Father Michael Oleska, 75, died on Nov. 29 after suffering a stroke. He was a much beloved and sought-after Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in Alaska.
According to the website of St. Vladamir’s Theological Seminary in Kodiak, Father Oleska was administered last rights by Bishop Alexei of Sitka in the presence of his brother clergy and family.
A well-known, respected, and beloved figure throughout Alaska, he served as a missionary, cultural ambassador and defender of Alaska Native culture and history.
During his 35 years in Alaska, he served as a priest in more than a dozen villages and also taught as a university professor for the University of Alaska, while serving as a consultant on intercultural relations and communications. He authored several books on Alaskan Native cultures and history and earned his doctoral degree in Presov, Slovakia, in 1988.
He was a coveted speaker, both in the secular and religious realms, speaking at educational conferences, inter-faith dialogues and making a highly acclaimed four-part television series for PBS about communication across cultures.
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From his earliest days at seminary, Father Oleska had a passion for Alaska, jumping at the chance to serve as a catechetical instructor in Kodiak where he taught the faith to children and adults, blessed commercial fishing fleets and immersed himself in the traditions of both the church and the traditional culture.
He was described by fellow clergy as an inspirational man who used his many “God-given talents to defend the faith and boldly lead others into the mystery of the Orthodox Christian Church.”
At the time of his death, Father Oleska lived in Anchorage with his Yup’ik wife, Xenia, his daughter Anastasia, and one of his three grandsons.
Services for Father Oleska will be held at Saint Innocent Cathedral, 401 Turpin Street, Anchorage, AK, according to the following schedule:
— Dec. 4, 3 p.m., Panikhida and viewing
— Dec. 5, 10 a.m., Funeral Service. Burial will take place following the Funeral Service at Saint John Antiochian Cathedral in Eagle River.