Joseph P. Kreta

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The Protopresbyter Joseph P. Kreta was a priest of the Orthodox Church in America during the second half of the twentieth century and founder of St. Herman's Theological Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska.


Father Joseph was born on May 15, 1927 in Clifton, New Jersey, the son of Mitred Archpriest Peter and Anna Kreta. He grew up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania where he actively took part in the parish life of the parish to which his father was assigned. At the age of seventeen, Joseph joined the United States Navy during the latter part of World War II after his graduated from high school in 1944. While serving in the Navy, Joseph experienced his call to serve Christ and His Church in Alaska as he experienced the wonder of the land while on his ship in the Aleutian Islands.

Completing his Naval tour of duty, Joseph enrolled in St. Tikhon's Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania in September 1948. After graduating in 1951, Joseph married Marie Gambal on August 5, 1951, then petitioned to enter the Holy Orders and to be assigned to the parish in Juneau, Alaska. However, after his ordination as deacon on May 30, 1952, followed on the next day to priest, at Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in New York City, Father Joseph was assigned to the cathedral to serve the English language community in the cathedral's St. Innocent Chapel. During the period of his service with St. Innocent Chapel, Fr. Joseph and his wife Marie became parents, first, of a son Peter and, four years later, twin sons John and Stephen.

On September 14, 1958, Fr. Joseph concluded a Divine Liturgy under a tent in Queens, New York, which was the beginning of the Mission of St. John Chrysostom. After several years of worshipping in rented storefront facilities, the mission was able to build the church that became the first all-English language parish on the east coast of the United States. This parish was followed over the next decade by other similar all English parishes in the New York City area that were led by contemporaries of Fr. Joseph, including Frs. John Nehrebecki and John Sochka. It was during these years that Fr. John and Matushka Marie became parents of a daughter Maria.

In 1971, Fr. Joseph was commissioned to conduct a fact-finding trip to the Diocese of Alaska that had been experiencing serious financial difficulties. It was during this trip that Fr. Joseph experienced life on Spruce Island as St. Herman had. Following his report concerning the situation in Alaska, the Synod of Bishops assigned Fr. Joseph, with his family, as temporary administrator of the diocese and rector of the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel in 1972. Initially, assigned for one year, Fr. John and his family would spend the next three decades in Alaska.

Finding some 100 parishes in 1972 spread over all of Alaska that were served by about a dozen priests, Fr. Joseph found a great task before him. Thus, he found the need for clergy to serve the far-flung parishes was an early need that needed to be remedied. In 1973, Fr. Joseph moved with his family to Kenai where he was instrumental in establishing a pastoral school that was dedicated to St. Herman of Alaska. Also, in 1973, His Grace, Bishop Gregory (Afonsky) was assigned as the ruling bishop for the diocese. Bp. Gregory quickly appointed Fr. Joseph as the diocesan chancellor and rector of Holy Resurrection Church on Kodiak Island.

One of the results of Fr. Joseph's travels throughout Alaska was a report called the Russian Orthodox Church Sites in Alaska Survey which documented nearly 150 churches in Alaska. This report contains detailed information about the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska, as well as information about individual churches. This report was submitted to the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, resulting in 29 of Alaska's Orthodox Churches being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

In 1973, the first home for St. Herman's Pastoral school, with Fr. Joseph as its dean, was established at a former American Air Force facility at Wildwood Station at Kenai that had been transferred to the Kenaitze Indians of Cook Inlet. During the summer of 1974 the school was moved to permanent facilities in Kodiak on Kodiak Island near Holy Resurrection Church. In 1976, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America designated the school as a Theological Seminary which subsequently was authorized by the State of Alaska to grant degrees in Sacred Theology and Theological Studies.

In addition to the establishment of St. Herman's Seminary, Fr. Joseph, and Bishop Gregory, conducted visits to all the parish churches in the Diocese of Alaska, many of which had not been visited for many years. Through this effort they were able to obtain the listing of 29 of these churches in the National Register of Historical Landmarks. In his ministry in Alaska, Fr. Joseph was soon joined by his first son, Fr. Peter Kreta who later died early of cancer. In recognition of his great efforts in rebuilding the lives of the native population of which many were Orthodox Christians, Fr. Joseph was awarded the Alaska Governor’s Award in 1982 and the Alaska Historic Society’s Evangeline Atwood Award in 1994. In 1990, Father Joseph was elevated to the rarely bestowed rank of Protopresbyter by the Synod of Bishops.

Besides his work in Alaska, Fr. Joseph served during his career as an elected member of the Orthodox Church in America’s Metropolitan Council, a member of the Board of Trustees of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, dean of the New York City Deanery, and chair of the OCA Statute Committee. He also served as treasurer of the Eastern Orthodox Commission on Scouting, member of the New York-New Jersey Diocesan Council, and member of the OCA Canonical Commission.

After an active career of some forty years, Fr. Joseph retired from active ministry in 1995 and settled in retirement near Phoenix, Arizona. Fr. Joseph reposed on February 4, 2012 after a period of illness. After a funeral service in Phoenix on February 6, Fr. Joseph Kreta was buried at the Monastery of St. Tikhon of Zagonsk in South Canaan, Pennsylvania on February 9, 2012.