Known to Orthodox Christians as the patron saint of the Americas, St. Herman made his name as one of the first missionaries to the New World. He ended up on Spruce Island in Alaska, teaching Christianity to the native population, and the area has since become a pilgrimage spot for devout Orthodox Christians. Any lone pilgrim is free to make the journey himself any time of year; those who want a more structured experience can find it with the Diocese of Alaska's annual trip.
Known as the Annual St. Herman Pilgrimage, the Diocese of Alaska hosts this group gathering every year in the summer. While the specifics of the trip vary according to the year, the event typically takes place over the course of three days in the late summer. Pilgrims typically spend time sight-seeing and engaging in Orthodox services around Kodiak Island before departing for a day-long retreat at Spruce Island. While there, pilgrims can expect church services and an outdoor meal on the island. Participants will also have time for introspection and personal prayer at some of St. Herman's relics.
Though the pilgrimage is a group event, each participant must reserve her own accommodations and transportation on Kodiak Island. The Diocese of Alaska recommends that potential pilgrims book hotel rooms in Kodiak early, since rooms tend to fill up far in advance. Some of the other lodging options recommended by the Diocese include Kodiak's Best Western and the Russian Heritage Inn, a motel friendly to pets that features multilingual employees and rooms that cost from $90 to $150 a night, as of 2011.
St. Herman pilgrims should also consider transportation options. Guests cannot drive to Kodiak Island. Instead, they must use Alaska's ferry system or fly to the island. Pilgrimage coordinators do offer opportunities for free bus transportation between events. However, participants are responsible for transportation while sight-seeing between events and for transportation to and from hotels. There are a number of national car rental agencies on the island.
Besides transportation and lodging costs, the Diocese does ask payment for one major pilgrimage event. There is usually a costly grand banquet during the pilgrimage that participants must purchase tickets for. In 2010, individual tickets cost $30 and family tickets cost $50. Beyond that, all services and pilgrimage events are free, including boat rides to Spruce Island. Donations are welcome to boat skippers and to the Diocese itself for those with the means to give more.
- St. Herman Press: Spruce Island, Alaska: A Pilgrim's Guide
- Orthodox Beacon; Annual Pilgrimage to Spruce Island to Mark 40th Anniversary of St. Herman's Glorification; April 24, 2010
- Orthodox Diocese of Alaska: St. Herman Pilgrimage 2011
- Orthodox Diocese of Alaska: 2010 St. Herman Pilgrimage FAQ
- Russian Heritage Inn
- Kodiak Travel Directory: Car Rentals
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