Celebration of the 75th Anniversary of St Nicholas Cathedral in
A good amount of snow had been on the ground for a week already
by the winter-time feast day of St Nicholas, and on the eve of the
holiday, December 5/18, a frost struck the region. The final days
of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of one of the oldest
parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia truly
possessed a Russian flavor.
The anniversary celebrations actually began a year ago, so that
their high point would be culminated on St Nicholas' feast day in
2004, which this year fell on a Sunday.
The Parish of St Nicholas Cathedral, the founding of which is closely-bound
to the blessed Archbishop Ioassaf (Skorodumoff), whose memory is
dear to all Russians in the diaspora, and to Archimandrite Amvrosii
(Konovalov), appeared in the troubling times for Russian Orthodoxy,
both in Russia itself and in North America. Two waves of immigrants
had already arrived in the USA and Canada by the 1920's from all
corners of the Russian Empire. In Canada, Orthodox parishes were
already established through the efforts of the future Patriarch
of Moscow and All Russia, St Tikhon, while he was posted in America.
After the tragedy of 1917 and the establishment of the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia, her churches in America, which accommodated
Russians who were forced to leave their Fatherland and settle in
the New World, were first under the omophorion of Archbishop Apollinarius
(Koshevoy) and then under Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), an old
colleague of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of blessed memory,
the founder of the Russian Church Abroad.
St Nicholas Parish was since its early days always a part of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. By the end of the 20th
century, as proprietors of the magnificent building in the best
neighborhood of Montreal, the see of the Canadian Diocese, became
famous in the Russian diaspora for good reason among the most flourishing
But the Parish of St Nicholas Cathedral did not elude terrible sufferings,
allowed by the Lord. The utterly destructive fire of the winter
of 1988 turned the Cathedral into ruins; only a portion of the walls
survived. Following the fire were arguments, conflicts and division.
By the feast day of St Nicholas in 2001, all the funds gathered
for the reconstruction were completely exhausted, yet the work was
far from finished.
Yet, by God's mercy, through the intercession of St Nicholas the
Wonderworker, the speedy assistant of all those who earnestly pray
to him, the catastrophe which seemed to all to be unavoidable was
averted. Through the efforts of our First Hierarch, His Eminence
Metropolitan Laurus, and the Administrator of the Eastern part of
the Canadian Diocese, His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan, a new
Diocesan Administration was formed in Eastern Canada, and in the
Cathedral itself, a new Parish Council was established. Then, through
the efforts of all the parishioners of the much-suffering Cathedral,
who selflessly and with brotherly love set aside their disputes
and quarrels, in a true conciliar manner, managed to transform the
situation. Over the last three years, all the necessary reconstruction
work on the building was completed, and by very the beginning of
the anniversary celebrations in 2003, a magnificent copper cupola
was elevated into place. But most importantly, the parish itself
was reborn and began to blossom. The number of parishioners quadrupled
in comparison with the tragic year of 2001, and Sunday liturgy draws
an average of 180-200 worshipers. Among them are "Russian Canadians,"
the recent immigrants, and those who returned to their old parish.
New faces are seen at practically every service, so that the Senior
Clergyman of the Cathedral, Protopriest George Lagodich and Priest
Michael Metni must fulfill their pastoral duties from early morning
to late at night, despite both holding down civil jobs and attending
to their families.
The Parish grows day by day; Metropolitan Laurus and Bishop Gabriel
were greeted at the beginning of all-night vigil by almost 250 worshipers,
despite the icy winds and bitter weather. Almost 100 of them were
guests; a chartered bus from Toronto brought fifty parishioners
along with their pastor, Protopriest Vladimir Malchenko. The famous
choir director George Anatolievich Skok and the President of the
Charitable Fund of Grand Duchess Olga Aleksandrovna, Olga Nikolaevna
Kulikovskaya-Romanova, were among the guests.
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and Bishop Gabriel were joined
in the altar not only by Fr Vladimir from Holy Trinity Cathedral
in Toronto, Fr George and Fr Michael, but also by priests coming
for the Cathedral's feast day from Eastern Canada and the USA: Protopriest
Vladimir Morin (Christ the Savior Church in London, Ontario), Protopriest
Peter Perekrestov (Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All
Who Sorrow" in San Francisco), Priest Michael Luboschinsky
(Veil of the Holy Mother Church, Hamilton, Ontario) and the newly-ordained
Hieromonk Nicholas (Perekrestov), along with Protodeacon Victor
Lochmatow, Protodeacon Joseph Jaroschuk, Deacon Michael Soloviev,
Deacon Seraphim Chemodakov and Deacon Vasily Milonow. In the center
of the Cathedral, placed on analogia, were the visiting Protectress
of the Russian Diaspora, the Miracle-working Kursk-Root Icon of
the Mother of God, and beside it was a full-size icon of St Nicholas
containing a relic of the saint, painted for this feast day by Alexander
Nikolaevich Shelekhov (son of the famous icon-painter N.N. Shelekhov),
donated to the Cathedral by a pious protopriest from the United
It would be difficult to express in words the beauty of the singing
during vigil performed by the Cathedral choir, which was joined
by visiting singers and choir directors. Blessed indeed were all
those who attended. In any case, the singing by the clergymen of
the magnification touched the hearts of the worshipers and brought
many to tears.
Directing the choir were Readers N.E. Androsoff and G.A. Skok, the
second Cathedral choir director, Subdeacon G.V. Borovik and the
director of the youth choir, young Reader I. Dublshtein.
On Sunday, December 6/19, a copy of the now-lost Iveron Icon of
the Mother of God of Montreal joined the Kursk-Root Icon and that
of St Nicholas. The history of the Iveron Icon, as that of Brother
Jose Munoz, the Icon's keeper, is bound to that of St Nicholas Cathedral.
After the greeting of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and the reading
of the hours, at ten o'clock in the morning, there were already
over 450 worshipers in attendance. The large altar of St Nicholas
Cathedral, renovated and adorned in time for the feast day, barely
accommodated all the clergymen, who were joined also by Priest Stelian
Liabotis from Ottawa along with subdeacons and altar boys.
During the minor entrance, Fr Michael was awarded the skufia for
his earnest and excellent service to the Church. After the Eucharistic
canon, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus ordained Alexander Morin
into the deaconate, who had served for many years as a subdeacon
in Toronto. The newly-ordained Deacon Alexander is being assigned
to Holy Trinity Cathedral, where he will assist Protopriest Vladimir
Malchenko: his parish is now not only the largest in Canada in number,
but it is said, in the entire Russian Orthodox Church Outside of
One of the more popular radio stations in Montreal and the nearby
outskirts of Quebec Province simulcast the service from its beginning
at ten o'clock in the morning.
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and Bishop Gabriel administered
the Eucharist from two chalices. Counting adults and children, over
two hundred people communed of the Holy Gifts.
In his sermon at the end of divine liturgy, His Eminence Vladyka
reminded everyone that they gathered to glorify the memory of the
holy man of Christ, St Nicholas, the heavenly protector of their
parish. "Here with us is the Miracle-working Kursk-Root Icon
of the Mother of God," continued the First Hierarch. "This
is a great joy for us all. The Most-Holy Mother of God is with you
in Her image, brothers and sisters, sharing your parish feast day
celebration and your anniversary. For the duration of this parish's
existence, your grandparents and great-grandparents, and your parents,
too, were spiritually born in this church through the Mystery of
Holy Baptism. And further, all who were baptized here lived on through
the Grace-filled Holy Gifts, which the Church gives Her children
until the very end of their earthly lives, escorting them to the
eternal life." The First Hierarch touched upon the painful
divisions inflicted upon the Russian Church Abroad. "All of
us, brothers and sisters, are in sorrow that our long-time Archpastor,
Vladyka Metropolitan Vitaly, is not among us today. In 2001, for
reasons of his health, Vladyka asked the Council of Bishops to release
him from the obedience placed upon him. But then, under the influence
of those around him, he left our midst. For us, this is a great
In his conclusion, His Eminence wished the further flowering and
strengthening of St Nicholas Parish, "so that all who participate
in church life would prepare themselves for salvation."
Afterwards, a moleben of gratitude was served before the Kursk-Root
Icon, the icon of St Nicholas and the Iveron Icon. Upon venerating
the cross, worshipers were given printed copies of the icon of St
Nicholas with the words of the troparion to the Saint.
It was already three o'clock when the celebration moved to the Delta
Montreal Hotel, where the parish of St Nicholas Cathedral organized
a banquet attended by over three hundred guests. Two other parish
rectors of Eastern Canada came: Mitred Protopriest George Skrinnikov
(Holy Protection Memorial Church, Ottawa, Ontario) and Priest Viatcheslav
Davidenko (St Xenia the Blessed Church, Kanata, Ontario).
The ceremony began with the greeting of His Eminence Metropolitan
Laurus, who was presented with the traditional bread and salt by
the Cathedral Warden, Alexander Nikolaevich Volkov.
Afterwards, His Grace Bishop Gabriel, Secretary of the Synod of
Bishops, Administrator of the Eastern Canadian Diocese, gave St
Nicholas Parish a gramata [decree of blessing] from the Synod. Vladyka
Gabriel, speaking to the parishioners, noted that this decree is
given to each parishioner who through his own personal, tireless
efforts, enabled St Nicholas Parish to rise up once more to its
feet. There were so many such persons, that it was impossible to
list them by name, and so the hierarchs of our Church issued this
general decree of gratitude.
The decree states in part: "The 75 years of St Nicholas Parish
are truly years of the work of the Lord, through fear and joy and
trepidation before Him. We know how many difficulties and troubles
were endured by your parish over these last few years. But through
a divine miracle, through mutual brotherly love, meekness, humility
and persistence, together with the young pastors, the parish was
able to successfully continue the reconstruction of the Cathedral,
to attract a multitude of new parishioners and return more than
a few former ones. Today, St Nicholas Parish reminds us again of
its finest days, which it not only regained but is becoming yet
more splendid, larger and more beautiful before the Lord."
The Deputy Rector of St Nicholas Parish, Protopriest George Lagodich,
Nicholas Cathedral played a role in the lives of all those present
here today," said Fr George. "My brethren priests who
are visiting with us today are connected in one way or another to
Montreal: some were ordained here, some began their pastoral service
here, some were (and remained in their souls) Montrealites.
would like to say a great deal more in this brief address, but first
of all I wish to say that the peace and serenity that now reign
in our parish, which we had sought so earnestly, is truly a sign
of the Divine Grace, the gift of the Holy Spirit. People so easily
forget that, as though this was something achieved by our own efforts,
but I ask everyone to remember that without the direct will of the
Lord, we would never have emerged from that situation in which,
through our own sins, we found ourselves. Let us always thank the
Lord in our prayers.
most of all I wish to say a few words of thanks to you, my dear
parishioners of this much-suffering church. May the Lord save you
for your prayers, for your labors, for your devotion to the Church.
'But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved,'
is the promise given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and
the words of God are always fulfilled to the very last period."
After Fr George, a wide-ranging lecture was given by the President
of the Anniversary Committee, Subdeacon Peter Pavlovich Paganuzzi,
who is also Secretary of the Parish Council. The speech was on the
history of the parish, with masterfully-chosen slides, unique photographs
in which many of those present saw themselves and those dear to
them. Mr Paganuzzi's tale was very moving and equally informative.
E.V. Photopoulos congratulated the parish on behalf of the Mayor
of Montreal, herself a long-time parishioner--from a family of parishioners--of
St Nicholas Cathedral, presenting a decree signed by the Mayor himself
to the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of
Russia. Elena Vsevolodovna joyfully remarked on the events of the
day and reminded everyone of the traditions of years past, when
the head of the Canadian and Montreal Diocese of the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia, on Orthodox Pascha would present the city's
leader a red egg and a kulich [Paschal sweet loaf]. "We expect
you at the Mayor's residence this Pascha, bearing a red egg,"
said Mrs. Photopoulos to Metropolitan Laurus and Bishop Gabriel.
In conclusion, the First Hierarch shared with all those present
his memories of Vladyka Ioassaf of blessed memory, the bishop of
Canada and founder of St Nicholas Parish.
All those with whom the author spoke were unanimous: the anniversary
celebration on this feast day of St Nicholas the Wonderworker was
held with genuine, soul-brightening joy.