Yandex Metrika
Honouring St. John of Korma: A Beloved Belarusian Saint

Righteous John: Healer and Intercessor of Belarus

Saint Righteous John of Korma

“O holy saint, our righteous father John, illustrious priest of Christ's flock, you have completed your holy life, and the Lord graciously bestowed on you the gift of foresight and healing. With your incorrupt body abiding among us, pray to Christ our God that He may save our souls, O blessed one, who honour your holy memory.”
(Troparion, Tone 4)

In the timeless embrace of eternity resides holiness. We stand in awe of those venerable, righteous, blessed, godly, and devout souls. We revere their memory, offer hymns of praise, glorify their achievements, and elevate them in our hearts. We turn to saints in times of need, as we believe they reside with the Lord. Through their intercessory prayers, we trust that the Lord’s Divine grace can transform to our lives, providing us with healing, guidance, and a softening of our hearts.

Belarus boasts such an intercessor and defender of God’s flock as the Holy Righteous John of Korma. A humble priest from the heart of the countryside, he dedicated his entire earthly existence to serving God and his neighbour. Even now, he extends his hand to those who seek his intercession. Through this righteous man, a wondrous connection between the earthly and heavenly sphere is once again unveiled, where earthly constraints give way to the boundless realm of eternity and holiness.

Church of the Holy Protection in Streshin

Church of the Holy Protection in Streshin, built in 1811

Priest John Gashkevich, the father of the righteous John, served at the Church of the Holy Protection in the town of Streshin, Rogachev County. The priest’s residence stood adjacent to the church, a magnificent white-stone structure with five domes, overlooking the western bank of the Dnieper River. It was here, on 20 October 1837, that a son was born into the priest’s family. Christened John, he bore the name of the Apostle of Love, John the Theologian.

From early childhood, young John assisted his father at the church. By the age of four, he was already serving alongside his brother Nicholas as a taper-bearer, faithfully obeying his father. He cleaned the altar, washed the floors, and tended to the lamps. With his father and brother, the boy would sometimes descend into the church’s crypt, where he engaged in fervent prayer. Within these walls, a dream blossomed in his heart — a pilgrimage to the revered Kiev Caves Lavra to venerate its sacred shrines. The majestic Dnieper hills and the ancient lindens and oaks that adorned the high western bank, where the river gracefully curved, bore silent witness to these formative years of the future saint’s youth.

Mogilev Religious Seminary

Mogilev Religious Seminary

Having completed his studies at the local parish school, the young John enrolled in and completed a theological school, which prepared him for further studies at a seminary. In 1855, at the age of eighteen, John Gashkevich entered the Mogilev Religious Seminary. The four years spent within its walls further solidified his faith in God’s divine providence. Upon graduating from the seminary in 1859, the young man was appointed as an instructor at the Ogorodna Church School. During this time, he crossed paths with Maria, the daughter of the esteemed Archpriest Philip Trusevich. Following their union, which was celebrated after the Feast of the Theophany in 1862, John Gashkevich petitioned for ordination to the holy priesthood.

His Eminence Eusebius (Orlinsky), Archbishop of Mogilev

His Eminence Eusebius (Orlinsky), Archbishop of Mogilev and Mstislavl

On the feast day of Saint Dmitry of Priluki, February 24th, His Eminence Eusebius (Orlinsky), Archbishop of Mogilev and Mstislavl, ordained John Ivanovich Gashkevich to the Holy Priesthood during the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Sherstin Village, Rogachev County.

With humility and meekness, Father John embraced this calling, submitting himself entirely to God’s divine providence. The young priest, just 25 years old, arrived in Sherstin with his wife, Maria, on the eve of Great Lent. His very first services foreshadowed the path that lay ahead — one of repentance, fasting, and prayer.

Places of life, struggle, and ministry of Saint Righteous John of Korma

Places of life, struggle, and ministry of Saint Righteous John of Korma

Over fourteen years in Sherstin, Father John and Matushka Maria were blessed with four children: three sons, Michael, Ignatius, and Simeon, and a daughter named Tatiana.

On the feast day of Saints Joachim and Anna, 22 September 1876, the Holy Synod bestowed upon Father John the dignity of wearing the Palitsa. When a vacancy in the clergy of Ogorodna village emerged, Father John petitioned His Eminence Eusebius for a transfer to the Church of Saint Nicholas in Ogorodna, Gomel County. His request was granted, and Father John, along with his family, embarked on a new chapter of service at St. Nicholas Church.

In his new parish, he undertook numerous endeavours to improve the church and its surrounding buildings. It was here that the Lord truly unveiled Father John’s spiritual gifts. The church, dedicated to the Translation of the Relics of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, became a centre of intensified spiritual warfare and unceasing prayer for Father John.

Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in the village of Ogorodna

Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in the village of Ogorodna, Gomel County

Father John did not own any real estate during his lifetime. He resided in a modest church dwelling next to the church. Described in “insurance assessments” as a modest, thatched-roof structure, this house dates back to 1837. In his new parish, he undertook numerous efforts to improve the church and its surrounding buildings. It was here that the Lord truly unveiled Father John’s spiritual gifts. The church, dedicated to the Translation of the Relics of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, became a centre of intensified spiritual warfare and unceasing prayer for Father John.

Father John was bestowed the skufia by His Eminence Sergius (Spassky), Bishop of Mogilev, on Holy Pascha in 1889, with the blessing of the Holy Synod. From 12 April 1893, Father John served for three consecutive years as a spiritual investigator within the deanery. In this role, he embodied the qualities of a loving shepherd and a compassionate father, faithfully serving his flock before the Lord. In the same year, he was elected to the deanery council, where he served for twelve years. In recognition of his exemplary work in obedience, the Holy Synod, acting through His Eminence Stephen (Arkhangelsky), Bishop of Mogilev, bestowed upon Father John the Order of Saint Anne, 3rd Class, in the year 1906. On 27 March 1896, on the feast day of Saint Matrona of Thessalonica, Father John received the kamilavka. By the subsequent Feast of the Lord’s Pascha on April 24th, he was further honoured with the presentation of a golden pectoral cross.

Order of St. Anne, 3rd Class

Order of St. Anne, 3rd Class. Order motto: “To those who love truth, piety, and faithfulness.”

In Ogorodna, Matushka Maria gave birth to three more children: a daughter named Anna, and sons Platon and John. After the birth of his youngest son, John, in 1885, he realized his childhood dream of making a pilgrimage to the holy Kiev-Caves Lavra. There, he received a blessing from the elders to embrace the monastic life. Thereafter, he abstained from eating meat for the rest of his life. He also adhered to a rigorous fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, consuming only prosphora and a small amount of water after the evening service. During these dedicated hours, he was immersed in prayer throughout the night. Father John, a righteous man, taught the Jesus Prayer to his children and to those he guided on their spiritual journeys. His sermons and conversations captivated the hearts and minds of all who encountered him.

In Ogorodna

In Ogorodna

Upon reaching his 70th year and having faithfully served for 45 years as a priest, Father John was elevated to the rank of Archpriest by Mitrophan (Krasnopolsky), Bishop of Gomel. Five years later, a further honour awaited him — the prestigious Order of Saint Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir, 4th Class, bestowed in recognition of his golden jubilee — fifty years in the holy priesthood. At the age of 75, Father John chose to retire, passing the mantle of service to his younger son, also named John.

Hieromartyr Mitrophan (Krasnopolsky)

Hieromartyr Mitrophan (Krasnopolsky)

Father John’s later years were marked by the blossoming of a remarkable spiritual gift — the ability to heal, extending even to those afflicted by demonic influence. During the hardships of World War I, he tirelessly cared for the impoverished, readily sharing his meagre resources with the poor and orphaned. He gifted his only cow to a large family in need. On another occasion, upon discovering a widow taking firewood from his property, he surprised her with a blessing by granting her permission to take what she needed throughout the winter.

The first wooden church in Korma, dedicated to the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, was built by parishioners near the village entrance in 1760. By 1900, the structure had fallen into disrepair. Father John, who was serving as the spiritual director for the 3rd Gomel District, suggested to the church rector, Father Peter, that he dedicate three days to prayer and fasting, seeking the Lord’s guidance to uncover the perfect site for a new church. The parishioners and Father Peter heeded John’s wisdom. Miraculously, that very evening, candles mysteriously ignited themselves in the village centre, atop a small hillock. Archpriest John Gashkevich himself laid the foundation stone, and later, in 1907, co-celebrated the church’s consecration with the local priest, Nikolai Stradomsky.

Order of St. Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir, 4th Class

Order of St. Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir, 4th Class. Order motto: “Benefit, honour, and glory.”

Saint Righteous John’s guidance and counsel were always clear and imbued with spiritual wisdom. He possessed an intuitive understanding of the needs and anxieties that burdened his flock. Having fathered a large family himself, four of whom followed the holy calling of the priesthood, Father John deeply empathized with the struggles of his parishioners. Foreseeing the tumultuous events of 1917 and the impending persecution of the Church, Father John warned his faithful that these trials were divinely permitted for their lives, unworthy of their Christian calling. He exhorted them to repentance and a renewed commitment to the teachings of Christ. These warnings extended to his youngest son, whom he implored to avoid the schism of the Renovationists — a path tragically taken by his son. Through the prayers of his father, the younger John eventually repented. However, he met a martyr’s end when he was arrested and executed in Gomel on 11 January 1938.

Father John also received a prophetic glimpse of his passing. The earthly journey of the righteous advocate for piety in our land, Saint John Gashkevich, came to an end in the autumn of 1917. In a remarkable display of veneration by the assembled throngs, the saint’s body lay in state within the church for three days and nights. His final resting place was to the right of the altar in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Ogorodna Village.

Fulfilling the priest’s final wishes to visit his grave in times of sorrow, his spiritual children frequently witnessed miraculous healings and other signs of God’s grace. On the glorious night of Pascha in 1930, the faithful even beheld a radiant vision of Father John offering prayers at the altar.

Shortly before his repose, Father John made a prophetic statement: “They will trample on me, but the coffin will be strong.” These words held. During the Soviet era, the Church of Saint Nicholas was closed and later burned down in the 1950s. Gravestones and crosses were desecrated, and the remnants of the fire were bulldozed into a pit. A sports field and a dance floor were constructed on this desecrated ground.

Discovery of the Relics of Saint Righteous John of Korma

Discovery of the Relics of Saint Righteous John of Korma, 1991

By divine providence, the uncovering of the relics of Saint Righteous John of Korma coincided with the visit of His Holiness Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, to Gomel in 1991. During the excavation of the Church of Saint Nicholas’ foundation, relics were unearthed. With the blessing of His Grace Aristarchus, Bishop of Gomel and Zhlobin, the relics were reverently transferred to the Church of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos in the village of Korma, situated within the Dobrush District of the Gomel Region. An otherworldly fragrance emanated from the shrine. A magnificent marble tomb was erected over the rediscovered resting place of Saint John.

Relics of the Holy Righteous John of Korma

Relics of the Holy Righteous John of Korma

On 9 September 1997, the Holy Synod of the Belarusian Orthodox Church decreed the placement of the relics within the church for veneration by the faithful. The canonisation of Father John Gashkevich as a locally venerated saint of the Belarusian Orthodox Church took place on 31 May 1998, within the confines of the Protection Church. Services and akathists were composed in honour of the saint by Bishop Stefan (Nescheret) of Turov and Mozyr. In the year 2000, a momentous decision was made by the Holy Synod of the Belarusian Orthodox Church — the establishment of a women’s monastery dedicated to Saint Righteous John of Korma at the Holy Protection Church where the shrine containing his relics now resides. Today, believers in many nations honour the memory of Saint John of Korma.

Countless pilgrims flock to his relics and tomb, receiving miraculous healings through his holy intercession. Particles of the saint’s relics have been enshrined in various locations across Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, and have even extended beyond those borders to reach Australia, Canada, Bulgaria, and Cyprus. Churches dedicated to Saint John of Korma are currently under construction in Gomel and Minsk, while chapels in his honour have been established in Volkovysk and Gorki. A medal of Saint Righteous John of Korma was established within the Gomel Diocese of the Belarusian Orthodox Church in 2010.

Holy Protection Convent in Honour of Saint Righteous John of Korma

Holy Protection Convent in Honour of Saint Righteous John of Korma

Glory to God for bestowing upon us holy intercessors and fervent advocates! Through their holy prayers, He showers us with His boundless mercy. His wondrous grace and miraculous interventions echo the Lord’s own words: “Fear not, little flock.” Indeed, we are called to cast aside fear and despair, clinging instead to unwavering faith. For through faith, all things are possible.

O righteous Father John, an adornment of the Orthodox Faith and a source of enrichment for the Church of God, you never turned away from the suffering. Throughout your earthly life, you offered spiritual and material comfort to every Christian soul. Now, having reposed in the Lord and residing with an incorruptible body in the heavenly realms, we flee to you in times of sorrow and joy. O tireless labourer in the vineyard of Christ, do not forsake us, your children, poor and needy, who cry out to you: Righteous Father John, intercede for us with your holy prayers and save us!
(Sedalen, Tone 8)

Prepared by the obitel-minsk.ru team

Image credits: the Internet

Sources:
1. Life | Saint John of Korma Women's Monastery (cerkov.ru)
2. Gashkevich Ivan Ivanovich — Famous Persons from the Gomel Region (goub. by)
3. https://pravoslavnoe-duhovenstvo.ru/library/material/18856/
4. Belarusian Seraphim - Miloserdie.ru (miloserdie.ru)
5.  Astapenko, O. “Prayerbook of Our Land.” Olga Astapenko, Gomel Gazette. — 2019. — June 4.

May 29, 2024
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Subdeacon John Kennick

Thank you for this. It is a much needed blessing for me at this time.
God bless you all.
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