Department Highlights: Youth Department meets, reviews plans for 19th AAC

Bishop David with members of OCA Department of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry.

To meet the changing needs of youth and young adults across North America, His Grace, Bishop David of Sitka and Alaska hosted a series of discussions with members of the Orthodox Church in America’s Department of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries [YYACM] at Saint Mary’s Cathedral here on Saturday, July 22, 2017.

Under the guidance of Bishop David, who serves as the department’s liaison for the Holy Synod of Bishops, participants in the gathering reviewed plans for a revitalized youth-oriented presence on the internet, collaboration with the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America [FOCA], and initial objectives and plans for the youth program at the 19th All-American Council [AAC].

“Our meetings were very thorough, and I thank God that we had the opportunity to meet,” Bishop David said. “There was a common focus and commitment by those in attendance to inspire and reach young people of all ages living as faithful Orthodox Christians in today’s world.”

A key component of the department’s efforts is planning for the five-day youth program that will take place in St. Louis, MO during the 19th All-American Council, slated to be held July 23-27, 2018.

“Like the Council at large, our youth and teen program will focus on the AAC theme, ‘For the Life of the World,’” said Priest Benjamin Tucci, 19th AAC youth program coordinator. “We will explore the sacramental life of the church and how our children can find the sacred in an often challenging secular society.” More information about the AAC youth program is available on-line.

Other topics discussed during the meeting included a review of initial plans to re-launch a dynamic and engaging web presence for Orthodox Christian youth and young adults. Leveraging cutting edge trends in web development and social media resources, new department members will work with existing department members and youth to develop a web presence that will meet young people where they are, encouraging them to be active Orthodox Christians on-line, in person with their friends and in the life of the Church.

Bishop David and members of the department also discussed ways for a renewed partnership with the FOCA.

“The members of FOCA have long supported the OCA’s efforts to have a vibrant youth program,” said David Lucs, recently appointed department Chair. “We value their participation in events for youth and young adults, and look forward to meeting with FOCA leaders soon to discuss concrete ways we can work together.”

Department members will also begin reviewing the wealth of existing resources and content developed by the YYACM Department over the last three decades. His Grace noted much of the content will be made available through the new website. “Our prayer is that God will bless our efforts as He has blessed our predecessors who dedicated their time and efforts to nurture the youth of our church.”

Two OCA young adults participated in June’s Syndesmos International Youth Conference in Samos, Greece.

In related news, two OCA young adults — Victor Lutes from the Archdiocese of Washington, DC and Anastasia Serdsev from the Diocese of New York and New Jersey — were among some 40 participants from around the world at this year’s Syndesmos International Orthodox Conference in Samos, Greece during the last week of June.

“We discussed scripture texts and the historic teachings of the faith and we also explored current issues, including ministering to the needs of migrants and refugees,” said Victor. “The mayor of Samos spoke to us about the ongoing refugee crisis and the work of International Orthodox Christian Charities [IOCC] in supporting the efforts of local volunteers providing care and resources to those in need.”

Among the conference’s speakers was His Eminence, Metropolitan Eusebios of Samos and Ikeria, who shared the history of the Church in Samos and stories from his life. He also presided at the celebration of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul at the church dedicated to their memory in the town of Ireon.

“It was a wonderful experience to meet Orthodox people from all over the world on the beautiful island of Samos,” Anastasia said. “We shared presentations on our home countries, listened to thought-provoking lectures that often led to independent discussions afterwards, and participated in services, reading and chanting in many languages including English, Greek, Slavonic, French, Arabic, Romanian, and Swahili.”

Faithful interested in obtaining more information on the department’s current and future ministries are invited to contact David Lucs at”

19th All-American Council web site goes “live”

A special site featuring a wealth of information and resources related to the forthcoming 19th All-American Council [AAC] of the Orthodox Church in America went “live” on the OCA web site on Friday, July 14, 2017.

The AAC theme — “For the Life of the World” — is derived from Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann’s classic work of the same name.

“The web site will be of tremendous assistance in preparing the faithful, and especially AAC delegates and observers, for the gathering, which will convene in Saint Louis, MO July 23-27, 2018,” said Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary. “A new AAC Facebook page also has been launched.”

On-line registration for both the AAC and hotel will be available January 1, 2018 through a dedicated and secure section of the site.

“All AAC related resources — agenda, handbook, instructions and registration — will be available on the site, enabling participants to download and print out copies to bring with them to the Council,” Father Eric explained. “Beginning January 1, the site will feature a dedicated section for submitting resolutions and Statute revisions for consideration by AAC delegates.”

Other AAC site highlights will include

  • an introductory video by His Grace, Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Midwest, who chairs the Preconciliar Commission.
  • articles on the history of the Orthodox Church in the Saint Louis area and the Kansas City Deanery of the Diocese of the Midwest.
  • a section dedicated to the AAC youth program, which will be available shortly. Youth program volunteers may register through the site. Beginning January 1, youth delegate registration also will be available on-line. A separate posting on the AAC youth program, which will be directed by Priest Benjamin Tucci, will provide details on the youth program agenda, expectations, and costs and offer suggestions on how youth can raise funds to participate in the AAC.
  • a series of frequently asked questions about the AAC in general and the 19th AAC in particular, slated to be released in the fall.

“In the months ahead, the OCA web site will announce the latest updates, resources and information as they appear on the AAC site,” Father Eric added. “In the meantime, we hope that all of the Church’s faithful take advantage of the AAC site for the latest information with regard to the 19th AAC in a Church-wide effort to expand the work of the Church ‘for the life of the world’ and its salvation.”

History of St. Michael the Archangel Russian Orthodox Parish

St. Michael’s was made up of immigrants from parts of Europe such as Austria-Hungary, Galicia and Russia. They sought work in the mining areas of Illinois and Missouri and subsequently a few settled in St. Louis. As Orthodox Faith grew strong which resulted in the founding of St. Michael the Archangel Russian Orthodox Church in October 1909.

The first priest who was assigned to serve St. Michael’s was the Rev. Michael Pazdry. His Grace, the Most Reverend Bishop Alexander, blessed the church.

During the years 1909-1926, a number of priests served St. Michael’s parish; Hieromonk Ioanniky (1909), Rev. Alexander Byacheslavov (1910-1912, and again in 1914), Rev. Alexy Alekhin (1913), Rev. Alexy Dankevich (1915), Rev. L. Zakevsky (1916), Rev. Gregory Matveychuk (1917 and served again in 1923), Rev. John Zitinsky (1917), Rev. Wasiliev (1917), Rev. Ieronim Lutsik (1918), Rev. Michael Rusinik (1918), Rev. Andrew Solanka (1919), Rev. Hariton Velma (1919), Rev. Paul Lisak (1920), Rev. Constantin Sukhostavsky (1920), Rev. Alexy Borokhovich (1921-1922), Rev. Nicholas Koshevich (1923-1924), and V. Rev. Arkhip Searbu (1925-1926).

Early in 1926 the parishioners began planning for a new church building and on December 12, 1926 started a drive for and estimated $45,000 needed for that purpose. A groundbreaking took place in 1927 when Rev. Joseph Hunchak (1927-1929) was serving as pastor. The cornerstone was blessed by His Grace, the Most Reverend Bishop Theophilus (later elevated to the rank of His Eminence, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Theophilus) and assisted by Father Hunchak, Father Zaychenko of Madison, Illinois and Father Tertichny (then of Benld, Illinois) as well as clergy from other Orthodox Churches in the St. Louis Area.

The dedication of the new church building took place on June 2, 1929 with His Eminence, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Platon officiating and assisted by Father Hunchak, Father Tertichny of Benld, Illinois, Father Warlashkin of Buckner, Father Sveridoff of Royalton, Illinois, and Father Antonishin of Desloge, Missouri.

When Father Hunchak was transferred from our parish, the following priests served St. Michael’s: Rev. Nicholas Levitsky (1930), Rev. Daniel Gilevich (1931), Rev. Lazar Kirichenko (1931), V. Rev. Alexander Pogrebniak (1932), Mitred Archpriest John Tertichny (1932-1974), Rev. David Homiak (1975-1978), V. Rev. Paul Sawchak (1975-1997), Rev. Elias Khouri(1997-1999), Rev. Josef Von Klarr(2001-2005), Rev. Paul Gassios (now His Grace Bishop Paul, 2006-2007), and Rev. Christopher Phillips. (2007-current).

When the war ended and veterans returned, there was need for a renewal of responsibilities and programs for the fulfillment of spiritual needs of the parish as well as the upkeep of the church building. The Ladies Sodality and the Men’s Club promoted various fund raising projects, which resulted in the installation of church pews. Major improvements followed such as installation of a gas furnace and blown in acoustical ceiling. A new roof was added, the belfry was enclosed and stainless steel crosses were added to the outside cupolas.

In 1970 a fund was started to cover the cost of new Byzantine Icons painted by Dimitri Zonia, a St. Louis artist and former member of our parish in his youth. A blessing of the Icons and the Mural of the Resurrection took place in November 1972 by His Eminence, Archbishop John. In November 1973 His Beatitude Metropolitan Ireney blessed the Mural of the Mother of God. For the 75th Anniversary, Mr. Zonia again made it possible for additional Icons to be blessed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius.

Also during this period of time we needed a parish home, and property near the church was purchased and remodeled. This proved quite adequate for a time but an opportunity presented itself to purchase our present rectory in South County St. Louis in August 1977.

Our parish became more involved in civic and community events such as the annual international Folk Festivals held in Forest Park, Gardenfests of the Garden Tower Community Association, McKinley-Fox and Bevo activities, the V-P Fair Festival and our choir’s participation in “Christmas Around the World” at the Old Court House where Christmas carols and traditions of many lands are featured each year.

The one event that has brought many visitors and friends together at our church hall has been the “Around the Samovar” Bazaar, which was begun in October 1975. Also fish fries have been ongoing for several years during the Lenten Season. Our Missions Dinners were started in 1982 for the purpose of assisting needy mission parishes in our Midwest Diocese. The Christmas cookie project has been a big part of the Christmas Season, and Flea Markets have been held in the spring for several years. Also, we recently started a barbecue project.

Our parish was a pick-up point for several drives that our deanery area had for the purpose of humanitarian aid for Russian and other countries of Eastern Europe. We had well over 300 boxes of clothing, food, medicine and books that were collected from our parishioners and neighboring parishes. Also, our parish has been participating in a Meal-of-the-Month project, which is serving our community.

In a spiritual way our parish experienced the following significant events during 1994 with His Grace Bishop Job officiating: the Ordination of Deacon Thomas George to the Priesthood on January 30, the Ordination of Deacon Timothy Sawchak to the Priesthood on August 13 and the Jeweled cross bestowed on Father Paul Sawchak at Father Timothy Sawchak’s Ordination.

Another significant event was observance of Father Paul Sawchak’s 25th Anniversary of his Priesthood (April 6) on May 15. Sadly, Father Paul reposed in the Lord in February of 1997. May his Memory be Eternal.

Our hope is that we have conveyed to you the love and devotion that has prevailed throughout the past 108 years. Let us pray that in the years ahead we will continue to glorify God and serve Him and our fellowman as well.