— The Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America was the site of a special session of the Holy Synod of Bishops Wednesday and Thursday, November 14-15, 2001, during which His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Baltimore and Auxiliary to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, was canonically elected to fill the vacant diocesan see of Sitka and Alaska.
The election took place two weeks after the 82 clergy and lay delegates to the Diocese of Alaska’s Assembly, convened at Saint Innocent Cathedral, Anchorage, AK October 29-31, 2001, unanimously nominated Bishop Nikolai as candidate for the position. His Eminence, Archbishop Gregory, retired Archbishop of Sitka and Alaska, chaired the Assembly at the request of Metropolitan Theodosius.
In mid-June 2001, Bishop Nikolai was charged with overseeing the life of the Diocese of Alaska after the transfer and subsequent suspension of His Grace, Bishop Innocent, who had been relieved of his duties as Auxiliary Bishop with the title of Bishop of Anchorage and transferred to the Auxiliary See of Hagerstown, MD. In the summer of 2001, Bishop Nikolai visited all the major deanery areas of the state and attended the annual regional conferences hosted by each deanery. He also worked to invigorate the life of Saint Herman Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kodiak, AK by encouraging greater enrollment and restoring the school’s authorization to operate under state guidelines.
According to Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, Bishop Nikolai will be installed March 4-5, 2002 at historic Archangel Michael Cathedral, Sitka, AK.
Bishop Nikolai was born in Butte, MT April 9, 1949, the son of Nikola and Vera Grace [nee O’Billovich] Soraich. His parents, both deceased, were active all their lives in the Orthodox community in Butte. Upon graduation from high school in 1967, he enrolled in Christ the Saviour Seminary, Johnstown, PA.
On August 8, 1970, he was tonsured a monk of the Lesser Schema with the monastic name Nikolai and ordained to the diaconate the following day. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 4, 1972 at Saint Stevan Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, Alhambra, CA.
After his ordination, Father Nikolai was assigned to Billings, MT, where he organized Saint Elijah parish. In 1974, the parish’s new church building was consecrated.
In 1978 and 1979, Father Nikolai pursued post graduate work in Theology at the Theological Faculty of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
Upon his return to the United States in 1979 he was sent to Las Vegas, NV, where he organized Saint Simeon Serbian Orthodox Church. In October 1983, the parish’s new church building and hall were blessed.
In 1988, Father Nikolai received a canonical release and was received into the ranks of clergy of the Orthodox Church in America. On November 13, 1988, he celebrated the first Divine Liturgy for the newly-founded Saint Paul the Apostle Mission. The parish hall was blessed in 1993 and the church was consecrated on May 13, 1995. During the consecration ceremonies, Father Nikolai was elevated to the dignity of Archimandrite.
In 1989, Father Nikolai was appointed to the Diocese of the West’s Mission Board, and shortly thereafter was appointed Board Chairman. In 1994, Bishop Tikhon created the Las Vegas Mission Deanery and appointed Father Nikolai as Dean. He served in this position for a very short time, as Bishop Tikhon appointed him Chancellor of the Diocese of the West in August 1994. In 1997, he was named Dean of the diocese’s monasteries.
Archimandrite Nikolai was consecrated to the episcopacy April 21-22, 2001, at Saint Seraphim Cathedral, Dallas, TX as the Cathedral was being consecrated by His Beatitude Metropolitan THEODOSIUS and members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America.
Complete coverage of Bishop Nikolai’s installation to the See of Sitka and Alaska will be featured on the web site of the Orthodox Church in America at http://www.oca.org and in The Orthodox Church newspaper.