Posts tagged Online Sources
On today’s episode of my American Orthodox History podcast, I talk about the tragic death of Bishop Nestor Zass, head of the Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska from 1879 to 1882. One of Bp Nestor’s parishioners in San Francisco was the 19-year-old Jovan Dabovich, the future Archimandrite Sebastian. Years later, Dabovich wrote a history of San Francisco’s Orthodox community, published in the Vestnik (the diocesan magazine) on April 13 and 27, 1898. The whole article is available in the Holy Trinity Cathedral archive, and we’re reprinting the section devoted to Bp Nestor.
In 1879, once again the Lord regarded the humility of the Orthodox children of this Diocese and sent us a good shepherd in the person of the Right Reverend Nestor, who arrived in San Francisco in the spring, accompanied by the Hieromonk (and later Archimandrite) German.
As usual, the Western Churches followed closely the activities of the Eastern Churches, and in this matter the Anglican Church reported quite sympathetically on the Right Reverend Nestor’s assignment to America.
Here, for example, is what we read about this in the London Journal:
The Holy Synod of the Russian Church has appointed to the Episcopal See of the Aleutian Islands the Archimandrite Nestor. Father Nestor was in early life known as Baron Zass; he was an officer in the navy, and besides his theological attainments he is well versed in secular learning, and understands fully the English language, in which he expresses himself fluently. He is distinguished for his lofty character, his Christian convictions, and his thorough devotion to duty. Father Nestor will be quite in his proper place in America, for at the time of Admiral Lesoffsky’s visit to New York, in 1863, he made himself highly esteemed by the Americans. It is to be hoped that the Episcopate of Father Nestor may be a source of close and intimate relations between the Orthodox Russian Church and the Church of North America. A letter which came to the Holy Synod, not long since, from the American bishops gives reason to hope thus. God grant that through the cooperation of the future Bishop of the Aleutian Islands brotherly relations may be established [between] these two great Churches.
Also in 1879 Bishop Nestor visited Sitka. In 1880 he traveled to Unalaska. In 1881 he made an inspection of Kodiak. Having made Bishop Nestor’s acquaintance, Americans regarded him most highly as a man adorned with every Christian and civic merit.
In 1881 the Cathedral Church in San Francisco was moved to its present location. On June 30 of that year the purchase deed for a house was signed by Gustave Niebaum for the sum of thirty-eight thousand dollars in American gold coin. This was a duplex house at 1713 & 1715 Powell Street near the wharves in North Beach between Russian and Telegraph Hills where Powell crosses the wide commercial thoroughfare of Montgomery Ave. Before the purchase of this property Bishop Nestor and Father Herman lived in a private flat. In the new house an apartment was arranged for the bishop as well as quarters for the Ecclesiastical Administration — a school, a storage area and an archive. The church with its new and elegant principal iconostasis, its new holy table, its new vestment wardrobe, etc. was formed out of two rooms (at 1713 Powell St.). In addition the large front room of the second story was removed, so that the altar area and a part of the church had high walls — in two worlds. The church was quite proper, and under the circumstances could not have been better.
In the winter of 1881-82 His Grace frequently complained of headaches and suffered from general malaise. Yet that did not prevent him from preparing for a trip to Alaska in the spring of 1882. This time he planned to visit the furthest reaches of the mission in Alaska and spend the winter of 1882-83 on the shores of the Kwipach (Yukon River) in the village of Ikogmut. In view of all this he prepared for his needs, including even a rubber ryasa and skufya. He obtained a small but well supplied medicine chest from one Doctor Palitsky, a San Francisco resident. His Grace left San Francisco in the first part of May on the steamship St. Paul, belonging to the American Trading Company, taking along one of the school boys, Ivan Shayashnikov, an unassuming young man of 17, as his traveling companion. Several months had passed, when suddenly in the evening of 1/13 August the St. Paul returned with the sad news that his Grace Nestor was no longer with us. He had drowned in the waters of the Bering Strait. It is difficult to imagine the horror and sadness with which all were overcome.
This unfortunate incident occurred not far from shore opposite the St. Michail’s Redoubt on the return voyage. His Grace, for some reason having abandoned his intention of wintering there, was desirous of returning to San Francisco, but he drowned. All the newspapers and magazines were filled with information about the late archpastor. As a rule all were of the opinion put forward by the main newspapers, the Evening Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Morning Call of 3/15 August, 1882. They wrote:
On June 12 (n.s.) the ship left St. Michael’s Redoubt headed for San Francisco. At a few minutes before eight Captain Erskine stopped by his Grace’s cabin to wish him a good morning, after which he left to fulfill his duties. A quarter hour later another passenger, Dr. Noyes, approached the captain and asked him if he had seen his Grace. The captain replied that he had seen him recently in his cabin. The doctor announced that he had just now come from there and that the bishop was nowhere to be found. Then out of concern his friends began to investigate the reason for his disappearance. Upon examination of His Grace’s cabin, it was noticed that His Grace’s papers and other things were carefully folded. But the fact that he had left some of his clothing, his watch and valuables (most likely his engolpion and pectoral cross) in the cabin gave rise to doubt. A further inspection of the entire vessel only confirmed the suspicion that the bishop, suffering unbearable pain as a result of his neuralgia, had cast himself overboard into the sea. The ship’s direction was reversed and an inspection made of the waters already traversed, but no vestige of the missing bishop was sighted. Consequently they returned to St. Michael’s Redoubt and instructed a company agent to attempt in every way possible to recover the body of the drowning victim. Last Sunday, when the St. Paul arrived in port with the sad news of Bishop Nestor’s demise, his flock was struck with grief and sorrow.
If the members of the Holy Synod or relatives of the late bishop (who live in Saint Petersburg and Arkhangelsk) did not form any conclusion about the cause of His Grace’s death from their relationship with him, the Consul General at that time in San Francisco, A. E. Olarovsky could not do any better. Through a notary he took the deposition of every officer on the ship and several agents of the Alaskan Trading Company, inquiring as to what they knew about the bishop’s death. But as far as I know, all those documents only repeated what had been printed in the newspapers.
And thus was our Church widowed once more.
From its founding in 1868, the Russian cathedral in San Francisco was a multiethnic community. In particular, Greeks and Serbs were an integral part of the church, and, at various times, there was an ethnic Greek (Fr. Kallinikos Kanellas) and an ethnic Serb priest (Fr. Sebastian Dabovich) serving the parish.
By 1903, however, the Greeks of San Francisco wanted their own church. From the San Francisco Call (1/8/1903):
While the Greek members of Bishop Tikhon’s flock have nothing but the kindest feelings toward their spiritual director and the church which has sheltered and fostered the faith of their own land, they find the Russian language, in which the church services are now conducted, a decided impediment in the way of a proper and beneficial appreciation of the good Bishop’s ministrations.
There were about 2,000 Greeks in the city at this point, and they got together and formed an association, with the aim of establishing their own, Greek-speaking church. By the end of the year, all the arrangements were in place, and Holy Trinity Church was born. (Yes, they adopted the same name as the Russian parish which they were leaving.) The community hired Fr. Constantine Tsapralis to be their priest. On November 16, Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, who was serving at the Russian cathedral, sent the following report to his bishop, St. Tikhon:
It is my duty to report to your Grace that the Greek Community in San Francisco has begun building a new church in San Francisco on a plot of land purchased south of Market Street. They ordered a priest by mail for themselves who arrived and was present today at Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral church (he was standing in the altar). This priest (married) in the rank of sakellarios, Father Constantine . . .[Tsapralis, or Chaprales] has his credentials from his Bishop, Ambrose of the Diocese of Salaris [probably, Fr. Sebastian is mistaken, it could be "Salamis"] (in the Kingdom of Greece), in the jurisdiction of the Holy Synod in Athens. He has a Holy Antimension that was given to him (he says) to celebrate Liturgy in the United States of North America. He was here with two Orthodox Greeks known to me.
On December 12, Tikhon sent a brief reply: “May God grant them all success.”
(Both Dabovich’s letter and Tikhon’s response may be found in the incomparable archive of Holy Trinity OCA Cathedral.)
As Dabovich said, Fr. Constantine Tsapralis was a married priest. In 1904, he sent for his wife and son. Tsapralis was born in about 1869, so at this point, he was in his mid-30s. Despite this, he and his wife went on to have four more children, the last of them when Fr. Constantine was in his mid-50s.
The Holy Trinity Greek Church website has a profile of Tsapralis, which includes several descriptions and vignettes. Tsapralis is described as “durable,” having pastored the parish through many difficult times, including the devastating 1906 earthquake and various schisms in the decades that followed. He’s also described as “kind and compassionate,” “a good teacher,” and “gentle with children.” Here is one story about Tsapralis:
In 1913, a Greek man named Prantikos was convicted of murder. Fr. Tsapralis was asked to go to San Quentin to administer the last rights before Prantikos was hung for his crime. The event, described in the San Francisco Call Bulletin, said that Fr. Tsapralis was reading prayers on the way to the gallows. He was described as a strong, tall man. On the gallows, his knees buckled and he wavered at the sight before him. The prison chaplain put his arm around him to support him because he was worried that he might fall through the gallows. Fr. Tsapralis continued reading prayers and he witnessed the hanging. The prison chaplain later described him as a kind, gentle soul.
I found another story about Tsapralis that doesn’t appear on the Holy Trinity website. For several years in the early 1900s, Tsapralis had owned and operated a candy store, which has also been described as a “saloon.” If it really was a saloon (in the sense that we understand it), this would be uncanonical — an Orthodox priest is expressly forbidden from operating a drinking establishment. Eventually, Tsapralis sold the place… to his wife! The Morning Oregonian (11/18/1911) reported, “But before selling he neglected to liquidate a bill of $300 for a soda fountain and other fixtures in the shop. A collection agency sued, and, securing judgment, had an execution issued against the candy store.” The sheriff came and seized store property, but Mrs. Tsapralis protested, arguing that the store was her property, not her husband’s. The case went to court, and Fr. Constantine admitted having owned the store. I don’t know how the case turned out.
Anyway, after Fr. Constantine’s wife died, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite. He served the Holy Trinity community for more than three decades, finally stepping down in 1936. He died in 1942, at the age of 73.
St. Tikhon delivered the following address on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, February 23, 1903, in San Francisco. It was reprinted in Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE (the newsletter of the San Francisco OCA cathedral) in March 1995, and may be found in the fantastic Holy Trinity Cathedral online archives. We are reprinting it below in its entirety:
This Sunday, Brethren, begins the week of Orthodoxy, or the week of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, because it is today that the Holy Orthodox Church solemnly recalls its victory over the Iconoclast heresy and other heresies and gratefully remembers all who fought for the Orthodox faith in word, writing, teaching, suffering, or godly living.
Keeping the day of Orthodoxy, Orthodox people ought to remember it is their sacred duty to stand firm in their Orthodox faith and carefully to keep it. For us it is a precious treasure: in it we were born and raised; all the important events of our life are related to it, and it is ever ready to give us its help and blessing in all our needs and good undertakings, however unimportant they may seem. It supplies us with strength, good cheer and consolation, it heals, purifies and saves us. The Orthodox faith is also dear to us because it is the Faith of our Fathers. For its sake the Apostles bore pain and labored; martyrs and preachers suffered for it; champions, who were like unto the saints, shed their tears and their blood; pastors and teachers fought for it; and our ancestors stood for it, whose legacy it was that to us it should be dearer than the pupil of our eyes. And as to us, their descendants,? do we preserve the Orthodox faith, do we keep to its Gospels? Of yore, the prophet Elijah, this great worker for the glory of God, complained that the Sons of Israel have abandoned the Testament of the Lord, leaning away from it towards the gods of the heathen. Yet the Lord revealed to His prophet, that amongst the Israelites there still were seven thousand people who have not knelt before Baal (3 Kings 19). Likewise, no doubt, in our days also there are some true followers of Christ. “The Lord knoweth them that are His”. (2 Timothy, 2, 19) We do occasionally meet sons of the Church, who are obedient to Her decrees, who honor their spiritual pastors, love the Church of God and the beauty of its exterior, who are eager to attend to its Divine Service and to lead a good life, who recognize their human failings and sincerely repent their sins. But are there many such among us? Are there not more people, “in whom the weeds of vanity and passion allow but little fruit to the influence of the Gospel, or even in whom it is altogether fruitless, who resist the truth of the Gospel, because of the increase of their sins, who renounce the gift of the Lord and repudiate the Grace of God” (a quotation from the service of Orthodoxy). “I have given birth to sons and have glorified them, yet they deny Me,” said the Lord in the olden days concerning Israel. And today also there are many who were born, raised and glorified by the Lord in the Orthodox faith, yet who deny their faith, pay no attention to the teachings of the Church, do not keep its injunctions, do not listen to their spiritual pastors and remain cold towards the divine service and the Church of God. How speedily some of us lose the Orthodox faith in this country of many creeds and tribes! They begin their apostasy with things, which in their eyes have but little importance. They judge it is “old fashioned” and “not accepted amongst educated people” to observe all such customs as: praying before and after meals, or even morning and night, to wear a cross, to keep icons in their houses and to keep church holidays and fast days. They even do not stop at this, but go further: they seldom go to church and sometimes not at all, as a man has to have some rest on a Sunday (…in a saloon); they do not go to confession, they dispense with church marriage and delay baptizing their children. And in this way their ties with Orthodox faith are broken! They remember the Church on their deathbed, and some don’t even do that! To excuse their apostasy they naively say: “this is not the old country, this is America, and consequently(?) it is impossible to observe all the demands of the Church.” As if the word of Christ is of use for the old country only and not for the whole world. As if the Orthodox faith is not the foundation of the world. “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel into anger.” (Isaiah, 1, 4)
If you do not preserve the Orthodox faith and the commandments of God, the least you can do is not to humiliate your hearts by inventing false excuses for your sins! If you do not honor our customs, the least you can do is not to laugh at things you do not know or understand. If you do not accept the motherly care of the Holy Orthodox Church, the least you can do is to confess you act wrongly, that you are sinning against the Church and behave like children! If you do, the Orthodox Church may forgive you, like a loving mother, your coldness and slights, and will receive you back into her embrace, as if you were erring children.
Holding to the Orthodox faith, as to something holy, loving it with all their hearts and prizing it above all, Orthodox people ought, moreover, to endeavor to spread it amongst people of other creeds. Christ the Savior has said that “neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candle stick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” (Matthew 5, 15) The light of Orthodoxy was not lit to shine only on a small number of men. The Orthodox Church is universal; it remembers the words of its Founder: “Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Luke, 16, 15), “go ye therefore and teach all nations.” (Matthew 28, 19) We ought to share our spiritual wealth, our truth, light and joy with others, who are deprived of these blessings, but often are seeking them and thirsting for them. Once “a vision appeared to Paul in the night, there stood a man from Macedonia and prayed him, saying, come over into Macedonia, and help us,” (The Acts 16, 9) after which the apostle started for this country to preach Christ. We also hear a similar inviting voice. We live surrounded by people of alien creeds; in the sea of other religions, our Church is a small island of salvation, towards which swim some of the people, plunged in the sea of life. “Come, hurry, help,” we sometimes hear from the heathen of far Alaska, and oftener from those who are our brothers in blood and once were our brothers in faith also, the Uniates. “Receive us into your community, give us one of your good pastors, send us a Priest that we might have the Divine Service performed for us of a holy day, help us to build a church, to start a school for our children, so that they do not lose in America their faith and nationality,” those are the wails we often hear, especially of late.
And are we to remain deaf and insensible? God save us from such a lack of sympathy. Otherwise woe unto us, “for we have taken away the key of knowledge, we entered not in ourselves, and them that were entering in we hindered.” (Luke 11, 52)
But who is to work for the spread of the Orthodox faith, for the increase of the children of the Orthodox Church? Pastors and missionaries, you answer. You are right; but are they to be alone? St. Paul wisely compares the Church of Christ to a body, and the life of a body is shared by all the members. So it ought to be in the life of the Church also. “The whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4, 16) At the beginning, not only pastors alone suffered for the faith of Christ, but lay people also, men, women and even children. Heresies were fought against by lay people as well. Likewise, the spread of Christ’s faith ought to be near and precious to the heart of every Christian. In this work every member of the Church ought to take a lively and heart-felt interest. This interest may show itself in personal preaching of the Gospel of Christ.
And to our great joy, we know of such examples amongst our lay brethren. In Sitka, members of the Indian brotherhood do missionary work amongst other inhabitants of their villages. And one zealous brother took a trip to a distant village (Kilisno), and helped the local Priest very much in shielding the simple and credulous children of the Orthodox Church against alien influences, by his own explanations and persuasions. Moreover, in many places of the United States, those who have left Uniatism to join Orthodoxy point out to their friends where the truth is to be found, and dispose them to enter the Orthodox Church.
Needless to say, it is not everybody among us who has the opportunity or the faculty to preach the gospel personally. And in view of this I shall indicate to you, Brethren, what every man can do for the spread of Orthodoxy and what he ought to do. The Apostolic Epistles often disclose the fact, that when the Apostles went to distant places to preach, the faithful often helped them with their prayers and their offerings. Saint Paul sought this help of the Christians especially. Consequently we can express the interests we take in the cause of the Gospel in praying to the Lord, that He should take this holy cause under His protection, that He should give its servants the strength to do their work worthily, that He should help them to conquer difficulties and dangers, which are part of the work, that He should not allow them to grow depressed or weaken in their zeal; that He should open the hearts of the unbelieving for the hearing and acceptance of the Gospel of Christ, “that He should impart to them the word of truth, that He should unite them to the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; that He should confirm, increase and pacify His Church, keeping it forever invincible”, we pray for all this, but mostly with lips and but seldom with the heart. Don’t we often hear such remarks as these: “what is the use of these special prayers for the newly initiated? They do not exist in our time, except, perhaps, in the out of the way places of America and Asia; let them pray for such where there are any; as to our country such prayers only needlessly prolong the service which is not short by any means, as it is.” Woe to our lack of wisdom! Woe to our carelessness and idleness!
Offering earnest prayers for the successful preaching of Christ, we can also show our interest by helping it materially. It was so in the primitive Church, and the Apostles lovingly accepted material help to the cause of the preaching, seeing in it an expression of Christian love and zeal. In our days, these offerings are especially needed, because for the lack of them the work often comes to a dead stop. For the lack of them preachers can not be sent out, or supported, churches can not be built or schools founded, the needy amongst the newly converted can not be helped. All this needs money and members of other religions always find a way of supplying it. Perhaps, you will say, that these people are richer than ourselves. This is true enough, but great means are accumulated by small, and if everybody amongst us gave what he could towards this purpose, we also could raise considerable means. Accordingly, do not be ashamed of the smallness of your offering. If you have much, offer all you can, but do offer, do not lose the chance of helping the cause of the conversion of your neighbors to Christ, because by so doing, in the words of St. James, “you shall save your own soul from death and shall hide a multitude of sins.” (5, 20)
Orthodox people, in celebrating the day of Orthodoxy, you must devote yourselves to the Orthodox faith not in word or tongue only, but in deed and in truth.
For months now, I’ve been posting a new article virtually every weekday. I’ve got some things coming up in my life that will prevent me from writing quite that often, so in an effort to organize my time a bit more efficiently (and continue to offer new historical information on a regular basis), I’ve decided to introduce a couple new features for our website. One will be an occasional “Today in American Orthodox History” article, looking back on a given historical event that occurred on the same day that the article is published. (We’ve done this twice already.)
The other feature I’m introducing is something I’m tentatively calling, “Source of the Week.” We’ll reprint a particular source document, and offer some basic commentary on its meaning and significance.
Today, we’re going to look at “the edict of His Imperial Highness the Autocrat of All Russia, from the Most-holy Governing Synod to the Alaska Spiritual Consistory,” issued on May 27, 1877. Obviously, this document was originally in Russian; an English translation appeared in Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE (the newsletter of the San Francisco OCA cathedral) in May 1997, and is included in their archive.
By edict of His Imperial Highness, the Most-holy Governing Synod reviewed the proposal of the Chairman of the Special Committee on the affairs of the Orthodox Bishop’s Cathedra in America, which was received on 20 April 1877 along with the minutes of the Committee’s meeting.
On the basis of this information, we do DECREE:The Special Committee, consisting of three members and, established by the Synod for the preliminary review of the affairs related to our Orthodox Bishop’s Cathedra in America, in the second minutes of its meeting has come to following conclusions:
1) The necessity for the existence in America of the mentioned cathedra is determined by the special situation in which our local churches, clergy-missionaries assigned to them, and the Orthodox population there find themselves — they are far removed from the Siberian dioceses and are deprived of any regular communications with the shores of Siberia via the Eastern Ocean, which makes it impossible to subjugate said churches and clergymen to the supervision of the Kamchatka diocesan authorities. Meanwhile, our clergy in America, in their missionary and pastoral activities among heterodox and pagan population, are in special need of the proper directorship, and only a local diocesan Hierarch can be such a director.
2) Since our Orthodox Bishop’s Cathedra in America is widowed, our churches and clergy there at the present time remain without proper hierarchical supervision, and subdeacons assigned to the cathedra have found themselves almost totally idle since their only regular occupation is reduced to hierarchical services. The Right Reverend Innocent of Moscow stated that our American clergy can better, and with fewer obstacles, communicate with Saint Petersburg from New York, than from California to Kamchatka. Therefore, it appears to be more convenient, while the Bishop’s Cathedra in America remains widowed, to entrust our local churches and clergy to the jurisdiction of the Saint Petersburg diocesan authorities, and to charge subdeacons assigned to the cathedra with teaching at the school attached to the cathedra.
3) A member of the Spiritual Consistory in San Francisco and district dean, Archpriest Paul Kedrolivansky, can not be left in America any further since he has not cleared himself from the accusation of transporting contraband, brought upon him by the Alaskan Trade Company, as a result of which our Ambassador in Washington and our Consul in San Francisco declare it extremely necessary to remove him from America; and now he is being accused of incorrectly reporting the expenditure of sums allocated for the diocese; and
4) Sailor Wilson’s statement about a blameworthy liaison between a member of the Spiritual Consistory in San Francisco, Priest [Nicholas] Kovrigin, and the wife of a certain Philip Kashevarov, must be investigated because of the gravity of the accusations detailed in this statement.
On the basis of these facts, the Most-holy Synod decides:
1) At this time, not to enter into a discussion on the abolishment of our bishop’s cathedra in America.
2) Following the example of other churches abroad, to subordinate our churches and clergy located in America to the jurisdiction of the Saint Petersburg diocesan authorities for the entire period of the widowhood of said cathedra.
3) To charge subdeacons assigned to the cathedra with teaching at the school attached to the cathedra such subjects as are accessible to them according to their knowledge.
4) To leave to the Right Reverend Metropolitan of Saint Petersburg the selection of a person who can be useful in the position of a member of the Spiritual Consistory in San Francisco and a dean of the churches and clergy of the Aleutian and Alaskan Diocese; to send this person to the city of San Francisco, and upon this person’s arrival there, to recall from San Francisco to Russia the Archpriest Paul Kedrolivansky who should turn over all sums and documents in his possession to the person who is replacing him, who is also charged with the investigation of the sailor Wilson’s statement regarding the Priest Kovrigin.
The Alaska Spiritual Consistory is to be notified of these decisions.
May 27, 1877.
Ober-Secretary: A. Polonsky
This is a rich document, full of information about the Russian Orthodox presence in America in the late 1870s. Recently, I discussed the mysterious death of Fr. Paul Kedrolivansky in June 1878. We see here that, one year earlier, serious accusations were made against Kedrolivansky, and the Holy Synod decided to recall him to Russia. This was on the advice of both the Russian ambassador and the Russian consul in San Francisco. Yet, a year later, Kedrolivansky was still in San Francisco. Why? Did he somehow clear himself of the charges? Did he find a way to make them, essentially, go away? 130-plus years later, it’s impossible to know whether he was blackmailing somebody in a position of power, but such a thing seems at least somewhat likely. After all, when the powerful Alaska Commercial Company accuses you of serious crimes, and the Russian ambassador and consul demand your recall to Russia, and the Holy Synod orders you to come back… Well, all things being equal, you’re going back. But Kedrolivansky did not, and I don’t know why.
The very next item in the list details the accusation that Fr. Nicholas Kovrigin, Kedrolivansky’s assistant, had a “blameworthy liason” with a married woman. The woman’s name is not given, but her husband’s name is Philip Kashevarov. Who was he? The Kashevarov family was in both Alaska and San Francisco. In fact, Vasily Kashevarov was the deacon of the San Francisco cathedral. As for Philip Kashevarov, his name doesn’t appear on any of the parishioner lists from the period, published in the Holy Trinity Cathedral archives. I did find an online reference (which, alas, I’ve since lost) to a certain Filipp Kashevarov, who was born in Sitka in 1844 and died there in 1904. I also found this little tidbit — an excerpt from the minutes of the Sitka Ecclesiastical Consistory, dated 10/4/1868:
Olga P. Nedomolvin, a creole girl, asked Bishop Paul’s permission to be married to Philip Kashevarov, a Russian pilot, before reaching the legal marriage age of sixteen, which age she would be in one month and four days. Bishop Paul ordered the Consistory to grant permission, if there were no other objections to the marriage.
Was Olga Kashevarov the woman with whom Fr. Nicholas Kovrigin allegedly had a “blameworthy liason”? It’s hard to say. Kovrigin traveled from Sitka to San Francisco in March of 1868, returned to Sitka in the summer, and then brought his whole family to San Francisco in 1869. He thus would have been in Sitka at the time of Philip Kashevarov’s marriage to Olga Nedomolvin, and he probably knew the couple. The 1877 Holy Synod edict (the only mention of the specific accusation regarding Mrs. Kashevarov) was issued more than eight years later.
More significant is the fact that Kovrigin was repeatedly accused of immorality. In 1879, Bishop Nestor sent him back to Russia. Nestor wrote to the Bishop of Irkutsk, “Right after beginning my administration of the Aleutian diocese I found myself forced to remove Priest Nikolai Kovrigin, who had become known, sadly, all over Russia for his deeds.” He hoped that “the Lord God will call and put poor Fr. Kovrigin on a better and right road.” To Metropolitan Isidore of St. Petersburg, Nestor said, “Considering all circumstances, the future tenure of Priest Nikolai Kovrigin in America, because of many matters existing against him, will cast a shadow on Orthodoxy.”
I suspect that some additional document must exist in the archives of the Russian Orthodox Church, which would explain why Kedrolivansky didn’t return to Russia as ordered, and whether Sailor Wilson’s accusations against Kovrigin were ever investigated.
Here’s a trivia question for you: What is the most common name for an Orthodox parish in the United States?
This isn’t really an historical question, and it’s opening what is not strictly an historical article. But, to answer the question: the most common parish name is “St. Nicholas,” followed closely by “St. George” and “Holy Trinity.”
If you’ve been Orthodox for very long, this little nugget shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But I tend to find such information fascinating, and recently, I decided to systematically study the question of parish names and patrons. I took all the parishes, missions, and chapels in the United States, listed on the SCOBA website, and plugged them into a spreadsheet.
A few disclaimers, before we jump into the numbers: I didn’t include Canada, or monasteries, or any of the Moscow Patriarchate’s “representation” parishes. I’m sure I made some data entry errors, and of course, the numbers are only as good as SCOBA’s database, which I know isn’t perfectly up-to-date.
There were 1,842 parishes in the study. Here is a list of the 10 most common parish names:
- St. Nicholas (142 parishes / 7.7%)
- St. George (139 / 7.5)
- Holy Trinity (136 / 7.4)
- Dormition or Assumption or some other name for that feast (77 / 4.2)
- St. John the Baptist (69 / 3.7)
- Ss. Peter & Paul (66 / 3.6)
- St. Michael (63 / 3.4)
- Ss. Constantine & Helen (39 / 2.1)
- Annunciation (39 / 2.1)
- St. Andrew (37 / 2.0)
The top three — Nicholas, George, and Holy Trinity — represent 22.6% of all American Orthodox parishes. But while those are the most common parish names, they aren’t the most common parish patrons. Here’s that Top 10 list:
- Theotokos (273 / 14.8)
- Lord Jesus Christ (154 / 8.4)
- St. Nicholas (142 / 7.7)
- St. George (139 / 7.5)
- Holy Trinity (136 / 7.4)
- Ss. Peter & Paul, or just St. Peter or St. Paul (89 / 4.8)
- One or more of the Archangels (76 / 4.1)
- St. John the Baptist (69 / 3.7)
- Three Hierarchs (Basil, John, or Gregory, or all three together) (44 / 2.4)
- Ss. Constantine & Helen (39 / 2.1)
As you can imagine, the churches dedicated to Christ or his mother have a host of names and feast days. There are, for instance, 28 parishes named “Christ the Savior” (or, once in a while, “Christ the Redeemer”). Another 25 are named for one of the many wonderworking icons of the Theotokos. As you might expect, given the special Russian affection for such icons, most of these parishes are either OCA or ROCOR.
There was a good deal of variance among the different jurisdictions. Here are the most common patrons of OCA parishes:
- Theotokos (12.6 %)
- Lord Jesus Christ (11.7)
- St. Nicholas (9.4)
- Holy Trinity (6.0)
- Ss. Peter & Paul (5.9)
- St. John the Baptist (3.9)
- St. Michael (3.6)
The five most common OCA patrons represented 45.7% of their parishes. This is nearly identical with the overall national average (45.8%). The Ukrainians, on the other hand, were far more top-heavy, at 63.4%:
- Theotokos (19.8%)
- Holy Trinity (15.8)
- Ss. Peter & Paul (9.9)
- St. Vladimir (or Volodymyr) (9.9)
- St. Andrew (7.9)
Of course, the Ukrainian jurisdiction has far fewer churches than the OCA – 101 Ukrainian, 562 OCA, based on the SCOBA database — which means that a few parishes make a bigger difference. The Ukrainians are understandably devoted to St. Vladimir, with 10 of their parishes named in his honor. The OCA and ROCOR have a combined total of 715 parishes, compared to the Ukrainians’ 101; nevertheless, of the 20 American Orthodox churches named for St. Vladimir, 10 are Ukrainian, and only 5 OCA and 5 ROCOR.
Like the Ukrainians, 19.8% of Greek churches have the Theotokos as their patron. Here’s the Greek leaderboard, out of a total of 525 parishes:
- Theotokos (19.8%)
- Holy Trinity (11.4)
- St. George (10.3)
- St. Nicholas (6.9)
- Lord Jesus Christ (6.1)
- Ss. Constantine & Helen (5.9)
- St. Demetrios (5.3)
- St. John the Baptist (3.9)
Of the Greek parishes dedicated to the Theotokos, they are pretty evenly divided between the feast of the Annunciation (52 parishes) and that of the Dormition / Assumption (42). St. George is also very popular among the Greeks, but not as popular as he is among the Antiochians. Check out the Antiochian list (out of 250 parishes):
- St. George (17.6%)
- Lord Jesus Christ (8.4)
- Theotokos (8.4)
- St. Nicholas (5.2)
- St. Michael (4.4)
- St. Elias or Elijah (3.6)
- St. Andrew (3.2)
- St. John the Theologian (3.2)
That figure for St. George — 17.6% — is the highest mark for any saint in any jurisdiction, other than the Theotokos. There are more Antiochian churches named after St. George than are named for the Theotokos and Christ put together. Also, while Ss. Peter and Paul didn’t make it onto the above list, if you combine the Antiochian parishes named for one or both of those Apostles, they represent 6% of all Antiochian churches in the US.
Among all the jurisdictions, the Serbs have the lowest percentage of parishes dedicated to the Theotokos — 4.1%. Here are the most common Serbian parish patrons:
- St. George (14.8%)
- St. Sava (13.9)
- Lord Jesus Christ (7.4)
- St. Michael (7.4)
- Holy Trinity (6.6)
Nearly 29% of all Serbian parishes are named for either St. Sava or St. George. But the Carpatho-Russians have them beat: 32.5% of their 80 churches are dedicated to either St. John the Baptist or St. Nicholas. That’s the highest percentage of two saints (other than the Theotokos) in all of American Orthodoxy. Here’s the Carpatho-Russian list:
- St. John the Baptist (16.3%)
- St. Nicholas (16.3)
- Theotokos (15.0)
- St. Michael (11.3)
- Lord Jesus Christ (8.8)
I haven’t mentioned the Romanian or Bulgarian Patriarchal jurisdiction, simply because, with only 25 and 22 parishes, respectively, the sample sizes are too small to mean much. The most common patron of a Romanian Patriarchal parish is the Theotokos, with four total churches. The most common patrons for Bulgarian parishes are Christ and the Theotokos, with three apiece.
As I’ve said before, parishes named for a particular icon of the Theotokos tend to be either ROCOR or OCA. There are also a lot of Slavic churches named for the Protection of the Theotokos. Churches named for her Nativity are usually OCA; on the other hand, the Greeks tend to like the feasts of her Annunciation and Dormition / Assumption.
Finally, I wondered, what American saints have been especially honored with parishes? Obviously, these parishes would be of recent vintage, and as new missions are established, these numbers are going to change quite a bit. But, so far, here are American saints with the most US parishes:
- St. Herman (20 parishes)
- St. Innocent (13)
- St. Raphael (7)
- St. John Maximovitch (5)
- St. Tikhon (4)
Ss. Herman and Innocent were both canonized in the 1970s, so there has been plenty of time for parishes to be dedicated to their memory. St. Raphael, on the other hand, was glorified only a few years ago; that he is already the patron of seven churches is rather amazing.