Last month, the Orthodox Church in America decided to canonize Blessed Matushka Olga, an Alaska Native Yup’ik woman who died in 1979.
Born in 1916 and given the Yup’ik name, Arrsamquq, she lived a life of subsistence in the village of Kwethluk, Alaska, on the Kuskokwim River. Her husband, Nikolai Michael, was the village postmaster and general store manager before becoming a priest.
Living with humble means, Olga still gave generously to those in greater need, preparing warm clothes and boots and showing incredible empathy for those who suffered from various forms of abuse and trauma, especially women.
She also served as the village midwife, and gave birth to her own 13 children, eight of whom survived to childhood.
Long before her official cause for sainthood was underway, Olga was widely known as a holy and virtuous woman, and was venerated as such among her the people with whom she lived.
She will be the first female Orthodox saint of North America, and her life will be celebrated annually on October 28/November 10, and on the feast of All Saints, after Pentecost.
In his formal letter describing Olga’s life and faith, Bishop Alexei said she was renowned for her “humility, her generosity, her piety, her patience, and her selfless love for God and neighbor were well-known in the Kuskokwim villages during her earthly life.”
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“Her care for comforting the suffering and the grieving has also been revealed after her life by grace-filled manifestations to the faithful throughout not only Alaska, but all of North America,” he added. “The first peoples of Alaska are convinced of her sanctity and the great efficacy of her prayers.”
A special service will take place with Bishop of Sitka and Alaska Alexei to officially recognize Olga as a saint of the church, and icons and relics of her will be prepared for various churches in her honor.