Posts tagged Innocent Veniaminov
After the death of St. Philaret Drozdov, St. Innocent, the former missionary to Alaska and Siberia, was chosen to be his replacement as Metropolitan of Moscow. Below is his first pastoral address as Metropolitan, given in Moscow’s Dormition (Assumption) Cathedral on May 26, 1868 — 142 years ago today. The address was printed in the English-language Orthodox Catholic Review (Vol. 2, 1868, edited by the English convert J.J. Overbeck).
“Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”
Thus the Apostles were accustomed, according to the commandment of the Lord, to greet the Churches, and thus also the pastors of the Church following their example greeted their flocks, when entering into spiritual communion with them. By the same law, I also, their most unworthy successor, am emboldened to greet you with these very same words, my brethren, and henceforward beloved brethren and children in the Lord, entering as I am into communion with you.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”
But who am I daring to take upon myself the voice and authority of my predecessors?
A disciple of a distant age, of a distant region, and one who has passed more than half his life in a still more distant land; one, but a humble labourer on a small field of Christ’s; a teacher of infants in faith. And is it for the least of labourers to become a labourer in a great, glorious and ancient vineyard of Christ? Is it for such a teacher to instruct a fold which sends teachers and instruction, ay, teachers of teachers, to all the ends of Russia?
True it is, that I might well say the same in every other place, to which I might have been called; — but the gravity of the question is enhanced in this case by the fact – after whom I am placed here? Who was my predecessor and who am I? No comparison can be made here. Or every comparison will be far from advantageous to me, in some respects against me. I understood all the weight and sadness, bitterness of such comparisons – natural, unavoidable, most just comparisons; they are not idle talk. I understood also how elevated, how difficult are the duties of this position, and it behoves me consequently to decline, at least I might have declined this honour, having besides a visible motive for doing so. But who am I to oppose God – our Heavenly Father, without whose will not even a hair of our head may fall? Who am I to contradict the earthly king whose heart is in the hand of God? Nay, I said to myself: let what the Lord wills be with me: I will go whither I am ordered. And lo! I am come.
Bless me then, O Lord, to enter upon my work. Lord, I am Thine, and I will be Thine for ever and everywhere; do Thou with me as Thou willest in this life and in the life to come, that I may become here but a simple instrument in Thy hands!
O most holy Lady, Mother of God, my aid, — do not deprive me here of Thy help, protection, intercession and prayers. Ye Saints of Christ, Peter, Alexis, Jonas, and Philip, and all ye Saints resting here receive me into your prayers – me, your most unworthy successor. Brethren and fathers! Most especially you, illustrious teachers and fathers. It was not such an unlettered Archpriest it behoved you to have. But bear with me in Christ’s love, — receive me into your family prayers, more especially pray, that false doctrine and carnal wisdom may not creep into the midst of Orthodoxy, on account of my ignorance. … I pray ye all, brethren and children, pray for me, a sinner. “Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”
St. Innocent served as Metropolitan of Moscow from 1868 until his death in 1879.
This article was originally published on October 30, 2009.
On July 19, 1870, a Philadelphia newspaper called the North American and United States Gazette published the following report:
The Russian Ambassador has received instructions from his government that three bishoprics of the Greek Church are to be established forthwith in this country – one at New York, one at New Orleans, and one at San Francisco, in each of which last named places there is already a Greek church and a Russo-Greek priest.
A few days later, the journal Christian Union (7/23/1870) reported on the move of the Russian bishop from Alaska to San Francisco, and on the founding of Bjerring’s chapel in New York City. Citing the Pacific Churchman as its source, the article then stated the following:
New York is expected to be, in time, the seat of a Greek Orthodox Eastern Church arch-diocesan, and of the cathedral church of that hierarchy on the American continent, while New Orleans and San Francisco are to be episcopal seats. It is further stated that Mr. N.L. BJERRING, of Baltimore, a recent convert from the Roman Church, has been selected as one of the Orthodox bishops for this country, and that he has been invited by telegraph, from St. Petersburg, to proceed thither, to be baptized, ordained into the ministry, and be consecrated a bishop.
It’s interesting to read about a plan calling for New York to be the headquarters of an archdiocese; it would be more than three decades before this would actually happen. Also, Bjerring, being married, could not have become a bishop. It’s possible that the Russian Church wasn’t initially aware of this, and did at some early stage consider him a candidate for the episcopacy. It’s also possible that the newspaper reporter misunderstood something.
Anyway, within a few more days, the New York Sun had run a piece on all this. I don’t have the original Sun account, but it was picked up by various papers, including the Cleveland Herald (7/30/1870), the Chicago Tribune (8/1), and Flake’s Bulletin of Galveston, Texas (8/20). This is from the Cleveland Herald‘s version:
The Russian Government has decided to establish a Bishopric of the Greek Church in New York. The fact was made known to a number of Episcopal clergymen by Count Catacazy, the Russian Minister, and the Count recently offered the position of Prelate of the proposed See to the Rev. Samos [the other versions say "James"] Christal, an Episcopal minister, who is understood to have favored the plan of Dr. (now Bishop) Young of uniting the Episcopal and Greek churches. Mr. Christal has, however, declined to accept the office, on the ground that he could not subscribe to the articles of the Seventh Synod of the Greek church, relating to the images and creature worship, and the new Bishopric has not yet been filled.
Two other Bishoprics are to be established by the Russian Government, one in San Francisco and the other in New Orleans, but the candidates have not yet been named.
On August 27, Christian Union (which had already published a report on July 23 — see above) ran a similar story, but cited Pittsburgh’s Presbyterian Banner.
Finally, in October, a correction of sorts began to appear. From the Christian Advocate (10/10/1870; the same appeared in the San Francisco Bulletin on October 29):
The Russian Government does not contemplate sending Bishops of the Greek Church to form dioceses in this country. Greek Church communicants are too few to require them, and these few, it seems, do not desire foreign Bishops.
That is the last thing I’ve found on the plan.
All of these reports were coming during a time of transition for American Orthodoxy. During the same summer of 1870, Bishop John Mitropolsky was assigned to replace Bishop Paul Popov as the Russian hierarch in North America. The diocese itself was restructured, and the new Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska was created. (Previously, Bishop Paul had been merely a vicar in the Diocese of Kamchatka.) Bishop John moved the hierarchical residence from Sitka (or New Archangel) to San Francisco. This move wouldn’t be officially recognized until 1872, but for all practical purposes, it took place with the change in bishops in 1870.
Also, in May of 1870, Nicholas Bjerring went to Russia and was ordained a priest. He returned to the US that summer, and news began to circulate that the Russian Church planned to establish a chapel in New York City.
Is it possible that the Russian Church (and the Russian government) was making initial efforts to implement St. Innocent’s recommendation from a few years earlier? Late in 1867, Innocent recommended, among other things, that
- The diocesan seat be moved from Sitka (New Archangel) to San Francisco,
- The American part of the Diocese of Kamchatka be separated from the Diocese (Innocent recommended that it be formed into a vicariate under St. Petersburg, so creating a separate diocese would have been an even bolder step),
- The former bishop be recalled to Russia, and a new bishop be appointed who is familiar with English, and
- The new bishop be allowed to ordain American converts to the priesthood for service in America.
It’s also interesting to note the apparent resistence of the few Orthodox living in America. The San Francisco community was probably not the source of the problem, since they were the one city that did receive a Russian bishop in 1870. The New Orleans parish may have taken issue with this proposal, though, since they were a mostly independent group connected with the Greek consulate and nominally affiliated with the Church of Greece. But, details being so scarce, it’s hard to know just what the real story is.
There are a couple of avenues one might pursue to get to the bottom of all this. Obviously, the Russian Orthodox Church may have records of this plan (and I would expect them to be in St. Petersburg). There also might be something in the records of the Russian embassy, since the Russian ambassador was the one who approached Chrystal about the proposal. It can’t have just been the imaginings of American newspapermen, and I for one would love to know rationale behind the plan — and the reasons why it was abandoned.
This article was written by Matthew Namee and was originally published on October 30, 2009.
Editor’s note: The following lecture was given by Fr. Sebastian Dabovich on August 15, 1897 to the parish school St. Sergius in San Francisco, in the presence of Bishop Nicholas Ziorov. The occasion was the 100th anniversary of the birth of St. Innocent Veniaminov, the great Alaskan missionary and later Metropolitan of Moscow. The text was originally printed in Dabovich’s 1898 book The Lives of the Saints (1898).
As I stand here in the midst of this gathering, I picture in my mind another company, greater than this, filling the spacious halls of a more magnificent structure in the capital city of the Russian Empire — Matushka Moskva (dear mother Moscow). My imagination reaches still farther out, and I behold another throng of busy citizens, together with young Seminarians and prayerfully inclined Christians, away off in Siberia, in the city of Irkoutsk. Methinks I hear them speak the very name of him whom they have come to honor, Innocentius. My whole being thrills with a veneration at the sound of that name. My heart is filled with gladness when I think of the pure joy and reasonable pride of the country folk in rural Anginskoe of the Province of Irkoutsk — the native home of the Most Reverend Metropolitan Innocent.
Yet all these multitudes and territorial distance are but a part of the whole, celebrating a great event. Look you, the tribes of Kamchatka with the Yakout race sing of him, while the Aleut and the Alaskan Indians gratefully commemorate their teacher on this day — the one hundredth anniversary of his birth. While the great Orthodox Missionary Society in Russia, which to-day upholds our prosperous Church in Japan and in other parts of the world, is paying honor to the sacred memory of its founder, we too bless this one hundredth birthday of our first Bishop in America — the same Innocentius, Metropolitan of Moscow.
This great Missionary, who passed away from this visible world eighteen years ago, and rests with his remains in the holy Troitse Sergiev Monastery, still dwells in the loving hearts of the different peoples of his spiritual charge. I understand and feel the special privilege which I enjoy to-night, and for which I most heartily thank thee, Gracious Bishop and Most Reverend Father in God. Deeply feeling the love of our Archpastors, I become bold and venture to look into the unseen, where I behold the spiritual eyes of our first hard-working Missionary, with kindly light beaming upon this gathering and approving of the feeble words of your son (to the Bishop), and your brother (to the Clergy), and your pastor (to the Congregation) — one of the first born of the young American Orthodox Church!
John Veniaminov, indeed, was a great man. As one of the first priests in Alaska, he labored for fifteen long years in several parts of that vast region, making his home, principally, first in Ounalashka and then in Sitkha. In those pioneer days of Alaska an Aleutian badairka or small canoe made of the skin of a walrus was the only means he had for his constant locomotion, and not seldom for his voyages of a longer course. It often happened that, in a mean, wet climate, his only comfort for whole months would be found in an earthen dug-out. I will not detain you by repeating; you will soon hear, and also read for yourselves, of his life, and then you will know how in the Providence of God the Reverend Father John became to be known by the name of Innocent, and how he returned to Alaska — as the first bishop there, and likewise our first bishop in America! Brief accounts of his life are now printed in English, as well as in Russian and other languages, and may be had for nothing, comparatively.
There are several people in this city who have personally seen him, and remember well the wholesome instructions of their gentle pastor — Bishop Innocent, later the Metropolitan of Moscow. Besides the elder brethren and the elder sisters among you, some of the people mentioned are also fathers in their community. Our present Bishop and beloved Father in God was at one time under the spiritual rule of the Most Reverend Innocentius, and that was during his student life in the Academy of Moscow, when Innocent was the Bishop of the Church of God in that Province.
I have strong reasons for maintaining my assertion that this Missionary Priest, John Veniaminov, also landed on our shores here, and — how I love to dwell on the thought! — he bestowed God’s blessing upon our beautiful California. It was in the fall of 1838 that this God-fearing worker left Sitkha in a sailing vessel — to voyage down the whole length of the great Pacific, and make his way around Cape Horn to Europe and St. Petersburg. At that time the government of Alaska, following the wise counsel of Baranov (another great man), obtained and held land in California, where it had a flourishing colony in the part now known as Sonoma county. Baranov was well aware of the worth of Alaska, but he needed California as a store- house of grain for the Great North with its many resources and grand coast. The globe-circumnavigating vessels, coming from the north, certainly must have anchored in California waters, in order to take on supplies and make a final preparation before setting sail to round the Cape for Europe. And so it is possible that our dear Missionary may have even offered the Divine Liturgy in the chapel at Fort Ross, and also baptized the Indians in Russian River. I do not attempt to speculate on the idea that our apostle trod the sands where now our splendid city of San Francisco is built. For memory’s sake I simply ask: Is there not a history attached to Russian Hill in San Francisco?
A most remarkable man was this Russian priest from Siberia. He was a mechanic, navigator, school-teacher, administrator, and a preacher of the Gospel. A poor orphaned boy, too young to earn his own bread, must depend upon the charity of poor relatives and even strangers for his very existence. From a little town in the heart of Siberia he finds his way into the city of Irkoutsk, where he becomes a pastor, beloved by his devoted people. Then he goes, as he thought, to give up himself with his entire strength and knowledge to the simple Aleuts, who sat in darkness in the distant islands of the ocean. It was he, as he afterwards sat in the councils of the Most Holy Governing Synod of our Church, who moved the proposition that the Orthodox Bishop in America should transfer his residence from Sitkha to San Francisco.
God selected the priest, John Veniaminov, to bear the light of Orthodox Christianity from the East to the West, from Asia to America! And nobly did the Great Russian Church prove herself worthy of the apostolic power of rightly dividing the Word of Truth by carrying out the work in all its detail. She faithfully keeps the apostles’ will as expressed in these words: Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and teaching; she elevates her Missionary to a high post. In his new office as an archpastor, the M. Rev. Innocent created two more dioceses in Eastern Siberia, besides the church of Alaska. He was ever sailing over the ocean, or driving in reindeer and dog sledges over a country thousands of miles in extent, everywhere baptizing the natives, for whom he has introduced the use of letters, and translated the Gospel into their native tongues.
It has been, and still is, the habit of some who are unfriendly to the Orthodox Church to speak of her as a dead church. Such a daring charge could be uttered for three reasons, and they are these: Such persons are either determined upon a certain course of public policy, with no respect for the truth, or they are not inclined to think well of Eastern Christians, whom it would be inconvenient to recognize as brethren while enjoying personal comfort through social connections; but if it be not that, it is then because of a light head and total ignorance of the facts in universal history. In modern times the Russian Church has proved, in more instances than one, that she is alive with the missionary spirit. May we condemn the Slavonic Orthodox Church in the Balkan States, and in Austria, simply because she is struggling for her existence in spite of the aggressive intrusion on her own ground of the brethren of the Society of Jesus? Nor is the influx of American Sectarian preachers in Arabia and in Palestine, a reason which could justify any one in saying that the Church of Christ in those parts is dead! In these days we know something of what enslavement to the Turk involves. And what, in common justice, to say nothing of Christian charity, have we a right to expect from those groaning under such bondage? Have we the conscience to ask that they should make converts, when now for five hundred years they have been struggling, as in a bloody sweat, to keep Christianity alive under Moslem tyranny? And, in that time, how many martyrs of every age and condition have shed a halo around the Oriental Church? Not less than a hundred martyrs of these later days are commemorated in the services of the Church, and countless are the unnamed ones, who have suffered for the faith, in these five hundred years of slavery. In 1821, Gregory, Patriarch of Constantinople, was hung at the door of his cathedral, on Easter Day. Many other prelates and prominent ecclesiastics were put to death in Adrianople, Cyprus, the Ionian Islands, in Anatolia and Mount Athos. And yet, none apostatized from the faith of Christ. Are not such martyrdoms the best way of making converts? It was thus that, in the first three (and more) centuries of our era, the Church was founded in those lands by the apostles and their immediate successors. How can it be said that, among people who could so die for the faith, there was no real spiritual life ? Has not the Greek Church shown by her deeds the steadfastness of her faith?
But it is not our purpose to lecture on history. Nor is it that out of mere curiosity we are here. Let us now look to the duty we have before us this hour. We are gathered here to show our gratitude to our benefactor, and also in a becoming way to honor the memory of our dear Archpastor, Metropolitan Innocentius. Remembering him who has had the rule over us and our fathers — the Christians of this Diocese; remembering him who had spoken unto us the Word of God, let us now, according to the Divine commandment, consider his end, so that we may be able the better to follow the example of strong faith, which he gave us throughout his whole life. Although he was much weakened in his last days by old age and sickness, yet the venerable prelate retained his mind clear up to the last, and truly his course on earth was appropriately crowned with a bright Christian end. Tell them, he said, as he was about to sleep, that no eulogies be pronounced at my funeral, they only contain praise. Let them rather preach a sermon, it may be instructive; and here is the text for it: The ways of man are ordered by the Lord.
Consecrated for a great work he [Innocent] was as prompt to set about it as he was earnest in his labor. Stourdza’s “Remembrancer” contains a number of letters from Innocent to the revered Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow. Mouravieff well says of these that, “describing apostolic labors carried on for so many years for the conversion of savages in Northeastern Siberia and in Russian America they would furnish a series of Lettres Edifiantes as interesting as any of those in which the Jesuits so delight.”
We have space here to give translations of but a few extracts from these.
The first of the series tells of his arrival in America as Bishop and of the beginning of his work there.
April 30, 1842
At last, thank the Lord God, in America! I must now tell you of my voyage, my arrival, etc.
On the 20th of August, 1841, we sailed from the mouth of the Ochot River, in the brig Ochotsk, under most favorable circumstances, and directed our course towards one of the Kourile islands named Simousir, which we reached September 2d. On the evening of that day we left the island and sailed for Sitka. For about twenty days the winds were favorable, the weather clear and warm, so that September 21st we were but 500 miles from Sitka, about 4,000 from Ochotsk. The weather was so pleasant that we held services every holyday, not in the cabin, as is usually the case, but on deck. September 25th, St. Sergius’ Day, about 4 p.m., but at Moscow about 4 a.m., we sighted Mt. Edgecumbe, near New Archangel, and the next day, September 26th, the day on which we commemorate the death of the Beloved Disciple of Christ, a day on which the Church prays that the darkness which has so long covered the heathen may be dispersed, we entered the harbor of Sitka, and dropped anchor about 4 p.m. Saturday, September 27th, I went ashore, where I was received by all the chief authorities, the officials and the entire body of the Orthodox, amongst whom were some baptized Koloshes standing by themselves. In a partly official dress I went to the Church, where I delivered a short address to my new flock and offered up a prayer of thanksgiving to our Lord God. September 28th, I celebrated the Divine Liturgy.
The Church, at New Archangel, which is growing old and will need to be rebuilt in four or five years I found otherwise in fair condition and handsomely ornamented as if they really expected a Bishop to come. But all this is to be ascribed to the zeal of the principal warden, Etolin, who from the time of his coming to the colony has been earnest to have the church in good order.
Our doings since we came to Sitka have not yet been very important.
1st. A mission has been sent to Noushstan which will reach its place of destination not sooner than the middle of June next. The priest in charge is full of hope, though he is not one of the most learned of men. We have furnished him with full instructions and with everything we could provide.
2d. December 17th, a sort of theological school was opened, containing, now, 23 persons, Creoles and natives. The monk M., a student of the Moscow Spiritual Academy, has it in charge.
3d. The theological student J.T. was sent to Kadiak [sic] to learn the language and in four months has had wonderful success. He is a person of decided ability.
4th. The monk M. has been preaching to the Koloshes, and not without success. I hardly dare say how great the success may be. He has about 80 candidates for Holy Baptism and asks it for them, but I do not care to be over hasty with them; the more and the better they are taught the more they can be depended on.
5th. I went this Spring to Kadiak to examine into the affairs of the Church there and was comforted beyond expectation. The report of my arrival in America, the zeal and piety of their priest and the Christian co-operation of the Governor, Kostromitinoff, have all been most useful to the Kadiaks. Poor things, until now they had heard little of what is good, and, as they said, they now begin to go from darkness to light. Previously perhaps scarcely one hundred of them came to church, even irregularly, and they knew scarce anything of devotion. Now the church is full every holyday, and Lent was kept by more than four hundred of them, some coming from distant places. The iniquity of cohabiting in unblessed marriages, formerly common, is now at an end. Things had fallen into such a neglected state that of the 3,700 souls reported in the census of 1841 there were more than 1000 unbaptized. There are now about 100 children unbaptized between the ages of two and nine. And how many such died, especially at the time of the small-pox, which took the lives of over 2000.
The next letter from which we quote shows Innocent’s care for the young.
April 5, 1844
On the eleventh of January I began to assemble about me, in my chapel, all the children, both boys and girls, who do not belong to the schools and to teach them the law of God. The children here (at Sitka), between the ages of one and eighteen, are very numerous. In the Theological school, in the Company’s school, and in two girls’ schools, there are about one hundred and forty scholars, and yet I gathered about one hundred and fifty others. The girls I taught on Tuesday, the boys on Wednesday.
About two years ago, in all our American Churches, and also in the Cathedral of Kamchatka, the priests in charge of the Churches assembled the children of both sexes in Church once or twice a week and taught them the law of god and their duties in general. And I am happy to say that this year, if the priests in all the Churches of the Diocese have not kept up that custom, yet the greater part of them are diligent in this part of their work.
At this time the children receiving instruction in the Churches throughout the Diocese must number about four hundred, besides the scholars in the schools, who would swell the number to more than six hundred or the thirty-fifth part of all the inhabitants.
In another part of the same letter he speaks of the Koloshes,
The Koloshes, our neighbors, thank God, continue to come to Holy Baptism. In Easter week thirty-five of them were baptized, at their own request, and at no one’s persuasion. In the Lent just past those already baptized, who all lived near the fort, were very particular in keeping the fast and that without any special suggestion on my part — indeed they were not a whit behind the Russians in their observance.
[Hale continues, quoting from another letter of St. Innocent to St. Philaret:]
The word of truth begins to extend more and more in the northern coasts of America. The priest Golovin was in those parts last year, 1844, and during his stay there had an opportunity of seeing, in their settlements, almost all of those baptized by him on the occasion of his first visitg, the year previously, and, thank God, if not all, still a good part of them remembered and tried to fulfil the promises made at their baptism, and some of those most penetrated with the word of truth have tried to bear testimony of Christianity to their heathen friends and have persuaded many of them to be baptized. The Kvichpak Church, in September, 1844, numbered more than two hundred and seventy natives and thirty foreigners, whilst in 1843 there were of the Christians there thirty foreigners and four natives, the same of whom the Holy Synod told me when I was in St. Petersburg. One of these especially very heartily co-operated with the priest. The natives expressing with one mouth a desire to have a priest living amongst them it only remained for me to proceed to the founding of an independent mission there and, thank God, the mission is already organized and has gone there this year. The priest Jacob Netchvatoff is in charge of this mission, the same whom I wished to send to the Kenae mission and who was reported as belonging to it, but as the work in the north was more important I sent him to the Kvichpak mission. To the Kenae mission has been sent the Monk Nicholas (a deacon), who has gone there this year.
This year, 1845, after leaving Petropaulovsky, where I arrived by the mercy of God, June second, I expect to visit the Aleoutine Islands and next summer to take a sea voyage to Kamchatka.
[And another letter:]
May 1, 1848
From reports received by me last September from Kenae and Kvichpak missionaries it is clear that the Lord does not cease to bless their labors with visible success. The missionaries too, labor with all zeal and judgment, not striving to increase unduly the number of the baptized, on the contrary they exercise great circumspection in receiving those who come to them desirous of Holy Baptism. The Kenae in general receive Christianity with gladness and in a spirit of obedience to God’s law. They listen to instruction with untiring attention, fulfil their Christian duties heartily and with all care and, what is very noteworthy, on a single expression of the missionary’s wish they give up their national dances and songs, replacing the latter with our hymns, so far as they are translated into their language.
All of their former Shamans have been baptized, and the greater part of them show themselves to be very good Christians. Some of them, on a very slight hint from the missionary, cut off their hair (which previously they had highly prized), in token that they not only followed, but were glad to fulfil, their missionary’s teachings.
The word of God sown by the missionaries on the border of the ocean has been conveyed without any direct instrumentality of theirs, by those converted from heathenism, to a people living at the extreme north part of the continent of America, called Koltchans, who had never seen a missionary.
The Kenae missionary writes that, in the Spring of last year, 1847, there came to one of the Kenae villages some families of Koltchans with the intention of going to the mission to be baptized, but were not able to go by boats. The Kenae who saw them said that, when they prayed, some of the Koltchans who came to them burst into tears, and said: “God has forsaken us, and does not call us to him. How shall we die, for there evil awaits the unbaptized!” The missionary was not able to visit these Koltchans, and fulfil their pious wish, having the charge also of hte Noushagin Mission, which now, from the lack of men suitable for missionaries, was dependent upon the Kenae missionary. Their former missionary, the Priest Paitchelin, on account of illness, has been compelled to go to the Kadiak Church. In the summer of the year 1846 there came in boats to the redoubt at the upper part of the River Kouskokvim a number of Koltchans and their families, 54 persons in all, desiring to receive Holy Baptism. They received it at the hands of a layman, the person who was in charge of the redoubt, for the missionary was not and could not be there at that time, owing to his having so much other needful work. In the summer of 1847 these same newly baptized persons again came to the redoubt to see the priest, and with them there came also other Koltchans, about sixty in number, who also wished to be baptized, but, for the same reason as before, were unable to see the priest, and were baptized by the layman already mentioned.
The selection from Innocent’s letters published in Stourdza’s “Remembrancer” makes no further mention of the Koltchans, but we may surely believe that they were not left to walk in darkness, “for God ever provideth teachers for them that would learn of Him, and maketh known the way of truth to them that love the truth.”
The good Bishop has little to say of himself in his letters. As to what he did, we must learn from others. He was not only, in his vast diocese, the chief of the missionaries, but the chief missionary; not only a spiritual governor but a model of faithfulness and zeal. We are told that he became master of six dialects, spoken in the field committed to his charge. He himself translated, and assisted others in translating, large parts of God’s Word and the Liturgy of his Church for the use of the natives. For forty-five years, ten of them as Bishop of Kamchatka, eighteen more as its Archbishop, he labored on, in season and out of season. Towards the close of 1867 God called to Himself one of the most remarkable prelates of modern days, Philaret of Moscow, who lived to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his Episcopate, and then “fell asleep.” The writer was, a few weeks after, in Moscow, where speculations were rife as to who could worthily follow such a man. When it was announced that Innocent of Kamchatka had been chosen to the vacant See, there was a general satisfaction. It could not be said of him that nearly half a century of toil and exposure had left his natural force unabated. But, though he had passed the limit of three score years and ten, he entered upon his new duties with earnestness. Assisted in the administration of his diocese by two efficient Vicar Bishops, one of whom, Leonide, has recently died, just after his promotion to the Archi-episcopal See of Yaroslav, and yet by no means leaving all to them, he has been diligent in using his vast influence for the good of his whole church. Withdrawn, like Selwyn, from the missionary field, like the Bishop of Lichfield he labors as heartily as ever for the missionary cause. He feld that the missionary work which had been carried on so well by individual zeal, could be prosecuted more effectively by organized efforts. He knew, too, that the Church of Russia had need, for its own sake, to be heartily interested in the missionary cause, as has any church on which God has laid the duty of laboring rather than of suffering for Him. And so he brought about the foundation of the Orthodox Missionary Society, in behalf of which he issued the following pastoral [letter]:
November 21st of this year, 1869, the approval of the Czar was given to the Constitution of the Orthodox Missionary Society, under the august patronage of Her Imperial Highness, the Empress Maria Alexandrovna. By virtue of this Constitution the Council of the Society belongs to Moscow and to me has been committed the duty of being its President. It has pleased God that here, in the centre of Russia, in my declining years, I should still take part in missionary work, to which, by the will of Divine Providence, on the most distant borders of our country almost the whole of my life was dedicated from early youth.
The object of the Missionary Society is to aid Orthodox Missions in the work of converting to the Orthodox Faith those not Christians, living within the borders of our country, and of building up those so converted in the truths of our holy religion as well as in the practice of the duties of the Christian life. Of such persons we have as fellow-countrymen many millions untaught in the holy truths of the faith, or needing to be built up in them. Compared with the number of these our missions are very small, and what we have need means to support and extend their work.
How holy a work this is, how very necessary for our Orthodox Church and Empire, must be self-evident to you. The true source of means for the development of this work must be found in the sympathy and zeal in its behalf of all Orthodox Christians. The Missionary Society is founded for all, rich and poor, who are ready to aid in this great work, which asks for and which needs them.
As your chief pastor and as the President of the Society I ask and pray Christ-loving Moscow, with my people and clergy, not to leave me in this holy work without their sympathy and co-operation. In a short time, please God, I hope to meet my beloved flock, that together we may offer up to the Lord our prayers for His blessing upon the Orthodox Missionary Society, in the work it is undertaking, and may hold at Moscow the first public meeting of the Society.
INNOCENT, Metropolitan of Moscow, President of the Orthodox Missionary Society
It is the purpose of the writer, God willing, on another occasion to give a somewhat detailed account of this Orthodox Missionary Society and of the work carried on by it, already extending beyond the wide borders of the Russian Empire, its primary field of action.
As we look back on the record of Innocent’s labors let us bless God for the good example of His faithful servant and pray Him to crown with His richest blessing the close of such a life.
Editor’s note: Last week, we presented the first part of the first biography of St. Innocent, written by the Episcopalian clergyman Charles R. Hale. What follows is Part 2, which details the introduction of Orthodoxy to Alaska and the priestly ministry of Fr. John Veniaminoff, the future St. Innocent. Tomorrow, we will publish the last section of Hale’s article, which focuses on St. Innocent’s tenure as a bishop.
“Who in the West,” asks Mouravieff, “hears anything of the truly apostolical labors of the Archbishop of Kamchatka, who is ever sailing over the ocean, or driving in reindeer sledges over his vast but thinly settled diocese, thousands of miles in extent, everywhere baptizing the natives, for whom he has introduced the use of letters, and translated the Gospel into the tongue of the Aleoutines?” Few, indeed, have heard, doubtless there are many who would be glad to hear.
The present Metropolitan of Moscow, late Archbishop of Kamchatka, has been called “the Russian Selwyn,” but he began his missionary labors much earlier than the late [Anglican] Bishop of New Zealand, and has been called to a yet higher position of dignity and influence in his own Church, than that held by the Bishop of Lichfield. John Veniaminoff was born August 20 (September 1, o.s.), 1797, was educated in the Seminary of Irkutsk, from which he graduated in 1817, and entered upon the sacred ministry in May of that year. He was advanced to the priesthood in 1821. December 15 (27 o.s.), 1840, Innocent, for by this name he is henceforth known, was consecrated, by the Episcopal members of the Holy Synod, in the Kazan’s Cathedral at St. Petersburg, to the newly founded Bishopric of Kamchatka. In 1850, his See was made Archi-episcopal. Early in 1868 he succeeded the honored Philaret as the Metropolitan of Moscow. It is a curious coincidence that Bishop Selwyn was consecrated but a few months later than he, October 17, 1841; and the appointment of Innocent to Moscow was announced within a very few days of the time when the Bishop of Lichfield entered upon his new charge, January, 1868.
Of the first two years after his ordination to the priesthood, in which he seemed to have been engaged in parish work in the Diocese of Irkutsk, we have no record. But in 1823 he offered himself as a missionary and was sent by his Bishop to Ounalashka [Unalaska]. Let us preface the story of his labors there, as he himself does, by a brief account of earlier work in the same region. In doing this we translate from his own words, for lack of space however greatly abreviating [sic] his narrative.
How attractive his exordium:
Knowing how pleasant it is for the true Christian to hear of the propagation of Christianity among nations previously unenlightened by the Holy Gospel, I have determined to set forth what I know concerning the propagation and establishment of Christian truth in one of the most remote parts of our country, where, by the will of God, I have been led to spend many years.
Then he goes on to show how
The Christian religion crossed to the shores of Russian America with the first Russians who went to establish themselves in those parts. Among those who sought at once to establish a new industry for Russia, and to acquire gain for themselves, there were those who resolved, at the same time, upon the establishment of Christianity amongst the savages with whom they dwelt. The Cossack, Andrean Tolstich, about 1743 discovering the island known under the name Andreanoffsky, was probably the first to baptize the natives. In the year 1759, Ivan Glotoff discovering the island of Lisa, baptized the son of one of the hereditary chiefs of the Lisevian Aleoutines. He afterwards took the young man to Kamchatka, where this first fruits of the Ounalashka Church spent several years and studied the Russian language and literature and then, returning to his native country, with the position of chief Toen (Governor) conferred upon him by the Governor of Kamchatka, helped greatly by his example, in the propagation of Christianity.
The good missionary confesses that self-interest had something to do with the desire, on the part of many of the first settlers, for the spread of Christianity among the savages, they thinking that thus they would be able to establish better relations with the natives. When we think of the way in which Americans and English have too often acted toward the savage tribes with whom they have been brought into contact, instead of blaming the defective motive, on the part of some, we may rejoice that, in this instance: “The desire of Russians for gain served as a means for diffusing the first principles of Christianity among the Aleoutines, and aided the labors of the missionaries who came after.”
Mr. Shelikoff, founder of the American company:
Among his many plans and projects for the advancement of the interests of the American part of our territory, had in view especially the propagation of Christianity, and the founding of Churches. On which account, on his return from Kadiak [sic] in the year 1787, he laid a memorial in regard to this before the Government and begged it to found an Orthodox Mission, of which he and his associate Golikoff took upon them the expense both of establishment and sustaining. As a result of his intercessions there was founded at St. Petersburg a mission of eight monks, under the lead of Archimandrite Joseph, for the preaching of the word of God among people brought under Russian dominion. Well provided for by Shelikoff, Golikoff, and other benefactors, the mission set out from St. Petersburg in the year 1792, and in the following autumn arrived at Kadiak.
At once they entered upon their work, beginning on the Island of Kadiak. In 1795, Macarius went to the Ounalashka district on a missionary tour, and Juvenal visited the Tehougatches, and crossed over the Gulf of Kenae, both being everywhere warmly received by the natives. The year after, Juvenal, in the neighborhood of the lake of Pliamna, or Shelikoff, “finished his apostolic labors with his life, serving the Church better than any of his associates.” Many years afterward, the circumstance[s] of his martyrdom were related by the natives. Some other members of the mission gave special attention to the education of the children, one of them, Father German [Herman], founded an Orphan Asylum, of which he remained in charge until his death in 1837.
Shelikoff realized the importance of having the work properly organized, and so he was not content with such a mission as was sent out. “He urged the founding of a Bishopric in Russian America, under the charge of its own bishop. He fixed upon Kadiak as a the proper residence of a bishop, estimating the population of that island as about fifty thousand. In consequence of his entreaties, and in consideration of the number of inhabitants,” an Episcopal See was founded, and Joseph, Archimandrite of the mission, was summoned to Irkutsk, and there consecrated, in March 1799, by the Bishop of Irkutsk, and there consecrated, in March 1799, by the Bishop of Irkutsk, to be the first Bishop of “Kadiak, Kamchatka and America.” The new Bishop, as he returned homeward, was lost at sea, in the ship Phoenix, with all who accompanied him, including the priest Macarius and the deacon Stephen, who had come with him from St. Petersburg, when the mission was founded.
Soon after this Shelikoff died, and all thought of extending the mission, and of setting up a Bishopric, seemed lost sight of for years. In the whole colony there was but one missionary priest, until in 1816, in response to the entreaties of Baranoff the Governor, Michael Sokoloff was sent to Sitka.
A fact in this connection, not generally known, may here be mentioned that a Russian settlement, under the name of Russ, was made, under the auspices of Baranoff, in California, on the coast about forty miles northwest of San Francisco. A number of Indians here became members of the Orthodox Church, and when the colony was removed to Sitka, went northward with it. Of these Indian converts or their descendants there were in 1838 nine still living at Sitka. In 1821 new privileges were granted to and new regulations made for the Russian American Company, and the duty was laid upon it of maintaining a sufficient number of priests for the colony. Accordingly three were obtained from Irkutsk, in 1823 John Veniaminoff for Ounalashka, in 1824 Frumentius Mordovsky for Kadiak and in 1825 Jacob Netchvatoff for Atcha.
Veniaminoff entered upon his work with enthusiasm and a hearty liking for those among whom he was to labor. He recounts how Father Macarius and others who had preached the Gospel amongst them
did not present to them with fire and sword the new faith, which forbade them things in which they delighted — e.g., drunkenness and polygamy, but notwithstanding this the Aleoutines received it readily and quickly. Father Juvenal remained in the Ounalashka district but one year, and voyaging to distant islands, and travelling from place to place with only one Russian attendant, the Aleoutines whom he had baptized, or whom he was preparing for Holy Baptism, conveyed him from place to place, sustained him and guarded him without any recompense or payment. Such examples are rare.
Although the Aleoutines willingly embraced the Christian religion, and prayed to God as they were taught, it must be confessed that, until a priest was settled amongst them, they worshipped one who was almost an unknown God. For Father Macarius, from the shortness of time that he was with them, and from the lack of competent interpreters, was able to give them but very general ideas about religion, such as of God’s omnipotence, His goodness, etc. Notwithstanding all of which, the Aleoutines remained Christian, and after baptism completely renounced Shamanism, and not only destroyed all the masks which they had used in their heathen worship but also allowed the songs which might in any way remind them of their former belief to fall into oblivion. So that when, on my arrival amongst them, I through curiosity made enquiry after these songs, I could not hear of one. And as to superstitions, from which few men well taught in Gospel truth are quite free, many which they had they quite gave up, and others lost their power over them. But of all the good qualities of the Aleoutines, nothing so pleased and elighted my heart as their desire, or, to speak more justly, their thirst, for the word of God, so that sooner would and indefatigable missionary tire in preaching than they in hearing the word.”
But Veniaminoff’s missionary service was not with the peaceful Aleoutines only. There was a fierce tribe, the Koloshes, who, to use his words, when first met with, in 1804, “like fierce wild beasts hunted the Russians to tear them in pieces, so that these had to shut themselves up in their fortresses or go out in companies.” And even in 1819 they still looked “on Russians as their enemies, and slew such as they could take by night, in revenge for the death of their ancestors slain in contests with them.”
To these he resolved to carry the Gospel. To this end he came to Sitka, in the neighborhood of which the Koloshes lived, towards the close of 1834. That Winter and the ensuing Spring imperative duties detained him among the Aleoutines at Sitka. When Summer came, he found that the Koloshes had left their settlements and were scattered in different parts for the purpose of fishing. Veniaminoff confesses, too, that he had a shrinking from meeting these hostile savages. Ashamed of himself for what he felt to be cowardice he resolved that immediately upon the close of the Christmas holidays he would take his life in his hand and go.
“Let no one wonder,” he goes on to say, “at the decrees of Providence.”
Four days before I came to the Koloshes the small-pox suddenly broke out amongst them and first of all at the very place where I had expected to make my first visit. Had I begun my instruction of the Koloshes before the appearance of the small-pox they would certainly have blamed me for all the evil which came upon them, as if I were a Russian shaman or sorcerer who sent such a plague amongst them. The results of such inopportune arrival would have been dreadful. The hatred towards the Russians, which was beginning to wane, would have become as strong as ever. They would perhaps have killed me, as the supposed author of their woes. But this would have been as nothing in comparison with the fact that my coming to the Koloshes just before the small-pox would probably have caused the way to be stopped for half a century to missionaries of God’s word, who would always have seemed to them harbingers of disaster and death.
But, Glory be to God who orders all things for good! The Koloshes were not now what they were two years previously (when he had meant to come among them). If they did not immediately become Christians they, at least, listened or began to listen to the words of salvation. Few were baptized then, for, while I proclaimed the truth to them, I never urged upon them or wished to urge upon them the immediate reception of Holy Baptism, but, seeking to convince their judgment, I awaited a request from them. Those who expressed a desire to be baptized I received with full satisfaction. I always obtained from the Toens (or chiefs) and from the mothers of those desiring to be baptized a consent which was never denied, and this greatly pleased them.”
Veniaminoff introduced inoculation amongst the Koloshes, and the good they saw ensuing from this “greatly changed their opinion of the Russians and of their shamans (or magicians). They neither forbade nor did anything to hinder the reception of Holy Baptism by those desiring it. Instead of despising or avoiding those baptized they looked on them as persons wiser than themselves and almost Europeans.”
After sixteen years of missionary toil Veniaminoff was sent to St. Petersburg to plead for help for the mission. The Czar Nicholas proposed to the Holy Synod to send one who had proved so faithful a priest back to the scene of his labors as a Bishop, for Episcopal supervision was manifestly greatly needed. “Your Majesty must consider,” suggested some members of the Synod, “that, though he is no doubt an excellent man, he has no Cathedral, no body of clergy and no Episcopal Residence.” “The more then, like an Apostle,” replied the Czar, “Cannot he be consecrated?” The objections of those prelates remind us of some that have more recently been heard nearer home. It is to be hoped that, where the need of a Bishop is evident, such objections may soon be things of the past.
As has been already stated the good missionary priest was, December 15 (27 o.s.), 1840, consecrated in St. Petersburg to be Bishop of Kamchatka, with the name, by which he will hereafter be known, of Innocent.