Pittsburgh, November 16, 2023
Last week, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America announced the canonization of the first female saint of North America, the beloved Matushka Olga Michael (†1979).
St. Olga is remembered as a humble mother, midwife, and priest’s wife who was filled with love for everybody, and especially abused women.
There are many miracles attributed to her intercessions and protection, some of which can be read about in the articles, “Matushka Olga Michael: A Helper in Restoring the Work of God’s Hands,” and “Will Blessed Olga be the First Female Orthodox Saint of North America?”
On Tuesday, November 14, two priests who have decades of experience of serving the Church of Christ in Alaska, Fr. Michael Oleksa and Fr. Nichoals Molodyko-Harris, joined Fr. Thomas Soroka on Ancient Faith Today Live to discuss the canonization, their ministry in Alaska, their personal experiences with Matushka Olga, and much more.
Fr. Michael told the wondrous story of St. Olga’s repose and funeral:
She became seriously ill, diagnosed with cancer. Two of her daughters went to Kodiak that summer and prayed at Spruce Island at the grave of St. Herman of Alaska, and by the time they got home just a few days later, their mother was out of bed and walking around. And her cancer went into remission for several years.
And then she became sick again and she began giving instructions to her family on how to bury her—she wanted to be buried in her wedding gown. She told them not to cry for her, but she was going to be fine—spiritually she was prepared.
The day of her death, the village priest—her husband had already died—so the village priest, a younger priest, came to the house, brought her the Holy Mysteries. She sat up in bed, she received Holy Communion, she laid down, folded her arms across her breasts, closed her eyes, and fell asleep in the Lord. It was the kind of death we pray for: “A Christian ending to our life, painless, blameless, and peaceful.”
And the wind began to blow. Everything had frozen because it was early November, but the wind blew and the ice on the river melted and people came to her funeral by boat. And the gravediggers had no difficulty. Usually you have to chisel through the frozen ground by that time of year, but they had no difficulty digging her grave and preparing her burial site.
In the Yupik manner, after the funeral, they took her coffin to the graveyard, but a flock of birds followed them. We have no birds in November—they’re smart enough to leave in August. But in her case, we don’t even know where those birds came from, but they followed the procession to the cemetery, and the people sang Paschal hymns until the grave was filed in.
And then the winds began to blow again, and the people hurried to their boats, returned to their villages, and that night the river froze. It was as if the earth itself had opened up to receive her.
Watch the discussion below: