Russian Orthodox missionary Archpriest Michael James Oleksa died in Anchorage following a stroke while in Nanwalek (English Bay), a village at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula that accessible only by boat or air. Medevaced to Anchorage, it was there that His Grace, Bishop Alexei, with family and clergy gathered, prayed over Father Michael the last rites and anointed him with holy and sacred oil.
Bishop Vladyka Alexei asked the entire Church of Alaska to keep Father Michael and his family in their prayers during this time.
Fr. Oleksa was born in Allentown, Penn. on March 16, 1947 and moved to Alaska in 1970, after attending Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York. He was assigned to Old Harbor on Kodiak Island and was a Russian Orthodox priest for many small communities in the area. In 1972, he moved to Kwethluk and met his wife, an Alaska Native. He worked as a village priest along the Kuskokwim River.
In 1988, Oleska graduated from the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Presov, Slovakia with a doctoral degree, emphasizing Alaska Native history.
Later in life, he lived in Anchorage, taught at the University of Alaska and Alaska Pacific university, and was the recipient of many awards for his work with Alaska Native people. He was featured in a PBS series, “Communicating Across Cultures.” and authored books such as “Orthodox Alaska: A Theology of Mission,” “Everyday Wonders: Stories of God’s Providence,” “Alaskan Missionary Spirituality,” and “Another Culture/Another World,” and others. He served in Alaska for 35 years.
The Orthodox Church in America announced services:
All services will be held at Saint Innocent Cathedral, 401 Turpin Street, Anchorage:
Monday, December 4
3:00 PM Panikhida and viewing
Tuesday, December 5
10:00 AM Funeral Service
The burial will take place following the Funeral Service at Saint John Antiochian Cathedral in Eagle River.