To His Eminence the Most Reverend Nestor,
Bishop of the Aleutian Isles and Alaska
From Dean, Archpriest V. Vechtomov
June 4/16, 1879
On the basis of the resolution, made by Your Eminence to my report of May 21/June 2 this 1879 about the death of Peter Kashevarov, the priest in Kodiak, it is my duty to most humbly express the following considerations about filling the vacant places in the Diocese of Your Eminence.
There are at the present time four vacant positions in the Diocese of the Aleutian Isles and Alaska: two priests for Kodiak and Kenai, two readers in Sitka and Kvikhpak. Besides that, as of the middle of July, with the departure to Russia of [Matthew] Mits, who performed the duty of the reader [since 1875], there will be a vacant position of choir director at our Cathedral, in San Francisco.
Since there are in my opinion no dependable people, in Alaska and the Aleutian Diocese, who could be used by the Holy Orthodox Church to perform the duties of priest and missionary, I consider it completely necessary to try to send to Russia, making an announcement in Tserkovnii Vestnik [Church Messenger], for two people to fill the priest vacancies in Kodiak and Kenai, and also for a person who can fill the position of choir director at the Cathedral in San Francisco. I dare to think that such an attempt would also be timely, and completely useful for our Diocese, and finally could be practically accomplished.
I find such an attempt timely, because it is not possible at present to calculate a definite length of time for communication between Kodiak and Kenai, and San Francisco and back. Besides, even in the event of such communication there is no reason to consider at the present time that Your Eminence would select, after proper circumspection, two people who would be able to take the priests duties from the three readers, who are at the present time in these two parishes.
But besides the ability formally to take the priests positions, in those regions it is necessary, as it is anywhere in Alaska, to have a priest who would be able to defend Orthodox interests against the beginning missionary activity of Catholics and Protestants. It is very probable, that the near future will place in front of us a threatening problem; what to do to stop the departure of the people from Orthodoxy to other religious beliefs; if not in those parishes, then in any case in Belkovsk and in Unalaska, and at the Island of Paul and George, very rich perishes and therefore, having special significance to non-Orthodox missionaries. In such parishes the high position occupied by the priests is not justified either by their education, or by their energy in conducting their obligation (in official reports to me it is mentioned that the priests do not visit the central points of their parish, the chapels, even once a year). Is it possible that we will look on indifferently when "a wolf will separate the Orthodox flock?" What means will we use against that wolf? But by bringing from Russia two priests we will really have the means to prepare ourselves more or less for such a struggle.
After the arrival of these persons it will be possible, should such people be found among the readers that would be able to fill the positions of priests, to obligate those, to prepare themselves for these positions, by means of self education. Priest positions will always be found for more honest and able workers: since first, some priests, at the present time who have positions, are showing that they are not especially dependable, and secondly since, in the plan to make the Orthodox position stronger it is necessary, I think, that such parishes as Unalaska, the Islands of St. Paul and George, and even Kodiak, should be made parishes where there would be two priests; in that way the Orthodox people in these parishes would be able in more important situations in their lives to continue to receive the beneficial help given by the priest.
Concerning the practical possibilities of the intention mentioned above to bring priests from Russia, it seems to me, that at the present time it is very possible to do that. In Russia there are plenty of young people of good behavior, who have received not just an academic but a seminary education and who would with pleasure come in the name of the apostolic mission to our far away country. The rights and advantages of pension, described in the 1852 decree for the Kamchatka Diocese, could also be reasons and a great motivation even for already experienced priests in Russia to come to serve in our Diocese.
Finally the last question: from where to receive the necessary funds to pay for the travel of these people? In my opinion, it can be answered without any special difficulty. From vacant clergy positions last year there were funds remaining and in the present year the same is also foreseen. I allow myself to think, that if Your Eminence would request the Holy Synod to allow You the right to spend these remaining funds for necessities in the Diocese then the Holy Synod probably will not find any reason to deny this request.
Concerning the filling of the two vacant reader positions in Sitka and Kvikhpak, I find it possible to say the following: in Kvikhpak the filling of the vacant position of the reader is extremely necessary, since that parish extends over a large area, and the priest, who goes for missionary work, has to take the reader and leave the church unattended, and to leave the parishioners who live around the church without any religious and moral instruction for up to three, five months or even for half a year, which is not suitable. I presume that next year during the inspection of the Diocese by Your Eminence, able people will be found in one or another parish to fill this position.
Concerning Sitka there is crowding of the population, in one place, but with an insignificant number of parishioners (255 persons); filling the position of the second reader does not represent a necessity. But if Your Eminence would find it necessary also to fill this vacancy, then it could be filled, according to the petition of the priest [Nicholas] Mitropolsky enclosed herewith, by a boy the son of the Sitka reader. In the beginning I assume that this boy could be paid a part of the diocesan assigned salary, for example one third, 200 Rubles, and then if this boy will show that he is able to perform this position, then his salary could be increased and even be equal to the diocesan salary for the position held.
Concerning the replacement of the choir director at the church, I have to tell the following; with the departure next month of Mits, our choir will be completely in disarray. Since in all churches in America church music has a significant and important meaning, it is our duty because of our unique position to serve the great mission of Orthodoxy so that all the people would learn about One God, be united; therefore it is important to support our choir, and even work for its perfection. At the present time, concerning the last wish, I find it important to look for a means to end this shortage by bringing a person from Russia, who would successfully perform the described duties. The payment for his travel will also be made by Your Eminence, with the permission of the Most Holy Synod, from the sums remaining from the clergy vacancies in our Diocese during two years.
Finally I have to let Your Eminence know about the exact amount of the funds remaining from the clergy vacancies in these two years and also an approximate plan for their use according to the necessities of the Diocese and by permission received from the Most Holy Synod.
In 1878 the funds remaining from the salaries of clergy vacancies were 2052 dollars and 65 cents, that is 2800 Rubles. In the present year it is foreseen that the funds from the salaries of a priest in Kenai will be 1800 Rubles, from the salary of Kodiak 1612 Rubles, from the reader position at Kwichpach and Sitka up to 1000 Rubles. And the total for two years up to 7212 Rubles.
If the Most Holy Synod will permit the use of these funds for urgent needs in the Diocese then this sum could be distributed in the following way:
1. For the support of orphans and retired out-of-work clergy from 1879 and namely, for the orphan of the reader Sorokovikov 12 dollars, for the widow of the reader lvanov with children 84 dollars, for the widow of the priest Kashevarov with children 112 dollars, to the widow of the archpriest Kedrolivansky with children 350 dollars, for the widow of the subdeacon Netsvetov with children 115 dollars and 50 cents, for the widow of the priest Salamatov 60 dollars, for the unassigned deacon Shishkin 184 dollars and 80 cents; all total 918 dollars 80 cents (1208 Rubles).
2. For the repair of buildings: the dwelling for the priest at Kenai is falling apart and for the rebuilding of the church at Kodiak 2400 Rubles.
3. For the travel of two priests from Russia 1500 Rubles each 3000 Rubles.
4. For the travel of the choir director 600 Rubles.
According to the distribution, 2400 Rubles are allocated for repair of the dwelling for the priest and the rebuilding of the church but it will probably be insufficient; and since in the following year, during the inspection of the Diocese it will probably be confirmed by reports of some clergy about the necessity of releasing some funds for the repair of the clergy dwellings and also the building of some new, therefore, I allow myself to ask Your Eminence to make a request to the Most Holy Synod, that all the sums allocated for this fiscal year, which will not be spent for their designated purposes, be spent for the necessities described above and also for others, that can at the present time be predicted with certainty.
Your Eminences and Most Kind Father and Archpastors most humble servant,
Archpriest V. Vechtomov
From The Right Reverend Nestor, Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska, 1879-1882. Correspondence, reports, diary. Vol. 1. Translated and edited by G. Soldatow, AARDM Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1993, pp. 56-58