Deacon Matthew Stagon Ordained to the Holy Priesthood in East Pittsburgh

EAST PITTSBURGH, PA -- Fr. Deacon Matthew Stagon was ordained to the Holy Priesthood on Sunday October 3, 2010 on behalf of His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas by Archbishop Anthony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A.  Fr. Matthew is a 2009 graduate of Christ the Saviour Seminary and a vocation of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church of East Pittsburgh, PA.

The following is an excellent article on the event that appeared in the October 4, 2010 of the Pittsburgh Tribune.


By Chris Ramirez

Matthew Stagon, 26, said he was a teenager when he first felt the pull to become a priest.

No heavenly voices urged him to do it, as he recalls. And he had no pressure from ministers or other clergy.

Just a feeling. "You just know," he said.

On Sunday, the sound of bells and aroma of incense at St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in East Pittsburgh signaled Stagon's ordination as one of the religion's newest priests. It was the first such appointment for the church in nearly four decades.

Parishioners cheered "Axios!," the Greek word for "he is worthy," as other clergy adorned Stagon with each layer of his new priestly wardrobe -- a belt, a robe, a golden stole and a cross.

"When a man is ordained, he's continuing the same unbroken apostolic tradition of our church," said the Rev. Jonathan Tobias, a priest participating in the ordination. "He'll be a great addition to the tradition."

The Orthodox Christian faith is made up of about a dozen administratively independent local churches that trace their roots to Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe. Those who follow its Scripture often pride themselves on their adherence to tradition and a history that dates to the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople.

Still, yesterday's worshipers, sensing they were witnessing history, turned to technology to capture the moment, snapping images of Stagon with their cell phones and digital cameras.

Ordinations are rare in Pittsburgh; the last at St. John the Baptist took place in the 1970s when Michael Rosco was ordained. Others have taken place in recent years in Johnstown, where the diocese is headquartered.

Stagon, who grew up in Plum, said he was 15 when he attended a church camp in Mercer County. He made up his mind there to enter the priesthood, though few knew of his decision until after he graduated from Shippensburg University.

Stagon's appointment occurs as the Orthodox church, like others, faces the challenge of retaining younger parishioners. For decades, St. John the Baptist's congregation consisted primarily of first- and second-generation Americans who were the children of immigrants from Eastern Europe, lifelong member Rich Sofelkanik said. The church has become more diverse since the 1990s, as more people have converted to Orthodox Christianity from other faiths.

"He can bridge the gap," Sofelkanik, 50, said of Stagon. "He can relate to traditionalists as well as youth. There's a lot he can accomplish in this church."

Stagon and his wife, Eleni, live in Dormont.

He will be assigned to a parish in December, Tobias said.

The new priest said that while mentoring youths will be important, his priority will be to guide the whole church.

"It's my hope that the young people who are here now will stay here among us," Stagon said. "I can't control them, but I hope that what I do can help them keep them on the path to God."