Spring-Summer 2000 Issue

Stories:  Yours, Mine, and Ours

Dedicated to Peter Mikuliak

by Fr. John Shimchick

   Our teen class was gathered around the conference table at Covenant House in Philadelphia, where Fr. Stephen Siniari and his co-workers minister to street kids. "We meet the kids wherever they are," said Noel, our initial guide. "Then we invite them to our outreach center. There they can get food, clean clothes, take a shower. We get them to sit down, to feel safe, to talk, and to know that we will care for them – no matter what. We say to them, ‘We want to know your story.’ They’re on the street usually because no one has cared for them or wants to know who they are."

   The need to tell and hear stories is essential for everyone. They allow us to explain and understand how we have been formed as people. They help us put into words why we do or no longer consider as important our membership in families, in ethnic groups, and as Christians - in the Church.

    Archbishop Peter helps us understand why the recent canonization of St. Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn is important for the story of Orthodox Christianity in America. Jessica Rose, an Orthodox psychotherapist from Oxford, England, presents how an appreciation for "your" and "my" story is essential in developing a Christian relationship. The Christian Story, expressed in the Scriptures, is proclaimed most succinctly in the Eucharistic Prayer during the Divine Liturgy. Yet, how can it be understood and affirmed if it is not heard, if it is not read aloud? The article, "Saying ‘Amen’ to Our Story," explains what has happened. Finally, the place of stories is, in a way, THE "story" of our times. There are many who doubt that there are any stories that can truly be essential in the development of morals, in the affirmation of truth, in the formation of faith. Fr. Joseph Woodill reveals "how Stories matter."

   We include a number of book reviews:  Robert Flanagan on The Journals of Fr. Alexander Schmemann and Rev. A. Edward Siecienski on the Orthodox-Catholic conference, Orientale Lumen IV,  which had as its theme,  "Eucharist: A Prayer for Unity."  We also have a number of special features, and celebrate events in our Diocesan life. In particular, we fondly remember the remarkable ministry of Fr. Steven Belonick, former editor of Jacob’s Well, who with his wife, Deborah, has left parish ministry to work at St. Vladimir’s Seminary.   We include Fr. Siniari's article, "Two Backpage Stories: Wilted Flowers and Limestone Pillars," the next installment in his series, Good & Faithful Servant.

   Donna Farley, in the title poem from her new poetry chapbook, "The Geography of Prayer," brings together each day the lives and individual stories of those for whom she is praying.

   The words which are often most appropriate and used for celebrating the Christian Story come from the Psalter.  Mark Bailey describes their importance in, "Psalmic Music in Orthodox Liturgy as Foundation, Movement, and Ministry."

   As this issue was being completed, it was learned that Peter Mikuliak, a beloved friend to many in our Diocese, lost his battle against cancer. He died on September 5 in Idaho, where he had been living with his wife Pamela. One can think of Peter in many ways: a Peace Corps veteran, a linguist, a world traveler, a local community and pan-Orthodox organizer, a wonderful teacher and preacher, a multi-lingual folk singer, a devoted fan of baseball, a lover of "local culture," and as one who while getting older, remained ever-youthful and ever-zealous.

   In a recent phone conversation, when my sons mentioned to him about their interest in baseball, Peter replied, "I’ve never given up hope for playing third base on the Brooklyn Dodgers." "But they’re in L.A. now," one son noted. "They’ll have to move back to Brooklyn for me to play for them," he said. Those words captured so much that I found astonishing in him. He was both pragmatic and concerned for the moment (measuring his life in well-tended garden seasons), yet global and unpredictable. An avid student of history and of respect for the past, he prided himself on his achievements in developing up-to-the-minute-skills for use in designing webpages. He moved ahead and stayed in the past at the same time. He was both practical and a dreamer. He was gratefully in love with his wife, Pamela. His broad life experiences left him no less in love with God and the Church. He remained ever-hopeful.

   This issue is dedicated to Peter – minstrel and storyteller – who, in the words of the writer Leskov, was "condemned to live one life, while a thousand lives burned within."


Visit the Orthodox Church in America Homepage