History of Patriarchial Parishes of Russian Orthodox Church in Canada

The first official representation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Canada took place on July 18, 1897, at Wostok, Alberta, 50 miles north-east of Edmonton. The new farming settlement of Slavic immigrants from the provinces of Galicia and Bukovina in Central Europe in the Austro-Hungerian Empire began settling on farming homesteads in the year 1892. Settlement in the Wostok area continued rapidly.

Place of the first Orthodox Liturgy in Canada

Place of the first Orthodox Liturgy in Canada

In 1897 several new arrivals, headed by Theodore Nemirsky, communicated by letter to Bishop Nicholas of the Russian Orthodox Church Mission in San Francisco, USA, with a request to send a priest to Wostok to conduct religious services. Bishop Nicholas responded to the request by sending two clergy – Reverend Dimitri Kamnev and Deacon Vladimir Alexandrov. They traveled 1200 miles by train from Seattle to Vancouver to Calgary to Edmonton, and finally, the last 50 miles by horse-drawn wagon to Wostok, through bush wilderness and winding trail to the Nemirsky homestead. Two days after the arrival, the two missionaries celebrated, under the open sky, the first Orthodox Holy Divine Liturgy on July 18, 1897, on the homestead farmyard of Theodore Nemirsky. It was attended by over 300 Orthodox Christians who came from the surrounding area by horse-drawn wagons, by horseback, and by foot from up to 20 miles in distance.

Continuing from 1900, for the next two decades, many new settlers arrived in Canada. They worked hard to build their homes, to develop the farm land and to provide the material needs for every-day living. However, they missed a very important need in their personal life…the opportunity of communal association for religious services and worship as they were accustomed to in their old country village churches.

Very soon, many churches were built and new parishes were established to accommodate the many faithful believers who wished to have a church for worship. Within the next decade, many Byzantine-style churches dotted the prairies of Western Canada. In 1901, Bishop Tikhon, head of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Aleutian Islands and North America, visited Canada, and on September 8, 1901 consecrated the first newly built church at Wostok, Alberta, dedicated to the glory of the Holy Lifegiving Trinity. Missionary priests came from the mother Russian Orthodox Church to celebrate the services required.

Today, after more then 100 years have passed, the Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Canada continue to serve and lead the Orthodox Christians in the jurisdiction of Moscow Patriarchate.

Now in Canada there are 25 parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate. Three of them are in big cities like Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton. 19 parishes are located rurally in the Province of Alberta, and 3 of them in the Province of Saskatchewan. The parishes in Canada are operated by the Administrator of Patriarchal Parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Canada in the rank of Bishop, and also by five priests.

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In rememberance of the first Orthodox Liturgy served on Canadian soil, thankful parishioners of the Russian Orthodox Church built a Memorial Cross located on the original site of the Theodore Nemirsky homestead. This monument is located at Wostok, 50 miles northeast of Edmonton.

Directions: Go on Hwy 45 east and turn right (south) on Road 182 and go south. The Centenary Site will be on your right.