Celebration of the Centenary of the oldest Russian Orthodox parish in Australia

Bishop Luke: Reflections on Travels in Australia

by Editorial Staff

Two years ago HolyTrin­i­ty Pub­li­ca­tions pub­lished The His­to­ry of the Russ­ian Church in Aus­tralia by Fr Michael Pro­topopov. The third chap­ter of this book recounts the ear­ly his­to­ry of what is the old­est Russ­ian Ortho­dox parish in Aus­tralia, that of St Nicholas in Bris­bane. This year marks the one hun­dredth anniver­sary of the found­ing of this parish, which was cel­e­brat­ed with divine ser­vices and oth­er events over the last week­end of May. Amongst the hon­ored guests includ­ed in these events was Bish­op Luke of Syra­cuse, Abbot of Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery and Rec­tor of Holy Trin­i­ty Sem­i­nary in Jor­danville, New York. A lit­tle over a week after his return to Amer­i­ca Ortho­dox Life was able to sit down with him to learn more about his visit.

The jour­ney from upstate New York to Aus­tralia is both long and cost­ly and so an itin­er­ary of more than two weeks’ dura­tion was orga­nized for Bish­op Luke, cul­mi­nat­ing with the cel­e­bra­tions in Bris­bane. He trav­eled almost con­tin­u­ous­ly dur­ing his vis­it with two inter­nal flights and numer­ous car trips, in order to max­i­mize his expe­ri­ence of the life of the Dio­cese there. This afford­ed him the oppor­tu­ni­ty to cel­e­brate divine ser­vices in the cities of Mel­bourne and Syd­ney and their sur­round­ing areas, as well as in Bris­bane. Arch­priest Gabriel Makarov in Bris­bane is a grad­u­ate of Holy Trin­i­ty Sem­i­nary, as are many of the cler­gy with whom Bish­op Luke served dur­ing his vis­it. Thus his pres­ence in Aus­tralia served to reaf­firm the spir­i­tu­al ties of the Aus­tralian dio­cese with Jor­danville and to encour­age new sem­i­nar­i­ans to enroll at the sem­i­nary here.

The cler­gy in Aus­tralia are pre­dom­i­nant­ly of Russ­ian descent; Church Slavon­ic is still very wide­ly employed in divine ser­vices and Russ­ian spo­ken at church func­tions. Bish­op Luke fore­saw that a greater use of Eng­lish would be an impor­tant com­po­nent in bequeath­ing Ortho­dox life to the younger gen­er­a­tion and in adapt­ing to an Aus­tralian soci­ety that was becom­ing increas­ing­ly eth­ni­cal­ly diverse with a very vis­i­ble immi­gra­tion from south-east Asia in recent years.

The Dio­cese does have sev­er­al small monas­tic com­mu­ni­ties but Bish­op Luke was only able to vis­it one of these, the Con­vent of Our Lady of Kazan, in Kent­lyn, NSW. There he met with the Abbess Maria who told him that there “were five nuns doing the work of thir­ty.” Whilst vis­it­ing the con­vent he and Bish­op George, the rul­ing hier­ar­ch of the Aus­tralian dio­cese, were able to serve a panikhi­da on the one year anniver­sary of the repose of Met­ro­pol­i­tan Hilar­i­on of blessed memory.

Kent­lyn is a sub­urb of Syd­ney, from where it is a forty minute dri­ve to the Dioce­san Cen­tre in Croy­don. It is here that Bish­op George resides and it was where Vladi­ka Luke stayed at the begin­ning and end of his trip. There are no oth­er monas­tics liv­ing with Bish­op George, but the Cen­tre does have a small chapel and is also adja­cent to the parish church of All Russ­ian Saints.

Bish­op Luke expressed the hope that Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery would be able to help with the devel­op­ment of monas­tic life in the dio­cese and men­tioned the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a pos­tu­lant com­ing soon to Jor­danville from Aus­tralia. He also explained that efforts were being made by Fr Michael Pro­topopov and oth­ers to cre­ate a sem­i­nary in Dan­de­nong, the sub­urb of Mel­bourne where Fr Michael serves. This would be a major step up from the online edu­ca­tion that is present­ly the only option for cler­gy for­ma­tion. Trav­el­ing for a mar­ried sem­i­nar­i­an to Amer­i­ca is daunting.

Whilst not­ing the need for a greater focus on mis­sion­ary work in the Dio­cese, Bish­op Luke spoke elo­quent­ly of the warmth of the peo­ple he met and their hos­pi­tal­i­ty. One way this has been demon­strat­ed most recent­ly is in the pro­vi­sion of a shel­ter for refugees from the con­flict in Ukraine. Sad­ly these new arrivals do not seem to have an out­ward­ly Ortho­dox way of life but he was encour­aged in this respect by the “ele­vat­ed piety” of the exist­ing mem­bers of the Dio­cese, as evi­denced by fre­quent church going and atten­dance at Vig­il ser­vices and not only the Divine Litur­gy. They also evinced an under­stand­ing of the impor­tance of ele­vat­ing the soul through the beau­ty of church arts such as church archi­tec­ture, iconog­ra­phy, and singing. As an exam­ple of the lat­ter he men­tioned the Dioce­san male choir, direct­ed by Nek­tary Kot­laroff, and the iconog­ra­phy of Anton­i­na Gan­i­na. Two of Antonina’s works (the Nativ­i­ty of St John the Bap­tist and the Defeat of Antichrist) are to be found in Jor­danville, where some of her train­ing took place. He said that “with­out excep­tion” all the church­es had “an Ortho­dox aes­thet­ic ethos,” but cau­tioned them against exces­sive use of illu­mi­na­tion, point­ing out that in old­er times can­dles could not begin to cre­ate the amount of light that is pos­si­ble with elec­tric­i­ty and con­tem­po­rary light­ing systems.

Last, but by no means least, Bish­op Luke expressed won­der at the diver­si­ty of nature, both flo­ra and fau­na, as well as wildlife such as kan­ga­roos, koalas and cock­a­toos. He was only in Aus­tralia for two and a half weeks, but clear­ly in that time his feet bare­ly touched the ground and he has been left with many vivid impressions.



You may pur­chase your own copy of
The His­to­ry of the Russ­ian Church in Aus­tralia:
From Siberia to Syd­ney
from HTP Book­store.
A 50% dis­count is avail­able through June 30, 2023 with code Brisbane1923

Buy now

Also avail­able wher­ev­er books are sold.