venerate the czar

well. I’ve ignored this thing long enough to slough off all of the hangers on, the fakers, the only marginally interested. that should be all of you.

I am in my new apartment in Washington. my very own. it’s of decent size … I’ve got a couch, a television, and an internet connection. my shower curtain has a map of the world on it. the unit i’s on the second floor of the building, and it looks west into wide alley. the view sucks and the neighborhood is iffy, but the silence is golden. I’d put pictures up, but let’s be honest: I’m not going to get around to that. so use my poor description, and let your imagination fill in the rest.

onward! the family church in Indiana turns a century this year, and like all churches do, they’re producing an anniverary book. I convinced my poor, trusting mother to allow to me to take a first pass at the brief biography of the parish’s longest serving priest, Benjamin Kedrovsky, who spent 47 years of his life as pastor there. from 1911, to 1958. that’s a long goddamn time, man. I can barely hold down a job for a month.

anyway, for a man who spent nearly half a century as the pastor of a small church,  he lived a pretty interesting life. so here is his bio that you would only be able to read should you purchase a 100th anniversary book from St. Mary’s. but you won’t, understandably, because you don’t go to church there. I left out the descriptions of his brothers’ missionary work in the Aleutian Islands at the turn of the century, and the allegations of him being a socialist sympathizer and drunk who didn’t properly venerate the czar in his hymns, because it’s that kind of detail that a church anniverary committee is looking to avoid, but now you know — so keep that in mind when you consider his early years. and please, read on:

Benjamin Kedrovsky was born in the village of Votcha, Totemskii district, Vologda Oblast in the Russian Empire on August 28, 1888. The Kedrovsky family’s home parish was St. Michael the Archangel. Benjamin’s father, Nicholas Kedrovsky, was a deacon in the church. As was customary at the time, young Benjamin and at least three older brothers followed their father into the clergy.

In 1902, he entered the Vologda Ecclesiastical Seminary to begin his study for the priesthood. but in the fifth year of his studies, Benjamin was expelled. In correspondence between his brother and a church superior, it was explained that Benjamin’s association with student activists during this tumultuous period in Russian life — and his reluctance to identify his classmates to administration — led to his dismissal from seminary.

Eager to continue his education and to continue on the path toward priesthood, Benjamin emigrated to the United States on July 3, 1909, at the age of 21, Three months later, the young man was working as a choir director and reader at an Orthodox parish in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Within a year, Kedrovsky moved across the state to Pittsburgh, and in October of 1910 began serving as choir director at St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church on Reed Street while continuing his studies.

It was here he met who was to be his wife. Born in Pittsburgh in 1892 to Galician immigrants, 19-year-old Julia Dmitrievna Varnovskaya and the new choir director courted and were married on August 4. It was then only three months before Julia’s new husband concluded his studies, traveled to New York City, and was ordained into the priesthood on October 29 in St. Nicholas Cathedral. Eleven days later, Father Benjamin Kedrovsky arrived in young city of Gary, Indiana. It was November 9, 1911.

Fr. Benjamin assumed pastoral duties over Gary’s newly formed Russian Orthodox parish on November 22, 1911. He would go on to serve as the priest at The Protection of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church for 47 years — during which time the congregation constructed a church building at 17th and Fillmore streets in 1912; purchased the land for the parish cemetery on West Ridge Road in 1919; renovated and refurbished the church in 1922; and expanded at an almost exponential rate, much in the same way that the city itself boomed. Into this church the Kedrovskys raised four children of their own — sons George, Victor and Vladimir, and a daughter, Vera. Fittingly, to quote Fr. Benjamin himself: “Once could say that the city of Gary and the parish grew up at the same time.”
Fr. Benjamin was very involved in the faith. He was very active in the church school, held in the basement below the rectory built on church grounds, where he promoted an understanding of Orthodox faith and of greater Russian culture. Notably, he served as president of the Midwest diocese’s Chicago Deanery from 1917 until 1958, and was also a regular contributor to the American Orthodox Messenger.
Fr. Benjamin’s efforts at promoting Orthodoxy culminated when Gary declared a “Russian Orthodox Day” in October of 1928, when the nation’s Metropolitan, as well as the bishops of Chicago, San Francisco and Canada arrived to celebrate Divine Liturgy.
Hearkening back to his time as a choir director, Fr. Benjamin was especially proud of the parish’s excellent choir that won renown after placing first in the 1930 and ’31 Gary and Chicagoland Music Festivals. And In 1931, upon the 20th anniversary of the parish’s founding and during Gary’s silver jubilee, he published a book: “On God’s Field,” a history of St. Mary’s and his observations of a life doing God’s work. 
In 1951, after decades of service and on the parish’s patron saint day, Fr. Benjamin was elevated to the rank of Right Reverend by the Holy Synod of Bishops and granted the honor of wearing the mitre. He continued to lead the parish until his retirement in 1958, just before its move to its longtime location at 45th and Maryland streets in the Glen Park section of the city. At his retirement, the congregation named him Pastor Emeritus for his nearly 50 years of faithful stewardship.
On Nobember 25, 1968, not long after the church celebrated its 57th anniversary, Benjamin Kedrovsky passed away. He was 80. But his contributions to the early success of the Protection of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church cannot be understated; Fr. Benjamin left an indelible impression on the parish’s life and its growth, and that of the city of Gary, Indiana, itself. May his memory be eternal!


4 comments so far

  1. Anonymous on

    Socialist and drunk!

  2. Robert Marella on

  3. Amber Taylor on

    My great-grandparents were married by Benjamin Kedrovsky at St. Mary’s Church in Gary in 1917…thanks for posting this. I would love to find out more about my great-grandparents. I only knew my great-grandma from visiting her in the nursing home.

  4. […] with dripping wine stain, a Sunday school class picture from the Protection of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church in Gary, Indiana, circa 1928. there are a ton of kids in that picture. my grandma and Aunt Olga are […]

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