Thursday May 30, 2019 marked the 30th Anniversary of the repose of the outstanding hierarch and former archpastor of our Diocese of the West – Archbishop John Shahovskoy. Archbishop John served as the Archbishop of San Francisco for nearly three decades, from 1950-1973, and again, after being called out of retirement, from 1975-1979. A prolific writer and poet, Archbishop John also authored a well-known treatise on the priesthood – The Orthodox Pastor, which remains a guide and inspiration for seminarians and clergy to this day. Most of his publications appeared in Russian and remain untranslated into English.
Commemorating the event, a memorial Liturgy was held in Christ the Savior Church in San Francisco, a parish founded by Archbishop John as well as his former residence. Priest Philip Halliwell and Priest Timothy Winegar concelebrated. Fr. Philip shared a sermon of Archbishop John, giving all a sense of his poetic and vivid preaching style. Fr. Timothy also shared about how Archbishop John’s monastic cross, which he received on Mt. Athos and which contains a relic of the True Cross and relics of several saints, came to reside at Elevation of the Holy Cross parish in Sacramento, a parish also founded with the blessing of Archbishop John. Following Liturgy, the faithful shared a meal together in the parish hall.
The day’s Gospel reading was fitting for this true hierarch and shepherd: Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (Jn. 10:1-4)
May his memory be eternal!
Below is a brief life of Archbishop John that appeared in The Orthodox Church journal following his repose in 1989.
Archbishop John (Shahovskoy), the former diocesan bishop of the Diocese of the West, died in retirement on May 30 in Santa Barbara, California. The burial of the former archbishop of San Francisco took place at the city's Serbian Cemetery on June 1 after funeral services in Holy Trinity Cathedral.
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius presided at the funeral service and interment of Archbishop John; concelebrating with him were Bishops Tikhon of San Francisco and Basil (retired Bishop of San Francisco) and clergy of the Diocese of the West. Among the concelebrating clergy was Fr. Paul Lazor, Dean of Students at St. Vladimir's Seminary, who was ordained to the holy priesthood by Archbishop John and who represented St. Vladimir's Seminary at the funeral of its former dean.
Archbishop John was horn Prince Dimitry Shahovskoy in Moscow on August 23, 1902, and received his education in St. Petersburg. The Russian Revolution engulfed his family with its tragedy. Dimitry Shahovskoy served in the White Army during the Civil War and was evacuated from the Crimea to France at the end of the civil strife. He received his higher education a Louvain University in Belgium, studying in the faculty of history and political economy. In the years 1923-1926 he published three collections of his poetry, and in 1925-26 was the editor of the journal called "Blagonamerennyi ("Well-intentioned"). This publication was a journal of philosophy and literature, and among its contributors were some of the most prominent writers, poets, and philosophers of the Russian emigration.
In 1926 Dimitry Shahovskoy left all to follow Christ. He went to Mt. Athos, where he was tonsured a monk with the name of John (after the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian). From Mt. Athos the monk John returned to Paris, to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Metropolitan Evlogy. He studied for a short time at the St. Sergius Theological Institute. Soon after ordination to the diaconate by Metropolitan Evlogy, he was ordained to the holy priesthood in Yugoslavia by Bishop Benjamin. Assigned by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) to Belaya Tserkov in Yugoslavia, Hieromonk John began his life-time priestly, missionary, and educational activities. He established a publishing house which disseminated religious tracts throughout Yugoslavia. This activity attracted many young Russian refugees to the Church, but it also provoked controversy. The missionary monk returned to France, and was assigned by Metropolitan Evlogy to Berlin, to serve as pastor to St. Vladimir's Church. His missionary and educational work, by means of which he reached far beyond the boundaries of his parish, continued in Berlin. In 1937 he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite. During the Second World War, Archimandrite John and his Berlin parish assisted many "workers from the East" (people brought by force from Russia and the Ukraine as laborers in Germany) and refugees; they also provided whatever assistance as possible to missionaries going to the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union to re-open churches closed under Soviet persecution of religion.
After the war, Archimandrite John came to the United States. For about one year he served as pastor of Holy Virgin Mary Church in Los Angeles, California. Here he organized Orthodox people to provide help to refugees in Europe, both in the form of CARE packages with food and clothing and medicine, and in the form of sponsorships to refugees who were immigrating to the United States as displaced persons.
In 1947 Archimandrite John was elected Bishop of Brooklyn, New York, and appointed Dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary. At this time he began his forty-year ministry as a religious broadcaster to Russia. He also continued his writing of numerous books, articles, and poems.
Elected to the see of San Francisco in 1950, Bishop John accepted pastoral responsibilities in a far-flung diocese, while continuing his enormous labors as broadcaster and writer.
From 1954 to 1968 he represented the American Metropolia in the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. It was in the midst of this ecumenical work that Archbishop John (elevated in 1961) established contacts with representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, which had joined the World Council of Churches in 1961, and was instrumental in beginning the conversations which led to the re-establishment of canonical relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and American Orthodoxy, culminating in the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America in 1970.
In 1973 Archbishop John retired, only to be called back to active episcopal ministry in his diocese in 1975. At his final retirement in 1979, while becoming physically weaker and weaker, he continued to grow in his spiritual clarity, his goodwill to every person, and his prayerful insight.
The Orthodox Church, July-August 1989, pp. 1, 7.