St. Tikhon's may not have existed without the efforts of this tireless visionary priest.
Many names associated with the founding of St. Tikhon's Monastery have been honored as saints of the Church. But, the man who did more than any other to bring the monastery into existence, Fr. Arseny Chahovtsov, is largely overlooked by the Orthodox in America. However, in Canada where eventually was an Archbishop, he is greatly honored as the nation's first Orthodox saint.
Born in Russia/Ukraine in 1866, he attended the Kharkov Theological School after the death of his parents, married in 1885 and had a son who later was a martyr of the communists and became a priest in 1890. His wife fell asleep at an unknown date and in 1900 he became a monk.
In 1903 Hieromonk Arseny was on his way to the mission in America. After being assigned as priest in Mayfield, Pennsylvania, he began working for the establishment of a monastery in America. Just a year later, St. Tikhon's Monastery was founded nearby as a result of his efforts. He was named the first superior (Igumen) of the Brotherhood. After a brief visit to Russia, Fr. Arseny returned with over 50 relics for the monastery.
As a result of his effective labors for the church, Fr. Arseny was appointed Administrator of the Canadian Diocesan Mission and moved to Winnipeg. He was warmly received by the Orthodox in Canada and began to take measures to 'grow' the mission. However, in 1910, he (now Archimandrite Arseny) returned to Russia and remained there in various capacities for sixteen years. After the out break of the Bolshevik Revolution he joined the White Army as chaplain and joined the exiles in Serbia in 1920 still working to strengthen the church.
In 1926 word spread to Canada that he was in Serbia and he was called to be the Archbishop of Winnipeg. He plunged into the work, traveling from one end of the country to the other strengthening and establishing both churches and monastic foundations. He also had to fight the influence of the heretical communist controlled 'Living Church' movement that had taken root in Canada.
The size of Canada was a challenge. He wrote: ""I threw myself into my endless flying around from place to place in wide Canada not able to fulfill my schedule and often lamenting that there were only 24 hours in a day...Everywhere is agitation and trouble. If I am delayed, then much will befall. Above my grave write that the cause of his death was not the office but was 'zealed to death' with flying from place to place for the good and peace of the Church."
Bishop Arseny returned to St. Tikhon's Monastery in 1935 where a Synod of Holy Orthodox Bishops was held. The next year he as shot in the leg by a radical in Canada and in 1936 was forced to retired to St. Tikhon's Monastery. In 1938 he was honored by being elevated to the rank of Archbishop.
He continued to work actively at St. Tikhon's Monastery and was one of the first to see the need for the use of English in church services in insure the growth of the church and retention of Americanized youth. He also laid the foundation of a teaching institution which was to become St. Tikhon's Seminary.
Archbishop Arseny fell asleep on October 4, 1945 and rests at the monastery to this day. His life is best summarized by the Canadian Committee which advanced his canonization:
"So much remains to be said about this remarkable man. It is obvious that his contribution to the Orthodox Church in America and Canada was memorable and foundational. He shared as passionately the same missionary vision as the great saints and Fathers of Orthodoxy with whom he worked. He was capable of being all things to all people. He was a married priest, a widower, a father, a parish priest, a monk, an Igumen, a Dean and Rector, a travelling preacher, a prisoner, a Bishop, a founder of monasteries and pastoral schools and orphanages. He walked in the company of great men and women of the faith in every part of his life, and in every country he lived. He was a learned man, an eloquent man, and a humble man. Indeed, he was most of all humble. If he has remained in the background, if his extraordinary life and contribution to the Church have gone unsung it is because his accomplishments were never for their own sake, but for the Church, in which he knew he was only a servant. His was not a zeal for self-advancement, it was a genuine zeal for the Kingdom of God, for the Gospel, and it is significant that he is best remembered as a master homilist, as a Canadian Chrysostom. His was a life of service, of sacrifice, of love for the Church. In a word, his was a life lived in response: response to the call of priesthood, response to the call of the North American mission, response to the call of God wherever it would lead. And we hear his response, even on the eve of his return as Bishop to Canada, 'I am coming. My heart is ready. O my God! Ready!'"
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