New Orthodox bishop installed in Sitka

JUNEAU — A new bishop for the Orthodox Church has been installed for the Diocese of Sitka and all Alaska.

Sterry David Mahaffey Jr., 61, was installed Sunday during a ceremony at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Sitka. Mahaffey had been serving as the diocese’s administrator and chancellor, a post he’d held since March 2013, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported.

Mahaffey will serve as bishop for life.

The installment drew the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church in North America.

Among those attending were the Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada; Archbishop Benjamin, Archbishop of San Francisco and the West; Bishop Michael, Bishop of New York and New Jersey; Bishop Irineu of Dearborn, Mich.; and Bishop Irenee of Quebec City.

Sitka, the historical capital of Russian America, is the location of the Bishop’s See.

Mahaffey was selected by the Diocese of Alaska at an election in 2012. He was confirmed in October by the Holy Synod of Bishops in Syosset, N.Y.

Mahaffey described his reaction to being named the next bishop of Alaska as “fearful.”

“Well, I’ve been running from this for a long time,” he said.

Mahaffey previously was considered for the post of bishop for New York and New Jersey, and for several other dioceses, as well. But he always felt another man was better for the job. When the Alaska position became available, he said, “I was told I would be getting a phone call.”

Mahaffey was born in Altoona, Pa., and raised in Mahaffey, Pa., which was named after his ancestors, in the middle of the Allegheny Mountains.

He graduated from Purchase Line High School in 1970, and studied at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He left school, got married and went to work as a mechanic for a coal company. After the company folded in 1987, he managed a car dealership.

Mahaffey was born and raised in the Methodist faith, and became Orthodox in 1975, when he was 23.

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