David Mahaffey at his installation ceremony in Sitka in 2014 (KCAW/Emily Forman)

The Archbishop of the Orthodox Dioceses of Alaska, David Mahaffey died last week. KCAW News spoke with Mahaffey on the eve of his consecration six years ago, about how he came to Orthodoxy and how he found himself in the Bishop’s seat.

“A Bishop is to be a papa…and that’s what he brings to us, is someone who loves us.”

Archbishop David Mahaffey was installed as the 16th Bishop of the Orthodox Dioceses in Alaska in 2014.  

Mahaffey was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and was raised Methodist. His wife was Orthodox, but it wasn’t until after they’d married that he attended his first Orthodox service.

He spoke to KCAW reporter Emily Forman in 2014, on the eve of his consecration in Sitka, and told her that the Orthodox service was a lightbulb moment. 

“I was just like a sponge, I’m absorbing all of this, and I was like ‘Oh man, this is what I want,'” he said.  

He converted and later, after years of working in the secular world as a car salesman, became a priest.

After his wife passed away in 2007, Mahaffey told Forman that a door opened — he could make the move from priest to bishop by taking the required monastic vows. But he would have rather had his wife than an open door, he told Forman, saying she was “everything to [him].”

It took years for him to finally say yes to the church, when the Diocese of Sitka and Alaska wanted him for Bishop. He was reluctant, but when he visited Kodiak in 2013, on the anniversary of his wife’s death, during the celebration of St. Herman’s pilgrimage – he had a realization. 

“I don’t know if it was St. Herman, or my wife, or God or whoever saying ‘Don’t you get it!? You had a beautiful wife who was beautiful inside and out and she really was,” he said. “So what came to me was this sense that, ‘Look, I’ve replaced your wife’s beauty with the beauty of Alaska. And I replaced her inner beauty with the beauty of the people of Alaska. Isn’t that what you want?'”

Mahaffey passed away on November 27. He was 68 years old. He is survived by his four children and their families. 

Mahaffey’s funeral service will be held on December 1 in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. It will be livestreamed on the Orthodox Church of America’s website on Tuesday, beginning at 11:00 a.m. (AKST).