Reflections On The Life and Ministry of Metropolitan Nicholas
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep." (John 10:11)
All Christianity grieves the loss an exemplary spiritual leader. Metropolitan Nicholas is clearly such a person. The following is the substance of my remarks at his 75th Anniversary dinner: We read in the book of Joshua, in the Hebrew scriptures: "Joshua said to all the people, 'Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness ... choose this day whom you will serve, ... as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24) May his memory be eternal.
Bishop John (Kudrick), Byzantine Catholic Bishop of Parma (John 10:11)
I can remember many years ago, my Grandfather, Wasyl Pawuk who was Cantor at St. Michael's Orthodox Church in Wood, PA saying that some day Father Smisko would be a Bishop. Metropolitan Nicholas's Episcopal Enthronement as n to Bishop of our Diosese, was on the anniversary of my grandfathers repose, April 19. Vichnija Pamjat, Vladika!
Reader Ron Pawuk St. Michael's Orthodox Church,Wood, PA
We were all fortunate and blessed to have Metropolitan Nicholas lead our diocese. His Eminence was very approachable, kind, and loving, unwavering and steadily guiding us. The parishioners of Johnstown were even more blessed as he served regularly at the Cathedral. Even after I left Johnstown and came back to visit, he would lovingly welcome my family and I. As a grown man, crying is reserved for the death of family members. Today I cried. Eternal Memory. Anonymous
Metropolitan Nicholas was a wonderful Spiritual Father. He always took time to say Hello. My nephew Logan Diles, who is in a wheelchair, always seem to be uplifted when Metropolitan Nicholas blessed him. He will be missed. Eternal Memory!
Veronica and Jack Zurcher, Warren,Ohio
Metropolitan Nicholas was a blameless archpastor whose kindness, compassion and authentic Orthodox spirituality touched all who knew him. He was a icon the Christ the High Priest. May he be given a placewhere the Saints and the Just repose and may his memory be eternal!
I visited His Eminence last year when I was looking into attending seminary. He treated me and my grandmother as if we were the most important people in the world, though he had never met us. I loved him ever since and he has held a special place in my heart. He was a great, Godly man and he will be missed by all. May His memory be eternal!
Metropolitan Nicholas was a part of my life for as long as I can remember, going back to his days as a Seminarian when I was a small boy growing up in Freeland, PA. He grew up in Perth Amboy, New Jersey and my dad, Father Stephen Dutko, was from nearby Elizabeth, New Jersey. In the Rusyn language of our people this made them 'kraijane' as the two cities were in close proximity.
Although my father was his elder by almost twenty years, they formed a brotherly bond that lasted for over fifty years, through the good times and through difficult days. That bond was cemented by their love for and knowledge of our beloved Prostopenije/Plain Chant each had developed from their youth and nurtured throughout their decades of priestly service. Together with their admiration for the Rusyn folk traditions that were such an important part of our lives in the early decades of our Diocese, they were a 'team'. Whenever priests would gather, the Metropolitan and my father were sure to light up the party with their joyous singing of hymns, folk songs and stories. Who can forget the Metropolitan's love for 'Za Spivajme' which he would always sing at a dinner or social function whenever he had a chance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQJvAa7_dVA
I know with confidence that he has been greeted in the heavenly kingdom by those dear to him; his parents, my dad and his fellow pioneering priests of our beloved Diocese, his mentor and friend - the two Fathers Dolhy (senior and junior, along with his Cantor Louis Dolhy from 10th Street), Father Dr. Joseph Matckov who was his inspiration to the priesthood while he was an altar boy at St. John's in Perth Amboy, and above all our beloved founding bishop, Metropolitan Orestes whose booming voice and knowledge of our people and our prostopenije was passed down to Metropolitan Nicholas from the earliest days of his priesthood and formed such an important part of his priesthood these past fifty two years. That Heavenly Choir sings out today in unison, "Axios! Axios! Axios!" as His Eminence ends this life and receives his eternal reward. Well done, good and faithful servant. I am humbled to say that he was indeed a friend to me, my wife and my children. We will miss you and we ask that you remember us in your prayers. Memory Eternal! Vichnaja Jemu Pamjat!
David Dutko, Binghamton, NY
I am very sorry to learn of the falling-asleep of Metropolitan Nicholas.........throughout the years we Antiochians found him to be most amiable...and humble in his Christian approach to contemporary problems in the Orthodox Church. He will be deeply missed by all of us whose lives he touched...during the Antiochian House of Studies and our Symposia.........his life was cut short.and he is leaving a big gap by his passing into eternity, May he bathe in the divine light of the Divinity of our Heavenly Father......And May his memory be eternal...!
Economos Antony Gabriel - Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church, Montreal, Quebec
My sincere condolences to all of those affected by his Eminence's passing.My name is Lori Houston and I am from Columbus, Ohio. I am Mary Yurcisin's niece and Evelyn Houston's daughter. the Metropolitan has been a profound influence and a very important person in the lives of the Yurcisin family, including me.He had one of the most beautiful singing voices I've ever heard. Every time I have heard his beautiful voice praising God, it has made that service more meaningful for me.As they say in Spanish, "recuerdos eterno." Or you might recognize it as "Eternal memory."Thank you, Metropolitan, for being such a positive influence in my life. I will miss you .
Lori Houston, Columbus, Ohio
To the Clergy and Faithful of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA, My sincere condolences on the entering of His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas into his Eternal Rest with the Eternal High Priest, Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. May his Memory be Eternal! Vicnaja Pamjat! He will be remembered with great love!
Very Rev. James Batcha Eparchy of Parma, Ohio
A "people's priest", a term reserved for the few that naturally exude a multitude of the gifts of the Holy Spirit with great humility. Living each day exuding a Christ-like spark of energy, commitment, and forward-thinking; but with an understanding we are imperfect humans. Of the people, yet accepting the responsibility of a flock, doing what he believed to be the right thing without regard to popular opinion – as a human not always right but, more importantly, living by his principles as an example to us all. A "people's bishop", with decades of theological education combined with the ability to reach out to all people of any denomination or level of faith. One who took time to learn the names and something about the lives of thousands of individuals. Who did not consider the Carpatho-Rus' culture too simple and peasant-oriented to preserve or take the easier path accepting Ukrainian or Russian culture -- surviving centuries of ethnic cleansing only to be lost completely after escaping to freedom in America. Whose most joyous moments in daily life were singing Rusyn liturgical chant, folk songs and carols; appreciating the smallest humor or irony in daily life with an infectious laugh; eyes sparkling for chocolate. There is no definition in the English dictionary, it is never carved as a headstone epitaph, it won't be in the thousands of formal words written about his life and contributions; but as it has been for centuries it will be written in each of our hearts and spoken among our people, humbly and simply in three concise words as translated in English, +Metropolitan Nicholas, a people's priest. Vicnaja Pamjat! Eternal Memory!
Christina Duranko, Rankin PA
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."Hebrew, 12:1-2, from the Epistle reading on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, March 13, 2011 In a sad day like this I would like to express my greatest joy of having Metropolitan Nicholas as a Bishop since 1998 when I joined Christ the Saviour Parish of Fr. Maxym Lysack in Ottawa, Canada. Christ the Saviour is the spiritual home of the Bulgarian community in Ottawa. I remember the time when we wrote to the Bulgarian Metropolitan Joseph of New York to ask his blessing for us to remain united under the spiritual guidance of Fr. Maxym and his beloved Bishop Nicholas. We told him that there was no Bulgarian Parish in Ottawa but we already had a parish and we had a Priest – Christ the Saviour and Fr. Maxym. The answer of Metropolitan Joseph was approximately this: "Yes, you do have a priest and you should listen to him. You are in the good hands of my beloved friend and brother in Christ Metropolitan Nicholas." It still happens today that Bulgarian newcomers to Ottawa ask the question: "Is this a Bulgarian parish?" My answer to them is: "Yes, it is the Bulgarian parish in Ottawa since all Bulgarians are celebrating the Divine Liturgy there." We received a blessing and were blessed to have Metropolitan Nicholas as a Bishop. We felt so much at home and so close to him because for him the Divine worship was a graceful and eventful experience. And he preached by referring to these shared moments and events: "Today we are gathered to celebrate ...", "We kept the faith ...", "The Holy Spirit came ...", "We were lifted up ...", and "... Sbogom, go with God, and we shall meet again someday ..." (the last words from Bishop Nicholas' remarks on his 75th birthday, Feb. 22, 2011). With him we felt so clearly that each parish is a place of God (the place of God is where His energy is at work, St John of Damascus). We saw him as a true witness of God, one of the so great cloud of witnesses, who gave us the example of running "with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." It is not an accident that our Bishop fell asleep in the Lord on the Sunday of Orthodoxy right after the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. As a great Spiritual Father and Teacher he taught us by everything he said and by everything he did. His falling asleep in the Lord on the Sunday of Orthodoxy is a symbol of the authenticity of his Orthodox Christian witness. A symbol in the Orthodox Church emerges only in association with the reality it symbolizes (St Gregory Palamas). He kept the faith and he shared it with us until his last breath. The celebration of Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of Orthodoxy ends. We are together with him celebrating the Feast of Orthodoxy. And he is ready to go now leaving us not in sorrow but in the feast, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. And we shall meet again someday to celebrate again by sharing the joy that was set before Him. Beloved Vladiko, Glory to God for having you as a Bishop!
Reader Stoyan Tanev, Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Ottawa, Canada
We were Blessed to have Metropolitan Nicholas as our Shepard. He was a kind, gentle soul and while his memory was still good he was able to recall events that people have shared with him. His love for us in the Diocese even spread beyond our shores, to the homeland of our forefathers in the Carpathian lands.He is fondly remembered by our relatives in Slovakia to the Uzgorod area in the Ukraine. FR. Sedor in Stropko gave a Thank You and blessing to Met. Nicholas for his help in building a temporary church and Consecrating the Cornerstonen of this church in Stropko. Relatives in the Uzgorod area also remember his visits to the several churches he visited in the Ukraine. May God Grant Him Eterrnal Rest and may His Soul Be Remembered Among the Just. Vicnaja Pamjat.
Metropolitan Nicholas will be remembered with love and fondness. He became, through George, Rose Marie, Michael, Maryann, RoseAnn, and Melissa, a part of our family. Metropolitan always had a smile on his face and a song (he so loved our music) in his heart. "When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning." ( 2 Samuel, 23:3,4) Metropolitan Nicholas's light will always shine in the hearts of all who knew him. May his memory be eternal!
Roger, Nancy, Randy, and Becky Goedtel
On behalf of the Pittsburgh Byzantine Catholic Archieparchial Choir, sincere sympathies and prayers are extended to the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. on the falling asleep in the Lord of +Metropolitan Nicholas. His gracious presence at our choir's choral program in ecumenical celebration of Pascha (April 2010) will be long-remembered, particularly as he exchanged a sincere embrace with our beloved +Metropolitan Basil and later offered kind, encouraging words and his blessing to the choirs and faithful assembled. Eternal Memory – Vi?naja Pamjat'
Slava Isusu Christu! Dear God, I found a quote from Origen that I thought would be appropriate now that Metropolitan Nicholas has gone to his eternal reward. "We celebrate the day of one's death because those who seem to die do not die. Thus, we do not celebrate the day of one's earthly birth, becuase those who die are living eternally." For those of us who knew of Metropolitan great works, we will never forget. If we did not know the dear Metropolitan we still loved him for his humble deeeds for his people in America as well as his Carpatho-Rusyn relatives and friends. His kindness was loving as Your Son's and he was gentle as Your Son also. Please God sent another devoted, loving and kind leader for the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox people. One that will help with unity among Eastern Catholics and Orthodox Christians. You know that I have prayed daily for the Metropolitan's health now you are calling me to pray for all my Orthodox brothers and sisters who lost their beloved leader. Eternal Memory!
Laurel A. Tombazzi
On behalf or the parish and parishoners of St. Cyril of Turov, I offer our condolences on Metropolitan Nicholas' passing. We will treasure and cherish our memories of the Metropolitan's visits to our small parish and the joy he brought to us during his visits. May he rest in peace and be blessed with memory eternal.
Words cannot encompass the loss and mourning felt across our Diocese for His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas. The last time I saw him was at the SOBOR this past summer, coming to share the miraculous growth of our Orthodox family in Farmville, VA – which was only made possible through the Grace of God, Bishop Nicholas, and the diocese. His gentle and loving compassion as my boys greeted him the first evening humbled me in his presence. His undying faith and devotion could not help but spill over to all around him. My rowdy boys quieted as he smiled upon them as only His Eminence could do! The next day, with tears in my eyes, I approached him - thanking him for his vision and faith as the Diocese continued to reach out to those us who have had relocate, as well as other Orthodox Christians – cradle and new to the faith – with no local church to call home. The warmth and love in his eyes as he smiled and nodded his approval would have melted the hardest heart. Thank you Bishop Nicholas for sharing so much of yourself with us, and for leading our Diocese through your wonderful example. We will always carry a part of you with us! Memory Eternal!
Christine M. Curry Ross
Beloved clergy and faithful of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)Heartfelt condolences from the OCP family on the repose of a great bishop and a true leader.The Orthodoxy Cognate Page Family conveys our heartfelt condolence, love and prayerful respect to the family and dear ones of Metropolitan Nicholas, to the clergy and faithful of AmericanCarpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA and to one and all who mourn theloss of this great Bishop.May our good Lord strengthen you all with His abundance of grace and blessings. Peace Eternal Metropolitan Nicholas, the faithful servant of God.
KC Jacob, Chairman Orthodox Cognate Page
His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas was present for my ordination to the priesthood on May 15, 1998 at the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Brookline, Massachusetts at Holy Cross Seminary. The first time I received Communion as a priest, it was from Metropolitan Nicholas. Years later, I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with him as we were in adjoining seat on an airplane flight from Florida to North Carolina. He was indeed a humble man, and a good shepherd. May his memory be eternal! Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord!
+Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, Protopresbyter St. John Greek Orthodox Church, Tampa, FL
While "Father Smisko" was serving at the church on 10th Street in NYC, I was still a member of a Greek Catholic Religious Order. Among other duties, I would sing the English language funerals at Saint Michael's Hungarian Greek Catholic Church in Perth Amboy. On two occassions, I sang the funeral for relatives of the Smiskos. Both times, the future Metropolitan joined me like an Assistant Cantor. He asked my permission to sing with me. The first time that happened I quipped about the 'ecumenical situation' of that time which left one priest standing with the cantors rather than with the parish priest. The future Metropolitan responded, "Well, we have to start a dialogue." Just a few months later we were singing another funeral. That second time the parish priest handed the Father Smisko the holy water to sprinkle during the singing of 'Eternal Memory'. As he took the holy water, he looked at me and said, "The dialogue is beginning." Over the years I would see Bishop and then Metropolitan Nicholas at various ordinations, diocesan events...etc and when I would present myself to him he liked to talk about the progress made in that dialogue. His relationship with the Roman and Greek Catholic Bishops, as well as other Orthodox Bishops and the good relations he had with the clergy of those various jurisdictions was a great acheivement for him. He nurtured and developed those relationships and I am sure he will continue to pray, as I will, for the fulfillment of that 'dialogue' he so devotedly hoped for. Memory Eternal.
Ken Dilks, Edison, NJ
Metropolitan Nicholas ALWAYS treated me with the utmost in kindness. He was generous to those in need, patient with those who tried him, prayed for all he could, loved his flock and those outside of his flock. He was a very great man. He lived as best he could and always aspired to do better. He treated his priests as if they were his own sons, and loved them. The older priests he respected deeply and the younger ones he guided and helped.
I offer prayerful condolences to the clergy and faithful of the American Carpatho - Russian Orthodox Diocese on the death of the beloved Metropolitan Nicholas. It was my privilege to meet the Metropolitan many times in the course of my ministry with The Catholic Register (newspaper of the Altoona - Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese). His Eminence always had a kind word for me, and always praised our paper. I remember too how kind he was when he met my mother in a local supermarket one Christmas. He was a great and good man, a holy Bishop, a true priest. May God be good to him, and may God grant comfort to all of you.
Monsignor Timothy P. Stein
Since 1955, I have known Metropolitan Nicholas, first as a seminarian, then as my Sunday church school teacher. As the 60's progressed and he was a priest, I became his cantor, singing for him in Homer City, Latrobe, McKeesport, etc. I was honored to sing for him, and even more to just be his friend. This was so because to me, he was genuine and good. There was no pompous or insincere side to him. What you saw was what you got. He had a sense of humor and knew how to enjoy himself and with others. But he was also a man of deep faith who was also humble and approachable. He was my role model who touched me in innumerable ways. I always was his friend, in good times and also when times were hard. Ours was not a fair weather friendship. He was always kind and good to my mother of blessed memory. I tried to reciprocate with his good mother, also of blessed memory. As the years wore on, I did my best to do whatever he wanted of me. In fact, I willingly enjoyed doing what he wanted done. He had my respect and above all, my love. Now he is gone, and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has taken him. Tears come to my eyes when I think of him, but I know he is in heaven, where he belongs. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." He was my priest, and there will never be another like him.
Dr. Stephen Paczolt Geography and Map Division Library of Congress
My sincere condolences to all affected by his Eminence's passing. When he visited our church in Manville I saw the light of The Holy Spirit around his face! I remember seeing him in a hallway on his way to a celebration of a new priests ordination. I waited for him to pass but recognizing us he beckoned us to come to him for a blessing. He made time for us and made us feel special. May his memory be Eternal.
While I, along with many others, knew that the day of our beloved bishop's departure was quickly approaching, still I feel a profound sense of shock and emptiness. As my bishop and shepherd for 26 years it is difficult to imagine life as an Orthodox priest without him. I have known Metropolitan Nicholas a large portion of my life, remembering him at the Johnstown Altar Boy Retreats in the 1960s, working with him at the Monastery in Tuxedo Park as a seminarian in the 1980s, and being blessed and honored to be the first priest ordained by him in 1985. While I often hear of the failings and shortcomings of other Orthodox hierarchs, the main complaints one often heard about Metropolitan Nicholas were actually characteristics that will shine in his crown in heaven: he was often too forgiving, too trusting, and too accepting of others who came to him. When we seminarians received word that Father Nicholas Smisko had been elected as the auxiliary bishop for the Ukrainian Orthodox Diocese we were all saddened at the thought of losing such a wonderful priest who we hoped would one day succeed our beloved Bishop John. I recall a Thanksgiving celebration in the seminary dining room and sharing my disappointment with Father John Yurcisin, of blessed memory. Father John, ever optimistic and positive, was thrilled that Father Nicholas was becoming a bishop and he told me that as a bishop, it was more likely that one day he would return to us. I, frankly, didn't share his optimistic views. Jump ahead to December, 1984, and with the sudden, untimely death of Bishop John I found myself sitting in the Bishop's residence in Johnstown with Bishop Nicholas, newly-elected hierarch of the Diocese. I remember his words to me, that God's will is beyond human comprehension and that God has a plan for our life beyond what we can create on our own. I have much apprehension for the future of our Diocese without him. But I will trust in his words to me in 1984 and pray that God's will may be done in us and in our Church!
Father Edward Pehanich
My daughter and I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the family of Metropolitan Nicholas. I am a parishioner of St. Michael's Church in Rankin, PA. My first meeting with Metropolitan Nicholas was at an ACRY affair several years ago. It was a just by chance meeting. He was waiting for the car to be brought around and it was a very rainy night. I was going out that same door to get air. I introduced myself as a lost sheep from St. Michael's in Rankin and he was happy to meet me. I explained I was a lost sheep from my faith for many years and was happy to get back to my true Orthodox faith. I explained how important that it was to me that I be able to raise my child in the faith of Orthodoxy, as my mother and grandmother had done before me. He was so happy to hear that I wanted to raise a child with great faith and he gave me a blessing and wished me well on my chosen path. I then helped to hold the door and get him in his car. I will always remember how kind he was to me a stranger to the church at that time and the words of wisdom he gave me then. I believe his grace convinced me to stay the long journey I am so blessed to have now. Our meeting was by chance and it was not part of the usual crowd waiting to meet him. Nothing but friendship was given to me at that moment at a most difficult time in my life. But I always will remember how genuine his smile was and he took the time to speak to me. I have a great admiration for him and his ministry in this life. Anytime we ever met again, he remembered my face as the "The lost sheep from the Rankin Church," and how happy he was that I was there and still involved with my journey. He was a Good Shepard for our faith and has been a great inspiration for many. I know my daughter Zoe will miss him coming to see her and the children at Camp Nazareth in the summer. He will surely be missed.+Metropolitan Nicholas, May his Memory be Eternal! Vicnaja Pamjat!
It has been a great honor and privilege for me to have been given the opportunity by His Eminence to illustrate his Christmas cards and other diocesan art projects for the past 10 years or so. I always enjoyed discussing these projects with him.Though he was my Bishop, he was also my friend. He made me feel confident that I could complete any task he laid before me. I will miss him dearly. Eternal Memory Vladyko!
Michael John Fedorko
When I went to work today, I thought how I was going to ask for so many days off to go to someones funeral that I was not related to. Metropolitan was not my uncle, brother, father or relative. However, I am 30 years old and I have spent the last 25 birthdays and holidays with him. I am married to my wife Roxanne, own my own home, belong to Christ the Saviour Cathedral, etc. because Bishop picked my Dad to be the Dean of the Seminary. I don't know where my life would be if it were not for him, but I do know it was the best because of him. There are so many memories I have with Bishop in the last 25 years that it's hard to name them all. When I was in elementary and middle school, his home was my home after school. I would walk over to his residence and his mother Anna (Mrs. S.) would make me a snack and I would do my school work. Bishop, my Dad and I would go on trips together to many different places. I served as an altar boy for him. I drove him on trips. He married Roxanne and I. So, that is how I asked for time off from work because Bishop was part of my family. Even though the Bishop has fallen asleep, the memories I have of us together will forever be in my heart. Eternal memory.
Christopher Miloro, Johnstown PA
There are myriad ways that the life of a man can touch the lives of others, but few are the men that can do so in such incredibly lifelong ways. His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas was such a man. While there are many inspiring things for all of us to reflect upon pertaining to his episcopacy, most of my warmest memories are from when I was a child and beginning when he was still a priest. Through these experiences I was blessed to experience his angelic voice, his witty humor, and his gracious love. I’ve had the blessing of knowing then Fr. Nicholas through my parents since I was born, and the earliest event I remember was when he baptized my younger brother. I was only six years old, but to this day I can hear his beautiful and powerful voice in my father’s small church, with my mother and father singing with him in harmony. That memory helped me to better understand what our Carpatho-Rusyn heritage meant to all of us in this diocese, and how the priest Nicholas sang the prostopinije as one appointed to protect and provide it for generations to come. The next vivid memory I have of him was as I was a teenaged boy. By this time Metropolitan Nicholas was Archimandrite and living at our former monastery in Tuxedo Park, NY. My father had taken us to visit and to spend a night in the monastery, and it was here that I first learned of not only his power and conviction as a servant of Christ, but also his sense of humor. He put us to work clearing shrubs, and to this day I remember how his instructions, delivered with his booming voice, motivated my brothers and me to action. When he chuckled and mentioned that he would indeed feed us for our efforts, I then knew the respect that he commanded through love and humor. Finally, shortly after the Metropolitan was consecrated Bishop, he was in our hometown for an official visit but stayed with us in our home. I was in high school and, as it happened, at the time of his visit I was figuring out how to satisfy an English requirement of having a guest speaker address the class. In a true shot in the dark, I asked His Eminence (who was then His Grace) if he would consider coming to my school and speaking to my class. Much to my abounding joy, he graciously accepted. My classmates had never experienced such a day. It was indeed one of the best moments of my childhood, and I never forgot the love and humility he showed to me on that day.Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ indeed called a true shepherd to care for all of us. But Metropolitan Nicholas was our spiritual father in so many ways that may never be known, except in the hearts and minds of those he affected in so many beautiful ways. Especially the children.Vicnaya Pamjat!
All of the canadian parishes mourn the loss of our father, Metropolitan Nicholas. Although there was geographical distance separating us, spiritually we felt totally covered and protected by his prayers and omophorion. I still remember the summer I worked at camp Nazareth, Metropolitan Nicholas told us how he would sometimes stop on the side of the road and watch the corn fields sway in the wind. He said that it looked as if they were bowing to God, worshiping their Creator. In him was a true lover of God and the Church. Although our diocese has lost it's bishop, we have gained an intercessor in heaven. Give rest, O God, to Your servant, and place him in Paradise where the choirs of the Saints and the righteous will shine as the stars of heaven.
Emily Wehbi, Ottawa Canada
In a family eulogy our family once heard, it was said that a person never leaves us, because they have touched our souls and have become a part of who we are. This can truly be said of Bishop Nicholas who touched all of us in some way. Whether by his visit, a touch, a sermon, or a personal private prayer he may have said for us.He tended to his flock in a spiritual way that only a Bishop could do and his memory will be eternal. Thank you, Bishop Nicholas
Jim & Nancy DeHaven
I write these lines with great difficulty and eyes brimming with sadness for the passing of a good friend, a paternal figure, the blessed Nicholas.Not only the spiritual leader but also a tireless servant to all the needy of guidance. He made everyone feel close and special with a meekness that was God given.May his memory be eternal and light be the earth that covers him.
Nicholas Costopoulos Athens - Greece
Ton Despotin-Axios. Axios. Axios.
It is always dangerous to boast, especially in Lent, especially in this particular Lenten season. But occasionally I stand on safe ground in doing so. Today, I boast of my hierarch, Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos.To be sure, Amissos is "titular," meaning that he has no administration over the real town of Amisus near the Black Sea in old Pontus.
What is not titular, and what is "real" instead, is his administration of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese.I was received into Orthodoxy in this Diocese, where I firmly remain. Metropolitan Nicholas is the only bishop I have known and served. I have met others, and admire a number of them. But Metropolitan Nicholas is my shepherd and pastor, my kindhearted and generous leader, my intercessor, servant of God, truly -- in all the many moments I have seen him -- a spirit-filled man of prayer who knows the ways of kenosis, and is thus acquainted with the brightness of theosis.
I remember seeing him for the first time, still an unchrismated evangelical protestant in Sharon Pennsylvania on a cold winter evening. I had never met a bishop before: he proceeded up the aisle and blessed me with a smile. We are, Carpatho-Russians, rather unassuming in our Orthodoxy, preferring a genial evangelism wafting our rubrics. This is so because that open-souled smile of Nicholas has been stamped, indelibly, on our hearts. Unto the end of this land.
Truth be known (and don't tell anyone), we probably fight too much amongst ourselves. Pirohi-pinching can get hairy at times. I've had it easy in my own pastoral situations, but I have heard of shoe-pounding and some pretty hard wargames at boardrooms and annual meetings.
I have seen my bishop treated with backs turned against him. I have seen him, every time, turn back with open arms. Not once have I heard from him a disparaging or despairing word.
He makes good soup in his kitchen. He has a cat. He used to have two Schnauzers, but gave them away because his absences were unfair to them. He is almost too softhearted, probably sentimental. A real mensch. What I hope to grow up to be.
God sent us a gift when Nicholas sat down on the cathedra, and affixed his name to our antimensia. He is genial and patient to our Israelite-murmuring-in-the-wilderness. Too many of us liked playing Dothan and Korah wishing for leeks and cucumbers. Nicholas was too "old country" for some converts and secularists. Nicholas was too "american" for russophiles and wannabe-staretsi.
There were times, working with him, when I thought my bishop just could not win. And there were times when he didn't. There were those, over the years, who sent anonymous letters, who waged long-distance machinations, who engineered their own byzantine accessions: these people did not like him, and it turns out that they did not like him because they were not like him. I.e., humble ... kind ... prayerful ... self-effacing ... holy.
He kept his charity secret, and did not publicize his kindness. He did not make sure you knew the pains he took for you, as is the wont of some others: on the contrary, he took pains to make sure you never knew that it was he, like another Nicholas once upon a time, throwing gold pieces secretly through your window.He gave himself away. Always and ever.
Today, I feel like Elisha knowing that Elijah is leaving on the chariot: "Tarry here, I pray you, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan." Our kindhearted shepherd is fading. His voice that called us by name is dimming. The horses and fire are on the horizon.
Every day I open the book and turn the page, hoping for a bright turn in the story, a deus ex machina perhaps.But our Deus is not ex machina. On my knees at the Canon I know that this real bishop is of the real world. His body has given its full measure. The spirit is willing but the flesh is now very weak. And in love, I want for him the comfort that is got only in the Bosom of Abraham.
I just hope he will let fall the mantle on an able head. Not even a double portion, for that is too much to ask in this insipid age. Just a little bit. Just a Syro-Phoenician crumb.
In the meantime, in this mean time, pray with me for Metropolitan Nicholas – no longer of Amissos, but ever and always of Johnstown Pennsylvania, worthy bishop of us unworthy Carpatho-Russians (by blood and adoption): Many years everlasting, Vladyka, many happy and blessed years, forever and ever, world without end.
We have not deserved a single one, and you have given so many.
Very Rev. Fr. Jonathan Tobias, East Pittsburgh, PA
Editor's Note: This was written a few days before His Eminence's repose
I'm sitting at my computer, and sad at the lost of a friend. I did not know His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas as well as I would have liked to. I met Him several times at the alter server retreats, He had His meals with the Priest, boys, men and women that attended. It was like talking with an old friend, He was the highest official in our Diocese, But He was a real a nice person, someone you would like as soon as you met Him. I was impressed by Him, and all our clergy. Bonne nuit mon ami
Jason Pierce St. John's Parish Broadbridge Ave.Stratford, CT
Slava Isusu Christu, zo zarmutkom i bo?om sme prijali spravu o smerti Vladyku Mikolaja. Sme radi, že sme mali tu ?es? stritnuty i poznaty jich osobni, spolu s nima zašpivaty našy pravoslavny duchovny pisni, kotry tak ?ubili. Cilyj Vladykovyj rodini, i cilyj duchovnyj rodini vyslovujeme Uprimnu Sustras?, dumame na Vas i modlime ša tu v "starym kraju".
Family of Slavo Kormanik from Slovakia
It is with great sadness that I heard the news of the repose of the newly departed Hierarch, His Eminence, Metropolitan NICHOLAS. He was most courageous in his battle with cancer and never allowed any physical setback to stop him from his work as the "Good Shepherd" of his beloved Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese. The clergy and the faithful of the diocese, as well as his family, have my prayers and deepest sympathy at this great human loss, but a gain in God's Eternal Kingdom! On behalf of the clergy and the faithful of the diocese of the Midwest, I offer prayers of eternal rest and blessed repose to your newly departed shepherd of Christ, His Eminence, Metropolitan NICHOLAS. May his memory be eternal in God's Kingdom!
Bishop-elect Matthias, Bishop-elect of Chicago and the Diocese of the Midwest
I first met Metropolitan Nicholas in 1962 or so when I was an altar boy at Christ The Saviour Cathedral in Johnstown, Pa. Later, when he became Bishop of our Diocese he instituted Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday. I am very happy to say that I participated every year. I was almost always the 12th man and the Bishop often referred to me as Saint Peter. I was most impressed in December of 2006 when my father was terminally ill at Allegheny Hospital in Pittsburgh. The Bishop made a special trip to the hospital while visiting a parish in the Pittsburgh area. I will remember this wonderful act of kindness all my life. Our parish in particular shall miss him greatly as he was there many Sundays throughout the year. I will also miss seeing him at Liturgies. May his memory be eternal!
To the Clergy, Faithful and Friends of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese; I extend my most sincere condolences on the passing of His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas. An outgoing and compassionate man, His Eminence fully radiated Christ's love to everyone he met. Having sang at the Cathedral in Johnstown and in other parishes through the years, I was impressed by his graceful demeanor; he always made time to speak with everyone and always made you feel included and welcome. Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints, where pain and sorrow are no more, nor sighing, but life everlasting. Eternal Memory! – Vichnaja Pamjat!
Joy E. Kovalycsik - New Jersey
I am very saddened by all of our loss, I am overjoyed because Metropolitan is in the arms of our Lord. When I seen the postings to pray for His Eminence, I realized something...we are all doing now what he does for us. When I worked at the camp, in the kitchen, I always wanted to make sure everything was perfect for him. One day he came into the kitchen and asked for a drink. He sat down on the stool at the table and asked me "Sandy, why is it that I don't eat off the dishes that the campers do? Why do I get the "good china." I think I stared blankly at him for a moment and responded "Because you are the bishop." He replied to me " I am no different than you or anyone else, we are all at this camp for the same reason." Needless to say, I chuckled a bit, and said you better ask Pani that question. Years later I came back to the camp with my baby girl Brianna. He was sitting down at the front table and motioned for me to bring her to him. He sat and held her for some time. My niece who was working at the camp at that time, in the kitchen I might add, came up to us and told Bishop that my daughter was her godchild. He said, well that is good, you will be a good example of what a young lady should be like, and she even looks like you. Not long after we were at the ACRY convention. Bishop was there. Once again he motioned to me to bring my baby girl to him. He said to me, Sandy this little one of yours has the reddest hair and the bluest eyes. She is such a beautiful baby and has a beautiful mother. Thinking back to these moments I think to myself, how lucky we all are that he loved everyone of us. A few years ago while reading his bio, I realized my eldest son's birthday is the same day as his His Eminence. I told my son how fortunate are you to be blessed with the same birthday. I don't have the beautiful words, and way of writing that some of you do. What I do have, that we all do is the great love for His Eminence. I pray for his soul, and for all our healing. Vicnaya Pamjat!
Sandy Diles Bates, and Family
This past week I spoke to many individuals in and out of Pennsylvania regarding the passing of the Metropolitan. There seemed to be a common theme that I heard over and over again, with these folks saying "He brought me back to the church, he brought me home!" These were people who were very active in their parishes. However, they said that because of the Metropolitan, their faith deepened and they grew to feel and experience the faith they saw in their grandparents, the faith of Baba and Dido. I can relate to that. I returned to Johnstown over 5 years ago because I missed the spirituality that I grew up with. My parent's, Father John and Pani Yurcisin were gone, no other family here, but I always felt that I was "home" at the Cathedral and especially when the Metropolitan was serving or even present. He had such a spiritual presence which seemed to become stronger as he became older (or perhaps it was always there, and I had only begun to sense it as I aged). At the beginning of a liturgy, as he stepped through the Royal Doors to bless the congregation, that presence was so moving that it often brought me to tears. This presence was so strong that at times, you could tell when he walked into a room, even if you hadn't seen him enter. This wasn't an intimidating presence, but was warm, inviting and fatherly. I felt he WAS the Good Shepherd, knowing everyone in his flock and by name. He prayed for us and guided us in the way only a Good Shepherd could. Through the way he served, his singing, through his beautiful and inspirational sermons, he gave us a little taste of a "heavenly home" on earth. Although he will not be physically present, I know his spiritual presence will still continue to be at the Cathedral, at every liturgy and every time we sing his favorite Slavonic hymns and his beloved Prostopenije.How blessed we have been to have known him and to be a part of his flock! May he continue to shepherd us from his heavenly home.Vicnaja Pamjat! Eternal Memory!
Two years ago when I attended the funeral of Anna Sasala, my cousin in Homer City, Pa, the Metropolitan walked in, unannounced, to be at Anna's funeral. Afterwards, the Metropolitan and I, Maxine Sasala, spoke at length. I was brought up in St Johns, in Perth Amboy, NJ, as was the Metropolitan and his family. He told me he would always remember my grandparents, Julia and John Sasala, who were devoted members of St Johns, because my grandfather had a very big ring he always wore and he loved to look at it and my grandmother, Julia was "dressed to the nines"! He then asked where I lived now and what church I attended. I told him I "didn't" because there were no Orthodox churches around Virginia Beach. He said, "GVo to another church". I stated "NO" because I felt I would disrespect my grandfather, John Sasala, who fought for years getting St Johns into Orthodoxy in the 1930's. So the Metropolitan said, "Don't worry, let's see what we can do". Two years later a new MISSION was started with Fr. Maximus Tatum as the Priest. It is called HOLY MYRRHBEARERS ORTHODOX MISSION located on the border of NC and Virginia Beach. Due to the Metropolitan's foresight, kindness, and love for his people, I and many others now have an ORTHODOX CHURCH to go to!!!!
Maxine Sasala Vigilante & Jim Vigilante
I got to meet Metropolitan Nicholas at St. Paul the Apostle Church in NJ in Freehold NJ. He came out to do an outdoor Liturgy. I had just converted to the Orthodox Church and I remember my friend and Pastor Charles Lehman and Deacon John Cmur were so excited he was coming. Metropolitan Nicholas did not disappoint. What a nice man both personally and spiritually. First impressions are lasting ones and the Church was in great shape with him as leader. I am out in Iowa now and there are no Churches out this way yet but hoping there will be some day. His leadership will be sorely missed and there are some big shoes to fill. By God’s grace this will happen.
Michael A. Lanza
My heartfelt sympathies go to the family of Metropolitan Nicholas and to all of Orthodoxy. We have lost a true holy man. His love for all of his people was evident in the joy that he took in participating with his flock. His love of music and songs was only surpassed by his sharing of them with all of us. He was called to the light away from us, but like the good shepherd that he was, he will watch over us from a place free from pain and sorrow. May His Memory Be Eternal.
Marlene Martin- Portland, Maine
I am the City Manager in Johnstown, and although a roman catholic, I am very familiar with the Christ the Saviour Church and Seminary here in Johnstown. The Metropolitan was a great man and trusted community leader here in Johnstown. He was always very supportive of ecumenical services and often participated in events at my church St John Gualbert Cathedral in downtown Johnstown. I had the honor of attending many community events and the pleasure of knowing the Metropolitan on a social basis. My condolences for your church's loss, his will be very hard shoes to fill.
Doroha zasmucena rodina, Otcy duchovny, dorohy virujusci! S hlubokym smútkom na duši sme prijali správu o smerti Vašoho Vladyku Mikolaja i spolu so všytkyma virujuš?ima v Americi smutime za dobrym pastyrjom, duchovnym otcom, velikym Vladykom kotryj mal dobre serce, dobru dušu, pomahal ?u?om tam za morjom , ale i svojím rodakom v kraju. Byv dobrym prikladom, jak svoje trimaty i nezabyvaty. Barz lubiv nasu pisnu, jaku uciv i svojich virujuscich. Ostane v našych sercach podoba Vladyku jak byli u našym seli v Orjabiny jak sme ša všytky tišyly na jich príchod i prichod šytkych našych krajanyv z USA. Barz milo nám bylo na sercu, ke? dakotry sme sa mohli stretnuty tam u Vašym chrámi na 10 streeti, ci v chramoch v Pensylvanii a posluchati jich milé služy?a služby Božoj i stravity s nima prijemny duchovny chví?i. V našych modlidbách budeme spominati i Boha prosity o Božu milost pre Vašoho i našoho Vladyku.Naj jim bude lehka americká zem?a, naj prichojat virujušjy pravoslavnoho kori?a na jeho hrib švijku zašvitity i modlidby za Vladykom Mikolajom ša pomodlity.Vicnaja jemu pamjat!
S vami smútat vsytky virujusci z Orjabiny i okolici i jich Otcy duchovny
Metropolitan Nicholas will always have instilled in me a memory of a man who is most Holy and a man who just was down to earth among people. I remember his talks to the Diaconate students after lunch. He would talk about the world and its problems. He was a very knowledgeable man. I am most privilged to be ordained a Deacon by the laying of hands of Metropolitan Nicholas. God grant his soul eternal salvation and let his memory be eternal.
Deacon Robert Kuchta
“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32) And now with the passing of Metropolitan Nicholas I know what Luke and Cleopas meant when they realized that it was the Lord the whole time that was with them on their journey to Emmaus. It was the Lord who was with us the whole time that Metropolitan Nicholas was with us. And did not our hearts burn? It is difficult to put into words not just my feelings but my thoughts about Metropolitan Nicholas. There is just so much I could and want to say. But time and space prevent me. It is so good to see that so many other people have had the same experiences of love, humility, compassion, that I and my family have over these years with Metropolitan Nicholas.
He was a man comfortable with who he was, with no airs about him. He was as comfortable with patriarchs and kings in their palaces as he was with a concerned parishioner or a little child in their playroom. Like St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians, Metropolitan Nicholas knew how to abound in all circumstances. To be in his presence brought such peace to me. And it was this presence of the Holy Spirit, that peace which surpasses all understanding that was most palpable about him and also infectious. (Philippians 4:7) This was demonstrated for me when my daughter suffered a stroke at the age of two the day before the Bishop, at that time, was to visit my parish for a Lenten Presanctified liturgy. How distraught I was as a father and husband; worried as the parish priest about the hierarch’s visit. Yet what I experienced was pastoral love; what tender compassion; what a sense of peace my family was left with during and after his visit. This was not the first time I experienced this and it surely was not the last. In Metropolitan Nicholas we were able to experience one who believed. He was a candle aflame with Holy Spirit. And though we as a diocesan family mingle our tears of grief with warm embraces of our memories of beloved Metropolitan, I ask you: Did not our hearts burn while he was with us on the road of life, while he opened to us the scriptures?
Very Rev. Protopresbyter Luke Mihaly
For a week now, I have been reflecting on all of the memories I have of my beloved Vladyko Nikolaj. A few of us from St. Nicholas Church on 10th Street in NYC had planned to ride up to Johnstown this past Monday to visit with the Metropolitan, but of course, we never made it. As I was preparing for that visit, I must admit, I was very nervous. What do I say, how do I act, will my emotions take over? How does one prepare themselves to say good bye? Deep in my heart, I knew that the Metropolitan would, as he always did, give us the strength. Memories - there are so many. "Father Smisko" came to our parish in NYC as a temporary priest, which last 8 years. He became the "mayor" of 10th Street, and had everyone wrapped around his thumb, especially the NYC Police Department - specifically the 9th Precinct. I recall one Halloween evening when Father Smisko called the precinct and said that he needed help. The message that was relayed to the cops was that Father was in trouble. The police cars arrived at the church in full force with their sirens on. They ran up to the rectory (anyone who has visited St. Nicholas knows that the rectory is one floor beneath heaven), out of breath, and charged through the rectory not knowing what to expect. Father asked what was going on, and that all he wanted was someone to pick up a pizza for him. Another time, the police came and took Father in the squad car because someone had died on the street and wanted him to perform his priestly duties over the body. Father, of course took this very seriously, and was performing the sacrament over the body of a young woman very nicely dressed. However, the officers were giggling, which upset Father very much. He scolded the officers, but the officers were only trying to tell him that the young lady he was praying over was actually a transvestite. One day, the cops again came to pick up Father Smisko to take him to a target range to teach him how to shoot a gun. They wanted to be sure he was able to protect himself. They gave him the gun and pointed him towards the target and all at once he turned around with the gun drawn and pointed it toward the officers. They all fell to the floor to take cover. He thought that was the funniest thing! Do I have you smiling yet? Now we are in church, and Father asked a parishioner to follow him into the sacristy because he needed help with something. Once the parishioner got in, Father closed the door, told him to kneel, and to confess his sins. The parishioner did what he was told of course - who could say no to Father Smisko! FYI - this parishioner had not been to confession since his First Holy Communion. Yes, Vladyko had a gift! You could not say no to him. He would get you to do things without realizing what you got yourself into. This is the side of our Beloved Metropolitan that many have not seen. Yes, I could have written about how holy he was or how kind he was and on and on and on. But, I wanted to reflect on the "lighter stuff" because I, as so many of you, have been crying all week, and needed a slight shift in my emotions. The days ahead of us will bring many tears, but just for today, I needed to smile. May His Memory Be Eternal.
Stephanie Salony - St. Nicholas Church - 10th Street, NYC or as Vladyko call me "Stefanka"
I was a student at Christ the Saviour Seminary over the 1995-96 school year. At that time, I was the only resident student in that huge house, and many mornings, it was just Bishop Nicholas and me having coffee in the refectory. And, it was almost like a real family on those evenings when he had Fr. Ron and I at his residence for dinner. I remember some massive slabs of meat laid on my plate. I can still laugh at how the Bishop’s good humor and teasing helped me to not take myself so seriously. At moments, he was also stern, and I probably needed that more than anything. Still, no matter how badly I messed up or how awfully I rebelled, he always forgave me without another word needing to be said. This is really something because I probably was hurting him more than I hurt myself. In those years, I was a very troubled and confused young man. Even as I was, Bishop Nicholas cared for me, but I was unable to see that. I had put up too many high walls around myself to receive his love. Only very recently have I been able to face myself as I am and for once see clearly solutions to problems that have festered within me for decades. I’ve finally heard, after fifteen years, some of the small things that Bishop Nicholas said to me and now understand what they meant. Currently, I am in a reflective phase of my life; one might call it a kind of “desert experience” as I question and doubt many things and try to find what direction to go next. These past weeks and especially in recent days, my thoughts and memories of Bishop Nicholas have been strangely strong, and this, after not having seen him in years and not knowing of his passing until tonight. I’ve literally laughed out loud thinking of the comic exchanges we’ve had, and I’ve imagined with great pain how I should have made the time I was with Bishop Nicholas so much different. If I’ve grown enough, maybe what I’ve finally learned from my days with the Bishop will help me in the future. Most of all, I hope that these memories, thoughts and feelings which have been overwhelming me are because of some real connection I still have with Bishop Nicholas and that somehow he knows that I can feel how much he cared for me and that I can accept the love he once held out to me.
Dr. Robert McConnell Dillwyn, Virginia
We are saddened by the loss of our Godfather, His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas.We honor the contributions our Kresni made to this diocese and cherish the memories he made with our family.
Nina Lucas Harrison, Elizabeth Lucas Simon, Kyra Lucas Choti -Freehold, NJ
Our church knew him as Metropolitan. I knew him as Uncle Richie. Growing up in Perth Amboy, I have many memories of him. When he would visit my grandparents house from his church in NYC, he would sit in my grandfather's chair and try to "get me" as I ran past him. I remember on many times visiting him in NYC, walking the busy streets just to go to the perfect bakery or meat market. My uncle was very particular about foods, maybe that is where I get my love of cooking from. I always admired his knowledge on recipes, origins of foods and how to make the perfect dish for any event. Last Christmas, when he spent the holiday with my family, he showed my mom tricks while making Christmas Eve dinner. As I grew older, his work with the church grew more demanding. I remember looking forward to his phone calls from Johnstown and announcing "Big B" was on the phone. He would joke with my parents how I was the only one who gave him respect in the house. Our many conversations included topics of who he was marrying me of to, if I am going to church, and how work was going. He tried very hard to marry me off to Dave Urban. I remember being a camper at Camp. I would run with excitement when I knew he finally arrived at camp. At first, I must admit I was jealous in regards to him giving attention to everyone else. But it hit me, even as a young child. His job is for the church, the people and God. People would flock to him. People loved him as he loved them. He always remembered something special about everyone, whether it be their name, facts about their family or village or an event they shared. I was able to spend the last day with Uncle Richie in Hospice. He fought so hard to wait for the right moment to go to God. I am so blessed I was able to spend that time with him. Until my last moment with him, I still gave him my tough love attitude as we always shared throughout the years. I love my Uncle Richie very much. I know he touched many lives in our church. He will always be my Bishop and Uncle Richie.
Rose Ann Smisko
Christos Postredi Nas, Dorohenkij Vladyko,It is 55 years since we know each other. At first we were seminarians, room mates, then brother priests and now you have been my bishop. But the relationship I cherish best is Richard, my friend. We are not brothers in the flesh, but simply brothers in Christ which is probably best because we early-on recognized our common priestly vocation is a result of understanding all we ever had to offer the Lord is a willingness to be used by Him, to follow where He leads and not count the cost.We have had, like others, a share of both good and bad in our lives. Joy was brought to my family because you are Godfather to my three daughters.Now I see you are come into achieving the glory of life. Christ calls you to submit in love to the glory of the cross. And you do not hold back. Vladyka, it is time now to fulfill yourself, after experiencing the path of Saint Nectarios, what your patron Saint Nicholas also witnessed. You are on the sea in a raging storm like Peter, with our Saviour approaching. Reach out to Him; it is time to give your hand to the Lord. Trust Him to grasp it. Long have you carried your cross. Now is time to receive the well-deserved crown of victory. You have run the race and fought the good fight. Permit the angels to gently carry your soul to Paradise. Know you leave the earth respected and loved. As we pray for you through these final days, know we will not rest until by our prayers you are led to the throne of our Almighty and Merciful God! We pray God's will be done.
Fr Robert Lucas
Editor's Note: This is an excerpt of one of the last conversations of Father Robert E Lucas with His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas:
Metropolitan Nicholas will always hold a special place in our hearts at the 10th Street Church in NYC. We were lucky to have him serve as our pastor for 8 years and I am honored to say that during this time he joined my parents in marriage and also baptized me and my 2 sisters. But even though I was very young when he served in our church, I feel that my memories of him are so many. I will remember the many, many times he was welcomed into our church by Father along with Ignac whenever he joined us for our Annual Kermes. I remember the sing-a-longs that would later follow. And I remember many times Metropolitan spoke of "our people". He did not just mean Orthodox Christians, but Eastern Europeans as well. He really instilled in us a sense of not only who we are but where we came from. I am grateful for the traditions he helped keep alive. And I am so grateful that he never forgot about us at 10th Street when he became Bishop and then Metropolitan. As now as Ignac waits to welcome Metropolitan one last time I would like to say thank you Vladyko, for never forgeting us. We surely will never forget you. Vicnaja Pamjat!
Jane Rusinak, 10th Street Church, NYC
V roku 2001 Vladyka Mikolaj persyj raz navstiviv nase selo spolu zo skupinom krajanyv zijucich v USA. Byla to velika udalost pre nase selo, i furt je , bo od toho casu sa ozivili dobry vztahy medzy nami i nasyma krajanami v USA. Dodnes zvucyt i bude zvucala v nasych pamjatach oblubena pisna Vladyku "Cervena ruza trojaka". Vyjadryjeme Uprimnu Sustrast nad stratou velikoho cloveka, Biskupa Mikolaja, dobroho pastyrja, jakyj rozdavav radyst a zblizav slovjanskyj narod v syrokym sviti. Hospod Boh ho povolav na vicnyj odpocinok a my ho budeme spominaty v nasych modlitbach. "Miloserdija dveri otverzi mu...." - VICNAJA JEMU PAMJAT
Starosta Mikolaj Kana i obyvateli sela Orjabina, Slovakia
We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Pani Connie Miloro for sharing with us the last days and hours of our beloved bishop Metropolitan Nicholas.As my daughter and I walked into the Cathedral to pay respects to His Eminence laying in state, I could not help recall that he often used that very spot to sit and preach to the faithful. His lifeless body now became a silent yet powerful sermon for the faithful. The words of our liturgy came alive: “for a Christian ending of our life without pain and shame, peaceful, and for a good account at the fearful judgment of Christ.” Metropolitan Nicholas who had taught us how to live in Christ was now teaching us how to die in dignity as a Christian. Your Eminence, thank you for your awesome and final sermon.
Cantor Raymond J. Mastroberte, Lansford, PA
I have been trying to figure out what exactly to say about His Eminence for over a week now and if I should even write anything at all. I mean, I don't know if anyone will read this or get anything out of it, but I decided that at least it would be cathartic and that perhaps at least the person who posts it may smile and be touched by one more story about our saintly hierarch. I could literally write a book about all of the stories and experiences I have shared with Metropolitan Nicholas since I have known him. Well, since I've only known him for 23 years and for three of those I was an infant, it may not be a novel, but at least a very good sized novella. For the few days after I learned of his passing, I went to my classes and was visibly upset and shaken by the news. I had many of my friends and professors ask me if I was ok. I explained to them that I was fine, but just saddened by the passing of my bishop. While everyone gave their condolences, a handful asked why I would be so upset at the passing of my bishop. This is an interesting statement for two reasons. First, it goes to show how the office of bishop has been changed in the western church. Secondly, it also shows how different of a person Metropolitan Nicholas was. Metropolitan Nicholas was more than just my bishop. It is true that I would always do what he asked of me to the best of my ability and I was always upset when I couldn't please him like when I would often forget my cassock. However, he was also someone I considered a friend and a member of my family. He used to stay over our house when I was younger when he was visiting our parish. I was always very excited to spend time with him and I learned a lot just by watching him and listening to how and what he would say to my parents. But my most favorite times with His Eminence were the times when we would discuss the Prostopinije. I have always been fascinated by our Rusyn Plain Chant and even more so since I started going to college and have been studying music. He would always come to Camp Nazareth for Family Day and during the summer camping sessions. Since I was working, he would call me over and tell me to come to his room later that evening. I'd go to his room and he would offer me anything that the Ellis's or Loposky's had stocked in his fridge and then he would just start talking about the Plain Chant because he knew I was a music major and fascinated by it. And then he began to sing parts of it. It was always much more powerful when he sang it by himself and there was no one there except for me and the angels. Watching and listening to him sing the Prostopinije, I knew that he was a man of faith, that he believed what he preached and I knew that he had a great love for our Lord and our diocese. I could go on and on about the great things he would do for me, all of the things I learned by watching and listening to him, and the things he would say to me. And as time passes, I will probably tell everything that I experienced, so that what Metropolitan Nicholas taught all of us won't be forgotten. He was an extremely humble and generous man who had more to teach us by his actions than his words. He was definitely a Saint walking among us sinners and I am blessed that he was my ordaining bishop to the Sub-diaconate. May the memory of Metropolitan Nicholas be eternal, a true champion of Orthodoxy and the people of his Carpatho-Russian Diocese!
Sub-Deacon Nicholas Mihaly
Being the first vocation to the priesthood of His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas I feel a personal warmth towards him. When he came to Windber, Pennsylvania to be the priest of our parish I knew he was someone special and would become an intergral part of my life for years to come. As he taught me church slavonic and prostropenije during the period before I entered the seminary I grew to love and respect him. I remember my mother of blessed memory asking me to "call Father Smisko" to come and have supper with us. She always felt that he was her adopted son and wanted him to share time with us since he was single and had no family of his own. Our family developed a special bond with His Eminence during his pastorate in Windber. One of my fondest memories was driving him to Youngstown University for classes. He always found driving to be a chore and asked if I could help him. He would tell me what to expect in the priesthood and how to minister to the faithful during our time together in the car. Those times and the hours spent at the kitchen table with His Eminence will be remembered fondly. After my ordination we continued to be very close and remained so till his passing. Pani Charlotte, our sons and their families and I will remember him always.
Protopresbyter Father William Conjelko
At the interment of my mother, +Anna, in 1989, His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas insisted that we sing one of the folk hymns taken as the grave-site was being filled among our European forbears, entitles O Smerte Okrutna. Although he was aware it was never sung at the interment obsequities of the ordained, he was so immersed in the soul and wisdom of our ancestors and associated himself with it, he asked me then if I outlived him, to be certain I sang it at his burial.
Circumstances were such that his request could not be fulfilled on that day. Our family afterwards visited his grave and celebrated a Memorial Service and then sang this folk hymn. I have translated it into English here. May the merciful Lord comfort and strengthen his family and loved ones in their loss and create for the soul of + Metropolitan Nicholas blessed repose and Eternal Memory!
O Inevitable Death
O Death, all-encompassing and unmerciful.
To every person you are very frightening.
You do not look at the age of an older person,
nor the successes of the most young.
What am I to say as death has personally occurred?
The Lord God Who placed me on earth
now took me from it.
I was always grateful to all gracious people,
but now I am indebted to the worms of the earth
who will help me return to the dust of which I am made.
Now I leave behind in this earth of sorrow,
every loved one grieving.
Now I leave behind in this earth of sorrow,
every loved one grieving.
Fr. Robert E. Lucas
March 14, 2014
Eternal Memory to my first Bishop, Metropolitan Nicholas who reposed March 13th, 2011. He touched so many souls and it seems wherever I went others knew him.
I wonder, as the years go on, how many people in life I will meet that have met His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas? Paris, New York, and now in 2014 a Greek Orthodox priest last night at a lecture in Westchester, IL recounted meeting him at the US Embassy in Greece. "What a delightful man, such a delightful man.. I only met him once, but when I read his obituary, I felt like I lost a friend... and for a hierarch that says a lot."
In 2008 New York, New York, 8 AM, the feast of St. Stephen ...I walked into an Orthodox church and a Bishop came in and asked what diocese I was from, replying American Carpatho-Russian he looked and said, ah, Bishop Nicholas . Paris, France in a courtyard after a service in 2012 an Archbishop asked what diocese I was from if not what country, I told him American Carpatho-Russian and he quickly grabbed my arm and said, 'Bishop Nicholas!' and continued sharing how he was just at the Patriarchate in Constantinople and His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew was telling him how kind Bishop Nicholas was.
Fr. Jonathan Bannon