St John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco

1896 – 1966

The future Saint John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, when he was still known to the world as Archbishop John (Maximovitch), served from 1953 – 1962 as Archbishop of Brussels and Western Europe. In that role, Archbishop John had spiritual oversight of the parishes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Michael Maximovitch was born in Adamovka in the Kharkov Governorate to an aristocratic family of Serbian origin. From 1907 to 1914 Michael attended cadet school in Poltava and then he studied law at Kharkov University, graduating in 1918. He was evacuated with his family to Yugoslavia, where he studied at Belgrade University, graduating in 1925. In 1926 Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), of blessed memory, tonsured him to become a monk, receiving the name ‘John’ after his ancestor, Saint John of Tobolsk. Then he was ordained as a priest. Fr John taught at various schools and, from 1929, at the seminary in Bitol. In 1934, Metropolitan Anthony consecrated him to become Bishop of Shanghai. In Shanghai Bishop John quickly involved himself in the charity work. He personally founded an orphanage. It was in Shanghai that Bishop John first became known for miracles attributed to his prayer. In 1946, as the only Russian hierarch in China who refused to submit to the authority of Soviet-dominated authorities seeking control of the Church, Bishop John was elevated to become Archbishop of China.

In 1949, Bishop John left Shanghai with 5,000 refugees, days before the city was occupied by Communists. The Russian colony, refugees from the Soviet terror, once again was forced to flee, first to a refugee camp on the Philippines island of Tubabao, and then mainly to the United States. Archbishop John travelled to Washington, D.C. to ensure that his people would be allowed to enter the USA. In 1951 the Synod of Bishops assigned Archbishop John to the Diocese of Western Europe, first in Paris and then in Brussels. As Archbishop in Western Europe, Archbishop John also had spiritual oversight of the Diocese in the UK, where the then Bishop Nikodem (Nagaieff) was a vicar bishop of the Western Europe diocese. Archbishop John is best remembered in the UK for the fact that in 1959 he consecrated the old Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God at Emperor’s Gate, London SW7.

In Western Europe Archbishop John continued with his pastoral and charitable works, despite his flock being so widespread. Above all else, Archbishop John was concerned with missionary work and brought to life the Dutch and the French Orthodox Churches. After the death of Archbishop Tikhon (Troitsky) in 1963, Archbishop John was assigned to return to the USA where became Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America. Archbishop John reposed on 2nd July, 1966, in Seattle, where he had been accompanying the Kursk Icon, at a time and place he had foretold. He found his final resting place in the crypt in the Cathedral in San Francisco. The great veneration in which Archbishop John was already held in his lifetime has continued since his repose. Archbishop John was in the true sense an ascetic, who spent his whole life in contemplation. He was a monk, a pastor, a holy hierarch and a miracle-worker, as well as a highly educated man and an aristocrat. Archbishop John is manifestly one of the greatest hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. He was glorified as a saint in 1994, shortly after his relics were found to be incorrupt. His feast day is celebrated on the Saturday nearest to 2nd July.