March 29, 2014
Mayfield, PA: Orthodox Faithful bid Farewell to Archpriest Alexander
Atty in St. John the Baptist Cathedral
Thursday the 27th and Friday the 28th of March, the Orthodox
faithful of the Lackawanna River Valley in Northeast Pennsylvania
bade farewell to a man whose short time among them nonetheless had
remarkable impact: Archpriest Alexander Atty
on Sunday, March 23, from advanced pancreatic cancer. He was 62
Though born and raised in Pennsylvania, not long after his
graduation from seminary, marriage, and ordination to the priesthood
in 1979 by the late Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) of the Antiochian
Archdiocese of North America, Fr. Alexander and his young Matushka
Olga were sent to Louisville, KY, where he assumed rectorship of St.
Michael’s Church. The parish was not without its problems; several
of Fr. Alexander’s predecessors had been at St. Michael’s for less
than a year before requesting a transfer. Yet Fr. Alexander
responded to every crisis and conflict with Christian love and
charity, and remained rector of St. Michael’s for over 30 years.
He worked tirelessly to grow his flock and witness to Christ: in
addition to constructing senior and special needs housing on the
parish property, he served as chaplain to several police and
firefighters’ chapters in the Louisville area. He served his
Diocese, as well, first as the local dean and later as diocesan
chancellor. Later, as ROCOR’s Holy Cross Monastery took hold in the
hills of West Virginia, some three hours from Louisville, Fr.
Alexander would travel there with regularity, making confession and
supporting the blossoming monastic community, which in turn
spiritually nourished the many Antiochian Christians living nearby.
Fr. Alexander was beloved by his flock; the Funeral for a Priest was
served on Tuesday evening, March 25, and the capacious St. Michael’s
Church was filled with his spiritual children, leaving only room to
stand against the church walls; even non-Orthodox members of the
community at large came to pay their respects to this man of prayer,
whom they so respected and loved. The service was led by His Grace
Basil, Bishop of Wichita & Mid-America of the Antiochian
Archdiocese, co-served by over 30 of Fr. Alexander’s brother-clergy
from several jurisdictions, including his brother-in-law and nephew,
both priests in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).
Mount Athos was particularly dear to Fr. Alexander. Over the course
of his life, he traveled to the Holy Mountain 15 times, each time
drawing deeply from the centuries-old spiritual wealth offered by
its ascetic laborers and coming home rejuvenated and ready to
continue his pastoral ministry. His love for the liturgical life on
Mount Athos was reflected thousands of miles away in far-off
America: making daily services a cornerstone of parish life, Fr.
Alexander found donors to build a smaller, Athonite chapel on the
property. St. George Chapel is a jewel, a humble yet majestic house
of prayer, where his body lay in state all day Wednesday as the
faithful queued across the parking lot to pay their last respects
and offer their prayers for the repose of his soul.
Thursday, Fr. Alexander’s body was brought to Northeast
St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Mayfield, where a panihida was
served that evening. During his three-year tenure as dean of St.
Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary OCA in South Canaan, PA, the
Atty family fell in love with the tightknit Mayfield community, and
attended services in the cathedral on feast days and weekends. It
was Fr. Alexander’s dying wish to have his final memorial services
performed there, before being taken to St. Tikhon’s Monastery
cemetery (next to the seminary he headed) to be buried next to his
parents, Dr. Alexander & Mary Jane Atty.
The panihida was led by the Primate of the Orthodox Church in
America, His Beatitude Tikhon, Archbishop of Washington,
Metropolitan of All America & Canada. The Metropolitan was co-served
by the cathedral’s rector and Eastern American Diocesan vicar, His
Grace George, Bishop of Mayfield, and Their Graces Mark, Bishop of
Philadelphia & Eastern Pennsylvania (OCA), and Michael, Bishop of
New York & New Jersey (rector of St. Tikhon’s Seminary), and again
over a dozen priests from several jurisdictions. Even more clergy –
local priests as well as current and former seminarians of St.
Tikhon’s ‒ filled the cathedral.
Prior to the beginning of the panihida, a short eulogy was read by
Archpriest John Nehrebecki (pastor emeritus of Christ the Saviour in
Paramus, NJ and Fr. Alexander’s father-in-law). After the panihida,
the principal eulogy was delivered by Bishop Mark, who had long
known Fr. Alexander while he was still serving in the Antiochian
Archdiocese. Bishop Mark spoke about Fr. Alexander’s love for his
fellow man and his zeal for the Gospel of Christ, and noted that
while we mourn, we do so with faith and hope in the Resurrection and
eternal life. Metropolitan Tikhon then delivered a short eulogy, as
well, thanking Fr. Alexander’s family ‒ Matushka Olga and their
children, Katherine and Alexander ‒ for their years of prayerful
service and sacrifice to the Holy Church. As the faithful made their
way home after venerating Fr. Alexander’s body and consoling his
family, several seminarians remained behind in the cathedral,
spending the entire night reading the Holy Gospel at Fr. Alexander’s
following morning, St. John’s Cathedral dean Archpriest John
Sorochka served the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, followed by
a Litiya for the Departed. Several hours later, the faithful
gathered once more, this time at St. Tikhon’s Cemetery, where they
braved the wind and cold to attend the burial service, led by Bishop
Mark. The large crowd of family, friends, seminarians, fellow clergy
and former colleagues bore witness to Fr. Alexander’s stature, and
the hole that will be left in his absence. Seminarians took the
opportunity to reminisce on the unique formation and instruction
they had received during Fr. Alexander’s time as dean and professor.
A lenten repast was offered in St. John’s Parish Hall, where the
hierarchs, clergy, and faithful continued their interaction,
reflecting on their shared loss and the inspiration Fr. Alexander
had instilled in all of them to live the fullest possible life in
Christ, no matter the obstacles or temptations thrown in our path.
The following eulogies from the lesser funeral service, performed on
Wednesday morning, are available:
Introduction by Bishop Basil and Eulogy by parish rector Archpriest
Archpriest David Vernak (Fr. Alexander’s brother-in-law)
Memory eternal to Archpriest Alexander!
Republication of materials must include a reference to:
"Eastern American Diocese www.eadiocese.org."
Media Office of the Eastern