Matushka Olga of Alaska
The Life of Matushka Olga
Matushka Olga, a Native Alaskan of Yup’ik origin, was born on February 3, 1916 and reposed on November 8, 1979. Her given name in Yup’ik is Arrsamquq. Olga is her baptismal name and Matushka is the Russian title for the wife of a priest, literally meaning “mother”. She lived a life of subsistence in the village of Kwethluk, Alaska, on the Kuskokwin River. Her husband, Nikolai Michael, was the village postmaster and general store manager before being ordained.
Although her family was poor, she gave generously to those who were poorer. Matushka Olga constantly prepared warm clothes and boots for others. Parishes hundreds of miles away received unsolicited gifts from her, and all the clergy of the deanery wore gloves or socks that Matushka Olga had made for them.
Matushka Olga served her community not only as a priest’s wife, but also as a midwife. She herself bore thirteen children, although only eight survived to childhood. She was blessed with the gift of knowing if a woman was pregnant even before the woman herself knew it. God also enabled her to know to send some women into a town with a hospital to give birth, because they were to have medical complications.
Learn more about the life of Matushka Olga here.
About her glorification:
Although Matushka Olga Michael is not at present officially recognized to be a saint, nevertheless, there are very many people around the world who regard her as being holy. They invoke her prayers on their behalf, and they receive Grace from God for their healing, their repentance, their consolation, their strengthening to persevere. Matushka Olga Michael is widely accepted to be a holy person within the territory of her own diocese.
The process of glorifying saints in the Orthodox Church is not defined strictly. While the glorification of a saint may be initiated because of miracles, it is not an absolute necessity for canonization. What is required is a virtuous life of obvious holiness. Long before an official inquiry into a person’s life is made by the bishops of the Church, that person is venerated by the people where he or she lived and died. Perhaps Matushka Olga will one day join the list of glorified Saints of North America. For now, she is clearly making her mark on the lives of many individuals.
Learn more about the glorification of the saints here.
How can Matushka Olga intercede for us?
Matushka Olga was known for her empathy and care for those who had suffered abuse of all sorts. During her lifetime, she would invite battered women to the steam bath, where she would offer her support and love. Probably the most significant story after Olga’s repose is that of a woman from New York who had experienced severe sexual abuse during her childhood. While in prayer, she had a vision in which Olga helped her through a process of healing. At least one other woman has had a similar experience of Matushka Olga. From these encounters, a growing number of women now venerate her and consider her their patron, who intercedes for those who have suffered trauma and abuse.
Pray to Matushka Olga to intercede when you or a loved one suffers from pain or trauma. Ask for her assistance if you or a loved one is struggling with a pregnancy or with caring for children. You can also pray to her if you need help with being generous.
Out of Matushka Olga’s thirteen children, only eight survived to adulthood. Pray to her if you are grieving for the loss of a loved one.
- During her life, Matushka Olga was known for her generosity, knitting warm coats, mittens, and socks for her community. What can you or your OCF chapter do to be generous for your community?
- Matushka Olga sought out and offered Christ’s love to people in need of healing. Who are the most vulnerable people in your community? How can you serve them with compassion, as Matushka Olga did?
- In a vision, Matushka Olga told the woman from New York that “the moving curtain of light was to be for us a promise that God can create great beauty from complete desolation and nothingness.” Discuss this quote, found here. What are ways that God has changed sorrow into beauty in your life?
- The woman from New York with the vision of Matushka Olga wrote that “the people who hurt me thought they could make me carry their evil inside of me by rape. [Matushka Olga] was very firm when she said, ‘That’s a lie. Only God can carry evil away. The only thing they could put inside you was the seed of life which is a creation of God and cannot pollute anyone.’” Discuss this quote, found here.
Learn her Troparion
By your righteous deeds, you were revealed to the world
as an image of the perfect servant of the Lord in Alaska.
By your fasting, vigil and prayers,
you were inspired in your evangelical life.
You fed the hungry, and you cared for the poor.
You served as a midwife, and you brought babies into the world.
You nurtured children, and you clothed all those in need.
Now, O Holy Olga, you stand at the right-hand of Christ the Master,
and you intercede for our souls.
Learn her Kontakion
O God of our Fathers,
ever act with us in accordance with Your kindness.
Take not away Your mercy from us ;
but through the supplications of Saint Olga,
guide our lives in peace.
Listen to hymns in native Alaskan languages here.
Pray to her
The God who makes the moving curtain of the northern lights made you as a living light, shining in the far north and lighting up the desolate with His great beauty. Beholding this radiance, we your children lift up our voices and sing: Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken !
Text from The Akathist to Matushka Olga Michael by Archpriest Lawrence R Farley