Bishop David, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Diocese of Alaska, presents a certificate of appreciation to Patrick Kearney at the end of Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Chruch on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2015. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Bishop David, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Diocese of Alaska, presents a certificate of appreciation to Patrick Kearney at the end of Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Chruch on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2015. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

‘Dedicated servant of God’: Bishop honors St. Nicholas parishioner

Patrick Kearney helps keep downtown church running

The Russian Orthodox Bishop of Alaska honored a fervent member of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday morning.

“There’s someone who does a lot of good around here and really doesn’t get very much of credit,” Bishop David, clad in golden vestments, said to a small congregation at the end of the 90-minute-long Divine Liturgy in the iconic downtown Juneau church.

The bishop, who’s based out of Anchorage, was in town for several days to visit with St. Nicholas faithful, including newly-appointed parish rector Steven McGuigan. He brought with him an award known as a “gramota” to deliver to an unsuspecting Patrick Kearney at the end of the worship service on Sunday morning. Russian Orthodox bishops give out the special recognition to lay members that go above and beyond.

“It was a total surprise,” Kearney, 65, said at a parish brunch after the service.

Kearney moved to Juneau four years ago to escape the California heat, and started serving at St. Nicholas right away: welcoming summer visitors into the church and doing yard work. Behind the scenes, he kept the parish house (the building right next to the church) in working order. When he discovered moldy boxes filled with unused coffee mugs in the basement, Kearney cleaned them off to give away to whoever wanted them.

By serving in his church, he said, “it gives me some place to belong.”

Kearney was one of the first people McGuigan met after moving to town. McGuigan was named the rector of Juneau’s only Orthodox Church last August. He told the Empire last December he sought to be a stabilizing force for the parish that went the better part of a decade without a full-time priest.

Kearney, whether he knew it or not, answered the same call when he arrived in Juneau, spending long hours at the church doing whatever needed to be done.

“He’s just the guy that if he sees something that needs to get done, he’s the one doing it,” McGuigan said. “There have been times this summer, long after night has fallen and it’s dark, walk up the block and I’ll notice him doing some gardening or something, often times in the rain, half the time with no tools at all, just using his bare hands, just weeding or things. It’s stuff like that.”

Bishop David said most parishes like St. Nicholas are supported by “unsung heroes” like Kearney. The trick, he said, is simply stopping to take the time to acknowledge their works.

“They’re humble, they’re always in the background, they’re always there to help, you can always count on them when you need something,” Bishop David said. “But they don’t look for recognition. They’re (not) doing it because they want anything, they’re just glad to do it, to be a dedicated servant of God in the right way.”

McGuigan remembers one occasion in which Kearney self-deprecatingly referred to himself as “the village idiot.”

“Hell no,” the priest shot back.

On the contrary, Kearney is an exceptional modeler of the faith, said McGuigan.

“This is how you live your faith: quiet, no trumpet being blown, but just seeing something that needs to happen and doing it,” he said.


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com.


Patrick Kearney, 65, outside the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Juneau on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Bishop David of Alaska’s Russian Orthodox Church awarded Kearney with a special diocesan recongition known as a “gramota” on Sunday for his service to the church. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Patrick Kearney, 65, outside the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Juneau on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Bishop David of Alaska’s Russian Orthodox Church awarded Kearney with a special diocesan recongition known as a “gramota” on Sunday for his service to the church. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Bishop David of Alaska’s Russian Orthodox Church imparts his blessing during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. The bishop was in town … . (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Bishop David of Alaska’s Russian Orthodox Church imparts his blessing during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. The bishop was in town … . (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

More in News

In this July 13, 2007, file photo, workers with the Pebble Mine project test drill in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, near the village of Iliamma. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
Pebble developer files appeal with Army Corps

The Army Corps of Engineers rejected Pebble Limited Partnership’s application in November.

This August 2019 photos shows a redline at Treadwell Arena designed by Tsimshian artist Abel Ryan. The arena is adding new weekly events to its schedule, City and Borough of Juneau announced. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Treadwell Arena adds new weekly events

Hockey and open skate are on the schedule.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Friday, Jan. 22

The most recent state and local numbers.

A Coast Guard Station Juneau 45-foot Response Boat-Medium patrols Auke Bay during an exercise in 2018. A response boat similar to the one in the photo was struck by a laser near Ketchikan on Saturday, Jan. 17, prompting an investigation into the crime. (Lt. Brian Dykens / U.S. Coast Guard)
Coast Guard wants information after laser pointed at boat

“Laser strikes jeopardize the safety of our boat crews…”

Has it always been a police car? (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Thursday, Jan. 21

The most recent state and local numbers.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy addresses the public during a virtual town hall on Sept. 15, 2020 in Alaska. ( Courtesy Photo / Austin McDaniel, Office of the Governor)
Dunleavy pitches dividend change amid legislative splits

No clear direction has emerged from lawmakers.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom, right, wearing a bib with ExxonMobil lettering on it, congratulates Peter Kaiser on his win in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska. The world’s most famous sled dog race has lost another major sponsor as the Iditarod prepares for a scaled-back version of this year’s race because of the pandemic, officials said Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. ExxonMobil confirmed to The Associated Press that the oil giant will drop its sponsorship of the race. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)
ExxonMobil becomes latest sponsor to sever Iditarod ties

The world’s most famous sled dog race has lost another major sponsor.

Has it always been a police car? (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Friday, Jan. 22, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read