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Memory Eternal! His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri (Royster), 1923–2011, Alumnus and Friend
On Thursday, October 6, 2011, His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, presided at a memorial service in Three Hierarchs Chapel, during which time our community remembered His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri on the 40th day of his repose in the Lord.
Our orginal article about Vladyka Dmitri's falling asleep, posted at the time of his repose, is below. Memory Eternal!
28 August 2011 • In Memoriam • His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri (Royster), 1923–2011
His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri, 87, fell asleep in the Lord today, at 2 a.m. at his home in Dallas, Texas. The entire seminary community is offering prayers for his repose, as we mourn the loss of his presence as a well-respected churchman, and alumnus and long-time friend of our school.
His relationship with the Seminary began in 1966, the year he attended Saint Vladimir's, while he simultaneously taught a course in Spanish at nearby Fordham University. During that period of time, he attended classes on our campus with renowned teachers such as Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. John Meyendorff, and Professor Serge Verhovskoy. “Their great wisdom and experience was completed by a genuine Orthodox Christian friendliness and I could not have been more ‘at home’,” he once recalled during an interview for a seminary publication.
Archbishop Dmitri himself contributed significantly to St. Vladimir’s Seminary, in two important ways: by sending us seminarians from his former diocese, and by publishing several volumes with our seminary press: The Kingdom of God: The Sermon on the Mount; The Parables; The Miracles of Christ; St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: A Pastoral Commentary; and The Epistle to the Hebrews, A Commentary. His last work with our academic press, The Epistle of St. James: A Commentary, was published in 2011. Another work, a commentary on the Gospel of St. John, is pending publication. His Eminence was in the midst of writing a commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark, just prior to his death.
His Eminence had a captivating background. He was born “Robert Royster” to Protestant parents in a small Texas town on November 2, 1923. In 1941, at the age of eighteen, after intense study culminating in an interview with the Greek Orthodox Archbishop (later Ecumenical Patriarch) Athenagoras, he was received into the Orthodox Christian faith at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Dallas, Texas, whereupon he received the name “Dmitri.”
His college studies at North Texas State University were interrupted when he entered the United States Army in 1943. After special training at the University of Michigan, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and served as a Japanese language interpreter on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines and Japan. Following military service, he completed his university education and became an instructor of Spanish language at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, where in 1949 he received a Master of Arts degree in Spanish and was named Professor of Spanish Literature. He was ordained to the diaconate and holy priesthood in November of 1954 by Bishop Bohdan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Diocese, after which he organized St. Seraphim Orthodox Church, the first English-language parish in Dallas. He and his parish were received into the Metropolia, as the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) was known at that time, in 1958.
He continued to serve as a pastor of St. Seraphim Church until June 22, 1969, when he was consecrated to the episcopacy. Initially, he served as auxiliary to Archbishop John [Shahovskoy] of San Francisco and the West (1969–70) and as auxiliary to Metropolitan Ireney (1971–72). In 1972, he was named ruling Bishop of the Diocese of Hartford and New England. In 1978, he was named ruling Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Dallas and the South, which consisted of fourteen states in the southern United States. He was charged with the development of the diocese, which at the time was made up of a few churches in Florida and Texas and several scattered missions. St. Seraphim Church was designated the diocese's cathedral church, which meant that he once again would serve as archpastor of the parish that he had founded more two decades earlier.
Under his leadership, the Diocese of the South grew to well over sixty parishes and missions. He also has served as editor of the Diocese of the South's monthly newspaper, The Dawn, throughout its twenty-five years of existence. In 1993 he was elevated to the dignity of Archbishop by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the OCA.
In addition to his duties as ruling hierarch of the Diocese of the South, Archbishop Dmitri functioned as Exarch for the Diocese of Mexico. He was well known for his missionary efforts among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, for whom he had translated Orthodox liturgical texts and theological works into Spanish. On September 4, 2008, upon the retirement of Metropolitan Herman, the Holy Synod of the OCA named Archbishop Dmitri Locum Tenens of the Metropolitan See. In November of 2008, his role as locum tenens ended with the election of Bishop Jonah of Fort Worth as Metropolitan. On March 22, 2009 Archbishop Dmitri requested to be granted retirement from active duty as a diocesan bishop effective March 31, 2009.
Days and times for funeral services for Archbishop Dmitri will be posted on the Website of the Orthodox Church in America, here.
Following Great Vespers this evening for the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, scheduled for 6:30 p.m., the seminary community will be serving a lite for the respose of the soul of Archbishop Dmitri.