The life of St. Sebastian of Jackson

The life of St. Sebastian of Jackson

(1863-1940)

This apostle of North America was the first American born Orthodox priest. His parents, Ilija and Jelena Dabovic, were the first recorded immigrants on the West Coast. They lived in San Francisco, operated a small shop, and were blessed with seven children. St. Sebastian was their fourth child who at baptism received name John. He was born on June 21, 1863. His ministry in the Church started at early age. After he finished high school he served his parish as a reader and teacher. Before he was sent to Russia, he spent time in Sitka, Alaska, assisted with parish ministries at St. Archangel Michael Cathedral. After three years of study at the St. Petersburg and Kiev Theological Academies, John was tonsured a monk and received monastic name Sebastian in 1887.

That same year he was ordained a hierodeacon. He served as deacon at the San Francisco Cathedral until Bishop Nicholas ordained him a priest on August 16, 1892. As newly ordained Hieromonk Fr. Sebastian tirelessly preached the Gospel, served Divine Liturgies, counseled and established many parishes throughout the country. During his life he conveyed the light of liturgical certainty and calm to a world that was spiritually hungry and suffering. Archbishop Tikhon asked Fr. Sebastian to lead a Serbian mission in the North American diocese, elevated him to archimandrite on August 15, 1905, and sent him to Chicago, Illinois, where this holy man served as parish priest. In 1910, he asked for release from the parish so that he could return to missionary work. Having spent three years at the newly opened St. Platon Seminary in Tenafly, New Jersey, he went back to Serbia to serve as a chaplain in the Serbian army in the Balkan Wars and WW I. After his brief visit to the Unites States of America in 1915 and 1917, the rest of his life he spent in Serbia where he peacefully reposed in monastery Zicha on November 30, 1940, having his earthly remains laid to rest there until they were exhumed and translated to Jackson, California, on September 1, 2007, at St. Sava Church, the oldest and one of many Serbian Orthodox Churches in America that he founded in 1894. Fr Sebastian built up souls, organized the Church, erected houses of prayer, and was devoted to charitable work. In addition to establishing many churches, St. Sebastian also wrote many articles and sermons. His last spoken words and wish were: The Heavenly Kingdom without end! Meaning: the kingdom of the virtues whence the miracle of eternal surprises bursts forth. The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church during its regular session held from May 14-29, 2015 inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit decided that his name be added to the Diptych of saints of the Holy Orthodox Church. From the Holy archimandrite Sebastian Dabovich (1863-2013) we realize how historical predicaments become a starting point for knowledge of God and spontaneous praise.

From the celebration of the glorification of Sts Mardarije and Sebastian may droplets of consolation fall upon the heart of those who, living in the heart of America, seek what is fair and honest.