Dear Faithful Parishioners,
As I announced last Sunday, to those in attendance, that I have been disabled by my physician and he has ordered me to cease working due to the cumulative effects of multiple medical issues. Those of you who have been members for a long time are aware of my heart surgeries, my leukemia, and other physical problems. While these in and of themselves can make it difficult to soldier on, most recently problems with my legs have made it too painful for me to serve. Due to neuropathy in my feet which affects my balance, hip arthritis, sciatica, and bursitis all create a situation where it is painful for me to be on my feet as required to celebrate the holy services. Therefore, as of January 15thI will no longer be able to work or to be the celebrant of any sacraments or services.
What does this mean? I am still living in Tulsa, will essentially be the retired priest here, and will still be here for services, however I must sit on the sidelines in the altar and am not currently able to serve for medical reasons. Any weddings, baptisms, etc. will still take place, but it will be another priest who will celebrate the sacrament. This will be determined by Met. Isaiah and a priest will be assigned to celebrate these sacraments. Dn. Michael Stevenson is available to bring the sacraments to those in the hospital and will be continuing on in his capacity in the office and teaching classes as well. Should anyone have any questions, please contact Dn. Michael and he will take care of it any issue and address it to His Eminence, the Parish Council, or the appropriate person.
Met. Isaiah is currently looking for a new priest, but this will most likely be a lengthy process. We do have a general shortage of priests. One of the main reasons I have tried to endure as long as I have is knowing this is the case. There are parishes that don’t have priests, and large parishes which normally have multiple priests have unfilled vacancies. Shreveport, LA just recently received a priest after waiting two years. Fr. Daniel Payne, who has been here in the parish most of this year on disability has been cleared and assigned to a new parish. That parish was empty for a year. Before Fr. John Tsaras went to Oklahoma City, they were vacant for a year. I certainly hope that such a lengthy period of time won’t be the case here, but I want to paint a realistic picture. Optimistically, summer is the most common time for reassignments of clergy which I think the reasons being obvious (i.e., who is going to take their children out of school and try to sell their house in February to go to a new parish?).
His Eminence is currently polling retired priests for dates they may be available to fill-in for Sunday Divine Liturgies and you will receive more information on that later. In the meantime, other aspects of parish life will continue. The Philoptochos is meeting and just did their dinner at the Day Center for the Homeless yesterday. Our GOYA went to Dallas this past weekend and will continue their activities. Dn. Michael continued with the adult class last night. Fr. Maximos of Simonopetra Monastery on Mt. Athos will be visiting our community on Feb. 14-15 for a retreat as well (more info to come once he returns from the Holy Mountain at the end of the month). So, currently, the main issue is liturgical services. Since at this present time it will be necessary to bring in priests from out of state it is not possible to conduct weekday services, so until further notice just assume there will be no weekday services. There will be an effort to ascertain the times for services at the other Orthodox parishes in the area for those Sundays and holy days when we are not able to offer services and inform you of those so you may attend there.
I apologize for the suddenness of my disability retirement, but it was ordered by my primary care physician following his own examination and reports from my other physicians. I’ve been trying to “hang in there” knowing that obtaining a new priest would be difficult, but unfortunately my doctor feels that it is too risky for me to continue to serve.
May I close by saying that I have been very blessed by being allowed by God to serve and minister to you during this past quarter century. I won’t say goodbye since I will still be living in Tulsa and will continue to see you all.
With paternal agape,