The future Archbishop Benjamin was born Basil Basalyga on January 11, 1887 in Olyphant, a borough in the anthracite coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania where many emigrants from the Galician and Carpatho-Russian areas of central Europe had come to work in the coal mines. From his early age he was always involved in the life of the Church, studing at the mission school in Minneapolis, and then returning to Minnesota for seminary in 1905.
He was tonsured a monk in 1911 and ordained to the priesthood shortly after by Archbishop Platon (whose name is on St. Nicholas’ deed of title).
After his ordination, Fr. Benjamin became a sort of traveling priest, serving for short times at many parishes throughout the United States. These included parishes in Chicago, Illinois; Hartshorne, Oklahoma; Pueblo, Colorado; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In addition, he helped organize parishes in Akron, Ohio; Spring Valley, New York; and Bellaire, Ohio. In 1919, Fr. Benjamin was raised in rank to igumen and appointed dean of the Scranton, Pennsylvania area. The next year, Fr, Benjamin was elevated to archimandrite and appointed administrator of the parishes in Canada.
He was consecrated bishop in 1933, and assigned to Pittsburgh, and ended up leading the faithful of Japan after the war, for a time before returning back to Pittsburgh.
Archbishop Benjamin as the first North American Born Bishop, is an important link in the chain that connects St Nicholas, as it existists today, with a mix of cradle and convert Othodox Christians worshipping in English, with those Ukrainian pioneers that settled just north of Winnipeg a hundred years ago, to the work of St. Herman of Alaska when he started his missionary work in America, to St. Vladimir who brought the riches of Byzantine Christianity to Kieven Rus, to the work of the Martyrs and Apostles who preached the good news of Jesus Christ.
This history, and linage, has at its heart the proclamation of the “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3) regardless of culture, time, language, and custom. May be strengthened to continue his work, and the work of those saints who labourd before him, witnessing the saving love of the Lord reguardless of where we are and who we are surrounded by.
May Archbishop Benjamin’s memory be eternal.