Whitehorse YT Saint Nikolai Bishop of Zhitsa Orthodox Mission 1997

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Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic.jpg

Whitehorse, YT, Mission of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Zhitsa, 1997

Nikolai may be spelt Nikolaj, Nikolas, Nicholas, Nicolas.

Zhitsa may spelt Zhitcha, Zhicha (as it is pronounced in Serbian).


There is a very old pre-history to the establishment of this mission in Whitehorse. Whitehorse is the capital city (and the only city) in the Yukon. It is also the largest city in northern Canada. Yukon is the smallest (by amount of land and by population) of the 3 federal territories in the Canadian north.

During the 19th century, the Yukon River had the occasional presence of one or another Orthodox Christian missionary. During trading expeditions and through other encounters, some of the Inland Tlingit people had found Orthodoxy through the activity of missionaries in the region of Juneau and Skagway, Alaska (such as Saint Innocent (Veniaminov). A few descendants of these persons in the Teslin region remained consciously Orthodox.

In the summer of 1905, the newly-arrived Bishop of Alaska, Innocent (Pustynsky) made a pastoral journey from Sitka, Alaska, to the city of Dawson, where there were previously resident many Russian-speakers and other Orthodox persons during the time of the Klondike Gold Rush. By the time he had arrived, however, these had all moved away. He nevertheless had made a thorough investigation of both Dawson and the surrounding region before he continued his voyage westwards along the Yukon River.

Founding of the parish, 1997

With the blessing of Bishop Seraphim (Storheim), the mission began in 1997 with the regular offering of prayer-services at regular times locally in Whitehorse. This local worship (which was and is similar to the experience of communities in the many villages of Alaska) was supplemented on a regular basis through visits of priests who would come and serve the Divine Liturgy and provide other Mysteries, such as Holy Baptism and Holy Matrimony. After many years, it became possible for there to be a priest to serve the community on a permanent basis.

The mission is named in honour of Saint Nikolaj (Velimirović), Bishop of Ochrid and Žiča, and South Canaan (Pennsylvania). Saint Nikolaj was a great missionary, who suffered as a Confessor for Christ during his lifetime. He spent his last years teaching at Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. The naming of the mission for Saint Nikolaj reflects the fact that there were many people who had settled in the 1990s in Whitehorse who had come from Serbia as a result of the wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991-1992.

Saint Nikolaj C.jpg Saint Nikolaj (Velimirović)

The Mission of Saint Nicholas in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, may be described as a mission outpost of the Archdiocese of Canada in The Orthodox Church in America, under the spiritual care of the ruling bishop, Archbishop Irénée (Rochon). The community is a small, caring group of Orthodox Christians and friends, who gather regularly for prayer and Divine Services. Their way of life and worship is in accordance with the tradition of the Orthodox Christian Faith. The community represents many different ages, countries, and backgrounds. All are warmly welcome to join them. This mission parish is served by the Priest John and Matushka Sharon Gryba. While they were working, and since they retired, they have continued to nurture this community.

From 19-21 December, 2012, the mission was blessed to host Bishop Irénée (Rochon) in Whitehorse. During the 1½ day visit, the bishop offered direct pastoral care to the Orthodox faithful. On Thursday morning, Vladyka Irénée served the Divine Liturgy at Maryhouse in Whitehorse. On Thursday evening, the mission community was pleased to host a supper gathering at the home of one of the mission members. This time together allowed the parishioners to talk together with their bishop, to receive his counsel, as well as to enjoy Christian fellowship, friendship and hospitality. The parishioners are deeply grateful for Vladyka Irénée's visits and for his pastoral care.

On 4 September, 2014, the Saint Nikolai Mission received 2 very special gifts : a beautiful, hand-painted icon of Saint Nikolaj (Velimirović) the patron saint of the community ; the mission also received a portion of the relics of Saint Nikolaj.

This parish is part of the British Columbia & Yukon Deanery of the Archdiocese of Canada, of The Orthodox Church in America. The dean is the Mitred Archpriest Michael Fourik. The bishop is Archbishop Irénée (Rochon).

This community follows the New (Revised Julian) Calendar.

The Altar Feast-day of this parish is the Feast of Saint Nikolaj, Bishop of Zhicha, 5 March.

In 2018, the founding and presently serving pastor is the John Gryba.

Address :

Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Zhitsa, Orthodox Church

Services are held at :

Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church

1607, Birch Street

Porter Creek, Whitehorse, Yukon

Y1A 3X1

E-mails : grybas@northwestel.net ; stnikolaiwhitehorse@gmail.com

Web-site : http://orthodoxwhitehorse.org/


Telephone : 867-332-4171

Directions :

Whitehorse, despite its remote situation in the north, has a milder climate than other urban settlements at a similar latitude in Canada. There are many ways in which it may be approached. There is the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. There is also the Alaska Highway, which connects Whitehorse with both Alberta (from Grande Prairie) and Fairbanks, Alaska. Anchorage, Alaska, is accessible through Fairbanks by road and by air.

From southern British Columbia, highways reach north through Prince George and Prince Rupert to join the Alaska Highway near Fort Saint John or Watson Lake in Yukon. There is also a road which links Skagway and Haines in Alaska with Whitehorse.

Whitehorse, Yukon, is about 2,400 km (1,500 mi) north of Vancouver, British Columbia. The travelling time from there is about 28 hours by car. It is 1,990 km (1,236 mi) northwest of Edmonton, Alberta. The travelling time from there is about 24 hours by car.

Porter Creek is just north of Whitehorse, on the Alaska Highway. The host church building is located on Birch Street, which is accessible by the Alaska Highway, the Klondike Highway, and turning off on 17th Avenue West. Then make an immediate left turn onto Birch Street, and pass by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The church building is on the right.

Mailing address :

Saint Nikolas Orthodox Mission

PO Box 30232

Whitehorse, Yukon

Y1A 5M2

Priest John Gryba

111, Falcon Drive

Whitehorse, Yukon

Y1A 6C7

Telephone : 867-332-4171

E-mail : grybas@northwestel.net

Reference :

Parish web-site

Additional information

OCA listing

Archdiocese listing

Archbishop Irénée (Rochon)

Archdiocese of Canada

Archdiocese of Canada Facebook

Bishop Innocent (Pustinsky) visits Dawson

Bishop Innocent (Pustynsky)

Alaska Highway article

Whitehorse article

Tlingit people article

Canadian Encyclopedia article about the Yukon Territory

2012 : Archpastoral visit to the mission by Bishop Irénée (Rochon)

2014 : Mission Receives Relics and Icon of St Nikolaj

2014 Archdiocese news article : “Yukon Mission Leader Ordained to the Priesthood”