Saint John was born in 1871 in the Ryazan region of the Russian Empire. His father was a priest, and John followed in his footsteps, attending seminary. After marrying his wife, he was ordained a priest at the young age of 24.
Having expressed interest in missionary work, he was transferred to the United States, under the jurisdiction of Saint Tikhon, and became the first permanent priest at the Church of St. Vladimir in Chicago. (This parish would later become Holy Trinity Cathedral.) His first project was to secure funds and oversee the construction of the permanent church building, which was completed in 1903.
Father John worked throughout the Chicago area and the United States to establish other parishes and give aid to immigrants. He translated liturgical texts into English, foreseeing a time when English-speaking Americans would enter the Orthodox Church.
In 1907 he was transferred to Estonia, where he focused his efforts on catechism and the instruction of school-aged children. In 1916 he was transferred to a parish outside St. Petersburg, where his preaching inspired the local people in their faith.
When the Bolshevik Revolution began in October 1917, Father John led large processions and prayers for peace. His efforts attracted the attention of the Bolsheviks, and on October 31, 1917 (Old Style; November 13 New Style) he was taken away and summarily executed. Thus he became the first Hieromartyr (Priest-Martyr) of the atheist regime.
Saint John was glorified in December 1994 as the first of many New-Martyrs of the 20th century. His feast day is celebrated on October 31st.
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