A Saint for May — St. Alexis (Toth) of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania


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St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre can rightfully be considered an “American” saint. His feast day falls on May 7, and he is buried near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

St. Alexis was born in Austria-Hungary, in 1854, to poor Carpatho-Russian parents. Carpatho-Russians are a Slavic ethnic group who hail from an area in Eastern Europe that is centered on the Carpathian Mountains. Their historical territory has often been divided and traded between between the Russian, Austrian, and German Empires.  These areas are now located in present day Ukraine, southeastern Poland, and Slovakia.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Fr. Alexis was ordained a priest in 1878. In 1889 his presence was requested, and he was appointed to serve as pastor to a Greek-Catholic parish in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fr. Alexis then departed for America.

Fr. Alexis is notable for leading a large group of Eastern-rite Catholics back into the Orthodox Christian faith of their forefathers.  This was prompted partly by the strong hostility of the American Roman Catholic hierarchy at that time to Eastern-rite practices.  Fr Alexis contacted the Russian consul in San Francisco, and asked to be put in touch with a Russian Orthodox bishop.  Following correspondence and personal meetings with Bishop Vladimir of the Russian church in San Francisco,  Fr. Alexis and 361 of his parishioners were received into Orthodoxy in 1891.

From that time forward, Fr Alexis worked tirelessly, at great personal sacrifice, to proclaim the Orthodox faith, especially to those still attached to Byzantine Catholicism. For long periods of time, he received little or no salary and worked in a bakery to support himself. Through his work, thousands of Christians in North America were led into the fullness of the Orthodox Faith during his lifetime. The fruits of his work can still be seen in the present day Orthodox Church in America which has historical connections to the Russian mission planted in North America.

St Alexis reposed in 1909; He was officially glorified in 1994. his tomb and holy relics can be venerated at St. Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania.

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