His Eminence, Archbishop Gregory [Afonsky], retired Archbishop of Sitka and Alaska, fell asleep in the Lord at his home here on the evening of Tuesday, April 15, 2008, three days before his 83rd birthday.
The son and grandson of priests, Archbishop Gregory was born George Afonsky in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 17, 1925. During World War II, he was taken by the German army to work labor camps in Germany. In 1949, he emigrated to the US, where he served as choir director at parishes in New Jersey and Connecticut.
After completing a degree at the University of Connecticut, he attended Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY, from which he graduated in 1965. Later that year, he was ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood. His first assignment was Saint Sergius Chapel at the Metropolitan’s Residence in Syosset, NY, (which would later become the OCA Chancery) where he served as Church archivist from 1965 to 1971. He also received a Master of Arts degree from Hofstra University and a Master of Theology degree from Saint Vladimir’s Seminary.
In November 1971, Fr. George was assigned rector of Saint Nicholas Church, Portland, OR, and shortly thereafter took monastic tonsure at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA, receiving the name Gregory. In March 1973, he was elected Bishop of Sitka and Alaska. His consecration to the episcopacy took place at Archangel Michael Cathedral, Sitka, AK, on May 13, 1973.
In addition to his duties as diocesan hierarch, Bishop Gregory was instrumental in establishing Saint Herman’s Pastoral School, Kenai, AK. He oversaw the school’s move to Kodiak, AK, and its elevation to the status of a theological seminary. He was instrumental in revitalizing many communities throughout the Diocese of Alaska, and delighted in attending annual regional conferences. He was deeply loved by his flock, especially the diocese’s native Alaskan population.
The author of several books in Russian and English, as well as numerous articles, His Eminence was a passionate researcher of the Church’s historical legacy in North America. He served as episcopal moderator of the OCA Department of History and Archives and chairman of the OCA’s Canonization Commission.
In 1995, Bishop Gregory was elevated to the rank of archbishop by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America. Later that year, after 22 years of fruitful archpastoral service in the Diocese of Alaska, he retired due to failing health.
After the fall of communism, Archbishop Gregory was reunited with his brother after nearly 50 years of separation, when his brother visited him in the US. Later, His Eminence was also able to travel to Russia and Ukraine.
Funeral services for His Eminence, Archbishop Gregory will be celebrated at the Nativity of the Holy Virgin Church, 316 Cassville Rd., Jackson, NJ. On Friday, April 18, 2008, at 6:00 p.m., His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania will preside at the Funeral Service for a Hierarch. On Lazarus Saturday, April 19, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, will preside at the hierarchical Divine Liturgy at 9:00 a.m. Interment will follow in the parish cemetery.
For more information on funeral services, please contact the rector of Nativity of the Holy Virgin Church, Archpriest John Prokopiuk, at (732) 928-8060.
May Archbishop Gregory’s memory be eternal!