Blessed Mother Olga (Michael) of Kwethluk
During my visit to Alaska this past summer, I lived for about a month along the Kuskokwim River in the Yukon Delta region. Near the end of my stay, I was given the opportunity to spend some time in Kwethluk.
There I lodged with the village priest and his family, whose house was near the old village church where Matushka Olga and her husband, the priest Fr. Nicolai Michael, spent many years. The people of Kwethluk have built a new, larger church a few hundred yards away and no longer meet in the little one where the Fr. Nicolai served. However, the old one is adjacent to Fr. Nicolai and Mat. Olga’s graves.
Blessed Olga was a native Alaskan born February 3, 1916, and departed this life forty years ago on November 8, 1979. She is venerated as a saint throughout Alaska, as well as in some Orthodox parishes in the Lower 48 due to her loving and pious life, her generosity, the miracles associated with her departure, and the experiences people have had with her after her death.
Her favorite place to stand in church was just below the icon of Archangel Michael on the north side of the nave (see photos below). So, it is fitting that she passed away on the day that we commemorate the Archangel Michael and all of the heavenly hosts.
When she died, the region was experiencing brutal winter weather. The ground was frozen solid – it seemed it would be impossible to bury her. Additionally, travel to the funeral would be difficult and dangerous due to the cold. However, on the day of her funeral, the sun came out and quickly melted the snow and thawed the ground. People were able to travel to Kwethluk for the funeral and summer birds even arrived, singing their songs during the funeral. The day after her funeral, the brutal winter returned as if nothing had ever happened.
During her life, she was the village midwife and seemed to have a sixth sense for when women were pregnant, even within the first days of their pregnancy before the women themselves knew. Like most of the women of her generation, she was generous and loving. She provided clothing to those who needed it, sowing what was lacking.
She is venerated today as a healer of women who have experienced abuse and trauma. Caring for such people during her life would not have been unusual, since it is a struggle in Alaskan village life. One woman, whose testimony has been recorded, described Blessed Olga visiting her in a dream, massaging her, and healing her in soul and body from abuse. As the Akathist to her says,
You revealed the Northern Lights as a sign of God’s power to create great beauty where there had been only darkness and desolation.
I’ve attached pictures below this article of the church that the Michaels served in. It has been preserved exactly as it was when both Fr. Nicolai and Mother Olga were there. As can be seen in some of the photos, it is in need of repair. At this time, however, there is no fund set up for repairs. Hopefully, when her canonization as a saint draws closer, some work will be completed and the old church will be transformed into the St. Olga Chapel.
A little booklet with her Akathist can be purchased here.
Holy Mother Olga, pray to God for us!