The Life of Archbishop Seraphim (Ivanov), Second Ruling Hierarch of the Diocese of Chicago & Detroit

abpseraphim.jpg (880704 bytes)



Vladika Seraphim, in the world Leonid Georgievich Ivanov, was born in Kursk in 1897, where he attended elementary and secondary school, graduating from the Kursk Classical Gymnasium (High School) in 1915. He then went on to study at Moscow University in the Philosophy Faculty, but his education was interrupted by World War I when the young Leonid joined the Imperial Russian Army. He volunteered for the front with the 1st Siberian Corps, where he took part in the Brusillov Offensive. He was then assigned to the Sergievsky Artillery School in Odessa, and on 15 August 1917 was sent back to the front. After the collapse of the Russian Army, he visited Kursk for a short time for the funeral of his mother in the fall of 1918. He then joined the Volunteer (White) Army, serving in the Markovsky Brigade of the Kornilov Regiment, taking part in the offensives on Kursk and Kharkov. During the retreat of the White Army towards the Crimea, he contracted typhus and spent time in the hospital in Feodosia. Evacuating from Russia with the White Army, he emigrated to Yugoslavia.

In Yugoslavia, the young Leonid continued his education at Belgrade University, where he enrolled in the Philosophy Faculty, but soon switched to the Theology Faculty. After finishing his studies, he served as a teacher of the Law of God in a Serbian High School in Skopje. In 1926, while on summer vacation from his teaching duties, he undertook a pilgrimage to Holy Mount Athos. The previous year, he had heard accounts of the ascetic life of the Russian hermits on the Holy Mountain, and went there to seek guidance from a holy elder in order to decide his future.

He arrived on the Holy Mountain in late June of 1926, and stayed with the Elder Theodossy of Karoulia in order to prepare for monastic tonsure. Elder Theodossy told the young school teacher that if he accepted the monastic tonsure from him, he would have to remain in Karoulia for the rest of his life; the future Vladika Seraphim agreed. Elder Theodossy then sent him to his confessor, the blind Hieroschemamonk Elder Ignaty.

The young Leonid then left with a guide to climb the steep mountain slope to visit Elder Ignaty. The blind Elder twice referred to the young school teacher as a monk; When he explained that he was not a monk, the Elder replied, 'And I tell you, you are a monk...' After confessing his entire life to the elder, and telling him that he desired to become a monk and remain forever in Karoulia, the elder said, 'Let's pray to God."

After the elder recited the prayers of absolution, he told the young Leonid, 'Go back where you came from; you are needed there. Pray to the Great Martyr Panteleimon. You will find an elder in another country."

Returning to Elder Theodossy and relating what Elder Ignaty had said to him, Elder Theodossy then told him that Elder Ignaty's insistence on calling him a monk meant that he blessed his intention to be tonsured; his advice to return to Yugoslavia and pray to the Great Martyr Panteleimon meant that he should not be tonsured by Elder Theodossy, but that he would receive the tonsure at the Holy Monastery of Saint Panteleimon. The prediction that he would find an elder in another country meant that the young Leonid would not stay long in Yugoslavia, but would labor in some other country. Years later, Vladika Seraphim remarked: "Everything happened as the elder had foretold to me." I was tonsured at Saint Panteleimon's Monastery. I spent two more years in Skopje, and then went to Carpatho-Russia, to Vladimirova, to Archimandrite Vitaly, later Archbishop, in whom I found an elder."

The young school teacher was tonsured a monk at the Holy Monastery of Saint Panteleimon on Mount Athos on 1 August 1926 (according to the Church calendar), the day the Holy Church commemorates the Opening of the Relics of Saint Seraphim of Sarov. At his tonsure, he was given the name Seraphim.

Returning to Skopje, he was ordained to the priesthood by Metropolitan Varnava of Skopje, later Patriarch of Serbia. The young hieromonk Seraphim served as a parish priest in Skopje until 1928, when he joined the brotherhood of the Monastery of Saint Job of Pochaev in Ladomirova, Czechoslovakia.

In 1934, the abbot of the Monastery, Archimandrite Vitaly (Maximenko), was consecrated to the episcopate for service in America. At that time, Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) elevated the future Vladika Seraphim to Archimandrite and appointed him abbot of the Monastery of Saint Job of Pochaev.

In 1938, at the Second All-Diaspora Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in Belgrade, Archimandrite Seraphim delivered a report 'On Monasteries and Monasticism,' which included several recommendations concerning the establishment and activities of Monasteries in the Diaspora.

During the years that Archimandrite Seraphim led the brotherhood of the Monastery of Saint Job of Pochaev, the printing facilities were built up to the point that the Monastery became the most important printing center of the Church Abroad before World War II. During World War 11, the Monastery played an important role in printing Orthodox literature for distribution in the German occupied areas of the Soviet Union. The brother- hood printed and distributed Altar Gospels, Psalters, Priest's Service Books, and 200,000 small Gospels in Russian and apologetical leaflets. The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church demonstrated its support and appreciation for the missionary printing labors of the brotherhood in the form a donation of one million leva. In October of 1943, Archimandrite Seraphim delivered a report on the brotherhood's publishing activities to the Council of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad in Vienna, Austria.

In 1944, the brotherhood was forced to flee from the Monastery in order to escape the advance of the Red Army into Czechoslovakia. After a stay in Germany, the brotherhood then went to Switzerland. In February of 1946, Archimandrite Seraphim was consecrated to the episcopate as Bishop of Santiago and Chile. The consecration took place in the Cathedral of the Elevation of the Holy Cross in Geneva, and was presided over by Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky), assisted by Bishop Ieronim (Chernov) of Montreal and Canada (later Archbishop of Detroit and Flint), and Bishop Nafanail (L'vov) of Brussels and Western Europe (later Archbishop of Vienna and Austria). After participating in the Council of Bishops, which met in Munich, Germany in May of 1946, Vladika Seraphim, unable to assume the post in Chile, emigrated with the brotherhood to the United States, where they joined the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. Vladika Seraphim was named Abbot of the Monastery, and Bishop of Holy Trinity, and was a Vicar of the Diocese of Eastern America. In November of 1946, as an introduction to the turbulent situation of Orthodoxy in America, Vladika Seraphim attended the infamous 'Cleveland Sobor," during which the North American Metropolitan District seceded from the Church Abroad. As a newly arrived Bishop in the United States, Vladika Seraphim attended as a guest observer.

It was on Vladika Seraphim's initiative that the New Kursk Root Hermitage was founded in Mahopac, New York in 1948. The Hermitage served as the home of the Holy Kursk Root Icon and as the headquarters of the Synod of Bishops from 1951 to 1958, when both moved to their present quarters at 75 East 93rd Street in New York City. Vladika Seraphim served as head of the Hermitage from 1951 to 1957; during those years, he also became a permanent member of the Synod.

Upon the repose of Archbishop Gregory (Borishkevitch) of the Diocese of Chicago, Detroit and Midwest America in October of 1957, Vladika Seraphim was appointed to head the Diocese. In 1959, he was elevated to Archbishop. In 1960, in a brotherly effort to aid the Greek Old Calendar Church, Archbishop Seraphim and Bishop Theophil (lonescu), a Romanian hierarch who belonged at that time to the Church Abroad, consecrated Archimandrite Akakios (Pappas) to the episcopate. At that time, the Greek Old Calendar Church was without any hierarchs, and Archimandrite Akakios had been selected as a candidate for the episcopate by a council of 100 Old Calendar priests in Greece. The consecration was not sanctioned by Metropolitan Anastassy and the Synod, but was finally confirmed by Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) and the Synod in the late 1969.

Also in 1960, Vladika Seraphim established the Organization of Russian Orthodox Pathfinders (ORPR), and found and purchased land in a rural area 100 miles west of Chicago for the establishment of a children's summer camp to be operated by the ORPR. The property was named "Vladimirovo," and today is home not only to the ORPR Summer Camp, but also to Saint Vladimir's Parish, and a 'Russian Village" of retirement and sum- mer homes.

Vladika Seraphim had a great love for youth, and for the Summer Camp he founded. With his kellenik, Archimandrite Feofan (Shishmanov), Vladika Seraphim spent every summer at Vladimirovo, celebrating the Divine Services for the Camp, and instructing the children in the Holy Orthodox Faith. Due to his love for and experience in working with youth, Vladika Seraphim was appointed by the Synod to oversee work with youth for the entire Church Abroad. Vladika Seraphim continued to be active at the ORPR Summer Camp until declining health and old age no longer allowed him to do so.

In 1974, Vladika Seraphim requested that Igumen Alypy (Gamanovich) of Holy Trinity Monastery be consecrated to the episcopate as Bishop of Cleveland, Vicar of the Chicago-Detroit Diocese, in order to help administer the Diocese. The consecration took place in the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in Chicago in October of 1974.

From 1976, Vladika Seraphim was first deputy to Metropolitan Philaret. In the mid 1980's, Vladika Seraphim and Archimandrite Feofan went to live at the New Kursk Root Hermitage in Mahopac, New York. Although bodily weak and infirm, Vladika Seraphim retained his mental clarity until the very end. He reposed in the Lord at the New Kursk Root Hermitage in Mahopac in 1987, and was buried in the cemetery there. Archimandrite Feofan, who survived him for only a short time, is buried alongside Vladika Seraphim.

Vladika Seraphim authored numerous articles, which appeared in various Church periodicals, and was editor of Pravoslavnaya Rus for several years, beginning in Czechoslovakia and continuing at Jordanville. He also authored several books, among which were Palomichestvo v Svyatuyu Zemlyu (Pilgrimage to the Holy Land), and Odigitria Russkago Zarubezhye (Directress of the Russian Emigration), which is a complete and detailed history of the Holy Kursk Root Icon. Vladika also frequently addressed his flock on the Russian radio program Zarya. Two books of Vladika's radio talks were published in Chicago, one in 1968, one in 1972.

Although remembered as a strict and somewhat stern hierarch, Vladika Seraphim is also remembered as an Archpastor who loved and cared for his flock; those who knew him revere his memory. May his memory be eternal!


- - "Sovyeshchanie arkhiereev v Vien'
Pravoslavnaya Rus
Nos. 11-12, 30 October 1943
Monastery of Saint Job of Pochaev
Ladomirova, Czechoslovakia

Alexeeva, Ludmila
'Zhiznenni Put Arkhiepiskopa Serafima'
ORPR: 1960-1985
ORPR Minneapolis Chapter
Minneapolis, Minnesota 1985

Holy Transfiguration Monastery
A History of the Russian Church Abroad: 1917-1967
Saint Nectarios Press
Seattle, Washington 1972

(Karambalas), Archimandrite Cherubim
Contemporary Ascetics of Mount Athos, Volume 2
Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood Press
Platina, California 1997

Psarev, Andrei
'Zhizneopisanie Arkhiepiskopa Leontiya Chiliskago'
Pravoslavnaya Zhizn
Numbers 555 (Mar.), 556 (Apr.), & 557 (May), 1996
Holy Trinity Monastery
Jordanville, New York

Seide, Fr. Georg
Geschichte der Russischen Orthodoxen Kirche im Ausland von der Grundung bis in die Gegenwart
Otto Harrassowitz
Wiesbaden, Germany 1983

Seide, Fr. Georg
Monasteries and Convents of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad Translated by Theophilos Lasswell
Monastery of Saint Job of Pochaev
Munich, Germany 1990