Posts tagged 1900
Recently, on our Facebook page, someone left a comment requesting information on Fr. Jacob Korchinsky, who is apparently being considered for canonization. I was vaguely familiar with Korchinsky; I’d read his name before, but knew next to nothing about him. Obviously, I wanted to learn more. Over the past couple of days, I’ve pieced together as much as I can about Korchinsky. My own conclusion: the man is almost certainly a saint.
Just to clear up any confusion up front: if you search for “Jacob Korchinsky” on the Internet, you might find a reference to St. Juvenaly, the hieromartyr of Alaska. Coincidentally, St. Juvenaly’s name before becoming a monk was Jacob Korchinsky. I don’t think he’s related to this more recent Jacob Korchinsky, though.
Here is an account of Korchinsky’s first five decades, from Michael Protopopov’s fascinating 2005 dissertation, The Russian Orthodox Presence in Australia:
Jakov Kosmich Korchinsky was born into a family of landed gentry in 1861, he attended the Elizavetgrad Secondary School and then a four year course to become a teacher. In 1886, Jakov married Varvara Yakovlev. Whilst working in diocesan schools, Jakov was recognized as an excellent teacher by the Ruling Bishop of the diocese, Archbishop Nicandor of Kherson and Odessa, and ordained a deacon on 8 November 1887. Whilst a deacon and still teaching, Fr Jakov enrolled at the Odessa Theological Seminary which he completed in 1895. Fr Jakov was then invited to teach in the missions in Alaska by Bishop Nikolai of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska and the young deacon and his wife set off for the Americas. On 25 March 1896 Fr Jakov was ordained priest and began his missionary work in Alaska. Within two years Fr Jakov had been awarded his first ecclesiastical distinction for “converting to Orthodoxy more than 250 savages.” In 1901, he was again recognised for building a church whilst doing missionary work in Canada. By 1902 the Korchinskys returned to Kherson because of Varvara Korchinsky’s failing health and Fr Jakov was appointed rector of the Resurrection church in Bereznegova on the Black Sea. In 1906 he was appointed rector [of] the Protection church in the Kherson prison.
After two years in the prison church, Fr Jakov reapplied to return to America and was appointed to the St Michael parish in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. Whilst in Pennsylvania Fr Jakov was awarded the gold pectoral cross by an Imperial Decree. On 25 March 1911, the Korchinskys were relocated to Newark, New Jersey, where Fr Jakov was appointed rector of the St Michael church and visiting priest to parishes in Erie, Carnegie and Youngstown. In the years immediately prior to his appointment as missionary to the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines, Korchinsky was also Dean of Pennsylvania, a trustee of the Orthodox Orphanage of North America, Vice President of the Russian Emigre Society of North America and a member of the Imperial Russian Palestine Society.
And he still had another 30 years to go. Korchinsky was one of the jewels of the Russian Mission in America, one of those super-priests who covered vast territories and founded numerous churches. In 1900, he was sent to Edmonton, Alberta to become the first permanent parish priest in Canada. The same year, he visited Shandro, Alberta, and baptized 33 children in a single day. You get the sense, from reading about Korchinsky’s life, that this sort of event was rather commonplace for him. In his November 26, 1906 report to the Holy Synod, St. Tikhon wrote of Korchinsky, “He did much to convert the heathens to the Christian Faith and returned many Uniates to the Orthodox Church. He set the foundation for parish life in many places, built churches and assisted the unfortunate with his acquied medical knowledge.”
He founded churches in the United States, too. At the very least, I know that he was the founding priest of the Nativity of Christ Church in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1915. The same year, Korchinsky was elevated to Archpriest, and he relocated to Hawaii. From Orthodox Wiki’s excellent article on Hawaiian Orthodox history:
In 1915, an official request by the Russian Orthodox community in Hawaii and the Episcopal Bishop of Hawaii, Henry B. Restarick to the Holy Synod in St. Petersburg; a priest was dispatched that same year to Hawaii (with the blessing of Archbishop Evdokim (Meschersky) of the Aleutians) to pastor the large population of Orthodox Russian faithful. He establishsed permanent liturgical services in Hawaii and on Christmas December 25 (O.S.) / January 7 (N.S.) 1916, Protopresbyter Jacob Korchinsky celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Honolulu. Thus Orthodoxy was re-established in Hawaii.
While in Honolulu, writes Protopopov, Korchinsky happened to meet a group of Russian Latvians who were sailing from Australia to Egypt via Honolulu and the brand-new Panama Canal. They told him that there were Russians in Australia; not long afterwards, Korchinsky read this in the Vestnik (the official publication of the Russian Mission in America, January 1916):
[I]n Australia, there live thousands of Russian people, who are spiritually ministered to by a Greek priest who visits once a year. His services are conducted unwillingly and without a sense of piety, even though he receives a large amount of money for his services. It has also been reported that a self-styled “priest” has arrived in Australia from North America who has exploited the unsuspecting Russians with excessive fees for baptisms and weddings, so much so, that they complained to the police and the “priest” was arrested.
Korchinsky had heard enough. He wrote to the Russian Consul-General in Melbourne, who asked Korchinsky to come to Australia immediately. He arrived in March of 1916. In the months that followed, he visited 750 families and 500 isolated individuals, baptizing 16 children along the way (all these numbers are from Protopopov). But he contracted malaria due to the excessive heat, and in July, he returned to Russia. He wrote this to his bishop, Archbishop Evdokim Meschersky:
We have elected a committee to oversee church life, but my illness brought on by the excessive heat, has caused me to take to my bed and has deprived me of being of any further use… I most respectfully plead that Your Grace does not forsake the Russian Orthodox in Australia and especially their next generation of youngsters. I beg that Your Grace may raise the question of the Church in Australia at the forthcoming All Russian General Council and if it be appropriate to appoint me as the permanent priest for Australia.
The Holy Synod ended up placing Australia under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Tokyo. Korchinsky, meanwhile, needed money. He had spent all his own funds on his missionary work. All the while, his wife and three-year-old daughter had remained in America, and Korchinsky wanted to go to them. He was given permission, and money, but then World War I intervened. Korchinsky was assigned to be a chaplain at the military hospital in Odessa, serving there from December 1916 to August 1917. From Protopopov:
Upon being demobilised from military service, Korchinsky was again faced with the problem of having nothing to live on. On 29 August 1917, he again wrote to the Holy Synod asking that he be assigned a pension, as he was so poor that he needed to live in a rural village where the folk fed him out of compassion. A second resolution was made by the Holy Synod for a pension to be granted to Korchinsky, but no documentary evidence is available to confirm a pension ever having been paid. Nor is it known if he returned to his family in Pennsylvania.
One way or another, Korchinsky’s family made it back to Russia. About his family… At some point amidst his travels, probably in 1913 or 1914, Korchinsky spent some time in Mexico City. While there, he adopted an orphaned infant named Dominica. Here is the story, told by the girl’s daughter in Faith, a Russian religious periodical, dated May 2006. The original in Russian, which I can’t read, so I used Google Translator:
Jacob Korchinsky was not the actual father of my mother, he was her adoptive father. In 1912-1916. He was the rector of the Orthodox Church in Mexico City, the capital of Mexico. There he gave the girl in foster homes, from a poor family of Spanish origin. In 1916-1917 grandfather returned to his home in Odessa, along with a girl (my mother was then year 3-4).
The translation obviously isn’t great, and the dates aren’t precise, but the gist is clear enough. (And there are more details if you follow the above link and can read Russian. Google Translator has some issues with Russian, unfortunately.)
Korchinsky stayed in Russia through the Revolution and the terror that followed. He was arrested on June 23, 1941. Two months later, like so many of his fellow priests, he was executed. He was 80 years old.
Based on all this, it seems to me that Fr. Jacob Korchinsky was indeed a saint, just like his fellow American priests and Russian hieromartyrs Alexander Hotovitzky, John Kochurov, and Seraphim Samuilovich. Korchinsky’s is a remarkable, multicontinental story which has not yet been told. If any of you have more information on Korchinsky, please email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
UPDATE (1/6/10): A reader named Michael informed me that St. Juvenaly’s surname was “Govorukhin” (or “Hovorukhin”), not “Korchinsky.” He sent along numeous source which testify to this, and I have no doubt that he is correct. Just for the record, I found the reference to St. Juvenaly’s name being “Korchinsky” in Fr. Michael Oleksa’s 2008 commencement address at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. It’s possible that Fr. Michael just mixed up the two missionary-martyrs’ names. My thanks to Michael for pointing this out to me.
One of the most obvious practical issues facing early Orthodox Christians in America was the difference between the Church calendar — the “Julian” calendar — and the civil (“Gregorian”) calendar. In the 19th century, twelve days separated the two calendars; after the turn of the century, the difference was thirteen days. And since the “New Calendar” wasn’t adopted by any of the world’s Orthodox Churches until the 1920s, the calendar discrepancy was something that every American Orthodox Christian dealt with.
Newspaper reporters were amused by the difference, and every year, there would be a spate of articles on the “Russian Christmas,” or the “Greek New Year.” For instance, here’s something from the Philadelphia Inquirer (12/24/1905):
When the thousands of children of this city upon whom the favor of good old St. Nicholas will fall this year have lost the keen delight first occasioned by the sight of their toys there will be about three hundred little ones who will still be wondering what Christmas morn will bring forth. There will also be about one thousand adults who have not yet satisfied their inclination for gift-giving.
It will not be until the seventh day of January that Christmas Day will dawn for these people.
It is due to the fact that they are communicants of the Greek Orthodox Church that their Christmas is so belated in comparison with that of the Western churches, the difference in time — thirteen days — being caused by the Greek Church’s adherence to the Julian calendar. All the Western churches use the Gregorian calendar, it having been adopted early in the eighteenth century.
Even before a portion of global Orthodoxy adopted the New Calendar in the 1920s, some American Orthodox people thought that a change should be made. On Pascha in 1906, Greek laborers in Gurley, Arkansas got into a fight over ”whether the modern or the Greek Church calendar should be observed in celebrating the Christian festival.” The fight turned into a drunken riot, and it got so bad that the National Guard had to be called in. At least seven men died, and many more were injured. (Cf. New York Times, 4/17/1906.)
Fortunately, the calendar issue didn’t always lead to such turmoil. The Greeks in Columbia, South Carolina peacefully took matters into their own hands. From The State (1/8/1915):
Yesterday was Christmas day, under the Julian calendar, which is that retained by the Greek Orthodox church, but the Greek colony in Columbia, comprising upwards of 100 persons, lacking a church, did not observe the day. Louis Malloy, proprietor of a restaurant, said that he and his fellow countrymen in Columbia had adopted the Gregorian calendar and therefore their Christmas is December 24.
I should emphasize, both the chaos in Arkansas and the unilateral lay action in Columbia were anomalies; the vast majority of American Orthodox kept strictly to the Julian Calendar. In 1917, Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine drafted an article on the calendar issue. I don’t think it was ever published; I found a handwritten copy in the OCA archives, and I’ve never seen it anywhere else.
It is very inconvenient, for the members of the Holy Orthodox Church to be observing the Great Festivals and fasts on days other than those on which Christians who belong to the Western Patriarchate and Protestantism observe. Many faithful sons of Orthodoxy have lost their positions because they have kept Fasts and Festivals on days which have not coincided with those of their Western brethren. Work would not wait for them and therefore, others stepped into their “jobs.” In many respects it takes a martyr to be a member of the Holy Orthodox Church in America – especially in the City of Greater New York.
The Holy Orthodox Church observes what is known as the Julian Calendar. The Roman Church and all Protestant Bodies, on the other hand, observe the Gregorian. At present there is (since 1901) thirteen days difference. That is, the Gregorian Calendar runs ahead of the Julian and unless some conclusion is universally accepted as to the best method of correcting the whole Calendar the difference will become greater as the years come and go.
Who is at fault for this divergency? Historians will not lay the blame on the Orthodox. Rome has ever been the transgressor in such matters. Her assumption of the doctrine of “supremacy” has given her the idea that all Christendom must bow before her. Four hundred years ago the Orthodox Church had little consideration in the minds of the West. Protestantism even worried more over Papal doctrines, interval abuses and superstitions than about the ancient ways and unblemished truths kept sacredly in the bosom of the Holy Orthodox Church of the East.
It may, indeed, be inconvenient for the Orthodox Church members in the West to go by the Julian Calendar and while Western Christians may count their Eastern brethren archaic in their observations yet the keeping of the Julian Calendar here in the West serves a good purpose. It is a standing protest against the encroachments of Rome on the rights of Christendom and suggests investigation on the part of seekers after Ancient ways and truths amongst Protestants.
So, according to Irvine, the calendar difference could actually be a blessing in disguise, providing an opportunity for evangelism. He then went into considerable detail about the differences between the two calendars, and why Rome was wrong to have arbitrarily changed things. He then concluded:
According to this mode of reckoning, and because of the Church of the West’s disregard under the Roman Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th Century of the Canons of the General Council of Niece, there is sometimes several weeks difference between the two Churches in holding Easter. This creates confusion and is destructive to the Faith.
Again: — Whose fault is it? Surely it is not that of the Holy Orthodox Church. Being the Mother Church of Christendom she must protect the Canons of the General Councils which are binding upon all Christians. The Western Church is only a part of the Catholic Church, in fact her disobedient child.
For the information of inquirers it may be added that, Easter will fall on the same day for both Churches in the years 1916, ’22, ’30, ’36, ’39, ’42, ’43, etc., etc. In the intervening years there will be from one to several weeks apart in the observance of the Blessed Day – the greatest of Feasts which ought to bring us all together to the Empty Tomb of our One Lord and Risen Saviour. Whose fault is it that we are divided?
Of course, in the end, most of the Orthodox in America did switch to the New Calendar (with only the Paschal cycle remaining on the Old). That change, which was first implemented in 1924, is a story for another day.