4. Serving under St. Tikhon
The year 1898 brought a great blessing for Orthodoxy in America, when Bishop Tikhon (Bellavin) was appointed by the Russian Orthodox Church to head the American diocese. A farsighted apostle of Christ, BishopTikhon would later become the Patriarch ofMoscowand all Russia, and would eventually be canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church.
On December 23, 1898, St. Tikhon arrived at his new cathedral city of San Francisco. He was met at the train station by Fr. Sebastian, by Hieromonk John Shamie (a Syrian priest from the Orthodox mission in Galveston, Texas), and by representatives of the various nationalities of the cathedral parish: Russian, Serbian, Greek, and Syro-Arab. Bishop Tikhon was at that time the only Orthodox bishop of theNorth American continent, the head of a vast multilingual and multiethnic missionary diocese.
By the time Bishop Tikhon came to America, Fr. Sebastian had become well known as a missionary not only at home but also abroad. In 1899 Fr. Sebastian received the Order of St. Anne from the Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. This order had been conferred on him through the influence of Bishop Nicholas, who, on returning to Russia the previous year, had had an audience with the Tsar and had recommended Fr. Sebastian for the award.
Two years earlier, in 1897, Fr. Sebastian had been awarded the Order of Daniel from Prince Nicholas of Montenegro, primarily in recognition of the pastoral care he had shown for Serbian immigrants who had come to America from Montenegro, and also for the articles he had written on the province of Montenegro and its struggles against the Turks. According to the testimony of St. Nicholai of Zhicha, Fr. Sebastian was also given awards by the King of Serbia and the Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Fr. Sebastian somehow found time, amidst his already abundant labors, to develop one of the first English translations of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, and also to write three English-language books on the Orthodox Faith: The Holy Orthodox Church: The Rituals, Services, and Sacraments of the Eastern Apostolic (Greek-Russian) Church (1898); Lives of the Saints, and Several Lectures and Sermons (1898); and Preaching in the Russian Church: Lectures and Sermons by a Priest of the Holy Orthodox Church (1899). In addition, he wrote articles on Orthodoxy in Alaska and California, and on Orthodox traditions surrounding the Feast of the Nativity of Christ.
In 1897, as he was completing his first book, The Holy Orthodox Church, Fr. Sebastian wrote about it to the above-mentioned Metropolitan Mihailo of Serbia: "In a few days I shall finish a book, which I am writing in English—17 chapters and a foreword—about the Orthodox Church, its rites, symbolism, liturgy, and sacraments, and how it differs from the Roman and Protestant churches, etc. If His Grace Nicholas blesses the publication of this book, I think and hope to God that it will be of use to the East and West, since I am fairly well acquainted with both." (When Metropolitan Mihailo reposed in 1898, shortly before this book was published, Fr. Sebastian included in the book these words of dedication: "To the sacred memory of the late Metropolitan Michael of Serbia, by his dutiful son in the spirit, the author.")
Published with money from his own small salary, Fr. Sebastian's books bore witness to the missionary vision of their author. As his letter toMetropolitanMihailo makes clear, they were intended to serve as books of basic Orthodox instruction, written for second- and third-generation immigrants from Orthodox lands, most of whom had English as their first language, and also for non-Orthodox who were interested in the Orthodox Church. While such books are common today, at the end of the nineteenth century they were a rarity and far ahead of their time. Anglicans, Episcopalians and others had by then translated and published some English-language books on Orthodoxy, but the Orthodox themselves had published very few expositions of the Orthodox Faith in English. Fr. Sebastian understood that, for the growth of Orthodoxy in America, this situation had to change—that the Orthodox Faith had to be taught and preached, not only in the languages of traditional Orthodox countries but also in the common language of the new country.
Fr. Sebastian's books bear witness as well to his ardent love for Jesus Christ and His Church, to the depth of his knowledge of the Orthodox Faith, to his careful adherence to the teachings of the Church, to his pastoral zeal, to his literary and poetic gifts, and to his profound sense of spiritual beauty. A large portion of the books consists of sermons that he gave in the San Francisco cathedral and in mission churches on various feast days. These sermons reveal him as an inspired preacher whose words could soar to the heights and at the same time strike deeply the hearts of his listeners. Consider, for example, these words from a sermon he delivered on Holy Friday:
"He Who prayed, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, has stretched out His arms on the wood in order to embrace a sinful world. But no mortal knoweth how the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word of God is not bound by death. As a word from the lips dies not entirely away at the moment its sound ceases, but rather gathers new strength, and passing through the senses penetrates the minds and hearts of the hearers, so also the Hypostatical Word of God, the Son of God, in His saving incarnation, whilst dying in the flesh, fills all things with His spirit and might. Thus when Christ waxeth faint and becometh silent on the Cross, then is it that heaven and earth raise their voice to Him, and the dead preach the resurrection of the Crucified, and the very stones cry out."
In other sermons included in his books, Fr. Sebastian shows himself to be a sensitive observer of the spirit of the times. His sermon "The Condition of Society" is seen to be especially prophetic today, over a century after he wrote it. In it, he lamented the rise of new trends in society that indicated an apostasy from the traditional Christian way of life: the "craze after unwholesome fashions"; the "nervous, unsteady rush to 'keep up with the times,'" in which parents are in such a hurry, and are so empty inside, that they deprive their children of a stable, secure Christian home; the exaltation of shamelessness among young women, and the disdain of the virtues of modesty and purity; the disrespect of young men toward their elders; the rising number of young people who wish to remain unmarried, and of married people who do not want to have children so that they can have as much pleasure as possible. "In view of all this," Fr. Sebastian said in his sermon, "the preacher of the Word of God is obliged by a terrible oath he has given before he received the gift of Apostolic succession at his ordination, to present to you the whole of the Truth, not a part of it."
As an Orthodox preacher of the Gospel to the modern world, Fr. Sebastian boldly challenged the unbelief that was increasing in his day and that has only continued to grow during the following century. His books included a lengthy treatise entitled "The Authenticity and Truthfulness of the Gospel," in which he defended the historicity of the Gospel narratives; an article called "The Necessity for Divine Revelation, and the Indications of a Revealed Religion," in which he showed why the Christian Faith alone is the full and unadulterated revelation of God; and an essay on "The Immortality of the Soul," in which he demonstrated that, contrary to the view of modern materialists, the soul indeed lives on and is active after the body dies, even as the body awaits the General Resurrection.
Fr. Sebastian's books also reveal how much he valued and venerated his holy missionary predecessors in America, Saints Herman and Innocent of Alaska. In one place, he included the name "Ghermanus of Alaska" in a list of particularly illustrious saints. This is striking in a book published in 1898—seventy-two years before the humble monk Herman was formally glorified as a saint by the Orthodox Church. In yet another book, Fr. Sebastian included an address he had delivered at the San Francisco cathedral on August 26, 1897, on the occasion of the centennial of the birth of St. Innocent of Alaska. St. Innocent, who had reposed in Russia eighteen years before, was still remembered by some of the Orthodox Christians then in San Francisco. At the request of Bishop Nicholas, Fr. Sebastian had produced the first English translation of the Life of St. Innocent, which was presented at the centennial celebrations. In his address, Fr. Sebastian proclaimed: "Innocentius: My whole being thrills with a veneration at the sound of that name.... I become bold and venture to look into the unseen, where I behold the spiritual eyes of our first hard-working Missionary, with kindly light beaming upon this gathering." Again, these words are all the more remarkable considering that they were uttered a full eighty years before St. Innocent's canonization. Undoubtedly, Fr. Sebastian looked on both uncanonized saints, Herman and Innocent, as models of emulation and as heavenly helpers in his own apostolic labors in America.
It was not merely through his books that Fr. Sebastian sought to introduce non-Orthodox Americans to the Orthodox Faith. According to Bishop Irinej, Fr. Sebastian "spoke tirelessly to countless individuals, making friends on all levels of society—from the common man on the street to the highest strata of American social, political, and religious life."
Ever seeking to reach out to those outside the Church, Fr. Sebastian initiated contacts and discussions with non-Orthodox churches. He made his greatest efforts in the direction of the Episcopalian Church, which, at the turn of the twentieth century, he saw as the most similar to the Orthodox Church among non-Orthodox American confessions, and also as the church most receptive to Orthodoxy. As early as 1865, two years after Fr. Sebastian's birth, the ober-procurator of the Holy Synod of the Russian Church had noted that an Orthodox church was needed in San Francisco not only to provide for the residents who were already Orthodox but also "to answer to the growing interest in the Orthodox Faith among American Episcopalians." Having grown up in San Francisco and having been entrusted with the apostolic ministry of the holy priesthood, Fr. Sebastian now sought to address this need. He met several times with Bishop Charles Grafton, Episcopalian bishop of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and was instrumental in organizing a conference of Orthodox-Episcopalian dialogue in Fond du Lac. In November of 1900, Bishop Tikhon, together with Fr. Sebastian and Fr. John Kochurov, rector of the Chicago cathedral and future New Martyr of Russia, attended the consecration of a vicar for Bishop Grafton. Three years later Bishop Grafton made a trip to Russia to experience the Orthodox Church there firsthand.
In all of his meetings with Episcopalians, Fr. Sebastian was sympathetic, respectful and understanding, appreciating the points in which Episcopalian doctrine and practice still reflected the original Orthodox Faith. At the same time, however, he was firmly convinced that he must reveal the Orthodox Church as the one, true Church of Christ.
This loving yet firm approach to the non-Orthodox confessions can be found in his books. At the beginning of his book, Preaching in the Russian Church, he placed as the epigraph the words of the Apostle Paul, Speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15)—a saying that he clearly took as his guiding principle in reaching out to those not in the Church. In the same book, having presented the above-mentioned articles establishing that the soul is immortal, that Christianity is the true Faith, and that the Gospels are historically verifiable, he followed with an essay entitled "The True Church of Christ," in which he painstakingly laid out the reasons why the Orthodox Church, and no other, is the true Church. Elsewhere, in an essay entitled "Sincere Religion," he said it was "foul treachery" for Orthodox Christians to make no distinction between the teachings of the different churches, and to deny that the Orthodox Church alone teaches Christ's truth purely and completely. "You will say," he wrote, "shall we then condemn our erring brethren? By no means. Christ forbids us to judge anybody, for only God knows whether our brother culpably holds the error, or whether he believes it to be the truth. But even if he believes his error to be the truth, error remains error, and can never become truth. Therefore, we must always condemn error, though we may not condemn the person erring."
Although Fr. Sebastian's efforts to bring Episcopalians into the Orthodox Church did not prove successful during his lifetime, St. Tikhon later noted that Fr. Sebastian was greatly responsible for making non-Orthodox Christians, particularly Episcopalians, aware of the teachings of the Orthodox Church. According to one biographer of Fr. Sebastian, some of the Western Rite parishes that were received many years later into the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America pointed to these early efforts of Fr. Sebastian as a significant stepping-stone in the return of Episcopalians to the Orthodox Church.
From the beginning of his time in America, St. Tikhon had recognized Fr. Sebastian's abilities as a missionary pastor. In 1900 he appointed Fr. Sebastian to the North American Ecclesiastical Consistory, which was the diocesan council of the entire American mission. Then, in 1902, he appointed him as the Dean of the Sitka Deanery and the superintendent of Alaskan missions. Thus, after an absence of eighteen years, Fr. Sebastian returned to Alaska. He served the Sitka Deanery for two years, during which time St. Tikhon elevated him to the rank of abbot.
During his time in Alaska Fr. Sebastian made contact with a group of Serbian and Russian miners in Douglas, near Juneau, and quickly set about providing an Orthodox church for them. Land was donated by the local mining company, and a donation for the church's construction was sent from the Holy Assembly of Bishops in Serbia. Fr. Sebastian built the church with his own hands, working together with the local Orthodox Christians. On July 23, 1903, Fr. Sebastian, along with Hieromonk Anthony (Deshkevich-Koribut) and the priest Aleksandar Jaroshevich, consecrated the Church of St. Sava in Douglas.
Upon leaving Alaska in 1903, Fr. Sebastian went to Chicago, Illinois, where he continued the work he had initiated a decade earlier of establishing a Serbian parish. On this trip he met many more Serbs than he had during his first trip to the city. He stayed for a week and served the Divine Liturgy for them. A number of families pledged their support in building a church.
During the same year Fr. Sebastian also paid another visit to the Serbian community in Butte, Montana, encouraging the parishioners to raise money to build a church and obtain a resident priest. Then, after a brief stay in San Francisco, he left on a trip to Russia and Serbia.
Within four months after Fr. Sebastian's visit, the parishioners in Butte, Montana were able to raise enough money to start building a temple dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The church was completed in the fall of 1904, and on the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner, August 29/September 11, Fr. Sebastian served the first Divine Liturgy in the new church, assisted by the Serbian priest, Hieromonk Jacob (Odzhich). On Vidovdan, June 15/28, 1905, St. Tikhon consecrated the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in
Butte, assisted by Fr. Sebastian and by Fr. Jacob, who became the church's first permanent priest.
Due to the growth and diversity of the American diocese, St.Tikhon had by this time begun to restructure it with the blessing of the Holy Synod in Russia. In 1903 he transferred the diocesan see from San Francisco to New York and assisted in the consecration of a Russian vicar bishop for Alaska, Bishop Innocent (Pustynsky). At the same time, in the Orthodox spirit of sobornost (catholicity), he sought to provide for the needs of his multiethnic Orthodox flock in America, realizing that each ethnic group required special attention and leadership. As he wrote to theHoly Synod in Russia in 1905: "We do not consider that we have the right to interfere with the national character of the churches in this country; on the contrary, we try to preserve it, giving each a chance to be governed by leaders of the same nationality." With this in mind, in 1904 he took part in consecrating Archimandrite Raphael (Hawaweeny), later canonized as St. Raphael of Brooklyn, as a vicar bishop for the Syro-Arab Orthodox churches in America.
St. Tikhon also planned to consecrate a vicar bishop for the Serbian Orthodox churches in America. In March 1905 he established the Serbian Orthodox Mission in America, centered in Chicago. Anticipating that Fr. Sebastian, like St. Raphael for the Arabs, would become the bishop for this mission, he transferred him to Chicago and placed him in charge of the Serbian OrthodoxMission. At the same time he appointed him as the parish priest of the Serbs in Chicago, although they did not yet have a church.
A year earlier, in 1904, Fr. Sebastian had made a third visit to Chicago, spending two weeks with the Serbs there and again celebrating the Divine Liturgy for them. Now, as the acting Serbian Orthodox priest for the city, he came there for the fourth time to stay. He lost no time in fulfilling his long-held goal of founding a church for the Serbian community. Soon after his arrival in June of 1905, he served the Divine Liturgy in a rented hall on Milwaukee Avenue, with about two hundred Serbian families in attendance. Immediately afterward, he organized a parish committee and began looking for a building suitable for the new church. Within a matter of days, the first Serbian Orthodox church in the city had been established. As he later recalled:
"After some days we found a place for the new church, which was located at 8 Fowler Street, on the corner of Evergreen and across from Wicker Park. We put down a $1,000 deposit (donated by Acim Lugonja). The remaining $6,500 was to be paid with interest. We created an improvised chapel immediately, made an iconostasis, and raised a cross on the building, all within several days. The first Liturgy was held, and the church was consecrated to the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, on the 4th of July, 1905." On September 18, 1905, St. Tikhon raised Fr. Sebastian to the rank of archimandrite at the Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church in Chicago. In the words he addressed to Fr. Sebastian on this occasion, two things are evident: first of all, the genuine love and concern that this wise hierarch had for the Serbian flock in America, and secondly the great esteem he had for Fr. Sebastian in entrusting to him the spiritual guidance of the entire Serbian Mission. To Fr. Sebastian he said:
"I greet you, most honorable Father Archimandrite Sebastian, with your elevation to the rank of archimandrite and your assignment as head of the Serbian Mission in America. You were entrusted by the diocesan authorities even earlier, as a native Serb, with the administration of one or another of the Serbian parishes here. Now you are being called to a greater ministry: upon you is being laid the care of all the Serbian churches in our extensive diocese and of the spiritual needs of all the Serbs in America. You know how many of them are scattered here, how often they go astray like sheep that have no shepherd, how they end up in a foreign home, and how, having come here for work or to become rich, some of them become spiritually impoverished and, in this heterodox country, lose the great spiritual treasure of the old country: the holy Orthodox Faith, love for the Slavic people, and fondness for their good native customs. Our benevolently solicitous hierarchy, which is always concerned about the needs of the Slavs, who are of one blood with us, desires to have mercy on these people, and is calling upon you now to spiritually guide the Serbs who are living here."
The newly elevated Archimandrite Sebastian served as rector of the church he had founded in Chicago. During his time as head of the Serbian Orthodox Mission, he tended to the needs of the many Serbian communities throughout the country. He also initiated the publication of the Herald of the Serbian Church in North America, the first Serbian Church newspaper in the United States.
In 1905 St. Tikhon entrusted Fr. Sebastian with the task of procuring written permission from the hierarchy in Serbia for the consecration of a vicar bishop for the Serbian Orthodox Mission. Taking this task very seriously, Fr. Sebastian wrote letters to Patriarch Georgije and to the Holy Synod of Bishops in Serbia, asking for a letter confirming that, as far as they were concerned, there was no obstacle to the appointment of a bishop for the Serbs in North America. The hierarchy in Serbia, however, not knowing firsthand the situation of Serbs in America, and also not being certain of the relationship between the Russian and Serbian hierarchies in the context of America, replied that they were not prepared to send such a letter to the Holy Synod of Bishops in Russia. Meanwhile, some Serbian congregations in America, not wanting to be under the Russian Church even if they could have a Serbian vicar bishop, were appealing directly to bishops in Serbia for archpastoral support and direction.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Church honored St. Tikhon with the title of archbishop in 1905, and two years later assigned him as to the see of Yaroslavl. Thus, St. Tikhon left America with many of his plans for the American archdiocese unrealized. Before his departure for Russia, he did not neglect to show his appreciation for Fr. Sebastian's many labors. As St. Nicholai of Zhicha records:
"Archimandrite Dabovich could have been a bishop even in 1907. The Russian archbishop wanted to consecrate him as a Russian bishop for the Serbian people. But the Serbs did not want it that way. Archbishop Tikhon was sorry about that. He was eager to show his appreciation to Fr. Dabovich for all his wonderful work. Failing to make him a bishop, he did something else. Once when he celebrated the Holy Liturgy in the Serbian church in Chicago, he presented our archimandrite with a precious mitre, which was worth 1,000 roubles in gold. But Fr. Dabovich quickly sold that precious gift and gave it to the church towards paying its debts. Such a man was he. He was absolutely unselfish."
 Ibid., p. 85.
 "Rev. Sebastian Dabovich Honored by the Czar of Russia," The San Francisco Call, Wednesday, June 17, 1899.
 Bishop Nicholai (Velimirovich), "Father Sebastian Dabovich."
 Mirko Dobrijevic (Bishop Irinej), p. 15.
 Hieromonk Sebastian to Metropolitan Mihailo of Serbia. Written in San Francisco, December 14, 1897. Quoted in Bishop Sava, pp. 23–24.
 Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, Preaching in the Russian Church (San Francisco: Cubery and Company, 1899), p. 130.
 See pp. 88–90 below.
 Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, Preaching in the Russian Church, pp. 160–62.
 Ibid., pp. 9–63.
 Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, The Holy Orthodox Church: The Rituals, Services, and Sacraments of the Eastern Apostolic (Greek-Russian) Church (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, 1898), p. 74.
 American Orthodox Messenger, no. 2, September 15–27, 1897, pp. 45-46. In Russian.
 Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, The Lives of the Saints, and Several Lectures and Sermons (San Francisco: The Murdock Press, 1898), pp. 164–66.
 Mirko Dobrijevic (Bishop Irinej), p. 15.
 Tarasar and Erickson, p. 33.
 Mirko Dobrijevic (Bishop Irinej), p. 15.
 Vallens, p. 6.
 Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, "The Madonna of Alaska: A Tale of the Greek-Russian Church in Many Lands" [an overview of Orthodox Nativity traditions], The San Francisco Sunday Call, Christmas Number, December 20, 1903, sec. 2, p. 1.
 Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, Preaching in the Russian Church, p. 4.
 Ibid., pp. 64–77. This article was reprinted in The OrthodoxWord, no. 5 (1965), pp. 182–87, along with an article by Eugene (later Fr. Seraphim) Rose about Fr. Sebastian (see p. 70 below).
 Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, The Lives of the Saints, and Several Lectures and Sermons, p. 181.
 See p. 53 below.
 Vallens, pp. 7–8.
 Gray, p. 78.
 Fr. Sebastian Dabovich to the Religious Council of the Diocese of North America in New York. Written in Los Angeles, December 2, 1915. Quoted in Bishop Sava, p. 256 (see also pp. 43, 240). In 1937 the church in Douglas burned down, but the Serbian cemetery still remains nearby.
 Vallens, p. 5. This church building served the congregation for sixty years, until the opening of a new copper mine forced the razing of the entire area. A new church, also dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was built at another location, and was consecrated by Bishop Gregory (Udicki) in July 1965. (See Bishop Sava, pp. 257–58.)
 Quoted in Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, 1905–2005, p. 52.
 In 1936–1937, the address was changed to 1950 West Schiller Street.
 Fr. Sebastian Dabovich to Protopresbyter Petar Stajchich, Ravanica Monastery in Srem, 1935. The church building on Fowler Street served the parish until 1932, when a new church was built on the same spot. A Chicago Tribune article from 1932 stated that only two buildings were being built in the city at that time, in the midst of the Great Depression: one was the post office, and the other was Holy Resurrection Church. In 1964 the church was elevated to the title of Cathedral, and in 1975 a new church building was consecrated for the congregation on Redwood Drive.
 Slovo Pravoslaviya v Amerike: Propovedi i poucheniya Svyatitelya Tikhona (The Word of Orthodoxy in America: Sermons and Teachings of Holy Hierarch Tikhon) (Moscow: Sretensky Monastery, 2001), pp. 143–44. Translated from Russian.
 Bishop Sava, pp. 29–30.
 Bishop Nicholai (Velimirovich), "Father Sebastian Dabovich."