Posts tagged Sebastian Dabovich
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 interview, with Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, originally appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and was reprinted in the Macon (GA) Telegraph on July 31, 1903. We’re reprinting it here in full.
Abbot Sebastian Dabovich, a priest high in the circles of the orthodox Russian church, passed through Seattle yesterday on his way to inspect the mission of that church in Alaska. The abbot is an authority on the Russian church in Alaska, and spoke very interestingly of the work there in an interview. He said:
Next to the Roman Catholics the Russian [Church] has the greatest number of communicants of any church in the civilized world. On the coast the two great strongholds of the Russian church are in Alaska and a section of California. Last year I made a trip of 6,000 miles in and along the Alaskan coast, inspecting our mission stations.
On this trip I go to consecrate a new church in Douglas Island, opposite Juneau, the communicants of which are mostly miners of the Slavonic race. From there I go to Sitka to look after the work. On the whole, the trip will be largely in the nature of a rest for me.
The work of our missions in Alaska is a continually growing one, and owing to the great floating population of that country, a work that is continually changing to meet the new demands.
The majority of native Alaskans are Christianized. Our own church has been organized in Alaska for nearly 110 years. Since the country has been occupied by the United States the Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and several other missionaries have come to spread Christianity.
The Russians of Alaska in early days had some land grants in California, and they occupied the whole of what is now known as Sonoma county. From here they shipped wheat and fruit to Alaska. The quality of fruit, which took a prize in the World’s Fair at Chicago in 1893, came from Sonoma, and it was planted by the Russians, the seeds having been brought across Siberia from the Caucasian country and elsewhere.
Long before any one dreamed of a city of San Francisco there in San Francisco bay, in the little town of Sausalito flourished an iron foundry and machine shops. There in Sausalito the Russians built the first steamer that ever steamed to the north on the Pacific ocean. The engineer that brought the first steamer to Alaska is still living, now an old cripple of more than ninety years. He is an old Alaskan Creole, and lives with a son in Sedovia, Alaska.
On entering the old Russian capital of Sitka, the first building which attracts attention is the cathedral of St. Michael’s. The clock in the tower of this old church was made and put in its present position by Innocentius, the first bishop of Alaska.
Editor’s note: On April 22, 1900, the San Francisco Call published a full-page spread on Orthodoxy in America. The author, Sarah Comstock, visited San Francisco’s Holy Trinity Cathedral and interviewed the cathedral dean, Fr. Sebastian Dabovich. The resulting article (below) was accompanied by several photos, some of which I have reproduced here.
It has advanced quietly enough. Churches and missions have been established here and there, and without the blowing of trumpets. Now, at the top of all the years’ climbing, the Most Holy Synod in St. Petersburg creates the diocese of North America, names a Bishop therefore and chooses San Francisco as the see city. This is the largest diocese in the world. And it was only so long ago as 1759, I believe Mr. Inkersley turned aside from his seal skinning long enough to set up the first cross ever planted by orthodox hands on this side of the Pacific.
“Most Rev. Tikhon, Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and North America,” is the whole of it. A man of no more than 35 years claims the title. Rev. Tikhon of San Francisco is the Bishop over all our continent.
Over in the northern part of our city live the Greeks and the Russians and the Slavs who trudge hills up or hills down to their orthodox service. There are so many of them that little Trinity Cathedral nigh overflows. In the days to come there will be such a cathedral built here as the great cities of the mother land have built. So much the 600 members are glad of and proud of, but they do not wait until then to worship. They are a hard-handed, bleakly clad congregation for the most part, who drudge for the six days that it is permitted to drudge, and on the seventh day they stand for two hours in reverence that will be no deeper when the splendor of the Orient is about them.
Last Sunday I saw them come in ones and twos and threes of them, and some came in the weariness of sagging muscles and some brought curious, restless little children because they must bring them or forego the worship of people together. Great, vigorous men were there, such and so many as I have not seen before inside church walls on a Sunday when the green things outside are newly green and the ceiling of the park is of a color with the blue, far away glimpses where north-bound streets come to their end. From first to last these people stand while they watch green-robed priests moving slowly, intricately through the royal gates; while they listen to the voices that chant without accompaniment as it is written.
Trinity Cathedral is an adapted house. From without it gives no promise of Oriental gorgeousness. Within is the color spilling from high windows and the gleam of rare ikons, gold draped, and warmth of paintings. The monotony solemn sound and the heavy fragrat from swaying censers and the presence faith make all things drifting.
In the midst of the priests and deacons I saw the Bishop – the newly famous man. He stood with his back to the people, and for a time I knew only that his robe was splendidly green and gold like the rest, only more splendid, and that the miter was beautiful with turquoises, and that beneath it flowed long locks of yellow hair that may or may not indicate something by its fineness. I saw that the form of the man was magnificent enough to belong to the savage past or the enlightened future.
So much I watched during long and ceaseless music, all of which was a mere accompaniment to the organ tones of the big faced proto deacon, who is known to people and clergy as “the man of the strong voice.” Now and again I caught a glimpse of the Bishop’s hand extended for the kisses of baby acolytes, and I thought the hand was like a woman’s. It contradicted the power of the figure. And I waited to see the face.
When at last the man, the teacher, the priest turned, it was borne in upon me that there was no contradiction after all. The candles had been given to him. The signs he made with them were mechanical. But while I understood not one word of his, I looked into his face and I felt that we were being blessed. I am sure that he is gentle as a woman and strong as a man, and that is why he has been chosen for a spiritual guide to both.
The race of him is written in every feature. Dully fair in coloring as Russians are; wide and square of countenance as the Russians are; clumsy of feature as the Russians are. But the expression is one that claims no race, for it is great enough to be universal.
Father Sebastian Dabovich, who is the Bishop’s tireless assistant in charge of Trinity Cathedral, has outlined the Bishop’s life for me. It seems that he was the son of a parish priest in the Russian province of Pskov, and in the steps of his narrowly bound father he went about doing good. Then there was a reach toward bigger things and the young Tikhon was sent away to St. Petersburg, where the world is a wider one than in the province of Pskov. The boy liked to learn and he studied well, and at last he came to teach others, for he was made a professor of theology in the Seminary of Kazan. In 1892 came a presidency at the Seminary of Cholm, and 1897 saw his consecration. He was made Bishop of Lublin, assistant to the Bishop of Warsaw.
From that year on he has grown greater in the eyes of the church. He was promoted to the independent diocese of Alaska in 1898, and then began his American labors. It was not altogether easy to pull up roots. Russia is his home and the church’s home, and Alaska gives dreary welcome to strangers. But the seal of the work was upon him, and he knew the joy of sacrifice.
He came to the field where those first eight missionaries had labored. It was in 1794 that they cut a way through pathless Siberia and struggled to achievement. This achievement was the conversion of the Aleuts. In the time that followed, chapels were built. They were simple affairs, but they held together the worshipers. The Indians came regularly to service and joined the church. To-day a priest on the Aleutian Islands has little to do in the way of conversion. The ground is won and must be settled.
One church, that of Sitka, has been adorned. Its royal gates are famous. Its ikons are rich. Its peal of bells is music. This cathedral will hold the first place for beauty in the Greek Church of America until the San Francisco cathedral is built.
Among the meek Aleuts Bishop Tikhon labored in churches and schools. He saw the little Indians making themselves awkward in the clothes of civilization and he was happy as a father. But he was not satisfied with this work alone. Alaskan affairs were in smooth running order, hence he helped the church extend. It is reaching to all parts of our land now.
His new title is the outward climax of his labors. The American diocese, being so large, has been divided into four deaneries, Father Sebastian tells me: one in the Eastern States, one in the Western and two in Alaska. “The Bishop is to be assisted in the administration by a consistory,” he says. “This sits with him in San Francisco. There are thirty priests in the diocese, four deacons, two sub-deacons and twenty-five teachers and parish clerks.
“We have strong parishes in Pennsylvania and New York. We have one in Portland, in Seattle, in Jackson, California, and we hope to build in Los Angeles before long.”
Already there are treasures here that will go to make beautiful the new cathedral. An ikon of Christ is one, and one of the Mother and Child is another. The orthodox church differs from the Roman in its view of the Mother. In this point it comes nearer to the Anglican branch, while on the other hand, its elaborate service is more like the Roman.
Another treasure kept at Trinity Cathedral is a miter worn by the Bishop on great days. It is set with jewels of every color and is valued at $2000. It is the finest in America. Such is the wealth of the church in Europe that there are miters there worth as much as $50,000.
The wealth of adornment, the dignity of service, the devotion of worship have established themselves in our land. How much stronger hold they will gain – who knows?
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.