Agapius Honcharenko: answers to some questions

Agapius Honcharenko in his later years

Recently, Nicholas Chapman published several newly-discovered documents relating to Agapius Honcharenko here at 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 once I get a response.

[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]

2 Replies to “Agapius Honcharenko: answers to some questions”

  1. Thanks very helpful. Have you contacted the editors of the Encyclopedia of Ukraine (Univ. of Toronto Press, for more information? They could put you in touch with the scholar who wrote the article on Honcharenko who may be able to supply more information. For example, the Russian Orthodox Church keeps very good records of ordinations etc.
    What about Honcharenko’s own Memoirs? Does he not supply all the dates himself?

  2. Matthew, have not visited the Immigration History Research Center at University of Minnesota? They are thie first source for anyone doing research on the Orthodox churches in North America. They have copies of all the old newspapers on microfiche etc. Also church years books, Jubilee Books, Minutes of various brotherhoods and socities.

    Look through their various Finding Aids for your topics of interest.

    Materials on Honcharenko can be found in:
    Wasyl Halich Papers, ca. 1921-1971
    See File 11 for the Memoirs of Honcharenko.

    Prof. Halich mentioned Honcharenko in his various books on Ukrainians in America.

    For the Encyclopedia article contact

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