Friday, November 10, 2023

Matushka Olga is canonized by the OCA, the First American Woman Saint to be canonized

St. Olga of Alaska - To be commemorated on November 10th, along the the Sunday of All Saints of America (source)

The Proclamation of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America on the Glorification of the Righteous Servant of God Matushka Olga

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

To the beloved Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America

God is wondrous in His Saints

November 8, 2023
Chicago, IL

The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America has heard the petition of The Right Reverend ALEXEI, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska, expressed in his November 2, 2023 letter to His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, concerning the glorification of the Servant of God, the Righteous Matushka Olga.

In this letter, His Grace Bishop ALEXEI states: “I am writing to Your Beatitude with respect to the departed handmaiden of God and faithful Orthodox Christian, Matushka Olga Nicholai of Kwethluk, known by the pious peoples of the Kuskokwim as Arrsamquq.  Her humility, her generosity, her piety, her patience, and her selfless love for God and neighbor were well-known in the Kuskokwim villages during her earthly life.  Her care for comforting the suffering and the grieving has also been revealed after her life by grace-filled manifestations to the faithful throughout not only Alaska, but all of North America.  The first peoples of Alaska are convinced of her sanctity and the great efficacy of her prayers.  For this reason, after prayerful consideration, I, Alexei, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska, am hereby making the formal request to Your Beatitude as the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America to begin the process that, if it be in accord with God’s will, would lead to her glorification.”

The Holy Synod, having prayerfully reflected upon this petition and having observed and acknowledged the sincere devotion among the faithful of Alaska and beyond, has unanimously determined that the time for the glorification of Matushka Olga has arrived, fulfilling the hopes and prayers of pious Orthodox Christians throughout Alaska and the entire world.

THEREFORE, meeting in Solemn Assembly in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chicago, Illinois, under the Presidency of The Most Blessed TIKHON, Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of All America and Canada, We, the Members of The Holy Synod of The Orthodox Church in America, do hereby decide and decree that the ever-memorable Servant of God MATUSHKA OLGA be numbered among the saints.  With one mind and one heart, we also resolve that her honorable remains be considered as holy relics; that a special service be composed in her honor; that her feast be celebrated on November 10 (October 28, old style) and the Feast of All Saints of North America, the Second Sunday after Pentecost; that holy icons be prepared to honor the newly-glorified saint in accordance with the Canons of the Sacred Ecumenical and Regional Councils; that her life be published for the edification of the Faithful, that the name of the new saint be communicated to the Primates of all Sister Churches for inclusion in their calendars; and that the date and location of the Rite of Glorification be communicated to the Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of our Church in due time.

St. Olga of Alaska (source)

FURTHER, we entrust to the Canonization Commission of The Orthodox Church in America, under the Chairmanship of The Most Reverend DANIEL, Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest, with the honorable task of assisting The Right Reverend ALEXEI, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska, in preparing for the celebration of the glorification by providing an authorized Life of Matushka Olga for the education and edification of the Faithful, with overseeing the painting of holy icons of her, in keeping with the canonical iconographical tradition of the Church, with the composition of liturgical texts to be sung at the Divine Services in which she will be commemorated, and with assisting in the uncovering and recognition of her holy relics, and in promoting her veneration among all the Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of our Church.

We call upon the faithful to remember Matushka Olga at Memorial Services or Litanies for the Departed when appropriate until the day of her glorification.

Through the prayers of Matushka Olga and of all the Saints who have shone forth in North America, may the Lord grant His mercies and blessings to all who seek her heavenly intercession with faith and love.  Amen.

Holy Mother Olga, pray to God for us!

Given at Holy Trinity Cathedral, this 8th day of November, in the Year of Our Lord, 2023.


The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America.

+ TIKHON, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada
+ NATHANIEL, Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate
+ BENJAMIN, Archbishop of San Francisco and the West
+ MARK, Archbishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania
+ ALEJO, Archbishop of Mexico City and Mexico
+ MELCHISEDEK, Archbishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
+ IRENEE, Archbishop of Ottawa and the Archdiocese of Canada
+ MICHAEL, Archbishop of New York and New Jersey
+ ALEXANDER, Archbishop of Dallas, the South and the Bulgarian Diocese
+ DANIEL, Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest
+ ALEXEI, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska
+ NIKODHIM, Bishop of Boston and the Albanian Archdiocese


St. Olga of Alaska (source)

Orthodoxy has been around in Alaska since the 18th century. It was brought here by a mission of the Russian Orthodox Church. The mission’s monks preached among the local indigenous people and translated the Scripture and liturgical texts into the local languages, bringing many to Christ and educating the local clergy.  Some prominent preachers of Christianity in Alaska were Holy Venerable Herman of Alaska and Bishop Innocent. At the end of the 19th century, Russia sold Alaska to the United States, and gradually, Protestant missions came to prevail in this land. However, Orthodox life has continued there to the present day, with around ninety active Orthodox parishes.

On 3 February 1916, a girl named Arrsamquq was born into an indigenous Alaskan family of Yupik origin. The presence of the Russian mission in her community helped spread the faith among the local people, and she was among the first to be baptised as an infant. At baptism, she accepted the name Olga. From a very young age, she lived with the love of God. She was hard-working and prayed a lot for her family and her fellow villagers. By her teenage years, she already knew multiple liturgical texts and hymns in the church Slavonic and Yupik languages.

She married a man from her village. It was an arranged marriage. Her husband was adept at fishing and hunting. He established a general store and opened the first post office in his village. However, he was not a particularly churchly man. During the first years of their marriage, they had a troubled relationship filled with strife and arguments. But Olga did not despair. Instead, she prayed vehemently for her husband and her non-believing neighbours. Through her prayers, After a time, her husband — baptised with the name Nicolay — began to attend church. He brought six other men from the village with him. They all became readers. Nicolay Michael went on to study at so called “Aleut School”, similar to those that were founded by Saint Innocent with the support of the Russian Missionary Society, in Sitka. He studied under the direction of Bishop Amvrossy (Merejko). After graduation, he was ordained into the priesthood. From 1963, he was a priest for Kwetluk. He was the second priest in his village Kwetluk and became greatly beloved by his people. Incidentally, throughout the lifetime of Saint Olga, the great majority of the students who went this School came from her tiny village.

The couple’s married life changed significantly after Nicolai’s ordination. As a priest, Nicolai Michael travelled extensively to twelve surrounding villages to conduct services and occasional offices. Travel between the villages was done on rivers, by boat in the summer or by snow machines or dog-driven sledges in the winter. Matushka Olga, who was the only able midwife around, accompanied her husband to assist the women in childbirth and ailments. Olga gave birth to thirteen of her children without a midwife. Five of them did not survive to adulthood because of illness and a harsh climate.

Matushka Olga Michael worked hard keeping house, raising children, making vestments and baking prosphoras. Despite her busy schedule, she would also go to the homes of others to cook and clean for them. With word and deed, Olga showed people the example of Christian life according to Lord’s commandments. Not only did she help others with their housekeeping, but she also made boots, parkas, socks and mittens to distribute among the parishioners. For her acts of charity, she was nicknamed the new righteous Tabitha. She was particularly mindful of the troubled women who suffered from domestic violence. She would often ask women in her village to take a steam bath with her, where they could not hide the physical and spiritual scars of the abuse done to them. She counselled the women and said words of reassurance to each. Her compassion and sensitivity struck many as if she had lived through the same situation in her life.

As she was growing older, her daughters were assuming more of her workload. The hard-working Matushka Olga had more time to travel with her husband, help the people from the surrounding villages and teach midwifery skills to younger women.

Eventually, however, Matushka Olga began to feel weak and ill and lose weight. Her concerned family persuaded her to go to hospital. The specialists there diagnosed terminal cancer which they said was beyond treatment. Her children received the news with much grief and prayed vehemently at the local holy places. As for the Matushka, was not resigned to her bed rest. While her daughters were away, she continued to go outside, hauling buckets of water from the village well.

In the last days of her life, she prayed a lot and left her last instructions to her family in preparation for her peaceful repose. On 8 November 1979, she partook of the Holy Sacraments, crossed herself and departed peacefully to God. She was buried in her wedding gown, which she had kept throughout her life.

Her death coincided with the feast day of Archangel Michael (the Old Calendar) whom she revered. The people from her village remembered her standing under the icon of Archangel Michael at church.

The Church of Saint Nicholas in Nicholas in Kwetluk
The icon of Archangel Michael at the church

The first miracle attributed to her was reported on the day of the saint’s interment. In Alaska, the month of November is the height of the winter season. By the time of her death, the rivers had already frozen over to preclude travel by boat, but the ice was still not strong enough to support a snow machine. Many people lamented not being able to bid their last farewells to their beloved Matushka. The Lord heard their prayers. On the day of her funeral, there was a thaw. The ice on the river melted, enabling many people to come to Kwetluk by boat to attend her funeral. As her body was being carried to the grave, summer birds were hovering over the procession. Even the soil in the graveyard had softened. On the next day, the cold weather returned and ice covered the river. Winter was back.

She also continued to intercede for needy women. A woman from her village saw the Matushka in her dream. She told her that her mother had a terminal illness and reassured her that her mother was departing to heaven. The woman saw her mother before her death and helped her prepare for her peaceful repose.

A woman who suffered from the trauma of sexual abuse reported another miracle with Matushka Olga. One day as she was praying, she began to have an intense flashback of her sexual abuse as a child. She pleaded with the Mother of God for her help. Little by little, she went into a trance and saw herself walking in a forest. A gentle wave of tenderness began to sweep through the woods followed by a fresh garden scent. She saw the Virgin Mary, dressed as she was in an icon, but more natural-looking and brighter, walking toward her. As she came closer she was aware of someone walking behind her. She was one of the indigenous people of the North. The Mother of God said that it was Saint Olga. Saint Olga gestured for the woman to follow her to a little hill that had a door cut into the side. Mother Olga helped her up on a bed and rubbed something on her belly. It looked five months pregnant (although she was not pregnant in reality). Mother Olga pretended to labour with her. She pushed out something like an afterbirth, and she was filled with wellness and a sense of quiet entered her soul. As the woman recalled, Saint Olga’s eyes spoke with great tenderness and understanding. It was the kind of loving gaze from a mother to an infant that connects and welcomes a baby to life. Only after this did Holy Mother Olga speak. “The people who hurt you thought they could make me carry their evil inside of you by rape. That’s a lie. The only thing they could put inside you was the seed of life which is a creation of God and cannot pollute anyone.” At the end of this healing time, they went outside together. The sky was all shimmer with a moving veil of light. At that moment, the woman heard in her heart that this moving curtain of light was a promise that God can create great beauty from complete desolation and nothingness.


St. Olga of Alaska (source)
Troparion to St. Olga of Alaska in Tone Four
By your righteous deeds, you were revealed to the world as an image of the perfect servant of the Lord in Alaska. By your fasting, vigil and prayers, you were inspired in your evangelical life. You fed the hungry, and you cared for the poor. You served as a midwife, and you brought babies into the world. You nurtured children, and you clothed all those in need. Now, O Holy Olga, you stand at the right-hand of Christ the Master, and you intercede for our souls.

St. Olga of Alaska (source)

Akathist to St. Olga of Alaska here.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!