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Ambrose Vretta


Ambrose Vretta was born in Macedonia in 1859. He attended the Imperial Medical College in Constantinople (now Istanbul), then toured Europe and studied in Rome. He returned for a time to his homeland, but soon left due to ill treatment by the Turkish government. He moved to Russia, where he became acquianted with the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg. It is possible that he was ordained a priest during his time in Russia.

In 1892, Fr. Vretta, by this time a priest, arrived in America with the newly-appointed Bishop Nicholas (Ziorov). On May 17, 1892, he oversaw the founding of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Chicago, becoming its first pastor. Shortly after this, he also assumed pastoral responsibility for a new parish in Streator, Illinois.

During his time in Chicago, Fr. Vretta had a friendly relationship with the local Greek priest, Fr. Panagiotis (Peter) Phiambolis, concelebrating with him on numerous occasions in both the Greek and Russian parishes.

In November 1895 Fr. Vretta was transferred to Seattle, where he oversaw the founding of St. Spiridon Church and became that parish's first resident priest. According to the book A History of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Chicago 1892-1992, this transfer (Ukase 3218, July 10, 1895) came about because Fr. Vretta had a drinking problem, and he and the choir director partook too often. The choir director was fired outright. Fr. John Kochuroff also reported that when he arrived in Chicago, the priest's residence was in disrepair and that church records (outside of Fr. Vretta's journals) were almost non-existant. The transfer to Seattle would be a chance for Fr. Vretta to start anew.

At St. Spiridon Church, Fr. Vretta succeeded Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, who had been conducting services in Seattle on Saturdays before Fr. Vretta's arrival. In 1896, Fr. Vretta visited Montana, where he celebrated the first Orthodox services in that state.

Vretta was transferred from St. Spiridon in December 1896. He returned to Russia, and died soon thereafter.