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Pilgrims celebrate Herman's canonization

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  • KCIN12
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    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 11, 2010
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      text size: [-] [+] Pilgrims celebrate Herman's canonization Article
      published on Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 By SAM FRIEDMAN Mirror Writer
      MONK'S LAGOON, Spruce Island — They say the sun has a way of
      shining on the celebration of St. Herman, patron saint of the Americas.

      The sunlight came out dramatically for the 40th anniversary of
      Herman's canonization on Spruce Island Monday.

      The light broke through the fog and spruce trees a few minutes before an
      international group of Orthodox Christian leaders in green vestments
      began preparing for communion. About 250 pilgrims stood in line to
      receive the communion, overflowing a wooden deck built around a small
      wooden chapel.

      Among the visiting clergy was Metropolitan Jonah, head of the Orthodox
      Church in America and Canada, who led the celebration of the Divine
      Liturgy for the second year in a row.

      Earlier in the service the metropolitan spoke about one of the lessons
      that can be learned from St. Herman's time living as a hermit on
      Spruce Island.

      "Few places like this exist on earth," he said. "Very
      quickly in silence a person learns that you are not your thoughts, and
      this is one of the most incredible freeing things you can learn."

      Saint Herman came to Kodiak in 1793 as part of the first Orthodox
      mission sent by the Russian empire to Alaska.

      The church hagiography praises his ascetic life, his kindness to the
      Alutiiq people, and his miracles — like a wildfire he stopped behind
      a piece of moss and a tsunami he halted by placing an icon of the Virgin
      Mary on the beach.

      He died on Spruce Island in 1843 and was canonized in 1970. His relics
      are kept at the Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak.

      The celebration of Saint Herman's canonization is one of only a few
      Orthodox pilgrimages in America and might be the hardest to access.

      Many pilgrims from the Railbelt arrived in Kodiak Saturday on the ferry
      Kennicott, where they gathered together on the top deck. Other pilgrims
      came from the Lower 48 and Russia. Among Russian guests was Alexander P.
      Torshin, a senator in Russia.

      Also among the pilgrims were Archbishop Justinian, the Russian Orthodox
      church's leader in the U.S., acting Bishop of Alaska Benjamin and
      Bishop Maxim, head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Western U.S.

      Monday did not begin with sunlight.

      During the morning a fleet of skiff captains carrying pilgrims between
      Fort Abercrombie and Spruce Island called out to each other over radios
      in the pea soup fog.

      Victoria Nielson, a Wasilla resident taking a break between college
      terms, called the entire day "ethereal." She had not expected
      such a big crowd.

      "I was amazed by how helpful and happy everyone was," she said.
      "Everyone would be complaining if this was anything else except for
      a pilgrimage.

      "It's funny, you get up at 6 a.m. and you wait at the beach for
      three hours, but you're happy."

      Nielson has wanted to attend the pilgrimage since seeing St.
      Innocent's Academy perform in Homer. She said she hopes to teach the
      academy Irish dancing.

      Father Deacon Samuel Woolums came from Santa Rosa, Calif. He said he was
      affected by both the presence of St. Herman and the isolation of the

      "It's incredibly easier to pray here," he said.
      "There's not as many people with evil thoughts polluting the

      Kera Dalton of Boston came to Spruce Island with her husband, three
      children and a friend of one of her children.

      "One of the things I learned is how Father Herman treated the
      people," she said. "You hear terrible things about missionaries,
      but here is a man who cared for the Native people and stood up for them
      against the Russian American Company."

      The trip was special, but she will probably not make the pilgrimage
      again because it was so expensive to travel from Boston.

      After arriving at the beach on Spruce Island, pilgrims walked up a
      shallow hill to the chapel past mossy trees and icons of Jesus Christ
      and the Virgin Mary.

      On the return trip the pilgrims stopped at the beach to eat a meal
      organized by the Holy Resurrection Church and the Nativity of Our Lord
      Church in Ouzinkie. Many had been fasting since the night before.

      Most of the group left Spruce Island after the liturgy and lunch, but
      Spruce Island remains home to a group of monks who live in another part
      of the island. A group of nuns lives on nearby Nelson Island.

      Footage from this year's pilgrimage may reach Russian-speaking
      audiences around the world through New York-based Russian Television
      International. A crew from the station filmed the service and
      interviewed church leaders.

      "We loved it," said producer Sergey Shesthaov. "We hope to
      create a nice special and continue covering the pilgrimages."

      Mirror Writer Sam Friedman can be reached via e-mail

      Nick Berezniak

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