The Orthodox Church around the world is one church. Despite differences of language, music, styles of iconography and so on, the church professes one faith, celebrates the same liturgies and prays the same prayers. Nowhere is this unity more apparent than in the Orthodox faithful who, by moving to a new land, take their Orthodox faith with them. And among these faithful we must point out the saints who lived their faith in their new lands.
There are many saints who link the Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church here in North America, beginning perhaps, with St. Herman of Alaska in the 18th and 19th centuries, and continuing through St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco in the 20th century. And no doubt there are saints living among us today.
Among these saints, on October 31st the church celebrates the memory of St. John Kochurov. St. John was born on July 13, 1871 and graduated from the Ryazan Seminary and St. Petersburg Theological Academy. After graduating and after getting married and ordained as a priest St. John came to the United States as a missionary priest. He was the first priest at St. Vladimir’s Church in Chicago, which later became Holy Trinity Cathedral (completed and consecrated in 1902). The building of this church began during St. John’s time there, with the blessing of St. Tikhon, at that time the Bishop of North America, later Patriarch of Moscow and a Confessor of the faith. (A Confessor of the faith is someone who suffers for the faith but is not killed outright as a martyr is.)
St. John was active in the formation of many parishes in the Chicago area, as well as in Buffalo, NY and Hartshorn, Oklahoma. St. John translated religious texts into English, seeing the need for them in the future. He also helped to organize the first All-American Council in Mayfield, Pennsylvania in 1897. He was also chairman of the Mutual Aid Society.
St. John later moved to Narva, Estonia in 1907 but was soon transferred to St. Catherine’s Cathedral in Tsarskoe Selo, near St. Petersburg. On October 31, 1917 the Bolsheviks entered Tsarskoe Selo, arrested and shot St. John. He was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1994.
As far back as the 1890s St. John, as well as St. Tikhon, saw the need for a multi-national, multi-lingual church in the United States, which would combine a respect for the diverse linguistic, national, cultural backgrounds of its members with a commitment to a united Orthodox Church on the North American continent, which would reach out beyond the national backgrounds of its immigrant members to the wider, English-speaking society of the United States. The example of St. John Kochurov inspires us with the vision of an Orthodox Church in America and at the same time calls us to follow his example now, in the 21st century.
Holy Priest-Martyr John, pray to God for us.
Troparion — Tone 1
You were revealed to all as a true shepherd / O Hieromartyr John of Chicago, / for you nurtured your people in the Orthodox Faith, / guiding them by word and deed on the path of salvation, / and defended the Faith even unto the shedding of your blood. / Therefore, we, your spiritual children, cry out in thanksgiving: / Glory to Him who gave you strength! / Glory to Him who granted you the Martyr’s crown! / Glory to Him who through you grants mercy to all!