To the Most Holy Governing Synod
From Nestor, Bishop of the Aleut Islands and Alaska
February 24/March 11, 1882
San Francisco, California
Most Humble Report
Sending with this report the record book of the Orthodox people in the Aleutian and Alaskan Diocese who were at confession and who received Holy Communion, according to the latest available information, I have the honor to inform, that the considerable number of persons, which did not keep their Christian obligation, can be explained either by reasons not fully known to me, or by coincidental unfavorable circumstances.
A considerable number of people who did not come to Confession and Holy Communion is especially noticeable m the Kvikhpak Mission. I cannot say with confidence how that phenomenon can be explained, but assuming, I think, that here, besides the known unfavorable conditions for priests' activity - such as: lack of roads for communication, severe climate, a dispersed and unsettled population that roams from place to place, - there could also be a case of some kind of special reason, for example, such as sickness of the priest. To explain this phenomenon, the Administration, with my approval, has demanded from the Missionary in Kvikhpak a detailed explanation to this question, but no answer can be received sooner than August of this year. With the intention of avoiding the possible reoccurrence in the future of that kind of sad situation I find it quite necessary to learn the matter of that Mission directly personally. Therefore I plan in the present year, if that will be the Lord's wish, to go there myself to that unfriendly region.
The considerable number of people who did not come to confession and Holy Communion in the Kenai Mission and in the Kodiak parish can be explained essentially that, for both parishes in 1880 there was only one priest, who naturally did not have the possibility of visiting all Orthodox people, who were assigned to one or another church, to confess and give them Holy Communion. In July of the last year I ordained a separate priest for the parish in Kodiak. Therefore in the future, I hope, in these parishes, this sad situation described by the enclosed report will not be repeated.
For complete clarity of the reported information I have dutifully to add about the Orthodox people that live in San Francisco. In the column of the enclosed report there are no numbers for San Francisco that would show how many people did not fulfill their duty of confession and Holy Communion. That is explained by the reason that the clergy positively do not know the amount of Orthodox people that live in San Francisco. Besides, there is no positive information about those people who, - come, and belong to the church, - if they realty belong to our church. To satisfy their religious needs the majority of them do not come to us. Usually they do not go to church (with the exception of the first day of Pascha and the Nativity of Christ). They often have names that are heathen, such as Aristotle, Socrates, Pythagoras, or fictional. Very often we find out about the existence of one or another Orthodox already at the end of his life, at the time when 20-30 funeral carriages arrive at the church for a funeral procession. But even in the last moment of his earthly existence it happens, that the priest does not take any part. Some Orthodox person would register himself with some Mutual Aid Society where he pays one or two dollars monthly, and after his death his body is carried into the hall of that society and he is buried with prayers according to the rites of that society. The members make a more or less luxurious funeral procession, and at the end of all that the orphaned family receives a considerable assistance of 200-1000 dollars, according to the amount of payments that the deceased made. There is already not much for an Orthodox priest to do at such burials, even though some kind of zealot could call the priest to the deceased requesting "to perform quickly the requiem service, before the members of the society gather."
What is the reason hidden there for this sad occurrence? Is this the fruit of negligent pastors, the irresponsibility of persons, who do not know their pastoral duties well, or the assignment of a pastor? Putting my hand on my heart I can say, that this is not the case. In the beginning of my service here, when I arrived in San-Francisco, about 15-20 people were coming to our church for Liturgy. (There were almost no parishioners coming to the evening services.) I was told at that time, that we have to acquire our own decent church; then the Orthodox people will come to it. Now with the Lord's help and by the wish of Your Holiness there is such a church here. But what happens? Still not more people coming here. The eyewitnesses tell me, that at the time of my predecessor, the Right Reverend John [Mitropolsky], it was a usual event, that there were only one or two parishioners praying in the church.
The reason for this is to be found, according to my opinion, in the parishioners themselves. Who are they? The majority of them for one or another reason were forced to leave their country, they broke their family relations, they became used to pursue the means of daily bread; to do that without religion. Constantly meeting in the New World the same kind of homeless wanderers, which live outside of any kind of religious parish, naturally, reinforces the mass of our Orthodox people here in the conviction that "religion - is the occupation of the priests arid hypocrites."
Nestor, Bishop of the Aleutian Islands arid Alaska
From The Right Reverend Nestor, Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska, 1879-1882. Correspondence, reports, diary. Translated and edited by G. Soldatow. Minneapolis, 1993, Vol. 2, pp. 361-363