First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York Hilarion (Kapral)
Metropolitan Hilarion’s parents – his father Alexei Kapral, and his mother, Euphrosynia (née Kasyaniuk) – were from the village of Obenizha in Volyhn, Ukraine. In 1929, during the Polish occupation, the local populace was persecuted and oppressed by Poles attempting to turn Western Ukraine into a Polish province. Thus, the 19-year-old Alexei and his young wife decided to emigrate to Canada. At the time, the Canadian government afforded immigrants the opportunity to obtain large tracts of land in Western Canada; it was there that the young family settled. Upon their arrival in the province of Alberta , the Kapral family received 160 acres of untilled land, as well as $100 in cash, a hammer, and an axe, with which to build themselves a home. In the developing Spirit River region, there were some 200 Ukrainians, and in view of the oncoming cold, they quickly built themselves houses. The great economic crisis of 1929-1930 affected the settlers as well, making an already hard life even more difficult. To find work, Alexei Kapral had to travel far from home, and he earned but 25 cents per day. Nonetheless, the family grew ever larger – five boys and two girls filled the house with children’s voices, speaking Ukrainian at home. Their parents also spoke Russian and Polish.
The youngest member of the family was Igor, the future Metropolitan Hilarion. He was born on January 6, 1948, in Spirit River, and spent his childhood in the country. He had to walk over three miles to school every day. Later he transferred to another school in Blueberry Creek, but returned to finish high school, which he graduated in 1966. From his youth, Igor attended Holy Trinity Russian Church, located close to Spirit River. There were many conflicts among the parishioners, some of whom wanted the church to transfer to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church. The parish later transferred to the diocese of Archbishop Panteleimon (Rudika), who served first in the Russian Church Abroad, later switching to the Moscow Patriarchate. Young Igor, meanwhile, found a spiritual father in the Russian Church Abroad, in the Right Reverend Sava (Saracevic), Bishop of Edmonton, a Serb who greatly revered our Holy Hierarch St. John (Maximovitch, +1966).
From his youth, Igor felt drawn to the Church, and loved to read books and periodicals on religion and morals. In 1967, when Igor Kapral was 19 years old, he entered the Holy Trinity Theological Seminary in Jordanville , NY , USA . On graduating from the Seminary in 1972 (together with our rector, Fr. Victor – ed.), Igor entered the Holy Trinity Monastery as a novice. On December 2, 1974 he was tonsured a rassophore monk with the name Hilarion, in honor of Venerable Schema-monk Hilarion of the Kiev Caves, the famous Metropolitan of Kiev. On December 4, 1975, Archbishop Averky (Taushev, +1976), for whom the future Metropolitan served as a cell-attendant, ordained him a hierodeacon. In 1976, Bishop Laurus of Manhattan ordained him a hieromonk. The same year, Fr. Hilarion received a Master’s degree in Slavic studies and Russian literature from Syracuse University. The future First Hierarch worked simultaneously as editor of the English-language version of the magazine Orthodox Life, and as a typesetter for the monastery press.
On December 10, 1984, His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky, +1985) and nine other bishops officiated at the consecration of Hieromonk Hilarion to the episcopacy. As Bishop of Manhattan, His Grace was also responsible for the parishes of Pennsylvania, and was also appointed the Deputy Secretary of the Synod of Bishops by the Council of Bishops. Ten years later, thanks to the archpastoral efforts of Bishop Hilarion, the number of parishes in the Eastern American Diocese grew to 64. Visiting parish after parish, Vladyka drew the love and respect of all those who met him. Holding a position of responsibility in the administrative center of the Church Abroad, Vladyka Hilaron was also an active participant in the main events of its history. In 1995, Bishop Hilarion was given the title Bishop of Washington as he continued to live in New York, but due to problems in the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand after the retirement of the ailing Archbishop Paul (Pavlov), and in recognition of his exception pastoral talents, Vladyka Hilarion was elevated to the rank of archbishop and appointed Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand.
In 2003, Vladyka Hilarion was awarded the right to wear the diamond cross. During the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 2006, he was appointed First Deputy President of the Synod of Bishops.
On March 16, 2008, the very day of the repose of His Eminence, Metropolitan Laurus, Archbishop Hilarion was appointed Temporary President of Synod of Bishops and of the electoral commission tasked with preparing for the Sobor of Bishops. There His Eminence was elected First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad on May 12. On May 18, 2008, Metropolitan Hilarion was enthroned in the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign.