Missionary Zeal and Mysterious Disappearances

Missionary Zeal and Mysterious Disappearances

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For an army engineer, John Feodorovich Hovorukhin made an excellent monk. The man had entered a monastery after the death of his wife in 1791, when he was about thirty years old. He was given the name Juvenaly and settled into life at Varlaam monastery on Lake Lagoda, not too far from St. Petersburg.

He, along with several other monks, was chosen to make up a missionary team, to travel halfway around the world from St. Petersburg. And it is halfway – St. Petersburg is twelve time zones away from Kodiak, Alaska, which was their destination. They walked for eight months across Russia, and then took a ship to the New World, landing on Kodiak Island on September 24, 1794.

It was too late in the year to travel much further, so the monks, including Juvenaly, settled into a life in Kodiak as best they could, traveling around the island and ministering to the native people there. But while they were learning the language and the ways of the Aleut people, they were also discussing amongst themselves the division of Alaska, and who would travel where in order to bring the Gospel to the other people of this land.

While it was coming on winter, there were still bright and sunny days, short though they were, and on one good November day, Juvenaly, along with his companions Macarius and Herman, took a walk around the harbor. They sat on a hill on the south side and looked out over the ocean. St. Herman later, in a letter, recorded the conversation between Macarius and Juvenaly.

The men had a map made by members of one of Captain Cook’s expeditions that indicated a Russian settlement in the interior of the mainland. The two men discussed what areas each would travel when the weather allowed them to move on. Fr. Macarius said that he hoped to travel to the Aleutian Islands, and then onto the mainland, where some of the inhabitants (who had been on Kodiak) had invited him to visit. From there, he said, he wanted to travel even further into the interior of Alaska, in order to find the Russian settlement, but Juvenaly protested that the mainland was his territory!

“I beg you to yield to me in this,” he said, and smiling, added, “Do not offend me! Since the ship will be leaving for Yakutan, I’ll start preaching in the south, and then move north along the ocean. I’ll cross the Kenai peninsula, and then cross to Alaska proper!”

Father Macarius’s face dropped in disappointment. “No, Father, please do not restrict me.” He turned and swept his arm north, in the roughly general direction of the mainland and the Aleutian Islands. “You know the islands are joined to Alaska, so that belongs to me, along with the entire northern shore!”

The two men argued in a good-natured way for some time, with Father Macarius pointing out that Father Juvenaly would be able to move south, into what we, today, call the panhandle, and even further south, into Canada and the American Pacific Northwest. As he noted, “The southern part of America is sufficient for your whole lifetime.”

Father Herman listened quietly, rejoicing at the fervour of the two men. The sun dropped in the sky, and they made their way back to the relative warmth of their accommodations.

As it turned out, St. Juvenaly did as he had originally planned: he traveled to Nutchek, on Hitchinbrook Island, then to the Kenai Peninsula. In both places, he preached successfully and won many of the native people over to the Orthodox Christian faith. But in 1796, he crossed Cook Inlet, traveled past Lake Iliamna, and disappeared from Russian and Orthodox knowledge for over a hundred years. It was one of the most puzzling mysteries, and his true fate was not discovered by the church for over a century and a half. For more information about St. Juvenaly and the mystery of his disappearance, please check our reference page.


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Bev Cooke

Bev. Cooke has been writing for publication since 1989. Her first love is writing for young adults, and she has three YA books on the market: Keeper of the Light, a historical fiction about St. Macrina the Elder in 2006. Royal Monastic, a biography of Mother Alexander (Princess Ileana of Romania), also published by Conciliar came out in 2008. Feral, an edgy mainstream novel was released by Orca Book Publishers in 2008. Her latest publication is a departure from her regular work - an Akathist to St. Mary of Egypt, published by Alexander Press in 2010, which was written partly as a response to the seventy missing women from downtown Vancouver's east side, and as a plea to St. Mary of Egypt to pray for those women, and the men and women who live on the streets.

Bev. and her husband live in Victoria, BC where they enjoy two seasons: wet and road construction. They have two adult children, two cats and attend All Saints of Alaska parish.

Bev's very out of date webpage is bevcooke.ca and her blog is http://bevnalabbeyscriptorium.wordpress.com/. It's a little more up to date than the webpage. Bev is planning to blog more and update her webpage very soon, so keep checking back to them and be sure to "Like" her FB page: Bev. Cooke, writer.