Parishioners of Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral Remember Protopresbyter John Shachneff and Protodeacon Nikolai Porshnikoff


On November 24, on the day of the repose of the clergyman of many years of the San Francisco Cathedral, Protopresbyter John Shachneff, a pannikhida was served by the Cathedral's clergy, commemorating Fr John and the newly-departed Protodeacon Nikolai Porshnikoff, along with Jose Munoz, as this day is the feast day of the Montreal Icon of the Mother of God.

The future Fr John was ordained to the deaconate by Archbishop Dimitri (Voznesensky, +1947) of Hailar on the eve of the Dormition of the Mother of God, on the first anniversary of the death of Abbess Rufina in 1938 in Harbin at the Convent of the Mother of God of Vladimir. He was assigned to the Church of St Alexei in Modyagau, where he had served as altar boy under the famous Harbin sermonizer, Protopresbyter Peter Rozhdestvensky, since the age of seven. Two months later, Archimandrite Philaret (Voznesensky, +1985), future First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, invited Fr John to serve at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" at the House of Mercy under the rector and the founder of the podvorie [branch] of the Kamchatka brotherhood in Harbin, Archbishop Nestor (Anisimov, +1962), whose staff-bearer was the future Protodeacon Nikolai Porshnikoff, who was born in 1942. The House of Mercy had an orphanage for boys and girls, and also a home for the elderly and chronically ill. This was a wide field of activity for one entering the clerical service, for at the time, 176 persons lived there. The young deacon, who knew church singing and possessing an unusual baritone, taught singing at the orphanage. Children sang and read on the kliros every day, sang at services of need, gave concerts, etc.

In December, 1939, Deacon John was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Nestor of Kamchatka and Petropavlosvk, and in1948, when Archbishop Nikandr became ruling bishop of the entire Harbin Diocese (Vladyka Nestor had been deported to the USSR, where he spent 8 years in a correctional labor camp in Magadan), Fr John was transferred to St Nicholas Cathedral. Soon the voluntary evacuation of Russians from China began. On October 18, 1953, Fr John, having received a visa from China to Brazil, was released from his duties as a staff clergyman of the cathedral and assigned second priest at St Nicholas Cathedral in Sao Paolo. In 1957, at his request, he was transferred to the USA and appointed to Assumption Cathedral in Detroit, MI, to help the aged and ailing Archbishop Ieronim of Detroit and Cleveland, who died later that year in May, having spent over 30 years on his cathedra. After the repose of Vladyka Ieronim, Fr John was appointed rector of the Cathedral, and the Diocese of Detroit and Cleveland was joined with that of Chicago. On November 1, 1960, Fr John was released from his duties as Cathedral rector as a result of his transfer to California, where a great many immigrants from China settled. He arrived at the Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in San Francisco on November 5, 1960, on the eve of its feast day. From then on, Fr John served at the Cathedral until his death in 1995.

Fr John always remembered fondly his service at St Nicholas Cathedral in Harbin. When he joined this "academic family" of esteemed, seasoned clergymen, all Russian scholars, who took in the young Fr John with great love, as their equal, they did not err in their paternal attitude towards this young pastor. Fr John recalled that he would enter the altar of the Cathedral as though it were a great holiday; sighing: "These were fine pearls, fallen from the Royal crown of Holy Russia." Fr John especially loved the children and students of SS Cyril & Methodius High School. He did not yell at or berate the students, but approached them with tenderness and kind words of guidance, and the children understood and valued this. Fr John taught so skillfully that when the bell rang for the next class, students often sighed, saying: "Oh, too bad this interesting class is over already." In 1968, on the 30th anniversary of the clerical service of Fr John, Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev, +2000) of San Francisco and Western America gave him a Bible with the inscription: "This Holy Bible is given to you with a blessing to a good pastor, and also to a teacher of law, who found the path to the hearts of his students, Protopriest John Shachneff, in honor of the 30th anniversary of his priesthood. May the Lord remember the one who sows His Divine seeds in the church and school, our brother clergyman Protopriest John. Amen." In 1988, the 50th anniversary of Fr John's pastoral service was celebrated, elevated, by the decision of the Synod of Bishops, to the rank of protopresbyter.

Eternal memory kind Fr John. Let us pray to the Lord that He create new pastors like Fr John.