettee had been a respected Roman Catholic historian and Jesuit priest, but through his study of history, he came to believe that the Orthodox Church alone had preserved the true faith. He joined the Russian Church, taking the name “Vladimir,” and published a widely read journal on Orthodoxy which reported on American Orthodox events. He also wrote a lengthy refutation of papal claims, which can be read here.
March 25, 1896: The future hieromartyr Fr. Jacob Korchinsky was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Nicholas Ziorov. Korchinsky’s travels make his fellow circuit-riding priests look wimpy by comparison — Alaska, Canada, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Mexico, Hawaii, the Philippines, Australia, and finally back in his native Odessa (modern Ukraine). At 80, he was executed by the Soviets, and he is now being considered for glorification as a saint. To read more about Korchinsky, check out this article I wrote in 2010.
March 24, 1907: Russian Archbishop Tikhon Bellavin concelebrated his last Divine Liturgy in America, with Bishops Raphael Hawaweeny and Innocent Pustynsky.
March 22, 1908: In Boston, Fr. Theophan Noli celebrated the first-ever liturgy in the Albanian language, anywhere in the world. The service took place in Boston, where Noli was a student at Harvard. To read about that first liturgy in 1908, check out my article from 2010.
March 24, 1918: Almost exactly a decade later, Fr. Theophan Noli was appointed as the administrator of the Albanian Mission under the Russian Archdiocese of North America. Not long afterward, he returned to Albania, became the head of the Albanian Orthodox Church, and finally was elected Prime Minister of Albania. He held that post for five months before he was exiled to America, where he led an Albanian jurisdiction for decades.
March 22, 1925: The former Archimandrite Patrick Mythen died in New York. Two years ago, I wrote about Mythen’s life prior to his conversion to Orthodoxy, and I never got around to telling the rest of the story. So here’s the rest of the story, very briefly: Mythen, an Episcopal priest and former Roman Catholic, converted to Orthodoxy in 1920. Within months, he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and put in charge of a brand-new project called the American Orthodox Catholic Church of the Transfiguration. This was supposed to be an English-speaking parish for American converts. It didn’t last more than a handful of months, but it included several convert priests, most of whom appear to have been Mythen’s friends. When chaos broke out in the Russian Archdiocese in the early 1920s, Archbishop Alexander Nemolovsky relied more and more heavily on Mythen. According to Mythen’s own claims — the accuracy of which is uncertain — he (Mythen) was given power of attorney for the whole Archdiocese. I’ve heard that he even signed clergy ordination certificates. Within a few years, though, Mythen re-converted to Roman Catholicism. He was found dead in 1925, at the age of just 42.
March 25, 1925: Three days later, a man who could not be more different than Mythen — St. Tikhon, by now the Patriarch of Moscow — died in Russia.
March 24, 1935: Bishop Polycarp Morusca was consecrated in Romania to lead the Romanian Diocese in America. He was enthroned in Detroit a few months later, and over the next several years, he did a lot to organize the Romanian Orthodox of America. In 1939, he returned to Romania to attend a session of the Holy Synod, but World War II broke out, and Bishop Polycarp wasn’t able to return to the United States. In 1947, he notified the American diocese that it had been eliminated from the church budget. He was forced to retire, and future heads of the diocese would have to be approved by Romania’s Communist government. In 1951, the American diocese elected the exiled Bishop Valerian Trifa to be the nominal auxiliary to Bishop Polycarp, but given that Bishop Polycarp hadn’t set foot in America in more than a decade, for all intents and purposes Bishop Valerian was the new head of the diocese. Bishop Polycarp died in Romania in 1958.
March 25, 1943: Governor Thomas Dewey of New York signed into law a bill incorporating the Federated Greek Catholic Primary Jurisdictions of America. The Federation was sort of a primitive version of SCOBA. It included most of the primary Orthodox jurisdictions in America, but there were notable exceptions, including the Russian Metropolia, ROCOR, and the Antiochian Archdiocese of Toledo. In the Federation’s short life — only about a year or so — it achieved some modest but still significant accomplishments. The Federation managed to get Orthodoxy recognized by the Selective Service, exempting Orthodox priests from military service and allowing Orthodox Christians in the military to put “Eastern Orthodox” on their dog tags. It also led to the legal incorporation of several jurisdictions. The Antiochian Archdiocese is still governed by the legislation, from way back in the 1940s. As far as I know, the last meeting of the Federation took place in February 1944, but the Antiochian Metropolitan Antony Bashir kept it going on paper for another 15 or so years, when the dream of the Federation was revived as SCOBA.
March 25, 1998: The renowned church historian Jaroslav Pelikan converted to Orthodoxy. Pelikan was an intellectual giant, a longtime professor at Yale and a prolific writer. He had been well acquainted with Orthodoxy for decades before his conversion, which Fr. John Erickson has described in this way: “In a conversation shortly after his entrance into the Orthodox Church, Jary likened his path to Orthodoxy to that of a pilot who kept circling the airport, looking for a way to land. Orthodox Christians can be thankful that he landed before running out of fuel.” In his later years, Pelikan served as a key member of the St. Vladimir’s Seminary Board of Trustees. He died in 2006. For more on Pelikan, read this 2003 article by Fr. John Erickson. I particularly liked this quote from Pelikan, on being a historian: “Everybody else is an expert on the present. I wish to file a minority report on behalf of the past.”
March 20, 2003: The Orthodox Church of Poland formally glorified St. Vasily Martysz, who had once served in America. To read more about St. Vasily, click here.
March 22, 2009: Archbishop Dmitri Royster of Dallas retired as head of the OCA Diocese of the South.
We here at SOCHA would like to wish you and yours, Irish or not, a happy St. Patrick’s Day! And who better to portray those wishes than a figure we have written quite extensively about, Fr. Patrick Mythen. A proud descendent of the Irish political figure Henry Grattan, Mythen spent a good portion of his life working for various Irish political causes, most especially with the Protestant Friends of Irish Freedom.
Upon his conversion to Orthodoxy in 1920, the former Rev. James Grattan Mythen took the name Patrick as an expression of his Irish heritage. It should come as no surprise, then, that Mythen loved St. Patrick’s Day. Ninety years ago today, in 1922, Archimandrite Patrick, then Vicar General of the Russian Archdiocese of North America, led the Protestant Friends of Irish Freedom’s battalion (with band) in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day from all of us here at SOCHA!
Today being a Monday, I normally would publish the next edition of my “This week in American Orthodox history” series (in which I would say, among other things, that today marks the 97th anniversary of St. Raphael Hawaweeny’s repose). But that will have to wait until tomorrow, because I need to report on a pretty exciting development.
On Friday, ROCOR’s Eastern American Diocese announced that Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of ROCOR, has blessed the parishes of his diocese to hold an annual panihida (memorial) service for Philip Ludwell III on March 14, the anniversary of his repose. (ROCOR being on the Old Calendar, the panihida will take place on March 27 — that is, March 14 according to the Old Calendar.) Regular readers of OrthodoxHistory.org are no doubt familiar with Ludwell, the first known Orthodox convert in American history. Here is how the ROCOR article describes him:
He converted to the Orthodox faith at the Russian Church in London on December 31, 1738, several days after his twenty-second birthday. He was blessed by the Holy Synod of the Russian Church to return to Virginia with the Holy Gifts and increasing evidence now points to the existence of a lay Orthodox community headed by him in mid-eighteenth century Williamsburg.
Beyond dispute, he brought his three daughters up in the faith, and they were formally received into the Church in London in 1762. Some of their descendants also appear to have remained in the Church for several generations following Ludwell’s repose. He died in 1767 while resident in London. His funeral was served at the Russian Church in London on Monday, March 19/30, 1767 (at that time the calendar difference was only 11 days.)
Whilst still in Virginia, Ludwell translated The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as it is performed without a deacon and The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great as it is performed without a deacon. He also translated The Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Eastern Church, which was published in 1762, and penned what appears to be a short work of his own, entitled How to behave before, at, and after the Divine Service in the Church.
In all of these labors, he demonstrated an evident love for God and the Orthodox faith. He was also known for his cheerful and vivacious disposition, given to hospitality and to contributing to the needs of the poor. He also played a vital role in strengthening the defense of the Commonwealth of Virginia through tireless intercession with the British military authorities in his capacity as a member of the Royal Governing Council.
Ludwell’s story was uncovered by the indefatigable researcher and OrthodoxHistory.org columnist Nicholas Chapman. To read Nicholas’ articles about Ludwell (plus a couple less impressive pieces by me), click here. Also, be sure to visit the Eastern American Diocese website to read the full story on the upcoming panihida.
All of this prompts me to ask: are any other jurisdictions, bishops, or priests interested in participating in this annual memorial? I mean, Ludwell is, in a real sense, a forefather for all of American Orthodoxy, regardless of jurisdiction. If you’re a priest, would you consider serving a panihida (or pannikhida, if you prefer), or a trisagion service, for Ludwell’s soul? I’d love to see others in American Orthodoxy follow the lead of Metropolitan Hilarion and ROCOR.