Toth, Alexis

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Priest, Russian Orthodox leader in the U.S.; b. Prešov, Carpathian Ruthenia, 1854; d. Wilkes-Barrie, Pa., May 9, 1909. After ordination Toth (or Tovt) worked in the Prešov diocese as an Eastern Catholic priest until 1889, when he came to the United States after his wife's death, to minister to immigrant Catholics of the Ukrainian (Ruthenian) rite. Ukrainians in the U.S. then had nine Catholic parishes, chiefly in the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania. Until 1913 they were subject to the jurisdiction of the local Latin-rite bishops who were averse to having married priests work among the immigrants. Archbishop John ireland of St. Paul refused to accept Toth as pastor of the Ruthenian Catholic parish in Minneapolis because he had previously been married. The parishioners decided to follow Toth into Orthodoxy, and the Russian Orthodox Bishop Vladimir of San Francisco personally received 360 of them into his jurisdiction (March 25, 1891). In 1893 Toth was transferred to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, site of the largest Ruthenian colony in the country. With financial and moral support from Russia he established 17 Orthodox parishes for those whom he enticed from the Catholic faith. In a popular book, Hde iskati i hyadati Pravdu? (Where to Look to Find the Truth?), he argued that the lack of understanding and sympathy shown by Latin bishops for distinctive rites and customs, especially those permitting married clergy, was sufficient reason for leaving the Roman communion. The Orthodox promised Toth's followers their own hierarchy. Toth's activity has been thought ultimately responsible for the apostasy of nearly a quarter-million Slavic Catholics. He has been termed the Father of Orthodoxy in America because more than half of the 400,000 Russian Orthodox followers in the United States are descendants of his converts.

See Also: ukrainian catholic church.

Bibliography: b. boysak, The Fate of the Holy Union in Carpatho-Ukraine (privately pr.; Toronto, New York 1963).

[g. a. maloney]