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Toth, Alexis/Tovt, Aleksei

Toth, Alexis/Tovt, Aleksei (b. March 18, 1854, Kobylnice [Hungarian Kingdom], Slovakia; d. May 7, 1909, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA) — priest, seminary professor, and “father of American Rus’ Orthodoxy.” Toth was the son of a Greek Catholic priest in the *Eparchy of Presov. After completing his studies at the Theological Seminary in Uzhhorod (1874-1878) Alexis was ordained a Greek Catholic priest (1878) and soon assigned to work as the archivist for the Eparchy of Presov; from 1881 he also taught canon law and church history at the Presov Greek Catholic Theological Seminary.

In 1889 Toth was sent as a missionary priest to the United States (1889), where he served the Greek Catholic community in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ill-received by the local Roman Catholic bishop, Toth eventually decided to break with the Catholic Church and in 1891 was formally accepted with his parish into the *Russian Orthodox Church in North America.,br> Toth urged other Greek Catholic parishes to follow his lead, and by the time of his death in 1909 he had helped more than 25,000 Rusyn immigrants (three-quarters of whom were from the Lemko Region) to “return to Orthodoxy.” To assist the church in these goals he helped establish (1895) a fraternal society, the Russian Orthodox Catholic Mutual Aid Society/Russkoe pravoslavnoe kafolicheskoe obshchestvo vzaimopomoshchi. Because Toth viewed Russia as the spiritual guardian of the Orthodox faith he strove to convince Rusyn Americans that they should identify as Russians and adopt the Russian language as their own. Toth published numerous polemical tracts, directed mainly at Rome, which have subsequently been compiled by George Soldatow: Alexis Toth—Letters, Articles, Papers, and Sermons, 4 vols. (1978-88); The Writings of St. Alexis Toth (1994); and The Orthodox Church in America and Other Writings by St. Alexis (1996). For his services on behalf of Orthodoxy in North America Toth was canonized (1994) as St. Alexis by the Orthodox Church of America.

Bibliography: Keith Russin, “Father Alexis G. Toth and the Wilkes-Barre Litigations,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, XVI, 3 (1972), pp. 123-149.

Paul Robert Magocsi

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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