In Memory of Bishop Alexander (Mileant) of South America
“I call upon you all, my dear brethren, to pray to God, that He lead our Church by His most-wise paths. The main thing is that you do not become angry, do not quarrel, do not break away into dubious uncanonical groups, but remain in ecclesiastical unity!”
Bishop Alexander, heading the Diocese of South America of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia from 1998-2005, is renowned far beyond its borders as an Orthodox theologian, missionary and spiritual writer.
From 1985 until 2005, his missionary publications included over 763 brochures, 300 of which are in Russian, 192 in English, 168 in Spanish and 103 in Portuguese. His works are valued not only in the Russian Diaspora but by world-wide Orthodox Christianity. Beginning in 1990, Fr Alexander’s brochures were sent to and eagerly read in the USSR as it shook off atheism.
Today we remember him as a person, as an individual who burned with love for Christ, His Church and his flock.
Alexander Vasilievich Mileant was born on July 22, 1938, in Odessa, to a noble military family. He was baptized in honor of Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky, whose feast day is 12 September (new style). That same day in 2005, at the age of 67, Vladyka died in California.
During World War II, his father disappeared at the front, and the family fled to the West from the Bolsheviks in 1944. They first lived in Prague, then Rome and finally, in 1948, arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the young Alexander finished a 7-year electro-technical school, then graduated Buenos Aires University. He worked as a machinery draftsman in several companies.
Since his youth in Europe, he served as an acolyte under Archbishop Panteleimon, who became the first bishop of the South American Diocese, then under Vladyka Afanasy (Martos). The hierarch had a large library of theological works. Wishing to study the lives of the saints in their original, Alexander first learned modern, then ancient, Greek.
In 1963, Alexander moved to America, where he enrolled in Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY, where he was ordained deacon by Archbishop Averky (Taushev) in 1966. During Great Lent in 1967, Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) ordained him a priest. He was assigned to Holy Virgin Protection Church in Los Angeles, where he served as rector for 31 years. His unusual talent as a pastor and preacher were first revealed there.
Fr Alexander established a parish school for over 100 students, and as one graduate remembers: “Fr Alexander was loved for his kindness and respected his intelligence… he was always meek and good-natured, despite the fact that the kids sometimes drove him and his fellow teachers to great distraction.” His kindness was also expressed during divine services. “He could explain things well and convincingly, never struggling for words. He could hold conversations with an easy smile, endearing parishioners and others to him personally. His sermons were always well crafted, with ideas clearly and laconically expressed.
“He spoke many languages fluently, and though we could only dimly understand his scholarly works, knew that he was a talented instructor.” In 1968, Fr Alexander earned a PhD in the University of Southern California in electronics. He went on to work for NASA. Fulfilling his duties in the Church, he continued to work until his very death, investing almost all of his earnings in his missionary and pastoral work.
Before his ordination, the future Bishop Alexander married a Russian girl from Argentina. They had three children, but his spouse later left him, which freed him to become a monk in 1995, bearing the same name but now dedicated to Hieromartyr Alexander of Kharkov. He was quickly elevated to the rank of archimandrite, and attesting to his level of theological knowledge, consecrated Bishop of Buenos Aires South America, the most difficult diocese of the Russian Church Abroad, but one he knew well and loved. The elevation took place on May 28, 1998, at the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady “of the Sign” in New York.
After a lengthy and heroic battle with cancer, Bishop Alexander reposed in the Lord on the night of September 12-13, 2005. Pannikhida services were held at the Holy Trinity Church in Oxnard, California. On September 18, 2005, his coffin was brought to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, where, on the following day he was buried.