BY TOM LAVIS
The Right Rev. Gregory Tatsis, who is to be consecrated as the fifth bishop of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA, said he finds Johnstown to his liking.
His ordination and installation will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Christ the Saviour Cathedral, 300 Garfield St., Johnstown.
He replaces Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko, who died of cancer in March 2011.
Prior to being elected bishop in July, Tatsis visited Johnstown and was impressed by the mountains. They reminded him of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the mountain towns in his native North Carolina.
“I love mountains and the things I found in Johnstown impressed me,” Tatsis said in a telephone interview from New Orleans, where he is dean of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New Orleans and vicar of the Western Conference of Atlanta.
“I visited and discovered the cathedral, administrative building, the seminary and a residence were within a block of each other.”
While he is eager to begin his new duties, Tatsis’ path to the priesthood was a long one.
“As a teenager, I got a calling to the priesthood,” he said.
As he matured, he was torn between theology and biology.
He is a 1981 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a 1989 graduate of the University of North Carolina.
“I wanted to be a doctor,” he said. “I earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, but failed three times to be admitted to medical school.”
His conclusion: “I don’t think God wants me to be a doctor.”
He worked for 21 years in cardiovascular research at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
“Through the years, I stayed close to the church,” he said.
In his youth, he was an altar server, and later taught Sunday school for 13 years and served n leadership roles, including parish council president.
After taking part in two mission trips to Alaska, he could no longer ignore God’s calling.
“As I served the needs of about 100 villagers, all of whom were Eskimos, I felt close to God,” he said.
“After my second mission, I knew I wanted to be a priest.”
He left is secular job in 2003 after clearing research projects and ensuring everyone in his department got another job.
Tatsis entered Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass., and graduated in 2006 with a master’s degree of divinity. He was ordained a priest at Annunciation Orthodox Church in Atlanta in 2007.
He has no regrets about waiting decades to become a priest.
“As a scientist, I know about the physical aspects of the heart, and as a priest, I’m now dedicated to the spiritual aspects of the heart,” he said.
Following the Liturgy, it will conclude with the installation of the new bishop.
The celebrant and ordaining bishop is Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He represents Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
Co-consecrators will be Archbishop Antony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta and Metropolitan Savvas of Pittsburgh.
Other Orthodox hierarchs are expected to attend, including Bishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Ecumenical guests expected to attend are Bishop Mark L. Bartchak and Bishop emeritus Joseph V. Adamec of the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese; Bishop Gregory R. Pile of the Allegheny Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Metropolitan Archbishop William Skurla of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh; and Bishop emeritus Basil Losten of the Ukrainian Catholic Diocese of Stamford.
Liturgical responses will be sung by the congregation in the traditional plainchant led by a group of a hundred diocesan priests and deacons, in addition to choral responses provided by Christ the Saviour Cathedral choir, directed by Helen Spanovich.
A banquet will be held at 2:30 p.m. at the Pasquerilla Conference Center, 301 Napoleon St., Johnstown. The banquet will be preceded by a social hour at 1:30.
Tatsis will oversee 81 parishes in 13 states and Canada.
“For 18 months, the diocese has been without a shepherd,” he said.
“But it remained unified under the leadership of Father (Frank) Miloro and six other priests of the consistory who held things together.”
Tatsis said during the interim without a bishop was a perfect opportunity for the “viper of evil to strike.”
“But the faithful unified and remained close to the church,” he said.
What: Ordination of the Right Rev. Gregory Tatsis as fifth bishop of American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA.
Where: Christ the Saviour Cathedral, 300 Garfield St. in the West End section of Johnstown.
When: 10 a.m. Tuesday.
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