Archimandrite Gerasim (Eliel) is the dean of St Seraphim's Cathedral, Dallas. He was formerly the abbot of St Herman of Alaska Monastery in Platina, and was involved in bringing the monastery back into the Orthodox Church. On February 16, 2015, he was nominated to be the next bishop of the Diocese of the South (OCA).
Early Life and College
- 1961 July 16: Gordon Trent Eliel was born in Torrance, California, the second son (of three) to Lambert Frank Eliel (an economist) & Suzanne Jean Eliel (nee Butcher). Baptised at St. Cross Episcopal Church in Hermosa Beach, raised on the Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and attended & was confirmed at St Francis Episcopal Church in Palos Verdes Estates. He was well-read and athletic.
- 1969: Lambert and Suzanne separated, then divorced, with Gordon and his brothers living with Suzanne (who then became a teacher). The divorce affected Gordon in his upbringing and self-identity.
- 1974-78: Gordon and his family began attending a Presbyterian church, where Gordon attended the youth group.
- 1976: Suzanne remarried Robert Karbach. Though his stepfather was kind, but problems stemming from the divorce and with a blended family meant that Gordon desired a fresh start, and he moved to Irvine in January 1978 to live with his father. He made friends, but no close friends; he attended St George Episcopal Church, which was pleasant. He joined Young Life, which gave Christian fellowship with fellow high schoolers.
- 1978 Winter: Young Life retreat prompted Gordon to think about prayer, and begin to comprehend Christ and the New Testament, which led him to attend church with hunger, attention and conviction.
- 1979 Autumn: Began studies at University of California at Santa Cruz. Began involvement in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. Originally intending to study Physics and Spanish literature, after his first year he began to focus more on Spanish literature.
- Became a part of a Bible study led by James Paffhausen, which over time functioned like an Orthodox catechism class. Gordon was invited to services and became acquainted with the Orthodox Church. James encouraged Gordon to visit Episcopal churches (to learn about prayer and worship in a familiar environment), but found them insipid and uninspiring compared to Orthodox services.
- 1980 January: Fr John Newcombe was assigned to be acting rector of the closest OCA parish to campus (St Nicholas Church in Saratoga). He welcomed the students warmly to his parish, and was a decisive influence on Gordon and his future decision to embrace monasticism. Fr John guided Gordon's catechism.
- 1980: Gordon met Bp Mark (Schaviakin) of Ladoga in early 1980 at St Nicholas Cathedral (Moscow Patriarchate) - the same who had tonsured James Paffhausen a reader for Our Lady of Kazan Church, San Diego. He also was very welcoming, giving a way to enter the Church and teaching about the Church and monasticism (particularly his experience at Valaam monastery). On April 7, Gordon was received into the Church.
- 1980 Summer: Fr John invited Gordon and James to stay at Holy Assumption Monastery for two months. They helped with cleaning & restoring the convent, with the outlook of founding a monastery for Americans - this became Gordon's dream over the summer. They also took trips to Kazan Icon Skete in Santa Rosa, where he met Archim. Dimitri (Egoroff).
- 1980 Jul 6: Gordon and James visited St Herman of Alaska Monastery. Gordon and James were able to speak to Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) about monasticism and their plans for the monastic life, and to Abbot Herman (Podmoshensky) about activities, prayers and talks on campus.
- 1980 Sep: Gordon began studying the Russian language, wanting to understand services and sermons and to communicate with older parishioners who had a lifetime of experience in Orthodoxy.
- 1981 May 15: Hmk Seraphim (Rose) was invited to address a World Religions class. This proved to be a pivotal talk for a number of people, including Gordon, James, Marion Cardoza, Daniel Ogan, John Christensen and James Corraza. The talk was widely distributed, and was made into a book in 1988 (as 'God's Revelation to the Human Heart').
Monastic life at St Herman's
- 1981 July: With Fr John (now Hmk Anastasy) having moved to Oregon, a disdain towards the direction that Latin American Studies was going in, and his pull towards the monastic life, Gordon chose to leave college and move to Oregon. He drove Archim. Dimitri (Egoroff) from Santa Barbara to Santa Rosa.
- 1981 July 28: Gordon reached St Herman of Alaska Monastery, intending to continue on to establish monastic life under Hmk Anastasy's guidance after helping to prepare the 1981 summer pilgrimage. He stayed there for quite some time, as Hmk Anastasy had not made arrangements for him in Portland. After more time passed, he asked Hmk Anastasy's blessing to stay at Platina - which he gave reluctantly.
- 1981 Nov: Gordon petitioned to be accepted as a novice.
- 1981 Dec 25: Gordon was clothed as a novice. His obediences included cooking, cleaning, cutting firewood, helping in construction projects and making elementary repairs.
- 1982 Spring: Br Gordon began building a new set of cells. He also began to assist with research for monastery publications and work on monastery publications.
- 1982 Sep 2: Hmk Seraphim (Rose) reposed in hospital, an event that devastated Br Gordon. They returned to the monastery on September 3 with Fr Seraphim's body. Abbot Herman planned for Br Gordon to be tonsured a reader, but Br Gordon asked to be tonsured a monk - which he was, named for St Gerasimus of the Jordan (and in honour of Archim. Gerasim (Schmaltz)).
- Fr Gerasim began to detect changes in the Monastery. More brothers came, and publications (as well as salvaging Hmk Seraphim's legacy) meant that they were all busy, but stability was lost and Fr Gerasim noticed the waning discipline from late 1982. He considered leaving the monastery, but did not perceive an alternative.
- 1983 July 2: Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco tonsured Fr Gerasim a Reader on the memorial day of St John's repose.
- 1983 August 26: A pilgrimage was had to Spruce Island, including a number of young brothers from St Herman's Monastery (including Fr Gerasim). Abbot Herman hoped that monastic life could be reestablished at Monks Lagoon, so ensured that the brothers who went had sufficient supplies to enable this to happen. John Christensen was clothed as a novice during this pilgrimage.
- An attempt was made to stay at Monks Lagoon (though this was only authorised by Abbot Herman - not the Ouzinkie Native Corporation, the OCA's Diocese of Alaska, or Abbot Herman's ruling bishop). The initial group was Fr Gerasim, Fr Juvenal, Novice Michael, Novice John, and Peter. In September 1983, they found that they could rent a small place in nearby Pleasant Harbor, legally keeping their belongings there (and having somewhere to stay if they were kicked out of Monks Lagoon).
- Though Abbot Herman left, the others had not - to the surprise (and hostility) of the Kodiak clergy. Fr Juvenal and Peter left, leaving Novice John (who stayed at Pleasant Harbor most of the time), Novice Michael and Fr Gerasim (who generally stayed at Monks Lagoon).
- 1983 Nov: Hmk Nazary arrived on Spruce Island, providing stability.
- 1983 Dec: The group bought a piece of land at Sunny Cove on Spruce Island. They called it 'St Michael's Skete', because they first saw the land on this feastday.
- 1983-84 Winter: Novice Michael attempted to leave from Monks Lagoon, but became lost in a snowstorm. He later left for good.
- 1984 Lent: Hmk Nazary was summoned to San Francisco, where he was notified by Abp Anthony that Abbot Herman had been suspended. Abbot Herman made the brothers choose between loyalty to him or obedience to the Church. All the brothers at the monastery left (most went on to abandon the monastic life). This cut off Fr Gerasim and Novice John from the Church.
- 1984-85: Fr Gerasim threw himself into construction of St Michael's Skete.
- 1986 September: When Nuns Brigid, Maria and Sophia arrived at Spruce Island, Fr Gerasim moved back to Platina, where he began to coordinate the affairs of the monastery. More brothers joined the monastery, the buildings grew and the publications increased; Fr Gerasim had hope for the improvement of monastic life.
- 1987 May: Former-novice Michael invited Fr Gerasim to make a trip to Mt Athos, spending 2 weeks there.
- 1988: Many people were baptised at the monastery, and the catholicon was constructed quickly.
- 1988 July: Abbot Herman was officially defrocked by the ROCOR Synod. Abbot Herman ignored it, stating that he had already been received into another jurisdiction, and continuing tirades against various priests and bishops.
- 1989-2000: Fr Gerasim was regularly sent to give lectures and slide presentations at various Valaam Society Bookstores.
- 1988: Russky Palomnik was reestablished. Using his knowledge of Russian, Fr Gerasim was active in proofreading and distribution, and also became more active in managing the monastery's general affairs (as Abbot Herman was busy on Russky Palomnik duties).
- 1990 Apr: Travelled to Bergamo to attend a conference on Optina Monastery.
- 1991 June: Returned to Alaska with Fr Raphael and Novice Zachariah, with the nuns who had been living there being sent back to California.
- 1991 August: Visited Russia for four months in order to spend time at the newly-reopened Valaam Monastery, among other places.
- 1991 Nov-Dec: Visited Georgia. Met with Elder Vitaly of Tbilisi (a Schema-Archimandrite) and Patriarch Ilia of Georgia, and with members of the Department of Missions and Evangelism Archim. Daniel (Datuashvili) & Priest Pavle Pachuashvili. It was through contact with these people, and the Georgian Orthodox Church in general, that Fr Gerasim began to understand and experience the Church. He returned to California in Jan 1992.
- 1992 May: Fr Gerasim was tonsured to the small schema.
- 1992: A mission to punks was begun at the monastery, which Fr Gerasim became involved in. In 1994, the 'Death to the World' magazine was launched.
- 1994 Sep 14: Fr Gerasim, Monk John and Novice Martyrius returned to Monks Lagoon, joining Monk Theophil and informing Monk Ioasaph that he was to return to Platina.
- 1994 Nov: Abbot Herman arrived and informed Fr Gerasim that he was to be ordained to the priesthood by Metr John of St Petersburg. Fr Gerasim moved to Platina, and left for Russia on December 12 for his ordination with Hmk Damascene and a deacon. He was ordained to the diaconate on January 1 and to the priesthood on January 5, 1995. When he arrived back at the monastery, Abbot Herman assigned him to serve at the monastery without travel.
- 1996 Jan 17: Hmk Gerasim returned to Alaska, joining Fr Andrew (Wermuth) and a chapel built after Pascha 1995 (built with the permission of Ouzinkie Native Corporation). They set about restoring Archim. Gerasim (Schmaltz)'s cell, and were joined by Monk Moses and Novice Timothy after Pascha, and three more arrived in September. They were tasked by Abbot Herman to build a new monastery at Monks Lagoon in desperate conditions. However, they were ordered to vacate by May 1998. A court case ruled that the buildings would not be torn down, but only with the permission of the Ouzinkie Native Corporation could the monks live there. They left for St Nilus Island and built a church. The monks moved to St Michael's Skete and two nuns were sent to replace them (where they remain).
- 1998 June-September: Hmk Gerasim made a trip to Moscow. Late in 1998, he reestablished contact with the Georgian Orthodox Church, and was invited to the St Nino's Way pilgrimage in July 1999.
Returning to the Church
- 1999 September: Hmk Gerasim visited St Paisius Monastery and was informed about problems concerning Abbot Herman, including the schism being because Abbot Herman was a fugitive from church accountability. This small group made it their goal to bring St Herman's Monastery (and all associated entities) back into the Church.
- 1999 Autumn: Hmk Gerasim travelled with a group of priests in order to influence a decision to receive them into the Jerusalem Patriarchate. He then travelled to Georgia to seek further counsel. In a meeting with the Patriarch, he was told that, as a petition had already been made to the Church of Jerusalem, the Church of Georgia could not act on any request. Patr. Ilia gave much good advice to the group.
- 2000 Holy Week: Hmk Gerasim travelled to Spruce Island to deliver the request of his monastics and priests that he step down as abbot, stop serving, and return to California to live a repentant, reclusive life. He moved to a cell in Wildwood, California. He also sent a registered letter to Metr. Pangratios informing him that he was ceasing to serve.
- 2000 July: Hmk Gerasim and the group met with Bp Jovan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Jackson, California. Hmks Gerasim & Damascene met with Bp Jovan and Metr Amfilohije of Montenegro in October, asking to be received into the Serbian Orthodox Church.
- 2000 Nov 27-28: St Herman of Alaska Monastery was received into the Serbian Orthodox Church; Hmk Gerasim was elected abbot on 28 November. The missions, previously looked after by the Monastery, were gradually stabilised into the life of the Diocese.
- 2001: Abbot Gerasim began making regular six-monthly pastoral visits to Spruce Island.
- 2001 early: Abbot Gerasim was invited to help stabilise St John of Shanghai & San Francisco Monastery, which allowed the renewal of a relationship between him and Hmk Jonah (Paffhausen).
- 2006 June: In response to requests from believers in Ecuador, Abbot Gerasim journeyed there to instruct about Orthodoxy and baptise, as well as visit Brazil in October 2006 and July 2008 and Ecuador again in January & November 2007, June 2008, July 2009 and May 2010.
- 2009 February: Abbot Gerasim made a pilgrimage to Serbia.
- 2009 Feb 14: Hdcn Hilarion (Waas), having been transferred to the monastery by Bp Jovan, was ordained to the priesthood. When Hmk Gerasim left the monastery, he appointed Hmk Hilarion to be his successor, and was elevated by Bp Maxim.
- 2009 August: Abbot Gerasim began studies at St Vladimir's Seminary and was considered an episcopal candidate for the vacant Diocese of Alaska (OCA). He was asked by the Holy Synod to study at a seminary for a year. However, once there, he decided to remain for three years and graduate with a Master of Divinity degree.
- 2010 Summer: Igumen Gerasim visited 35 villages in Alaska, serving in ~10, and was introduced as a candidate to be the next bishop (a role that was actually filled by Bp David.
- 2015 Feb 16: Archim. Gerasim was nominated to be the Bishop of Dallas and the South at the Special Diocesan Assembly.
|Abbot of Monastery of St. Herman of Alaska, Platina