Nikolai of Sitka

Biography of Archimandrite Nikolai [Soraich],
Bishop-Elect of Baltimore

 

SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications Office] – Archimandrite Nikolai [Soraich], who was elected Bishop of Baltimore, Auxiliary to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, at the Spring Session of the OCA’s Holy Synod on March 21, 2001, was born in Butte, Montana on April 9, 1949 to devout Serbian Orthodox parents, Nikola and Vera Grace [nee O’Billovich] Soraich. His parents, both deceased, were active all their lives in the Orthodox community in in Butte.

On December 24, 1949, he was baptized in Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, which had been consecrated by Saint Tikhon in 1905, during his tenure as Archbishop of North America. Upon graduation from high school in 1967, he enrolled in Christ the Saviour Seminary, Johnstown, PA.

On August 8, 1970, he was tonsured a monk of the Lesser Schema and given the monastic name Nikolai. The following day, he was ordained to the diaconate. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 4, 1972 at Saint Stevan Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, Alhambra, CA.

After graduation from the seminary in 1972, Father Nikolai was sent to Billings, MT, where he organized Saint Elijah parish. In 1974, the parish’s new church building was consecrated. While residing in Montana, Father Nikolai worked in secular positions with the State of Montana as a juvenile parole officer from 1972 until 1976 and as assistant principal of Billings Central High School from 1976 until 1978. He also pursued graduate studies in Rehabilitation Counseling.

In 1978 and 1979, Father Nikolai pursued post graduate work in Theology at the Theological Faculty of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Upon his return to America in 1979 he was sent to Las Vegas, NV, where he organized Saint Simeon Serbian Orthodox Church. In October 1983, the parish’s new church building and hall were blessed.

In 1988, Father Nikolai received a canonical release and was received into the ranks of clergy of the Orthodox Church in America. On November 13, 1988, he celebrated the first Divine Liturgy for the newly-founded Saint Paul the Apostle Mission. The parish hall was blessed in 1993 and the church was consecrated on May 13, 1995 by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius and His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco and the West. At the consecration of the church, he was elevated to the dignity of Archimandrite. The community, which includes faithful of diverse backgrounds, grew rapidly and serves as an oasis in the desert for Orthodox Christians.

During most of Father Nikolai’s ministry he had worked to support himself in order to allow his parishes to build. For some ten years, he worked in juvenile justice as a parole and probation officer. He also worked as a counselor and ran an adolescent treatment program and, most recently, served as Director of the Family Support Division for the District Attorney’s office. In addition to his secular employment, he was appointed to the Diocese of the West’s Mission Board in 1989, and shortly thereafter was appointed the Chairman of the Board, succeeding Hieromonk Alexander [Golitzin]. His activities on the diocesan level in missions and on the national level as a member of the OCA Missions Board and the Orthodox Christian Mission Center Board helped in facilitating the establishment of missions.

In 1994, Bishop Tikhon created the Las Vegas Mission Deanery and appointed Igumen Nikolai as the Dean. He served in this position for a very short time, as Bishop Tikhon appointed him Chancellor of the Diocese of the West in August 1994, a position which he continues to fill.

Archimandrite Nikolai’s consecration to the episcopacy will be celebrated the weekend of April 21-22, 2001 in Dallas, TX, in conjunction with the consecration of the recently constructed Saint Seraphim Cathedral.

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