To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the granting of the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in North America, the Orthodox Christian Laity has launched a new feature on their web site – Getting to Know Orthodox Saints of North America. In this series, we will learn about St. Raphael and St. Herman, and we’ll also learn about the relics of these two saints.
Father Herman of Alaska was a spiritual man who defended the Church in North America. He defended the Church by bringing the Gospel to the people. He chanted church services, read Scripture and the Philokalia, and practiced intense interior prayer. His actions gave hope to people oppressed by the powers of this world.
His people called him ‘apa’, which means ‘grandfather’. During the time of his ministry, he received the gift of healing. During his years of apostolic service, he was able to help people in hospitals, churches, and monasteries. He later retired into a monastic cell.
During the 1920s, Father Herman made pilgrimages to the Valaam Monastery in Finland. He was particularly fond of the abbot and the people of this monastery. In the 1950s, when he was elevated to the primacy of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in North America, he traveled to Spruce Island to visit Father Herman’s grave.
In 1969, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in North America proclaimed Fr. Herman as a Saint for his apostolic work among the native people. The Saint’s glorification is commemorated on November 15 and November 28. In Alaska, pilgrimages are difficult during winter. Despite the hardships of winter, the day of the saint’s glorification is celebrated as the primary feast day.
The natives in the Kodiak area became Orthodox Christians after the missionaries spread their evangelical message to the local people. More than 7,000 native people were baptised in the area. In addition, more than 2,000 marriages were blessed in this area. The missionaries also set up a monastery and school for newly baptised children. A temple was also built. Afterwards, Father Herman was assigned a bakery and acted as mission steward, responsible for the mission’s economy and business concerns.
The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch has a jurisdiction in North America called the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. The Archdiocese is responsible for educating the faithful about Orthodox Christianity. It also promotes social awareness and tolerance. To learn more, visit the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America website.
The first Orthodox bishop in North America, Archimandrite Raphael of Brooklyn, was consecrated on March 13, 1904, at St Nicholas Cathedral in New York. After serving as an assistant to St Tikhon’s archpastoral ministry, he died on February 27, 1915. The Orthodox Church of North America organized its first All American Council on March 5-7, 1907 in Mayfield, PA. The council established statutes for parish administration and missionary activity.
St. Raphael was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1860. After studying at the Patriarchate, he was assigned to a ministry in New York. He then traveled to dozens of cities between New York and San Francisco, preaching the Word of God and building churches. He also published the Al-Kalimat magazine. In 1909, he was appointed bishop by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Saint Raphael, an early Christian missionary, was the first Orthodox Christian bishop on American soil. He founded thirty parishes in North America, and his feast day is the first Saturday of November. The name of this holy man was taken from the angel Raphael. He studied with the Greeks at Halki and Russians in Kiev, and spent his final nineteen years in North America, spreading the Orthodox faith to the North American continent.
St. Raphael’s relics
The Orthodox Church in North America carries the name of an honored follower of Christ, known as a saint. The saint becomes the patron of the community and is considered the heavenly advocate. Saint Raphael was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and received his primary and secondary education in Damascus, Syria. He completed his first theological studies at the Theological School of Halki, and later went on to the Kiev Theological Academy in Imperial Russia. He later served as a rector at the Metropolitan Orthodox Church in Moscow, and taught at the Theological Academy in Kazan.
The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad donated an icon of Saint Raphael to the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. The icon was painted by monks of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. The Orthodox Church in North America will commemorate Saint Raphael on February 27 and the Antiochian Orthodox Church will commemorate him on November 1st.
In addition to serving as a bishop, Saint Raphael also served as the first bishop of Orthodox Christians in North America. His consecration took place on March 13, 1904 at St Nicholas Cathedral in New York City. The Archimandrite then sought out a suitable location in lower Manhattan and built a chapel for the faithful. He also brought several ecclesiastical items from his homeland. He dedicated the new chapel to St. Nicholas of Myra.
The relics of St. Raphael are kept in a chapel in New York City. His relics are considered sacred and can be used to help people in need. It is also a great honor for Orthodox Christians to have St. Raphael’s relics in the Orthodox Church of North America.