Posts tagged San Francisco
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.
Editor’s note: The following article appeared in the New York Times on August 4, 1873. That’s nearly two decades before Greek immigrants began to flood into America. According to the book Race, Ethnicity, and Place in a Changing America, only 217 immigrants came from Greece to the US in the entire period from 1824 to 1872. Another source (Ethnic Chicago: A Multicultural Portrait) has similar numbers, reporting 188 immigrants in the 1821-1870 period. Yet another book, Greeks in America (1913), reports just 77 Greek immigrants via New York from 1847-1864, and 77 more from 1869-1873.
To be honest, I’m a tad skeptical of these statistics. The article below talks about 20 Greek custom houses in the US in 1873 (including 12 in New York alone), plus two Orthodox communities with large Greek contingents in New Orleans and San Francisco. From the article, it sounds like Greeks sailed to America pretty regularly, looking for temporary work before returning home. Add it all up, and I would guess that there were maybe a couple thousand Greeks in America in 1873, rather than only a few hundred. Either way, though, the numbers were quite small, and this article presents a rare snapshot of Greek life in America long before the Ellis Island era.
Comparatively little is known about the Greeks in America. Reference is made occasionally in the daily Press to the Greek merchants of this City, whose enormous transactions in cotton and grain form an important item in the exports of the country; but beyond that we seldom see a Greek name coming before the public in the daily incidents of this cosmopolitan City.
Greece is so thinly populated that she can hardly spare any hands to emigrate to foreign countries, and we seldom see any Greeks among the nationalities mentioned in the regular reports of our Commissioners of Emigration. Yet a great many Greeks arive daily on our shores, but they come under the quality of sailors, working their passage on board sailing ships of various nationalities. As soon as they land here they apply to their Consul in this City, Mr. D.N. Botassi, for work, when with few variations, the following dialogue takes place:
“When did you arrive”
“Any particular profession?”
“What do you expect to do?”
“Anything, your Excellency.”
“Have you got any money?”
“Not a cent, your Excellency.”
“Where are your lodgings?”
“Our traps are at the door; we shall go anywhere your Excellency will send us.”
“Can you speak English?”
“Nothing but Greek, your Excellency.”
There are two sailors’ boarding-houses in this City doing a thriving business. The Consul invariably sends them there, and it seldom occurs that they do not find work in a short time. They begin by doing rough work in loading and unloading merchandise at our piers, and, being generally very temperate, they soon accumulate some savings.
Their first care is to send the little which they can spare to their families in Greece. The family ties are so strong among all her classes, particularly the lower ones, that even years of absence in foreign lands cannot diminish their love for their native land and the dear ones they have left behind. The love of their country is one of the strong characteristics of the Greeks; they emigrate under compulsion to better their condition, but the hope to return one day to their country under more comfortable circumstances is always strong and paramount.
Few of the Greeks who arrive at this port go West to become agriculturalists. This means to become in time owners of land whereon to build their new home. But, as we said before, the Greek has always the hope to return one day to his country. They mostly go to Chicago, where they easily find work in loading vessels and navigating the lakes. On the water they find themselves happy, being in their element. As soon as the lakes are frozen in the Winter time they go down the Mississippi River, and many of them are working on the steam-boats plying between St. Louis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Cairo, and New-Orleans. Over 200 of them are to be found in the Crescent City, where they seem to be thriving under the more genial climate, not dissimilar to that of their own country. They have all sorts of professions; many are fruit dealers, keep little restaurants and coffee houses, where the American bar is combined with little tables a l’orientale, round which are seated Greeks talking all at the same time generally, all the idioms of the Grecian Archipelago, drinking coffee, and smoking paper cigarettes. Many of them are oyster dealers and oyster fishers, owning generally their little craft, which they navigate themselves, and trade all along the coast from New-Orleans to Indianola and Matamoras, or on the other side through the lakes to Mobile and Pensacola. The writer tasted, some years ago, an excellent glass of sherry cobbler made by a Greek barkeeper on one of the steam-boats on the Alabama River. In New-Orleans the Greek colony is important enough to maintain a church of their own religion, built some five years ago by subscription, and divine service is celebrated every Sunday in the Greek language by a priest educated in the National University of Athens.
The Greek colony in San Francisco numbers about 300 members, and is the best organized of all the Greek colonies in the States of the Union. They maintain a little chapel of their own, and have established a benevolent society. This latter was rendered necessary from the quantity of new-comers of their countrymen to the Golden State, with the hope of finding gold in abundance. It is strange with what great expectations these children of Hellas go to California, and their disappointment in not finding gold in the streets of San Francisco can be better imagined than described. They seem utterly astonished when they are told that they must work in San Francisco, as everywhere else, to gain their living, and the idea of gold is so deeply rooted in them, that many go to the mines of California and Oregon with the hope of enriching themselves one day by some sudden smile of fortune.
Even in those distant localities they do not forget their native land. They write to their families in Greece from time to time, and are subscribers to a Greek newspaper, to learn the news. To the positive knowledge of the writer eight copies of a Greek newspaper are sent to Greek miners in Placer County, California, and a Greek roaster of pea-nuts in Galveston, Texas, is a subscriber to one of the best Greek newspapers. The only subscribers in America to an Ecclesiastical Review, published in Athens, are an American Episcopalian clergyman in New-York and a Greek boarding-house keeper in Chicago, Ill.
There are no students from Greece in this country, with the exception of one, who is studying agriculture at the expense of the Greek Government, in the Illinois Industrial University, in Champaign, Ill., on the scanty allowance of $40 per month.
The average salary of sailors, on board Greek vessels, is about $10 per month; it is no wonder, therefore, that those who come to this country are reluctant to go back, getting, as they do, from $30 to $40 per month. But they get even more on land. Last year a Greek vessel arrived at this port from Sicily with a cargo of brimstone. The crew, consisting of twelve men, refused to go to Havana, where the vessel was bound, and remained in New-York. They soon found their way to Athens, below Albany, where they engaged to work at the railroad depot. They ahve worked there for one year, saved $300 each, which they sent to Greece through their Consul, and worked their passage home recently on board an American vessel. Their abstinence from drinking and their hard work were much remarked by the employees of the railroad.
But the most remarkable incident of the strength of family ties among the Greeks which came to our knowledge is that of a Greek boy who came to this country thirty years ago. He was educated for the ministry and pursued his avocation. A year ago he made inquiries about his relatives in Greece, and finding that a sister of his, a widow, was still living, but very poor, he opened a correspondence with her. They have never seen each other, but the expatriated Greek felt an inherent duty to assist her. He sends her now very regularly a yearly pension, with which she lives at present comfortably in Athens.
We mentioned above a Greek vessel which arrived at this port last year. The father of her Captain has a rather curious history. He was the owner of a small vessel employed in the grain trade during the Crimean war. A tthe time he was in the City of Kertch, in the Crimea. The Russian ports were blockaded by the allies. A Russian regiment was ready in Arrapa, on the Black Sea, to come to the Crimea. But how? The Greek Captain made an arrangement with the Russian General to run the blockade, and bring the regiment where it was needed. He ran the blockade successfully, took the regiment on board, and was nearing the coast of the Crimea, when he was discovered by the English cruisers, who began to fire on him. He succeeded in landing the Russians safely, but his vessel was captured. The Russian General was delighted. Acting on superior orders, he paid to the Greek 5,000 silver roubles, and added a Russian schooner in the bargain. But the port was shortly bombarded by the allies, and his schooner was destroyed. Nothing daunted by this reverse, the Greek started for St. Petersburg, and, laying his case before the Emperor Nicholas, he had the satisfaction to receive 10,000 silver roubles as an additional compensation for his services to the Russian cause, besides a medal of honor.
There are twelve commercial Greek houses in this city, dealing largely in cotton, grain, and East India produce; four more are in New-Orleans, similarly engaged; one in Mobile, one in Memphis, Tenn., and two in Boston, Mass. These latter deal principally in Mediterranean produce, mostly dried fruit from Constantinople and Smyrna, exporting thither New England rum, machinery, and Yankee notions.
Recently, Nicholas Chapman published several newly-discovered documents relating to Agapius Honcharenko here at OH.org. A reader named Reg responded with this comment:
This is getting confusing. Matthew since you wrote the original story on Honcharenko, could I ask you to post a timeline on Honcharenko:
Date & place of birth
Date & place of tonsure as a monk
Date & place of ordination as deacon
Date of assignment to Russian Embassy Church in Greece
Date of change of name
Date of ordination as a priest by EP
Date of arrival in America
Date of ministry in NY
Date of connection with New Orleans Church
Date of marriage & I assume leaving the EP jurisdiction
Date of arrival in CA
Date of death.
This would be a great help to all of us.
Let me try to tackle these one by one.
1. Date and place of birth: According to Volume 2 of the Encyclopedia of Ukraine (Univ. of Toronto Press, 1988), Honcharenko was born on August 31, 1832 in “Kryvyn, Skvyra county, Kyiv gubernia.” I’m no expert on Ukrainian geography, but I take it he was born in or around Kiev. I believe the August 31 date is according to the Gregorian Calendar. In an April 9, 1911 article, the San Francisco Call reported Honcharenko’s birth date as August 19, 1832. (August 31 minus 12 days — the difference between the Julian and Gregorian in the 19th century – is August 19.)
2. Education: According to one of the documents found by Nicholas Chapman (“The Case Against Agapius Honcharenko”), Honcharenko was educated at the “Seminary in Kiev,” or the Kiev Theological Academy. This is corroborated by most modern sources.
3. Date and place of tonsure as a monk: I’m not certain of the date, but “The Case” (referred to above) has Honcharenko completing his seminary studies in 1853, entering the Kievo-Pechersk (Kiev Caves) Lavra and being ordained a hierodeacon in 1856.
4. Date and place of ordination as deacon: Honcharenko was ordained a deacon at the Kievo-Pechersk Lavra in 1856.
5. Date of assignment to the Russian Embassy Church in Greece: 1857.
6. Date of change of name: I don’t know. His given name was Andrii Humnytsky, but I don’t know what he changed it to Agapius Honcharenko. Does anyone out there know what “Honcharenko” means?
7. Date of ordination as a priest by EP: I don’t know. In fact, I’m not at all certain that he was ordained by a bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In his 1865 letter defending himself, Honcharenko does claim to have received ordination and an antimens from the “Great Church” (presumably Constantinople), but I would not be surprised if he was actually ordained by a bishop of the Church of Greece. In any event, given the language of the 1865 letter, I suspect that this happened sometime in 1864, not long before Honcharenko sailed to the US.
8. Date of arrival in America: According to Honcharenko’s 1865 letter, he arrived in America on December 21, 1864. He seems to be following the Julian Calendar; according to the Gregorian Calendar, it would have been January 2, 1865.
9. Date of ministry in New York: Honcharenko claims to have served his first American Divine Liturgy (probably in New York) on Christmas Day — January 6, by the Gregorian Calendar in the 19th century. His “ministry” in New York (if you can call it that) lasted until about April, when he left to visit New Orleans. He returned to New York, but was rejected by the Orthodox there, who had learned of his… issues.
10. Date of connection with the New Orleans church: On March 26, 1865, the New York Times reported that Honcharenko would depart for New Orleans “in a few days.” He was in New Orleans by April 11, when he published an open letter to the Orthodox of that city in the New Orleans Times. In the letter, he said that he would stay in New Orleans until April 22. As far as I know, his roughly two-week visit to the city was the extent of Honcharenko’s ministry in New Orleans.
11. Date of marriage: As best I can tell, Honcharenko married a young Italian woman in Philadelphia in the late 1860s, possibly between his departure from New York and his arrival in the San Francisco Bay area in about 1867. He doesn’t seem to have maintained any contact with church authorities in either Constantinople or Athens, and his connection to anything resembling mainstream Orthodoxy appears to have ended shortly after his New Orleans visit in April 1865.
12. Date of arrival in CA: Late 1867, as best I can tell.
13. Date of death: May 5, 1916 in Hayward, California.
UPDATE (9/21/10): In response to an earlier article, a reader named Helen informed me that the University of Minnesota holds materials on the life of Honcharenko. I have emailed the university to request copies of their holdings, and will post something here at OH.org once I get a response.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
Editor’s note: The following article was written by relatives of Fr. Pythagoras Caravellas, and originally appeared in the 60th anniversary commemorative album for Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in San Francisco, published in 1996. The article has been reprinted at Annunciation Cathedral’s website, and we present it here courtesy of the San Francisco Bay Area Greek Historical Society. The Society has done outstanding work on the history of Greek Orthodoxy in the region, and its chairman, Jim Lucas, is building a virtual photo album which may be found at this link. The website includes special pages for Fr. Pythagoras Caravellas and St. Sophia/Annunciation Cathedral, where he served as a priest.
Pythagoras Caravellas was born in 1890, in Greece, on the small island of Samos, off the coast of Asia Minor. He was the son of a tobacco and cotton merchant and the youngest of four children.
At the age of 16, he completed his pre-university education at the gymnasium in Karlovassi. His schoolmasters, impressed with the young man’s curiousity and studious inclinations, recommended him for further study at one of the Greek teaching monasteries.
The year that young Pythagoras was cloistered in the mountain monastery, he applied himself diligently to the assigned subjects, religion, science, and the humanities. Perhaps it was the humility with which the monks imparted their wisdom to the young scholars that influenced young Pythagoras to cherish learning. This inspiration was to follow him always.
While under the tutelage of the monks, the Metropolitan of Corfu, Alexander, paid a visit to the monastery. The hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox faith had always taken a personal interest in the education and development of their youth. Alexander was not an exception. A man of deep perception, he was to become the first Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church. If his visits to the monasteries were anticipated by the students, a few requested were granted private audiences. The topics that generated the most interest were students’ personal aspirations.
During one of his private conversations with the Metropolitan whom he had known since childhood, Pythagoras confessed his secret hope to continue his education in the United States and perhaps establish a permanent home there. Expecting a small admonishment or to be dissuaded from his ambition, Pythagoras was pleased with the unexpected approval his received. The full impact of this meeting was not to emerge for twelve years, but its immediate result was that Pythagoras entered the Seminary in Athens to study for the priesthood. After a year, he was uncertain as to the wisdom of his action and decided to enroll in the University of Athens.
During the next four years he earned his degree and received his teaching credentials. While attending the university, he made occasional visits to his family in Samos. He also found time to tutor students, work for a tobacconist and take additional courses in English.
In 1911, he made his big decision to go to the United States. He went to Middleboro, Massachusetts, where a small colony of Greeks had settled, to live with his two brothers, Nicholas and Theodore, who had immigrated there two years before. Convinced that their brother was not interested in their restaurant business, they encouraged him to enter Harvard University with an offer to help him financially.
Before leaving Greece, Pythagoras had already decided to become a physician. Realizing how many long years of study lay ahead, he preferred not to accept his brothers’ generous offer. He considered ways in which he would attend school, allow time for studies, and still be able to earn an adequate income necessary for his tuition and living expenses. He would rely on his knowledge of small business accounting to earn his living and soon had a number of shopkeepers and restaurants as clients.
After graduation from Harvard with a degree in medicine in June, 1917, he became engaged to Evangeline Constantine. They were married in November, 1917. His work as a hospital intern offered some degree of fulfillment, but he was restless.
Recalling his year at the monastery and his communications with Archbishop Alexander, Pythagoras sent a letter to the Metropolitan asking for his guidance. The sincere simplicity of the Archbishop’s reply and his words of encouragement to enter the church convinced Pythagoras to give up medicine and to complete his studies in the priesthood.
Through further correspondence with the Metropolitan, Pythagoras learned of the need for Greek priests in the western part of the United States. As waves of Greek immigrants moved westward across the United States, they were dependent upon a small group of itinerant Greek priests for infrequent church services and the administration of religious rites. More Greeks lived and worked in the western states than the number of churches would suggest.
In 1921, Father Pythagoras arrived in San Francisco. At this time, his wife and daughter Theofani (Faye) were living in Chicago and it would be months later before he had the money to bring them to San Francisco. Once more the question of earning a livlihood and attending school was of immediate concern. Through letters of introduction and recommendation, Pythagoras became an assistant professor of Greek at the University of California, and attended the Pacific School of Religion. He supplemented his income writing for the Greek newspaper and the Christian Science Monitor. Soon, Pythagoras and Evangeline became an integral part of the young Greek community. Their resourcefulness and command of English, attracted the older families. They were often called upon to act as witnesses or interpreters in matters concerning immigration or in matters of law affecting members of the community. The more affluent Greeks were enthusiastic with the qualifications of the young couple and gave their wholehearted support for the erection of a church which would have Pythagoras as its priest.
After his graduation from the Pacific School of Religion in 1927, Pythagoras was ordained into the priesthood of the Greek Orthodox religion by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Metaxakis, and Archbishop Alexander, both of who were visiting in San Francisco at the time. The colorful ceremony was held in the new, small white church of St. Sophia. The presence of these eminent prelates in San Francisco created much interest and served to establish the young church of St. Sophia as a unified and integrated religious community.
With the advent of the Russian revolution, the organizational work of the Russian Orthodox Church in America came to an abrupt halt. In the meantime, the royalist-liberal controversy in Greece had divided event the Greek immigrants in America. The church could nor or would not steer a neutral course in the civil war raging between the forces of King Constantine and Premier Venizelos. This partnership, which had its beginnings in 1916, was to shake the church communities of Greece and United States to their foundation. The reaction in the United States was violent.
Reorganization required a degree of cooperation difficult to obtain. Nevertheless, Father Pythagoras managed to steer his congregation away from the repercussions of the political battles in Greece and toward the establishment of a Greek-American community whose growth would be a blending of the cultural heritage of Greece and the democratic principles of their adopted country, America.
Since coming to San Francisco, Father Pythagoras’ family increased by two daughters, Helen and Joan. After his ordination, Father Pythagoras budgeted his family severely. Occasionally, his small salary was supplemented by farmers; gifts of produce, fruit, and fowl. His parish was a poor one, and living became more difficult during the depression when members of his congregation dwelt on the edge of poverty. He administered to their needs, with words of encouragement and guidance. He would officiate at services during his frequent visits to farming communities. He taught the children of the community Greek after their regular school hours. He found time to program social activities for the community in observation of national and religious holidays. He made his rounds at the hospitals giving communion to the sick, the injured, and the dying. He conducted services every Sunday, every Holy Day and in the Greek church this alone is a rigorous and demanding schedule.
In 1931, the physical strain had taken its toll. Father Pythagoras was will with tuberculosis. He was a patient for three years at the California Sanitorium in Belmont. During his confinement, he continued to read avidly and began work for his degree as a Doctor of Divinity. He looked forward to returning to his church and his congregation. In late 1934, the doctors told him that he was cured and that he would soon be going home. On December 6, 1934, he suffered a heart attack and died. He was mourned by Greeks throughout the nation and his body lay in state in the church of St. Sophia for 7 days to afford his many friends the sad privilege of a final farewell.