Catholic believers pray for the intercession of the saints in heaven so that they may pray for us on our behalf. Saints are able to intercede on our behalf and offer up to God the prayers of those on Earth.

Patron saints are recognized as the heavenly advocates and special intercessors for many things, even states. If you want to ask for the special intercession on behalf of your state, do you know who to pray to?

The Patron Saint for Alaska is Saint Herman. In 1756, Herman was born near Moscow to a devoutly religious merchant family and entered into a monastery to become a monk at the age of 16. During this time, he became gravely ill, but reportedly the Mother of God appeared to him and healed him completely. He officially became a monk in 1783.

In 1793, in response to a request by the Russian-American Commercial Company for missionaries to Alaska, several of the best monks were asked to travel to America. Eight were chosen, including Herman. Getting to Alaska was not easy. The monks traveled across Siberia and it took almost a full year before they arrived at Kodiak Island. The people there were so receptive to the Gospel that in the first year more than 7,000 were baptized and 1,500 marriages performed.

Herman and the other monks had ongoing difficulty with the Russian traders that frequented the area. When the missionaries came to the defense of the natives, they were met with strong opposition. Over time, many of the monks left the area or died, leaving the monk Herman alone.

Herman eventually settled on Spruce Island near Kodiak, living in a small cabin in the forest. He spent his days in prayer where he often fasted and lived on a diet of blackberries, mushrooms and vegetables. Ultimately, through his mission work, Herman founded an orphanage and a school for the natives of the island, cared for the sick and built a chapel where he conducted church services. It was reported that angels descended to bless the waters of the bay and the Herman would use the holy water to heal the sick.

In 1836, Herman died on Spruce Island at the age of 81. At the moment of his departure, many nearby people saw a pillar of light rising above his home. His last wish was to be buried on Spruce Island. When some of his well-intended disciples attempted to take his remains back to Kodiak to be buried at the church there, a storm rose up and lasted so long that they abandoned the plan and buried him as he desired.

He was officially glorified in 1970, the first canonized American saint. A feast day in St. Herman’s honor is held annually on August 9.

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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.