Church People Deacon Andrei Psarev Lives of Bishops

Bishop John (Legkii) of Rockland

The nowadays Priest Matthew Williams receives an antidoron from Bishop John after his consecration. Photo: Fr. Matthew Williams

A Life Dedicated to Church

Bishop John (Legkii) of Rockland passed away on this day in 1995.

Several of my first impressions upon coming to study at Holy Trinity Seminary are connected to Bishop John (Legkii). I came to Jordanville in August of 1990 and happened to be there at his monastic tonsuring. Then at the Synod of Bishops in New York at the All-Night Vigil for the feast of the Dormition, I was at his episcopal installation (narechenie) and the next day held a arkhieratikon (chinovnik) for Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) during Bishop John’s consecration at the Novo-Diveevo convent in Spring Valley, NY.

Despite the fact that Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) had fallen out of favor in 1986, Fr. John thanked him at the installation. For me, this fidelity to an old friend was a sign of his quality character.

Ivan Savvich Legkii was born on April 29, 1907, in the city of Dvinsk (now Daugavpils in Latvia) in Vitebsk Province of the Russian Empire into a priest’s family. After graduating from the Dvina Russian Gymnasium and the Riga Theological Seminary, he studied theology at the Orthodox department of the Theological Faculty of the University of Riga.

Archbishop John of Riga, the future martyr, ordained John a deacon on September 14, 1931, and a priest on September 21 of the same year. In 1936, he was assigned to Riga Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Convent and appointed a teacher of law for local schools. From 1936–1944, he was a member of the Riga Diocesan Council.

In June 1941, the NKVD arrested Fr. John and imprisoned him in Ostrov city prison. Only the advance of Wehrmacht secured his release. From 1941–1944, Fr. John with was a member of the missionary team working on the Christianization of Pskov Region together with Fr. Liverii Voronov.

At the direction of the German authorities, he participated in the removal of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God from the Riga Trinity-Sergius Convent to Liepaja. The icon was transported on a fishing boat under German escort by him and the priests John Baumanis, Aleksii Ionov, and Nikolai Perekhvalskii, and handed over to Bishop John (Garklavs).

In April 1943, he was elevated to the rank of archpriest. From 1944, he served in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. From 1946–1949, he cared for Russian refugees in the German DP camps, serving as an observer of the teaching of the Law of God in Russian schools in Germany.

He was in the USA from 1949 and served at Holy Ascension Cathedral in the Bronx in New York between 1949 and 1959. From 1959, he was rector of the Church of the Archangel Michael in the city of Paterson, New Jersey, USA.

From 1949–1987, he was a member of the Eastern American Diocesan Council. In the years from 1961–1987, he held the position of dean. For his long and zealous service to the Church, Father John was deservedly decorated with all the possible awards for a priest. On December 13, 1972, he was elevated to the rank of protopresbyter. He retired in 1987.

On January 14, 1989, his spouse Ekaterina Yakovlevna (née Perminova) died, after which Father John took monastic vows in August 1990, receiving the name of Hieromartyr John, Archbishop of Riga, who ordained him to the priesthood.

On August 15/ 28, 1990, he was ordained Bishop of Buenos Aires and Argentina and Paraguay. He served in Argentina for four years. In 1994, he was appointed Bishop of Rockland, Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese.

He died peacefully on March 9, 1995, on Clean Friday, in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, USA. He was buried in the cemetery of the Novo-Diveevo Convent.

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