Monday, August 8, 2011

St. Jacob of Atka

Joyous feast! St. Jacob (Netsvetov) of Atka, better known as St. Jacob of Alaska and also known as St. Yakov of Alaska, was born in the early 1800s on Russian Alaska's Atka Island to a Russian father, Yegor, and a local Aleut woman, Maria. St. Jacob loved the Church from his youth and when his family moved to Siberia he entered the Irkutsk Theological Seminary at the age of twenty-one.

In 1826 St. Jacob graduated from the Seminary, married, and was ordained to the deaconate and assigned to a parish in Irkutsk. Two years later Archbishop Michael of Tobolsk ordained the Saint to the priesthood and gave him two antimensia, one to be placed in a church he charged St. Jacob to build on Atka in memory of St. Nicholas and the other to be used during missionary travels.

That same year, 1828, St. Jacob left with his family for Atka, there serving a parish encompassing a number of islands covering some 2,000 miles of territory. Despite the vast size of his parish St. Jacob traveled frequently to preach the Gospel and visit his scattered faithful, doing a great deal through his teaching and way of life to strengthen the area in the Orthodox Faith, while also overseeing the construction of the Church of St. Nicholas on Atka and instructing the island's children in both the Aleut and Russian languages.

While living on Atka St. Jacob maintained an active correspondence with St. Innocent (Veniaminov) of Sitka, labored to translate the Bible and divine services into Aleut, and collected specimens for museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg in addition to providing for his family and serving his parish. In 1836 St. Jacob lost both his wife and his father, who had served St. Nicholas' as a reader, and petitioned the Church to be transferred to Irkutsk to enter a monastery there.

Although permission was granted for the transfer in 1837 St. Innocent persuaded St. Jacob to remain in Alaska. In Alaska St. Jacob continued to serve on Atka for another seven years before moving to the mainland to evangelize the nations of the Yukon. His subsequent years in southwestern Alaska were spent preaching and baptizing, building new churches, and bringing an end to the conflicts that had divided the local peoples.

In 1863 St. Jacob traveled to Sitka to appear in a case falsely brought against him by a former worker in his mission, after which he was assigned to serve a local Tlingit-speaking parish as his health had deteriorated too much to allow him to return to the Yukon. On 26 July 1864 St. Jacob fell asleep in Sitka and was buried at the entrance to the church he had served there, being glorified one hundred thirty years later by the American Orthodox Church that had grown out of his and others' missionary labors in Alaska.

More on St. Jacob's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

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