Saint Hierarch Andrei was born to parents obedient to God, whose ancestors were “Wallachians” or “Aromanians”, living in the Balkans, who took refuge, in the 18th century, to a few Christian countries of the Austrian Empire, because of the Turkish occupation. When Anastasios, the future hierarch of Transylvania, was born, Şaguna family was in the city of Miskolc, in the north-eastern part of Hungary. It was close to Christmas, in 1808. His brave mother, Anastasia gave her name to the new born child, which means “resurrection”. A few years after Anastasios was born, his father passed away. Thus, Anastasia Şaguna was facing the troubles of life with three children: Evreta, Ecaterina and Anastasios, who were orphans now, after their father died. Faced with great material needs, she succeeded in making them obedient to God and observant of the holy Orthodox traditions.
Anastasios was sent to study at the best schools of the time: the “Greek-Wallachian” elementary school of Miskolc supported by the Aromanian parish over there, the “inferior” secondary school of Miskolc, the “superior” secondary school (high school) of Pest (today’s Budapest), then at the university in that city, where he brilliantly studied philosophy and law. When he finished his studies, young Anastasios could have benefited of a nice career as lawyer, judge or professor. But, urged by his religious mother, he left for Vârşeţ (in today’s Serbian Banat) and enrolled at the Romanian-Serbian Theological Seminary over there. After graduation, he joined the community of the Serbian Hopovo Monastery, where he asked to be tonsured into monasticism before he was 25 years old. He was given the name of Saint Andrew the Apostle, the first called. He was an educated monk, with studies in law, philosophy and theology, with a good command of Romanian (including the Aromanian dialect), Hungarian, German, Serb, Greek, Latin and Slavonic. Nevertheless, the new soldier in the service of Christ, our Lord, grew in humbleness and prayer, working in time and no time to acquire virtues, in devotion and pure prayer, improving spiritually and rising to the likeness of God through knowledge. He was very appreciated by the Serbian Orthodox hierarchs, who asked him to leave the peacefulness and quietness of the monastery and activate within the Metropolitanate of Karlovci. He obeyed and responded to this call and for 13 years he worked as rector, counsellor, metropolitan, seminary professor and as igumen at four Serbian monasteries (Jazak, Bešenovo, Hopovo and Kovilje).
In the summer of 1846, the metropolitan of Karlovci appointed him “general vicar” to the vacant Romanian Diocese of Transylvania, seated in Sibiu; in December 1847, the “assembly” of the Transylvanian archpriests proposed him bishop, having been confirmed by the imperial Court of Vienna and ordained hierarch by the metropolitan of Karlovci, on Thomas’ Sunday, in 1848.
He left for Sibiu just on the day of his ordination, where the Orthodox Romanians were waiting for him as for a redeemer. He engaged directly and with much devotion in all the actions of rehabilitation of the cultural and spiritual identity of the Transylvanian Romanians, first of all to recognise them as “nation” equal in rights with the Hungarians, Saxons and Székelys and to abolish serfdom. From a religious point of view, Metropolitan Andrei Şaguna fought with much courage for over 15 years, for taking the Romanian Church of Transylvania from under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Metropolitanate of Karlovci, where the imperial Court of Vienna abusively put it. He won and this fight was crowned in December 1864, when the restoration of the old Metropolitanate of Transylvania was approved (dissolved in 1701 by the state authorities of the time), and Andrei Şaguna became archbishop of Sibiu and metropolitan of the Romanians in Transylvania, Banat, and of the “Western parts” (Crişana). Then, he worked out a law known as the Organic Statute, approved by a Church National Congress in 1868, which stipulated the autonomy of this Church in relation to the state, as well as the participation of the lay people in the leadership of church life, in the administrative and economical fields. The Church of Transylvania was run in accordance with this statute until 1925, but the basic principles have been kept in the following Statutes too, up to the present.
Metropolitan Andrei was a true “founder” of the Romanian education and culture of Transylvania. He re-organised the old theological school of Sibiu as Theological Pedagogical Institute, with two “sections”, where the future priests were prepared, as well as the teachers of about 800 primary schools of Transylvania, supervised by the Church (more than half set up in his time). He has also organised the eight forms secondary school of Braşov (the present “Andrei Şaguna” College), a secondary school in Brad, county of Hunedoara, a “real-commercial” school in Braşov, and courses for the illiterate people of every parish. He set up a “diocesan publishing house” in Sibiu, where he printed “Telegraful român” newspaper (uninterruptedly published from January 1853 until today), the eparchial “Calendar” (today’s “Îndrumătorul bisericesc”, since 1852 until today), a series of manuals for the primary schools, as well as for the theological education (some of them drafted by himself), all the liturgical books, some of them in several editions, a new edition of the Bible, in 1856-1858, etc. It was also Şaguna who obtained the agreement of the authorities to set up the Transylvanian Association for the Literature and Culture of the Romanian People (ASTRA). He granted scholarships from the Archdiocese’s funds to the young people who were attending secondary and academic studies, who formed the intellectual elite of Transylvania of the time.
He organised the present metropolitan residence of Sibiu, founded the church of Guşteriţa (a district of Sibiu today) and urged the priests and faithful to contribute with money and physical work to the construction of churches and school buildings. He was going to build a cathedral in Sibiu, but he could not collect the money necessary for beginning the construction. He was a great man of prayer and fasting, a perfect celebrant, preacher and shepherd of souls, who has always been in touch with the clergy and faithful.
He passed away on 16/28 June 1873, and he was buried near the big church of Răşinari, as he mentioned in his will, the funeral service being officiated by only one priest, “without sermon and pomp”. In spite of his true monastic humbleness, the righteous people properly honoured him also after his death, considering him one of the most outstanding hierarchs of Transylvania.
The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church placed him among the saints on 21 July 2011, celebrated on 30 November.
Through his holy prayers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us. Amen.
Troparion, tone 4:
Wise protector of Orthodox Romanians, lettered shepherd of Transylvania and great administrator of the church life, oh, Saint Hierarch Andrei, pray to Christ our God to save our souls.