St. Innocent, Apostle to America





  1. Students should identify St. Innocent as Apostle to the Americas.
  2. Students should know that he traveled and evangelized in Alaska.
  3. Students should know that he was from Russia.


Possible Lesson Plan:

  1. Open with prayer.


  1. Tell the story of St. Innocent:

About 200 years ago there was born in Russia a man named John Veniaminov. John, like many young men, got married and decided to become a priest. He had a baby boy. Life was fairly normal – but not for long.

One day Bishop Michael of Irkutsk asked for a priest to volunteer to go to far-away Alaska in the wilderness. There was a need for priests and teachers among the Eskimos and Aleuts. John volunteered; the bishop was so happy he called John the “son of obedience”. Soon John with his wife and little baby boy were on their way. Their ship landed in Unalaska, a damp, cold, windy, treeless place where lived Eskimos called Aleuts. John made friends with the Aleuts, learning their language. He also rebuilt their church, hammering and sawing himself till it was done. The Aleuts were so happy; they loved their new priest. John and his wife also cared for the poor and sick and built a school and orphanage for children.

John wanted to tell all the Aleuts about Jesus. So, he traveled to all the surrounding islands by kayak. The water was cold and full of icebergs. But John spent days traveling by kayak and dogsled, telling people about the Lord and building churches.  His legs became bent into the shape of a kayak, but still he traveled. Then, John and his family were sent to another tribe called the Kolosh in Sitka, Alaska. There he learned another language and was able to tell his new friends about Jesus. Slowly the Kolosh also became Christian.

Later, John was called to Russia. He was ordained a bishop and took the new name Innocent. He went back to Alaska as bishop. His territory included all his old friends, the Aleuts and the Kolosh. Bishop Innocent traveled by dogsled and kayak all over his diocese. He would spend the night cooking on a fire and roll up in his blanket with his Eskimo friends to sleep. Bishop Innocent was a true missionary and is remembered as the evangelizer of the Aleuts and the apostle to America.


Add St. Innocent (with St. Herman) to your timeline.


  1. True/False Questions:

True                                                     False

            St. Innocent’s birth name was John.               St. Innocent’s birth name was Michael.

            St. Innocent traveled to Alaska.                     St. Innocent traveled to Rome.

            St. Innocent traveled by kayak and dogsled. St. Innocent traveled by plane and train.

            St. Innocent was the first bishop of Alaska.   St. Innocent was bishop of Constantinople.


  1. We have now studied many men who were successful “missionaries”; what is a missionary? What makes a missionary successful? What were some of the things St. Innocent did that made the people of Alaska love him and love the Jesus they saw in him? Brainstorm a bit – learning their language, traveling in their way, not afraid of hard work building churches, etc. What about Nicholas in Japan? If you became a missionary, what could you learn from these wonderful saints about how to tell people about Jesus? Are there missionaries today? Are there people today who still don’t know about Jesus? Are we reaching out to them? Mention IOCC and OCMC – Orthodox missionary organizations that teach, give food to the poor, etc. Is there anything your class wants to do to help the people of other lands?


  1. Make Bishop Innocent’s dogsled: Shape the sled with popsicle sticks. Place inside a figure of Innocent made with a pipe cleaner or an icon picture mounted on a pipe cleaner. Make dogs from pipe cleaners and attach with yarn harnesses.


  1. Close with prayer: Lord, help me to care for Your children in other countries and tell them about Your love for them, too.