Herman of Alaska

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Saint Herman of Alaska (born 1756 or 1760 in Serpukhov, Russia – died December 13 or November 15, 1837 on Spruce Island, Alaska) was one of the first Eastern Orthodox missionaries to the New World,[1] and is considered by Orthodox Christians to be the patron saint of the Americas.

Contents

Biography

Saint Herman was born in the town of Serpukhov[2] in the Moscow Diocese around 1756. Herman is his name in monasticism; his birth name is unknown. At 16, he entered the Russian Orthodox monastic life at the Trinity-St. Sergius Hermitage near St. Petersburg.[3]

There, while still a novice, he developed a severe throat infection or abscess. After fervent prayer before an icon of the Theotokos, he collapsed into a deep sleep. During this sleep, he saw a vision in which he was greeted by the Virgin Mary and healed. Upon waking the next day, there was no trace of the past infirmity. Approximately five years later he transferred from Trinity-St. Sergius Hermitage to Valaam Monastery. Eventually he was tonsured a monk, though he was never ordained to the priesthood. While at Valaam, he was under the spiritual guidance of Abbot Nazarius who had played a significant role in the revitalization of spiritual life in Russia. During this time, the head of the Golikov-Shelikov Company, Gregory Shelikov, visited Valaam and made a request for several monks to begin a mission into the Alaskan territory. Herman was selected, along with seven other monks.

St. Herman and the other monks arrived on Kodiak Island on September 24, 1794, aboard a ship named The Three Saints, a name which became that of Three Saints Bay, Alaska. The monks converted the native Aleuts, and as time progressed they found themselves protecting the natives from exploitation and abuse. Because of this moral stance the monks themselves were abused, arrested and physically threatened. In time, enduring hardship, inclement weather, illness and more, Herman stood as the only remainder from the original band of missionaries, the others either being martyred for their faith, dying of natural causes or returning to Russia.

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