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St. Herman Pilgrimage: Annual Trip to Monk's Lagoon
By Judy T. Fulp
Source: Kodiak Daily Mirror - Date: August 9, 2001

Amidst overcast skies and a slight drizzle and to the sound of bells joyfully chiming from Holy Resurrection Church, next to the Baranov Museum, a near-record number, maybe the largest group since the canonization of St. Herman in 1970, walked in procession to awaiting boats ready to take them to Monk's Lagoon.

Fr. Paul Jaroslaw of Homer's All Saints of America Antiochian Orthodox Mission shared on the boat ride over the spiritual significance of the trip to Spruce Island. He said, "There is a palatable holiness, the grace of God is present. Body, soul, earth, land, it penetrates the lives of people. It is very hard to describe; it touches the deep heart of one's soul." Later, he added a lighter note as the boat was almost at its destination, "do you think they have a Starbuck's here?" quipped Jaroslaw.

There was no Starbuck's on Spruce Island, but the over 200 visitors found spiritual refreshment indeed. On the boat ride back, Bishop Nikolai called the Pilgrimage, "Tremendous!" Even Susie Malutin, annual organizer admitted, "Sometimes it's 9 a.m. the day before that we get it all together." Getting things finalized for the Aug. 8 trip is not easy, but she adds: "Things happen at the right time."

Once off the larger boats and taken to land by small skiffs, people slowly made their way up to the little chapel of St. Herman, past the graves of the Very Reverend Archimandrite Gerasim Schmaltz, who died in 1969, and Archpriest Peter Kreta, who died in 1994. Later there would be, after the formal liturgy, a beautiful prayer service celebrated for them at the site of their graves.

"We will do the liturgy outside," explained Bishop Nikolai Soraich, for all to see, on the small chapel's porch, adding, "The church will be renovated, we have a grant to make the outside log."

High above the Chapel of St. Herman there was a grayish-white overcast sky, and some sprinkles began falling in the middle of the long service, but this did not diminish the celebration in the least. In fact, the singing rang out very strong and beautiful. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," they sang. On went the beatitudes, ending with "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven." The liturgy was full of Russian tones, deep chants, punctuated with a soft baby's cry occasionally, as the youngest pilgrim of two months got restless.

Following the liturgy and prayer service at the gravesites, a picnic lunch near the beach was held. It was a grand feast for all provided by the churchwomen from Ouzinkie.

People came from Homer, Eagle River and Dutch Harbor. Fr. John and Lynn Breck who now live in South Carolina and run a retreat house for pastors and their wives also attended, giving them a place for solitude and time to reflect. The Breck's lived in Kodiak and taught at St. Herman's Seminary from 1975-1978.

A huge effort by the local Russian Orthodox Church is required to put on this trip to Monk's Lagoon, as well as the rest of the festivities of the three days of Pilgrimage. Kodiak has once again been enriched by this tremendous effort.

Father Andrew and 25 parishioners from various parishes traveled to Alaska to participated in the pilgrimage. They cruised on SS Statendam from Vancouver, British Colombia through the inward passage, stopping in Seward, Juneau, Glacier Bay and ending in Ancorage at St. Innocent's OCA Parish. . From Anchorage they flew to Kodiak to participate in the celebration. Visits were also made to parishes in Eklutna, and Eagle River.

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