Author Church People Clergy and Monastics Deacon Andrei Psarev Lives of Bishops

Bishop Amphilokhy of Alaska

A Little Known Russian Bishop

Bishop Amphilokhy of Alaska passed away on this day in 1933.

Antony Vakulsky, the future Bishop Amphilokhy, was born in Belsky County of the Lublin Province, to a peasant family. Lublin Province was part of “Congress Poland,” territory given to Russia in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna.

Young Antony Vakulsky was educated at Yablochinsky-Saint Onouphry Monastery of the Chełm and Warsaw Diocese. Yablochinsky-Saint Onouphry Monastery dates from the end of the 15th century, and was a bastion of resistance to Uniatism as well as a centre of education. On January 13, 1891, Antony Vakulsky was tonsured a monk there, receiving the name “Amphilokhy.” On March 3, 1891, he was ordained Hierodeacon, and on November 21, 1893, he was ordained to the priesthood. In 1897, Hieromonk Amphilokhy was appointed as Treasurer of the Yablochinsky-Saint Onouphry Monastery by Bishop Flavian, and traveling missionary in the Belsky Deanery, home of many Uniates.

On August 31, 1899, Hieromonk Amphilokhy began a two-year course at the Kazan Theological Academy, with the blessing of Bishop Tikhon (Bellavin, later Patriarch) of the Aleutians and Alaska. Hieromonk Amphilokhy studied missionary work, and the Mongolian and Kalmyk languages. His thesis was on the Missions of the Russian Church to the Mongols of Siberia.

At the request of Bishop Tikhon of the Aleutians and Alaska, Hieromonk Amphilokhy was transferred by the Holy Synod, on October 20, 1900, as missionary to the Diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska. On November 12, 1900, he was appointed to the Kwikpak Mission in Alaska. He served temporarily as the rector of the Holy Trinity Church in Chicago (January to May, 1901) and arrived in Alaska in June, 1901. Upon arrival in Alaska, he soon mastered local languages, due to his knowledge of Mongolian. From 1900 to 1912, he supervised the Kwikpak Mission, with five parishes. Hieromonk Amphilokhy was a tireless mission laborer, traveling far afield throughout the Northern Alaska wilderness, in the summer by kayak, in the winter by dogsled. He organized small groups of converts in the Eskimo villages, teaching Holy Scripture, Church History and singing, and preparing them to be teachers. On May 6, 1908, he was elevated to Igumen. On August 1, 1908, Bishop Innokenty (Alexander Pustynsky, 1868–1937; later Renovationist Metropolitan of Tashkent; shot by the NKVD) of Alaska appointed Hieromonk Amphilokhy as rector of the Saint Michael’s Mission on the Chukotka Peninsula; he stayed in Chukotka from June 1909 to June 1910. Preaching the Orthodox Faith among the inhabitants, he also founded a parish school for 20 pupils. During eleven years of missionary service in Alaska, he baptized some 1,500 people.

In April of 1912, Igumen Amphilokhy was appointed as Dean of Parishes in Canada by Archbishop Platon (Porfiry Rozhdestvensky, 1866-1934; later Metropolitan of the North American Diocese) of the Aleutians and North America. In May of 1914, he was elevated to Archimandrite. In April of 1915, Bishop Alexander (Nemolovsky) appointed Archimandrite Amphilokhy as rector of the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael in Sitka, and Dean of the Alaskan Missions.

With the blessing of Archbishop Evdokim (Meshchersky) of the Aleutians and North America, in answer to his own petition, from June of 1916, was appointed as head of the Northern Alaska Mission, to counter Protestant missionaries attempting to entice the Orthodox flock away from the Orthodox Faith. In autumn of 1916, he settled in at the Kwikpak Mission camp on the Yukon River. Serving at the Misson’s Holy Cross Church, he resumed the school for catechists and established a shelter for orphans.

In 1921, Archimandrite Amphilokhy was still serving as head of the Northern Alaska Mission. Also that year, Patriarch Tikhon, hearing of many troubles within the Russian Diocese of North America, attempted to have Metropolitan Evlogy (Georgievsky, +1946) of Paris travel to America, and audit the North American Diocese. Bishop Antony (Dashkevich) from Serbia was appointed to conduct the audit. In 1924, Metropolitan Evlogy and Archimandrite Amphilokhy both engaged in a seemingly voluminous correspondence with Archbishop John (Pommer, +1934) of Riga and Latvia, cataloging the “dastardly deeds” committed by Bishop Antony when he was in America, which did not paint Platon or Amphilokhy in a good light.

Disregarding the ROCOR’s directive to make Alaska a Diocese, Archimandrite Amphilokhy was named as Bishop of Alaska, Vicar of the North American Diocese. The consecration took place on July 28, 1924, in the Saint Nicholas Cathedral in New York. Amphilokhy served as Bishop of Alaska until 1931, when he retired to Saint Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. He reposed there on January 25, 1933.

By Michael Woerl (d. 2019)

“Bishop Amphilokhy (Vakulsky, d. January 1933) of Alaska,” Historical Studies of the Russian Church Abroad.

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