Saint Jacob Netsvetov the Enlightener of Alaska

St. Madarije

Pray to Him

O holy father Jacob, son of Russia and America, apostle to the native peoples of Alaska and their glory! We fall down before your holy icon, asking your prayers for us, your spiritual children. As the Lord commanded His disciples to go forth to teach and baptize, so you have come to this country, bringing the good news of salvation. As the Lord promised that the peacemakers would be blessed, so you have found eternal favor with Him as the missionary of reconciliation and forgiveness. Your life was filled with disappointments, sadness and hardship, yet you persevered in this beautiful yet dangerous land, baptizing, preaching, teaching, translating and celebrating divine services to the glory of God. We are amazed at your humility and inspired by your dedication. Help us to emulate your self-effacing, self-sacrificial life. Intercede for us before the throne of the most high God, that He grant us to follow your path of peace, joy and love, forgiving and blessing those who trespass against us. Share with us, O holy father, the radiant power of the resurrection, which so marvelously inspired and transfigured you each year, and help us to be missionaries of the eternal light which shone forth from the tomb of our lord Jesus Christ. Let the everlasting joy of pascha enlighten and guide our lives on earth, that we may join with you in the eternal love, joy and peace which are the kingdom of Christ, into whom we have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the trinity, one in essence and undivided. Amen. 


How can St. Jacob intercede for us? 

St. Jacob was a symbol of faith who called the people of Alaska to Christ. He persevered through the hard conditions of his ministry to bring people closer to Christ. We can call upon him for strength in undertaking a large task, as well as for intercessions in conversion and unity of all people in Christ. As college students, we are actively working to discover our place in life and God’s plan for us. St Jacob’s relationship with Christ was led by his trust in His protection and love even through his uncertainty and difficulties. As we attempt to discern our calling in our early years of adulthood, we can call upon St. Jacob for guidance and aid in taking on new responsibilities and trusting in God.

Learn his Troparion

O righteous Father Jacob, Adornment of Atka and the Yukon Delta; Offspring of Russian America, Flower of brotherly unity, Healer of sickness and terror of demons: You offered yourself as a living sacrifice To bring light to a searching people. Pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (Tone 4)

The Life of St. Jacob

Saint Jacob (Netsvetov) of Alaska was born to pious parents in 1802 on Atka Island, Alaska. His father was a Russian from Tobolsk, and his mother was a native Aleut from Atka island in Alaska. At the age of 21, St. Jacob and his family moved to the city of Irkutsk in Russia. There, Jacob enrolled in the Irkutsk Theological Seminary and was shortly tonsured as a subdeacon.

In 1826, Saint Jacob married a Russian woman named Anna Simeonovna and graduated from the seminary with certificates in history and theology. Now a married man, St. Jacob was elevated to the holy priesthood only two years later. Despite being situated in Russia with his family, Jacob desperately yearned to return to his native Alaska. In 1828, Father Jacob, his father, Yegor, and his matushka, Anna, set out for Alaska. Aided by prayer and confidence in God’s providence, the Netsvetov family arrived safely in the Atka island over a year later.

This new assignment for Father Jacob would prove to be quite a challenge. The Atka “parish” comprised a territory stretching for nearly 2,000 miles and included five other islands. But this did not deter the godly young priest, who threw himself wholly into his sacred ministry. His deep love for God and for his flock was evident in everything that he did. Both in Atka and in the distant villages and settlements which he visited, Father Jacob offered himself as a living sacrifice, having no worry about his life and enduring manifold tortures of cold, wet, wind, illness, hunger and exhaustion.

When he arrived in Atka, the Church of Saint Nicholas had not yet been built. So, with his own hands Father Jacob constructed a large tent in which he conducted the services. Later he would transport this tent with him on his missionary journeys. Once the church was constructed, Father Jacob turned his attention to the building of a school in which the children would learn to read and write both Russian and Unangan Aleut. Father Jacob proved to be a talented educator and translator whose students became distinguished Aleut leaders in the next generation.

Being fully bilingual and bicultural, Father Jacob was uniquely blessed by God to care for the souls of his fellow Alaskans. Showing himself as a “rule of faith,” his example brought his people to a deep commitment to their own salvation. In his first six months alone, Father Jacob recorded that he had baptized 16, chrismated 442, married 53 couples, and buried 8 people. Saint Innocent of Alaska praised the young pastor for his holiness of life, his teaching, and for continuing this work of translating which he, himself, had begun earlier among the native peoples. After fifteen years of service, Father Jacob was made Archpriest.

Father Jacob’s life in Alaska was not without its own hardships. In March of 1836, his precious wife, Anna, died of cancer; his home burned to the ground in July of 1836; and his dear father, Yegor, died of an undetermined illness in 1837. Despite these tribulations, in his journal, Father Jacob attributed all to “the Will of Him whose Providence and Will are inscrutable and whose actions toward men are incomprehensible.” He patiently endured hardships and sufferings before eventually petitioning his bishop to return to Russia so that he may enter the monastic life. A year later, word reached him that permission was granted contingent upon the arrival of a replacement. None ever came.

Father Jacob continued to serve his far-flung flock of the Atka parish until 1844 before being sent to Yukon, Alaska. There, he traveled to native settlements hundreds of miles up and down Alaska. He baptized hundreds of natives from various, and often formerly hostile, tribes. He learned new languages, embraced new peoples and cultures, devised another alphabet, built another church and Orthodox community, and for the next twenty years, until his health and eyesight failed, continued to be an evangelical beacon of the grace of God in southwestern Alaska.

Saint Jacob died on July 26, 1864 at the age of 60. During his final missionary travels in the Kuskokwim/Yukon delta region, he had baptized 1,320 people—distinguishing himself as the evangelizer of the Yup’ik Eskimo and Athabascan Indian peoples, and adding to the thousands of Alaskan natives he had previously baptized or chrismated to the Orthodox faith. He is commemorated on

July 26.


Discussion Questions

  1. During his life, St. Jacob was part of an extremely small Orthodox community in Alaska. Despite being in the minority, he decided to spread the word of Christ and call other people to Him, facing extraordinary difficulties when doing so. Where did St. Jacob receive his strength to evangelize Alaskan natives? What can we learn from St. Jacob’s ministry and apply it to our lives as Orthodox Christians in non-Orthodox college campuses?
  2. St. Jacob went through a difficult time in his life, losing his family and home. Despite wanting to return to Russia, a replacement never came, so he stayed in Alaska. What has been a difficult time in your life and how did you overcome it? Can you think of a challenging time when God’s plan felt different than yours? 
  3. St. Jacob showed Christ’s love to so many who had never experienced it before. Have you ever met someone who showed you Christ or have you ever been that person for someone else? What was this person like for you? What role did they play in your life.
  4. Saint Jacob was bilingual and bicultural. What was a skill that you have been blessed with that you can use to serve a purpose greater than yourself? 

Related Saints

St Herman of Alaska – Helped bring Orthodoxy to America and the Alaskan natives

St Innocent of Alaska – Helped bring Orthodoxy to America and the Alaskan natives

Ss Cyril and Methodius – Brothers who brought Orthodoxy to the Slavic peoples of central Europe

St Raphael of Brooklyn – Travelled across North America building churches and spreading Orthodoxy.

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