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"How a South Carolina Priest was able to continue serving his parish" ‒ An Article by the Fund for Assistance to ROCOR

Working two jobs is part of daily life for most ROCOR priests. In addition to putting in 40 (or more) hours at their secular job, tending to their families, and serving divine services, many priests are required to take care of parish needs and tend to their oftentimes large flock. Most do it without additional pay.

On a typical day, Archpriest Mark Mancuso (rector of St. Elizabeth the New-Martyr Church in Columbia, SC) would leave early for his job at the local library and, after an 8-hour day, visit ailing parishioners or hear confessions. There were also regular divine services during the week. All this meant that Matushka Anne was alone with her five children, who rarely got to see their father every day.

The family’s only income came from Fr. Mark’s secular job. The small but steadily growing parish meets its bills, but is not yet able to pay its priest. Fr. Mark actually was one of the biggest contributors to his parish: he devoted endless hours, often bought necessary items like vigil lamp oil and incense out of his own resources, and tithed back to the parish. "Fr. Mark pays us to be our priest," said parishioner Nell Shaw.

With five growing kids, the oldest being in college, the family’s expenses kept growing. At some point, it became obvious that the family could not survive without Fr. Mark taking on an additional secular job. When Fr. Mark told the parish council about his situation, they were devastated.

"This would have been a tremendous blow to the parish, as we saw in this a compromised ability for our priest to serve the divine services and care for the parish pastorally," parish warden Joshua Shaw said. The parish applied to the Fund for Assistance.

For Fr. Mark, receiving a small monthly stipend meant that he could continue to devote his life to serving the two most important things in his life: God and his family. There was no need for sacrificing even more family time and constantly worrying about providing for his children.

"I now can rest easy and focus on my priestly duties with a peaceful state of mind, knowing that my family is cared for by the vision of the parish and especially the work of our Fund for Assistance. May God bless them!" wrote Fr Mark to the FFA.

Thanking the FFA for their generous helping hand, the Parish Council of St. Elizabeth’s issued the following statement:

"The parish of St. Elizabeth the New-Martyr in Columbia, SC is grateful to the FFA for understanding both our plight and our vision for the future. Our parish is somewhat unique in the Eastern American Diocese in that it was founded in ROCOR as an English-speaking mission parish in a part of the country – the American South – that didn’t have much exposure to the fullness of Orthodoxy. We started with just a handful of visionaries in the late 1990s and now we have grown into a small but growing parish with a modest church building and parish hall just a five-minute drive from the state capital of South Carolina.

"Our main struggle as a small parish has been financial. Our parish can meet its bills and, through extreme discipline, raised enough money to purchase property in late 2010. But our current dilemma has been raising enough money to pay the priest a modest salary to supplement his secular employment. In particular, we reached a point where our priest’s family had grown out of his secular income and his only alternative to care for his family would have been to obtain additional secular employment. This would have been a tremendous blow to the parish, as we saw in this a compromised ability for our priest to serve the divine services and care for the parish pastorally. We believe that in time, as we grow and become more firmly established, we will have the ability to begin paying him.

"When the FFA approved our grant request, Fr Mark said to us, ‘I am grateful to the FFA. I was worried that without their help, I would have had to seek another job and not had the ability to serve the parish the way it needs to be.’"

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Eastern American Diocese | Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia