St. Innocent Pilgrimage to Siberia
By: Archpriest John Perich
October 8, 2021
This week we also commemorate two very important Saints of Orthodoxy in America, including St. Innocent of Alaska and Moscow and St. Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and America.
On August 4, 2021, I was contacted by Father Sergius, Abbot of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery. He forwarded a request for information and help from California in preparing a pilgrimage to Russia, to visit the birthplace of St. Innocent (Veniaminov), in the village of Anga, near Irkutsk.
The request came from Robin Joy Wellman, an interpreter / specialist historian at Fort Ross in California. She and other California pilgrims were hoping to bring a unique gift to Russia, something that had belonged to St. Innocent. But, after much consideration, that idea seemed unfeasible: such a gift would require losing a precious artifact, an irreplaceable piece of our own American Orthodox history. Instead, we decided to do the next best thing: to create a facsimile of the original Gospel and notes of St. Innocent, now housed at the OCA Repository-Museum at St. Tikhon’s Monastery.
I asked Mr. Nathan Belt, who helped Subdeacon John Pusey and myself, renovate the museum, to photograph the original Gospel which is written in both Russian orthography and (using Church Slavonic lettering) Fox Island Aleut. Subdeacon John adjusted Nathan’s initial photographs so that they could be printed on antiqued parchment, thus reproducing the effect of two hundred years of wear and tear. Subsequently, we sent the printed pages to California where Robin inserted them into a velvet covered book, a carefully aged facsimile of the irreplaceable original.
There, on the Commemoration of the Birthday of St. Innocent, September 8 (O.S. 26 August) God showered an extraordinary blessing on these faithful pilgrims:
His Eminence, Metropolitan Maximillian of Irkutsk baptized Robin, who had worked for over 27 years at Fort Ross, in the same river where St. Innocent himself was baptized, giving her the Church-name Innokentia.
Robin told the Metropolitan about her work at Fort Ross over the years, and her great love for St. Innocent and St. Peter the Aleut. His Eminence replied: “You are surrounded by these special saints. Why not get even closer to them and be baptized?” She responded “Yes!”
What a great joy, that we at St. Herman’s, had a small but rewarding role in this remarkable manifestation of divine grace!
From her simple request, arising from her twenty-seven years devoted to preserving the historical record and memory of our Church, God brought Robin, the newly illumined Innokentia into the Holy Orthodox Faith.