Alexis Toth was born into a poor Carpatho-Russian family on March 18, 1854, in Austro-Hungary. The Toth family was Eastern Rite Catholic in the Uniate Church. His father and brother were priests, and his uncle was the Bishop of Presov. Alexis received an excellent education and spoke several languages, including Russian, Greek, Latin, and German.
Alexis was ordained priest on April 18, 1878. Soon after, his wife Rosalie died, followed by their only child, an infant daughter. In May,1879, Fr. Alexis was appointed secretary tothe Bishop of Presov. He was placed in directorship of an orphanage there, as well as given teaching duties at Presov Seminary. In 1889, Fr. Alexis and seven other Uniate priests arrived in the USA for mission work. He was assigned to St. Mary's Parish in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
When he presented himself to the local Roman Catholic authority, Archbishop John Ireland, he was greeted with hostility, and refused recognition. This was against the terms of agreement of the Unia. The American Catholic bishops wanted Rome to recall the ten Uniate priests then serving in American parishes, because they feared the Uniates would undermine the "Americanization" of European immigrants by fostering their ethnic parishes and non-Latin rites. Uniate Bishops in Europe did not respond to the priests' pleas for help.
Confessor and Defender of Orthodoxy
Fr. Toth's parishioners urged him to contact the Russian Orthodox Bishop Vladimir (America at that time was under the Russian Bishop's omophor). Bishop Vladimir subsequently received Fr. Toth and 361 of his parishioners into the Orthodox Church, the Church of their ancestors. In 1892, the Holy Synod of Russia recognized and accepted the parish into the Diocese of Alaska and the Aleutians. However, there was much turmoil in the new parish, and Fr. Alexis went to work as a baker to sustain himself.
Eventually, Bishops Vladimir,Nicholas, St. Tikhon and Platon recognized Fr. Toth's special gifts, and sent him forth to preach and teach wherever there were people of Slavic heritage. Fr. Alexis visited many Uniate parishes, traveling by horse and buggy, explaining the differences between Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, and Uniatism. He was instrumental in the return of 17 Carpatho-Russian and Galician Uniate parishes in America to Holy Orthodoxy, and also started 15-20 new parishes. Fr. Alexis' work extended beyond education in the faith. He also undertook the cause of miners' widows and orphans, since there was no welfare or insurance. He organized an insurance lodge in 1895, which is still headquartered in Wilkes-Barre.
Fr. Alexis received a jeweled miter from the Holy Synod, as well as the Order of St. Vladimir and the Order of Saint Anna from Czar Nicholas II. In 1907, he declined an episcopal office due to his deteriorating health. Fr. Alexis fell asleep in the Lord on May 7, 1909. He was canonized in 1994, and his holy relics rest at St. Tikhon's Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania.