St. Paraskeva the Confessor

St. Paraskeva the Confessor

Our featured saint this week is Venerable Confessor Paraskeva of Russia. Thank you to Nina Dalal for alerting us to her! 

Each year, we celebrate the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, hundreds and thousands of men and women who gave their lives for Christ in the twentieth century. One of these women was Venerable Confessor Paraskeva, born into a peasant family in 1888, who would become a monastic, a deaconess, and a source of guidance and light to many. 

Paraskeva was raised in a devoutly religious family and, from an early age, showed a tender interest in and love for the Church. Many years later, she would fondly recall listening to the Holy Scriptures at night as family members read and the impression she received around the age of three in truly “hearing” the singing of the “Alleluia” in church for the first time. 

Her grandfather Ambrose taught her to read and write from the Bible, and she especially loved to read the epistles of the Apostles and the Gospel of John the Theologian. When Paraskeva was eight years old, her mother died, followed by her grandfather and younger sister. Suddenly, Paraskeva and her father became the sole breadwinners of the house. Yet even in this hardship, she remembers singing psalms together as they walked to work.

It should be no surprise that Paraskeva felt a strong desire to join the monastic life from her early years; however, her family was initially against it. They sought a spouse for her. (She convinced him to take monastic vows at Mt. Athos!) 

Once she eventually gained her family’s permission, she journeyed with almost nothing but the clothes on her back until she miraculously arrived unharmed at a convent. In 1912, she was accepted as one of the sisters of the Turkovichi Convent.

In 1914, during the occupation of Poland by the Germans, the monastery was evacuated to Moscow, and then to Dmitrov. In 1918, after the end of the war, the convent returned to Turkovichi, but soon dissolved. Paraskeva remained in Dmitrov, rented an apartment on the outskirts of the city, and served as an altar server in the local church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. Soon she was organizing and directing a girls' choir (which grew to over 60 members), and teaching them in the faith.

On November 27, 1921, Paraskeva was ordained according to the ancient rite of deaconess for altar service. From that time on, she began to serve in the sanctuary of the Kazan Church in the village of Podlipichye.

“Now I have learned by experience how hard and stubborn the battle is when self-love and love are fighting," Paraskeva would write. She credited her spiritual father, Bishop Seraphim, with teaching her how to pass through self-love in order to find genuine love for others. 

In 1924, Matushka Paraskeva was summoned to the authorities, who ordered her to stop her work with the girls’ choir. Undaunted, she persisted. In 1928, ten years after the choir was founded, she wrote to her singers: "Glory be to God for everything, as the great hierarch St. John Chrysostom always spoke in sorrow and joy. Let us say these words with all our hearts on the tenth anniversary of our singing: Let every breath and all creation praise the Lord, as it is said in one of the prayers of the Church; The sun sings to Thee, the moon praises Thee, all creation praises Thee. And what happiness the Lord has given us, and we, little people, also sing, glorify and praise the Creator."

On May 27, 1931, Paraskeva was arrested, and that June, she was sentenced to five years of exile in Kazakhstan, where she was assigned as a cook in a large work camp of exiles. Because of her care and compassion for the workers, they called her “sister.” 

By the time her exile ended in 1935, Matushka was weak and ill, likely from a lack of proper nutrition and care. Her former church pupils invited her to return to Dmitrov, where she continued to struggle with poor health. While carried on her work in her beloved church for several more years, however, before her illness finally led to paralysis. 

Confessor Paraskeva died on the feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple on December 4, 1953, and was buried in the cemetery of the city of Dmitrov. Throughout her life, those seeking God were drawn to her as someone who would listen patiently and give a compassionate and thoughtful answer. Throughout her life, she practiced what she had been taught and what she constantly taught everyone: "Be humble; you are like Christ the Savior."

On September 11, 2001, the holy relics of the Venerable Confessor Paraskeva were discovered, and on September 30th, they were solemnly transferred from the Boris-Glebsky Dmitrov Monastery to the Spaso-Blachernae Convent in the village of Dedenevo.


Some information taken from:

"The Lives of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Twentieth Century of the Moscow Diocese. November". Tver, 2003, pp. 202–212.