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His Grace Bishop Stefan of Trenton and North America
The Right-Reverend Bishop Stefan (Sabelnik) of Trenton and North America was born in Germany on September 28, 1947, the youngest of three brothers. His parents Paul and Agafiya were pious and faithful Christians of the catacomb Church in the Ukraine during the Soviet persecutions prior to and during WWII. In September of 1950 the Sabelnik family moved to the United States. When the first opportunity arose, the father bought a plot of land for the family and settled eight kilometers from Jordanville where Stefan spent his childhood.
From the age of seven, Stefan Sabelnik served as an altar boy for Archbishop Averky (Taushev) in the Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville. In 1966 he graduated from high school and entered a five-year course at Holy Trinity Seminary, Jordanville. On April 27, 1967 he was tonsured a reader by Archbishop Averky. On June 13, 1971 he graduated from seminary with a Bachelor of Theology degree.
Each summer during those five years Stefan traveled to San Francisco with his mentor, the iconographer Archimandrite Kyprian (Pyzhev) to help paint icon frescos in the Cathedral of the Joy of All Who Sorrow Icon of the Holy Virgin Cathedral, built by St. John (Maximovich).
During the summer of 1971 he visited holy Mount Athos and the holy city of Jerusalem. On January 6, 1973 he was ordained a deacon at the Holy Trinity Monastery by Bishop Laurus. On June 23, 1975 (Pentecost Sunday) he was ordained to the priesthood. On August 24, 1975, he was appointed rector of the Church of the Holy Dormition in Trenton, NJ by Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsky). At the time, the Dormition parish was in the Washington and Florida diocese.
On September 3, 1978, he was awarded the nabedrennik by the First Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky).
He raised four children on his own.
The parents of Fr. Stefan reposed in the Lord in 1995 and are buried next to his older brother at the monastery cemetery in Jordanville. His other older brother, father Vitaly Sabelnik, served at the Joy of All Who Sorrow Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco as a protodeacon for more than thirty years and is now under the omophorion of the Russian True-Orthodox (Catacomb) Church.
In 1988, on the day of the celebration of the 1000 years of Christianity in Russia, Metropolitan Vitaly, the First Hierarch of ROCOR elevated Fr. Stefan Sabelnik to the rank of protopriest in the Church of St. Vladimir.
On the 30th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, Fr. Stefan was awarded a jeweled cross.
During all this time, Fr. Stefan worked independently on manufacturing hand-carved iconostases, etc.. His most recent, major and labor intensive project was the production of the carved reliquary for the relics of St. John of Shanghai, accomplished within a very brief time-frame prior to the glorification of St. John in San Francisco on July 2, 1994.
Shortly thereafter it was discovered that Fr. Stefan had two damaged vertebrae discs in his lower back. From 1995 to 2000 he was in continuous pain. Four operations were performed on his back and two of them, known as “spinal fusion” involved bone transplants from the hip area, using screws. Fr. Stefan's condition had deteriorated to such a degree that he could neither walk nor serve. In May 2000 he traveled, wheelchair-bound, to his brother in San Francisco for further care and treatment. Fr. Stefan was brought to the Cathedral of the Joy of All Who Sorrow where he attended liturgy sitting in his wheelchair next to the relics of St. John of Shanghai Having prayed, Fr. Stefan had his back anointed with oil from the lamp before the icon of St. John of Shanghai. The next morning he awakened for the first time without any pain in five years. Through the intercession of the saint he recovered and in September returned to his parish in Trenton!
As a disciple of Archbishop Averky (Taushev), Protopriest Stefan Sabelnik always stood firmly in opposition against the members of the Synod of ROCOR(L) who were pro-union and who wished to begin talks with the treacherous ecumenical and Sergianist Patriarchate of Moscow. On March 18, 2007, Protopriest Stefan together with his parish flock came under the temporary omophorion of the Russian True-Orthodox Church. Several other clergy were earlier received by the chairman of the Synod of Bishops of the RTOC, Archbishop Tikhon of Omsk and Siberia, and Fr. Stefan's brother, Protodeacon Vitaly Sabelnik also came under the omophorion of the RTOC.
In the spring of 2007, by a decree of the chairman of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian True-Orthodox Church, Archbishop Tikhon of Omsk and Siberia, the rector of the ROCOR Church of the Holy Dormition in Trenton (New Jersey, USA) Protopriest Stefan Sabelnik was appointed dean of the Trenton Deanery of ROCOR.
In December 2007, in accordance with the decision of the meeting of ROCOR clergy and laity of North America (United States and Canada) held on November 16, 2007 in the city of Trenton, NJ, Hieromonk Stefan (Sabelnik) rector of the Church of the Holy Dormition in Trenton was consecrated to the episcopacy for the North American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
The consecration was held at the Church of the Cathedral of St. John of Kronstadt (in the city of Odessa) in the Odessa-Kharkov Diocese of the Russian True-Orthodox Church according to the decision of the ROCOR clergy of North America under the hierarchy of the Synod of the RTOC.
The consecration of Hieromonk Stefan was performed by the president of the Synod of the RTOC, Archbishop Tikhon of Omsk and Siberia and by Bishop Germogen of Chernigov and Gomel.
On the evening of Sunday, December 17th, in the presence of Archbishop Tikhon, the deputy of the Synod Archbishop Veniamin, and Bishop Germogen, Hieromonk Stefan was established Bishop of Trenton and on the morning of December he was consecrated during the Divine Liturgy.
Clergy from the Dioceses of Odessa-Kharkov and Kuban and the Black Sea concelebrated. At the Divine Liturgy, in addition to monastics and parishioners of Odessa, there were guests from Kharkov, Chernigov, Donetsk and representatives of the Lesna Convent in France. The consecration took place in the presence of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God, which belongs to the Russian True-Orthodox Church.
As was agreed at the meeting of the clergy and laity of ROCOR of North America, the title of the first bishop to be ordained after the union of ROCOR(L) with the MP would be Bishop of Trenton and North America of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
Most notably, the candidacy of Bishop Stefan for the episcopacy was first put forth by the First Hierarch of ROCOR, St. Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) as well as by Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev) of San Francisco and was approved by the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR in 1985.