Commemorated August 9th
St. Herman, while he lived on earth, was a simple monk who came from his beloved Valaam Monastery in Russia to the shores of Alaska in the year 1794.
In the previous year, Metropolitan Gabriel of St. Petersburg asked Abbot Nazarius of Valaam to gather a small group of monks to form a missionary team that would travel across Russia and Siberia to Alaska (at that time a Russian possession) to bring the Gospel of Christ to the native people. Those monks were Archimandrite Joasaph, Hieromonks Juvenaly, Macarius, Athanasius, Stephen and Nectarius, Hierodeacons Nectarius and Stephen, and Monks Joasaph and Herman. This trek over land and water took more than a year (the longest recorded single missionary journey in the history of the church)!
iconSaintHermanUpon reaching the end of their journey they arrived at Kodiak Island aboard the ship Three Hierarchs on September 24, 1794. Immediately, the monks began to fan out across Alaska, while St. Herman remained at the home base in Kodiak at the newly built Holy Resurrection Church to administer the overall mission and newly established school. The mission was a thriving one, received with great enthusiasm by most of the native people and resulting in thousands of Baptisms. Schools were started, churches built, many sacramental marriages were performed; all through the grace-filled efforts of 10 monks who labored in the midst of harsh and primitive conditions.
Often they did not enjoy the support of the Russian American Company, which was the local Russian authority in the area. Alexander Baranov was in charge of the company and proved to be a tyrannical and self-serving leader who considered the natives to be little more than slave laborers. Father Herman and the other monks labored mightily to protect them and intercede on their behalf with the higher authorities in Russia.
After about 15 years St. Herman moved to Spruce Island, which is a small densely wooded island about 1 mile off the coast of Kodiak, to pursue a more hermit-like life. He brought his whole monastic spiritual formation, rich experience and Orthodox inheritance to bear upon this new life. He built a church and a cell, planted a garden and in a short time started an orphanage and school for the people on the island.
With burning love and compassion he began to deposit within the hearts of all who came, something of the wondrous Christian treasure that had been entrusted to him. He labored for the most part alone at this stage of his life, pressing forward with great patience and humility. He chanted the church services, contemplated the Scripture, the writings of the Philokalia and other writings of the Saints which he had brought to the New World and pursued an intense life of interior prayer.