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Our Lady of Kodiak

Our Lady of Kodiak

Q: Who is Our Lady of Kodiak?

A: Christianity was brought to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1793/94. The well-known Orthodox monk and saint, Herman of Alaska, was head of the initial group of missionary monks from the Russian monastery of Valaam. They settled on the island of Kodiak where a wooden monastery for the members of the mission, and a large wooden church in the name of Christ's Resurrection, were built. Herman, the Elder, lived on the nearby Spruce Island, or New Valaam. His devotion to Our Lady is well known. He attributed healing from a nasty carbuncle in his youth to the intervention of Our Lady. While living on Spruce Island, he prevented flooding with the help of a Marian Icon. The water did not go past the spot where the Icon was placed.

Today, the American Orthodox Church ( has a number of deaneries in Alaska. Several of the churches there are in the name of Mary, e.g., the Holy Assumption Church in Kenai since 1896. However, I am not aware of any title in the Russian Orthodox tradition hailing Our Lady of Kodiak, and represented with a special icon.

On the other hand, we have the picture of a wood-carved statue called Our Lady of Kodiak. We find it in the Roman Catholic tradition of Alaska. According to the very sketchy information in our possession, the statue was executed in Oberammergau (Germany) for the people of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Kodiak, Alaska. The Virgin is holding the infant Jesus on her right arm. In her left hand she holds a replica of the "Shuyak," a fishing vessel of the Kodiak fleet owned by the late Robert von Scheele.

Catholic missionaries found their way to the Aleutian Islands only in 1920. The Catholic Church is now organized in two dioceses and one archdiocese. On Kodiak we have the parish of St. Mary's. Attached to it is a Marian Center for the integration of Hispanic families in the area.

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