Alumni News

Devotion to Orthodox history leads Malaysian priest to Mount Carmel

Julie Hagenbuch


Alumnus Father John Edward (M.A. ’15) was recently featured in this article, which appeared in, a local media outlet in Shamokin, PA. Father John, pastor of St. Michael’s Orthodox Church, Mount Carmel, PA, and his wife, Suja, have three children. [photo and story by Julie Hagenbuch; used with permission from]

Father John, pastor of St. Michael’s Orthodox Church (photo: Julie Hagenbuch)Father John, pastor of St. Michael’s Orthodox Church (photo: Julie Hagenbuch)MOUNT CARMEL — A passion for church history can lead a Christian to wade knee-deep in the River Jordan, stand beneath Juan Diego’s cloak at the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City or take communion at the Vatican in Rome. For Father John Edward, a lifelong commitment to Christian history led him right here, to St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Mount Carmel.

Born in Malaysia to Indian parents, Edward was exposed to an array of religious traditions and expressions from an early age. The most common faith in his home country, Islam, is practiced peacefully alongside Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity, as well as ancestral Chinese religions.

“Malaysia was a very, very friendly country,” he said during an interview at his home last week.

With such a broad view of the forms faith can take, Edward traveled to India when he came of age to study theological education, completing his studies in 1990. He then moved back to his home country, where he served as an Anglican minister for a decade. It was during these first years of his vocation that he married his wife, Suja, and the two started a family.

Back to ‘cradle of Christianity’

But Edward’s thirst for knowledge and faith exploration continued to grow and change. In 2001, he was accepted into a post-graduate program at Princeton Seminary focusing on the history of the early church, for which he moved to the United States to become a Master of Theology, then serving the Episcopal Church throughout New Jersey and New York for 10 years.

“My interest has always been church history,” said Edward, “That led me to actually want to go back to the early church — the church that Jesus formed, the church that the apostles were a part of.”

But protestant faiths like Anglicanism that emerged from the reformation came around much later, beginning in the 1500s.

“I just wanted to go back to the roots — the cradle of Christianity,” said Edward.

It took him a few years “to discern, to look, to search” — a time during which he explored a variety of church traditions and Christian denominations. At the end of his search, he found an answer.

“Ultimately my search led me to the Orthodox Church because (it) has come down for the past 2000 years without changing anything,” he said. “The faith has been intact. As one of our saints, Saint Nikolai of Japan, says, ‘We don’t add anything and we don’t remove anything.’”

Big city to small town

And so Edward began the next step in his faith formation: he attended seminary at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in Yonkers, New York, and was ordained in June 2015 to the priesthood. The archbishop of Eastern Pennsylvania suggested he would be a good fit at St. Michael’s in Mount Carmel, and within a week the Edward family — now numbering five — packed up and moved to Pennsylvania.

“Initially moving from such a big city to a small town needed some adjustment,” he said, “but we have adjusted well. We kind of like the peace and quiet, the calmness of this place. We don’t have to worry about traffic jams or getting to places on time. It’s really nice.”

And the Edward family, which includes Samuel, 20, Sneha, 19, and Sophia, 15, has been welcomed “with open arms” by a congregation that spent two years without a full-time priest.

“They are just wonderful people,” said Edward. “Very loving, very caring people. Their faith is deeply rooted. Most of my congregation — the elderly ones — their fathers were involved in building this church, so they have so much love for (it.)”

Edward says he is grateful to be serving a congregation that, though small in number, is diverse in age; it includes young families, children and teenagers, as well as senior citizens who have been lifelong members.

‘Here to serve you’

And the congregation is grateful to be giving back to the community again, according to church member Sandy Tosca. At a parish picnic last month, St. Michael’s invited representatives from the Lower Anthracite United Way backpack program, God’s Chuckwagon and Manna for the Many, all of which were presented with a donation from the congregation.

“It is a miracle we went from barely getting by as a parish to finally being able to help our community,” said Tosca.

St. Michael’s has services on Sunday mornings, Vespers services on Saturday evenings and feast day celebrations throughout the year. But what Edward most wants people to know is that the church is open and welcoming to the the entire community.

“St. Michael’s is here to serve you,” he said, offering his church up as one small piece of a Christian faith that continues to weave its way through history.

Previous Alumni News:

Title Author Date
Devotion to Orthodox history leads Malaysian priest to Mount Carmel Julie Hagenbuch August 10, 2016
Alumnus is Enthroned as Bishop of Dallas and the South Deborah (Malacky) Belonick June 14, 2016
SVOTS Chancellor and Two Alumni Speak at Fordham Symposium Alexandru Popovici April 27, 2016
Alumnus Leads Mission Parish in Establishing Orthodox Presence Fr. John Matusiak, April 19, 2016
Alumnus Leads Mission Parish in "Manifesting the Love of God" Fr. John Matusiak, March 24, 2016
Alumnus Deacon Joseph Gall Ordained to Priesthood Deborah (Malacky) Belonick February 23, 2016
Alumna is Commissioned as Chaplain Beryl Knudsen February 17, 2016
"A Living Bible": Alumnus Fr. Aaron Warwick Reflects on Dr. Nicolae Roddy Fr. Aaron Warwick, Alumnus, '09 February 9, 2016
"Raising up Leaders": Alumna Directs National Youth Service Program Virginia Nieuwsma January 12, 2016
Alumnus Featured in Chaplain Residency Story Virginia Nieuwsma December 22, 2015
"You are bread": Jesse Brandow, Missionary to Guatemala Jesse Brandow (SVOTS 2013) December 13, 2015
A Conversation with Mat. Amy Bozeman (Fr. David, SVOTS 2012) Virginia Nieuwsma December 10, 2015
Alumnus' Parish Receives Planting Grant Fr. John Matusiak, November 24, 2015
Alumnus Reaches Ministry Milestone: Metropolitan Elias of Beirut Virginia Nieuwsma November 23, 2015
He's There for You Ralph Toss October 22, 2015
Alumnus Delivers Address at Orthodox-Evangelical Dialogue in Finland Dr. Bradley Nassif September 29, 2015
In Memoriam + the Reverend Dr. John T. Tavlarides Robin Freeman September 29, 2015
In Memoriam: + Archpriest Thomas Succarotte Deborah Malacky Belonick August 11, 2015
Alumni Bless Site of Future Church Fr. John Matusiak, June 10, 2015
Archpriest Peter Baktis, Ch (COL) USA, Honored for 25 Years of Service Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak March 9, 2015
Seminary Alumnus Nominated to See of Dallas and the South Deborah Belonick February 26, 2015
Memory Eternal! + Dn. David George Daumit (SVOTS '84) Virginia Nieuwsma February 4, 2015
Fr. Christopher Eid (SVOTS 2010) Named Cathedral Dean Virginia Nieuwsma February 3, 2015
Memory Eternal! + Fr. N. Constantine Masood (SVOTS '78) Virginia Nieuwsma January 21, 2015
Gathering in the Northwest Virginia Nieuwsma December 18, 2014
Alumnus Elected Metropolitan of Finnish Diocese Deborah (Malacky) Belonick December 1, 2014
Fr. Thomas Soroka and Community Celebrate 100 Years Virginia Nieuwsma October 24, 2014
Archpriest Paul Gassios (SVOTS '94) Nominated for Chicago See Fr. John Matusiak, October 7, 2014
Alumnus Fr. Jerome Cwiklinski Honored for Distinguished Service Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak September 27, 2014
Former student is Ambassador to the Vatican World Council of Churches September 27, 2014
Ministering in a University Town Fr. John Matusiak, September 27, 2014
Parish of Alumnus Receives OCA Mission Grant Fr. John Matusiak, September 27, 2014
Seminary Alumnus Elected Bishop for Ukrainian Catholic Epharcy of Parma Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak September 11, 2014
Alumni Lead Inaugural Catechist and Diaconal Institute Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak August 27, 2014
New Building for Fr. Justin Patterson and Parish Community July 30, 2014
"We Become Who We Are": Interview with Dr. Will Cohen ('02) Will Cohen July 16, 2014
Alumni and Seminarians Uncover Jesus' World in Bethsaida Deborah (Malacky) Belonick July 8, 2014
In Memoriam + The Very Rev. Macarius Targonsky (SVOTS '55) Virginia Nieuwsma July 8, 2014
Video Highlights Alum's Work with YES Virginia Nieuwsma June 26, 2014
Fr. Andrew Cuneo's Parish Receives Planting Grant Fr. John Matusiak, June 16, 2014
Two Alumni Selected as Candidates for Metropolitan of the Antiochian Archdiocese Virginia Nieuwsma June 10, 2014
Alumnus Speaks on the Growth of Mayan Orthodoxy in Guatemala Jesse Brandow May 27, 2014
Alumnus Installed as Bishop of Eastern Pennsylvania Virginia Nieuwsma May 20, 2014
A Decade Hence: Dr. Brandon Gallaher Interview (SVOTS '03) Virginia Nieuwsma April 29, 2014
Memory Eternal! +Metropolitan Philip, Class of 1965 Virginia Nieuwsma March 27, 2014
Memory Eternal! The Very Rev. Dr. Alexander Atty Virginia Nieuwsma March 27, 2014
Seminarians Past and Present Reflect on Orthodox in the Military Virginia Nieuwsma December 20, 2013
Alumnus Publishes Book with Oxford University Press Virginia Nieuwsma December 17, 2013
Alumni Association Honors Dean Emeritus Deborah (Malacky) Belonick December 6, 2013
Alumni Scholar Offers Keynote at International Conference Virginia Nieuwsma September 27, 2013
The Very Rev. Dr. Steven Voytovich Named Dean of St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary Virginia Nieuwsma August 13, 2013
Alumnus Chaplain Earns Highest Army War College Degree and Certification Virginia Nieuwsma August 13, 2013
Memory Eternal: Archpriest Michael Kovach (1918-2013), member of first graduating class Deborah (Malacky) Belonick July 13, 2013
Alumni Participate in First "Holy Conversation" Virginia Nieuwsma March 8, 2013
In Memoriam: Reverend Deacon Richard Howrilka Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak January 8, 2013
Alumnus Archpriest Paul Shafran Honored on 65th Anniversary of Ordination Deborah Belonick December 31, 2012
In Memoriam: Khouria Joanne Bitar Pdn Joseph Matusiak December 31, 2012
In Memoriam: Ludwig Djaparidze (SVOTS '90) Pdn Joseph Matusiak December 13, 2012
Alumnus Fr. Mardiros Chevian Appointed Dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary Virginia Nieuwsma December 11, 2012
In Memoriam: Archpriest Aaron Archer OCA / SVOTS November 16, 2012
Newly Graduated Alumni "Engage the World" Pdn Joseph Matusiak August 31, 2012
Fr Vladimir Misijuk (SVOTS '91) Defends Doctoral Dissertation Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak July 5, 2012
SVOTS Alumni Gather in Chicago Area Pdn. Joseph Matusiak May 1, 2012
Listen! Lenten Services during Protopresbyter John Meyendorff's Tenure as Dean Pdn. Joseph Matusiak April 3, 2012
SVOTS ALUM AWARDED FULBRIGHT FELLOWSHIP Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak June 24, 2011
Father Rauno Pietarinen (SVOTS '80) Begins One Year Ministry to the Skolt Sami People in Northern Finland Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak June 2, 2011
Professor Kesich Gives His "View from 90" as He Celebrates Birthday Deborah (Malacky) Belonick April 28, 2011
Two Seminary Alumni Fall Asleep in the Lord: Fr. Theodore Ziton and Annette Milkovich Deborah (Malacky) Belonick April 28, 2011
Deacon Nicholas Denysenko Appointed Director of the Huffington Ecumenical Institute Deborah (Malacky) Belonick March 25, 2011
In Memoriam: Tenth Anniversary of the Repose of Bishop Boris (SVOTS '46) Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak December 29, 2010
Archpriest Alexander Atty Installed as Dean of St. Tikhon's Seminary Deborah Belonick, Web Editor November 10, 2010
Fr. Michael and Mat. Lydia Westerberg Celebrate 30 Years in New Haven Parish Deborah Belonick, Web Editor October 12, 2010
Archpriest John Matusiak (SVOTS ’75) Speaks at Christian Education Conference in Poland Deborah Belonick, Web Editor October 7, 2010
Bishop Basil (SVS '73) Elected Secretary to Episcopal Assembly Deborah Belonick July 24, 2010
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