Saint John (Maximovitch) of Shanghai and San Francisco (1896 - 1966) was a noted Eastern Orthodox ascetic and hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) who was active in the mid-20th century. He was a pastor and spiritual father of high reputation, a Fool-for-Christ, and a reputed wonderworker to whom was attributed great powers of prophecy, clairvoyance and healing.
St. John was born Michael Maximovitch in 1896 in the village of Adamovka in Kharkov province in what was then southern Russia to the same family as that of St. John of Tobolsk whom he was said to resemble in several respects. From 1907 to 1914 he attended Poltava Military School, and received a degree in law from Kharkov Imperial University in 1918. He was evacuated to Belgrade with his family in 1921, where in 1925 he graduated from Belgrade University with a degree in theology.
In 1926 he was tonsured a monk and ordained a hierodeacon by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who gave him the name of John after his saintly relative. Later that same year he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Gabriel of Chelyabinsk. For several years afterward he worked as an instructor and tutor, and then in 1934 he was ordained a bishop and assigned to the diocese of Shanghai.
In Shanghai, Bishop John found an uncompleted cathedral and an Orthodox community deeply divided along ethnic lines. Making contact with all the various groups, he quickly involved himself in the existing charitable institutions and personally founded an orphanage and home for the children of indigents. It was here that he first became known for miracles attributed to his prayer, and as a public figure it was impossible for him to completely conceal his ascetic way of life. Despite his actions during the Japanese occupation, when he routinely ignored the curfew in pursuit of his pastoral activities, the Japanese authorities never harassed him. As the only Russian hierarch in China who refused to submit to the authority of the Soviet-dominated Russian Orthodox Church, he was elevated to the rank of archbishop by the Holy Synod of ROCOR in 1946.
When the Communists took power in China, the Russian colony was forced to flee, first to a refugee camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines and then mainly to the United States and Australia. Archbishop John travelled personally to Washington, D.C. to ensure that his people would be allowed to enter the country.
In 1951 he was assigned to the archdiocese of Western Europe with his see first in Paris then in Brussels. Thanks to his work in collecting lives of saints, a great many pre-Schism Western saints became known in Orthodoxy and continue to be venerated to this day. His charitable and pastoral work continued here as it had in Shanghai, even among a much more widely scattered flock.
In 1962 he was once again reassigned by the Holy Synod to the see of San Francisco. Here too he found a divided community and a cathedral in an unfinished state. Although he completed the building and brought some measure of peace to the community he became the target of slander from those who became his political enemies, who went so far as to file a lawsuit against him for alleged mishandling of finances related to construction of the cathedral. He was exonerated, but this was a great cause of sorrow to him in his later life.
Death and veneration
On July 2, 1966 (June 19 on the Julian calendar) St. John died while visiting Seattle at a time and place he was said to have foretold. He was entombed in a sepulchre beneath the altar of the cathedral he had built in San Francisco dedicated to the Theotokos, Joy of all who Sorrow on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond district.