Friday, June 11, 2010

Hieromonk Averky: Eternal Memory


Today is the seventh anniversary of the repose of the ever-memorable Hieromonk Averky (Moreno) of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. Those Orthodox who have been online for a few years might remember him as a frequent commentator at the discussion forums at monachos.net.

Fr Averky was literally the first person I met when I entered Holy Trinity Monastery in the summer of 1992. He was a remarkable character: by turns generous and exacting, tender and ferocious, he always made his presence known. At the time he was the guestmaster, which put me under his care. Working for him to his satisfaction was no easy charge, I can assure you with all the force of my memory. A non-Russian himself, he served for many visitors as a sort of spiritual and cultural interpreter with the Russian monastery. I kept in contact with him through his final illness. Whatever psychic wounds I still carry from working under him as taskmaster, I mourn his passing and miss him greatly.

Here is a tribute to Fr Averky that was written by Rassaphore-monk Vsevolod shortly after his death seven years ago:
On June 11, 2004, at 5:30 AM, our brother of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, Hieromonk Averky (Moreno), fell asleep in the Lord.

Fr. Averky was born on May 2, 1945, in Pocatello, Idaho, and was one of those Americans who sailed the turbulent seas of the 60's while seeking truth, finally arriving at the saving shore of Holy Orthodoxy. When Fr. Averky was baptized in San Francisco, the future Abbot Herman (Podmoshensky) and Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose, +1982) sang in the choir. The story of Fr. Averky's conversion to Orthodoxy is amazing. When he was studying in the Roman Catholic Seminary, one of his teachers was a Uniate. When leaving for vacation once, he gave Fr. Averky an Orthodox icon for safe-keeping. Fr. Averky, by nature gifted with a refined aesthetic sense, was moved by the beauty of the Orthodox painting. Having become interested in Orthodoxy, he went to the library and checked out recordings of Russian ecclesiastical chant-and again he was moved. Then he had the thought: "If the Orthodox paint such beautiful icons and sing with such feeling, then they must be a special people with special Christianity!"

This reminds one of the conversion of the Russian people to Orthodoxy through observing the beauty of the Church. The beauty of Christianity, which saves the world, continues to draw searching souls to Christ. Having come to Orthodoxy through beauty, Fr. Averky remained assiduously devoted to this beauty: he continually ordered many icons from various iconographers, in this way glorifying the Saviour, the Theotokos, the angels and the saints. Incidently, among the icons which he had painted was the icon of the Theotokos, the Surety of Sinners. It was probably not a coincidence that Fr. Averky was granted to end his earthly journey on the feast day of this icon.

When we think of our reposed brother, the words of the prayer to the Surety of Sinners become deeply heartfelt: "Every kind of despondency ceases and the fear from despair vanishes, sinners with sorrowful hearts find comfort and are illuminated brightly with heavenly love: for now the Mother of God extends to us a saving hand, and announces from Her most pure image: I am the Surety of sinners to My Son; he has given His hand on their behalf to hear Me always." Fr. Averky loved very much to give people presents, and this made him happy like a child. And this is the present he received from the Mother of God, the Surety of Sinners.

Fr. Averky not only accepted Orthodoxy, but with his whole being he became Russian Orthodox, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Just like Fr. Seraphim (Rose) he learned the Russian language and knew well the Russian culture. Fr. Averky recalled how in earlier times, when Russian emigrants invited him as a guest for dinner, besides the traditional hospitality, they would recite verses from Pushkin, Lermontov, and Yessenin, play the guitar, concertina, and the balalaika, and carry on interesting conversation. At the same time Fr. Averky was very zealous in the helping of the Orthodox mission among the Americans. He loved to serve molebens, pannykhidas and liturgy in the English language. The mother of Fr. Averky, thanks to the efforts of her son, converted to Orthodoxy before her death.

It must be said that Fr. Averky was distinguished by a rather sharp character and he was not always mild-mannered in his relations with people. However, the Lord granted him a Christian death, shameless and peaceful. In preparing for death, he asked everyone for forgiveness, confessed his sins, and communed of the Holy Mysteries. In the final days, up to 20 people would come to visit him daily in the hospital, where he lay. He remained conscious until the very end. There was no evidence of his sufferings on his face, and his attention was focused as he passed on to a new life.

His Eminence, Metropolitan Laurus of Eastern America and New York, the Superior of Holy Trinity Monastery, was the main celebrant at the monastic funeral of Hieromonk Averky, on Saturday, June 12th. Six priests and two deacons also concelebrated. At the funeral, Metropolitan Laurus said a brief word in memory of Fr. Averky, how he arrived at our monastery thirty years ago, studied at Holy Trinity Seminary, after which he became the cell attendant of the ever-memorable Archbishop Seraphim of Chicago and Detroit and of Archbishop Alypy. He also served in various parishes in the U.S.: in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Cleveland, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; San Diego, California. After this he returned to the monastery and fulfilled various obediences here, including serving in parishes.

Let us pray that the Saviour receive the soul of Fr. Averky into a dwelling of everlasting beauty!

Jordanville, 2004

7 comments:

Jeff said...

Thanks for this reminder!

I wouldn't trade one of my experiences with Fr. Averky; from the loud, public corrections during the first week after my family's baptism (and thereafter), to the times he and I spent at my dining room table, the both of us in tears while discussing the mercy of God.

Memory Eternal!

Felix Culpa said...

Once, not long after I entered the monastery, I complained to Fr (now Bishop) George about Fr Averky. He laughed and said, "Oh that's nothing. He's a pussycat now. You should have seen him in my day." I went away entirely unconvinced.

Fast forward a decade, to a time when Fr Averky had been humbled by illness and taken on a gentleness he had previously rarely displayed. One day a Serbian seminarian who was looking after him came to me to complain about him. And all I could think was: "Oh, that's nothing. He's a pussycat now. You should have seen him in my day."

Jeff said...

Fr. Averky described himself to me once or twice as "a crusty marshmallow".

I thought it apt ;)

papayianni said...

God, who loves us all no matter our what state has ways to humble us (all of us) and draw us ever closer to Him. St. Seraphim's (of Vyritsa) "This Is From Me' is a wonderful reminder of what I have read here of Fr. Averky. Yes, may his "Memory be Eternal" and may God give "many years" to those who knew him so that they may share those memories with us who did not.

End Hacks said...

Pardon me for speaking up, but would this not be the sixth anniversary of Fr Averky's repose?

Daniel said...

Thank you for this. I talked to Father Averky a few days before he fell asleep in the Lord. I am actually looking at a icon of Christ that he sent me when I was in high school. He converted me to Holy Orthodoxy from the uniates on monachos. I actually have a few icons and books with his named inscribed from his personal library that he sent me a week before he passed. I miss him very much.

Anonymous said...

I remember Fr. Averky from when I was very young, I had visited the monastery as a teen to help him out in the Jordanville Monastery library and be an altar boy for a week during the summer. Unfortunately Fr. Averky sexually abused me while I was there, leaving me now to question why this memory pops up once in a while. I felt I should write about it without any insincere intentions on behalf of Orthodoxy or the monastery or anyone who has known Fr. Averky.