THE RIGHT REVEREND JOASAPH, BISHOP OF EDMONTON 28.12.1897 – 18.10.1978
Bishop Joasaph, in the world – Stephan Antoniuk, was born on December 16 (28), 1897 in the city of Kobrin (Grodno region, currently in Byelorussia). In baptism he was given the name Stephan in honor of the Holy Hierarch Stephan the Confessor, Archbishop of Sourozh.
After finishing high school in Brest-Litovsk, he passed the examination in Cheliabinsk for the right to teach in elementary schools and worked as a teacher. In May 1920 he was drafted into the army of Admiral Kolchak and worked as a clerk until the remains of the defeated army retreated to China.
Even as a student, young Stephan felt a strong attraction to the Holy Church and began to take enthusiastic part in its life. At that time he had a dream in which his patron Saint was beckoning him with one hand and pointing to a church with the other. Stephan told his dream to a priest, who interpreted it as a call to serve God and His Holy Church.
The Revolution forced the Antoniuk family to flee to the Orient, first to Siberia and then to China. In Harbin young Stephan’s priestly vocation made itself felt with full force. It was expressed by his deep sense of personal unworthiness and the sincere desire to serve Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church with all his strength. His wife Elikonida, being herself deeply religious, encouraged her husband in his desire and helped him in everything, and so Stephan Antoniuk entered the Seminary in Harbin to study for the priesthood.
Continuing to teach in a Russian school, he began to devote more and more of his time to serving the Church. He read and sang at the service in St. Nicholas Cathedral and helped wherever he was needed. He became a reader, then a deacon, and finally on the feast of the Annunciation, 7 April 1923, he was ordained to the priesthood.
The next seven years, which Fr. Stephan spent with his family in China, were marked by his inspired service to God and His people. Fr. Stephan truly loved his parishioners and inspired them to take the path of truth with his fiery sermons and his personal example in everyday life. A daughter was born, baptized Olga in honor the Great Princess Olga of Kiev, protectors of the first Orthodox churches in Russia. On 19 August 1930, Fr. Stephan Antoniuk and his family arrived in the USA, on the request of the St. Nicholas Orthodox Community which had just founded a church in Stratford, Connecticut.
The early years of the St. Nicholas parish were very difficult for Fr. Stephan and his family. Services were in a house set up as a church. The altar was in the dining room, a storage room was the sacristy, the faithful were packed into the living room and the choir sang in the kitchen. The bell was hung under the roof and rung through the kitchen window. On the second floor there was one room only for Fr. Stephan and his family. Two other rooms were rented out, so that the parish could have some regular income, since the parishioners were impoverished, unemployed victims of the Great Depression.
Despite all these difficulties, services were held in this “house church” regularly up until 1942 when the newly built church was consecrated. It was grand and beautified Stratford with its tentlike appearance, designed by parish member A. Boldakov. During the construction of this new church, much labor was demanded from the rector. Fr. Stephan traveled to many cities throughout the United States, and he managed over several years to gather a substantial sum of money to cover construction expenses. The construction itself took one year, and the new church was consecrated by Metropolitan Theophilus, assisted by Archbishop Vitaly, on November 1, 1942.
Fr.Stephan’s labours in the parish connected to the construction of the new church and his work in the church school, where he taught religion and other subjects, were greatly appreciated by the St. Nicholas community. In the brochure published to mark the 30th anniversary of the parish, it was expressed in the following words: “It behooves each parishioner to assess with especial regard Father Stephen’s qualities as a pastor and spiritual leader. It was his lot to go through the labors of the growth of the parish, the phases of unusual difficulties, emotional strain and even bitter tears. Fr. Stephen has given tirelessly of his love and devotion to all the parishioners as a good shepherd of his flock. In the strict performance of all church services as directed by the Church Rubrics, Fr. Stephen stands as a worthy example; giving comfort and succor to the sick and dying in homes and hospitals, administering to them the Holy Sacraments.”
For his zealous, long years of pastoral service, Fr. Stephan was raised to the dignity of Archpriest and over the years given all priestly awards, including the mitre. As a mitred Archpriest, he also accepted the position of Dean of Connecticut.
Fr.Stephan bore a great cross in personal life: his wife, Matushka Elikonida, fell gravely ill, was bedridden for ten years and died in 1963. Seeking comfort in fervent prayer to God and hoping in the Resurrection in Christ with his wife, Fr. Stephan accepted monastic tonsure and took the name Joasaph in honor of the Holy Russian Hierarch, Joasaph of Belgorod.
Raised to the dignity of Archimandrite, Fr. Joasaph continued to serve the St. Nicholas church in Stratford until 1968, when by the decision of the Synod of Bishops of the North American Metropolia (after 1970 – the Orthodox Church in America) he was called to hierarchical service as a Bishop, with the assignment of Auxiliary in the Diocese of Canada. His consecration took place at the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in New York, on the feast of Annunciation, April 7th, 1968. Metropolitan Iriney was joined by co-consecrators Archbishop Sylvester and Archbishop Nikon. Afterwards the new Bishop traveled to his first place of residence in Canada – Edmonton, Alberta.
Over the next two years “Vladyka” Joasaph gave spiritual sustenance to the many Orthodox churches in Alberta, at the same time serving as rector of Holy Assumption Church in Shandro. The Bishop’s daughter, Olga Stefanovna, accompanied her father to Alberta. She was an expert in church music and helped her father in the parishes, as well as with house work. The Orthodox people of Alberta came to love Bishop Joasaph for his modesty, good nature and graciousness, and were filled with tears when parting with the Bishop as he went to Vancouver, where he became the rector of Holy Resurrection Church, remaining at the same time Auxiliary Bishop for Western Canada.
Bishop Joasaph served at Holy Resurrection Church for 8 years, enjoying great spiritual authority among all the parishioners. The Bishop loved his flock and was to everyone without partiality a genuine pastor and spiritual faithful, and the parishioners responded to him with the same love. He prayed for all with sincerity and purity of heart, was attentive to the needs of individuals, comforted the sick and the suffering and did all this freely, not demanding any payment for his services.
Bishop Joasaph was not concerned with himself and served at the altar of God until the end oh his earthly life. At the Fall session of the Synod of Bishops in 1978, the Bishop began to feel ill and left to visit hit daughter in Stratford. On the train he got worse and was taken to hospital, where he died on October 18th, 1978. The Funeral Service was celebrated by Bishop Herman of Eastern Pennsylvania, joined by Bishop Gregory of Alaska, as well as by many priests from the eastern U.S. at the St. Nicholas Church in Stratford, the church which priest Stephan had built from nothing and where he served for 38 years. The following came from Holy Resurrection Church in Vancouver to see Bishop Joasaph to his final resting place near matushka Elikonida: the restor Hegumen Cyril (Bulashevich), the parish Council president Irina Andreyevna Rozvaliaeff, Olga Petrovna Fetisoff and Anna Petrovna Mironoff. Olga Stefanovna led the choir, and three nieces of the deceased were present: Helen Farmer, Alla and nun Marionila.
It was our happy destiny at Holy Resurrection Church in Vancouver to witness the archpastoral service of Bishop Joasaph over eight years. The Bishop was a good shepherd who was concerned for our salvation… The Apostle Paul commanded us: “Remember your former leaders, who spoke God’s message to you. Think back on how they lived and died and imitate their faith” (Heb.13:7).
The Record of Employment Of the priest of the Peschanka Church of Our Saviour of the Trans-Baikal Diocese Stephan Maksimovich Antoniuk
Written on 8/21 August 1923
Origins: Born 28 Dec. 1897 Into a peasant family of the hamlet Snezhki, of Rybny village, Bolotskaya volost, Kobrin district, Grodno region.
Real estate owned: none
Education and work experience: June 7, 1917: Upon starting in the 7th grade of the Brest-Litovsk boys’ gymnasium evacuated to the city of Cheliabinsk, Orenburg region.
Sept. 1, 1917: hired as a teacher by the Tumanovo elementary school, Cheliabinsk district.
Oct. 17, 1918: passed the examination in Cheliabinsk for the position of elementary school teacher.
May 1919: drafted into the army by the Interim Government; worked as the clerk of the Volga Battery until December 1920.
December 1920: arrived in the displacement zone (city of Harbin), served as helper at the Annunciation Church of the Peking Orthodox Mission from 1 Jan. 1921 to 27 Feb. 1922.
27 Feb. 1922: ordained to the Diaconate by Bishop Meletius of Nerchinsk and Trans-Baikalia and appointed to the Sts. Peter and Paul Church of Krasnoyarovo.
May 1922: ordained to the Priesthood by Bishop Sophronius, vicar of the Trans-Baikal diocese, and appointed to the Peschanka Church of Our Saviour of the Trans-Baikal Diocese.
Ever was without position or place: upon closure of the church by Soviet Authorities in May 1923 moved to Harbin.
Marital status: married to Elikonoda Vyacheslavovna, aged 21.
I hereby certify the correctness of the above information: