On Sunday, February 14, His Grace Luke, Bishop of Syracuse, celebrated Divine Liturgy at St. John of Kronstadt Memorial Church, co-served by parish clerics: rector Archpriest Michael Taratuchin and Protodeacon Joseph Jarostchuk, as well as Deacon Michael Pavuk (cleric of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Mayfield, PA). Priest Ephraim Willmarth (cleric of neighboring Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY) sang in the choir.
The occasion marked the parish’s farewell to Fr. Joseph and his Matushka Irina, who on Saturday, February 20 planned to relocate from Utica to Boston, MA, where they will live together with their son, Reader Ilia. Upon conclusion of Liturgy, Fr. Joseph was presented with a gramota from the Synod of Bishops in recognition and appreciation for many decades of service to the Church, the parish, and the St. John of Kronstadt Memorial Fund.
Fr. Michael Taratuchin presented Fr. Joseph and Matushka Irina two icons, one of the Our Lord’s Resurrection and the other of the Most Holy Mother of God as Abbess of the Holy Mount Athos, expressing gratitude and outlining their many years of service to the Church, as well as expressing well wishes on behalf of the parish. Svetlana Derevenets, parish council member and member of the board administration of the Memorial Fund, presented them with a very beautiful collage of photos outlining Fr. Joseph’s years of diaconal service, which she had gathered from various parishioners and family sources, and which her family helped to put together as a wonderful expression of appreciation from the parish. Tatiana Naumenko, a member of the parish sisterhood, presented a bouquet of flowers to Matushka Irina.
Bishop Luke also expressed well wishes on behalf of the fathers and brethren of Holy Trinity Monastery, and he emphasized Fr. Joseph's piety and dedication in his diaconal service, in the parish and in the monastery. In fact, Bishop Luke commented that while many in the monastery would struggle with attending and serving at the monastery’s many divine services, Fr. Joseph would always be among the first to be at them and serve the divine services, especially during the first week of Great Lent and major feast days.
Fr. Joseph expressed his gratitude for the touching tribute to him and his matushka, saying that they will always be close to the parish and, God willing, visit on occasion.
Following the singing of Many Years, a festal meal was held in their honor, at which more best wishes and reminisces were offered. Parish treasurer Tamara DeBernardis remarked how, over her 59 years of singing in the choir, Fr. Joseph had been a teacher to her, especially over the last 14 years, when she had to learn in depth the divine service rubrics to lead services on the kliros.
Fr. Michael Pavuk remembered his first visit to the parish 27 years ago with his future Matushka Maria, when they came for the occasion of Fr. Joseph’s 25th diaconal anniversary, and others offered other memories and good wishes. During these festivities, Fr. Joseph also led those in attendance in some favorite Russian folk songs. To sum up this day, one may say it was truly joyful, yet very moving.
On the next day, the great feast of the Meeting of the Lord, Fr. Michael and Fr. Joseph concelebrated Divine Liturgy.
In a moving tribute, Fr. Michael wrote of the departing couple:
"How does one sum up in a few words, sentences, or even a paragraph the lives of this wonderful clerical couple, who have touched the lives of countless amounts of people over the last six decades? It is very difficult, because of their love and volumes of good works which they accomplished in the Vineyard of Christ, both in our parish, within the Church as a whole and even globally within other Orthodox countries and other parts of the world.
"We speak of Fr. Joseph’s diaconal service for 52 years, his 60 plus years in our St. John of Kronstadt Memorial Fund, his travels to Russia and other parts of the world to where he helped to bring relief to the poor and needy through our Memorial Fund, and his love and accessibility on a personal level with all who have had the privilege of encountering him, church, parish, business or social level. He has touched all these lives, and ours, in a most positive way. Matushka Irina has not only been a very active member of our parish, but has also been the wonderful helpmate and supporter of Fr. Joseph, raising a family together, most of whom serve the Church as clergy, choir directors, and members, or in other capacities. Whenever Fr. Joseph or Matushka Ira are mentioned here or within our church circles as a whole, the reaction is always one of love and respect toward them. When both were very ill last year with the COVID, the entire Russian Orthodox Church prayed for their recovery.
"Fr. Joseph and Matushka will always be a wonderful example for us of Orthodox faith and piety. We are sad to see them leave us to the point where one feels a sense of being orphaned, yet at the same time, we realize that this is God’s will, and that they will always be an essential and wonderful part of our lives. Even with tears in our eyes, we ask our Savior to bless them in their new location and to always be with them. From the bottom of our hearts, we express our gratitude and thanks for all they have done for us and the Holy Church!"
Fr. Michael further remarked that it is the nature of the Holy Eucharist which keeps us all close together, no matter the physical distances between people. One felt a sense of festive joy and peace at the conclusion of the day.
God bless Fr. Joseph and Matushka Irina with many more years!