Very Rev. Paul Lazor
LECTURER IN PRACTICAL THEOLOGY
DEAN OF STUDENTS
The Very Rev. Paul Lazor (June 28,1939–May 9, 2020) was born in Canonsburg, PA, a small town located to the southwest of Pittsburgh. His father, Joseph, was a Russian native of Galicia. For fifty years, Joseph served as the choir director and cantor at the Orthodox parish of St. John the Baptist in Canonsburg, PA, of which, in 1918, he was one of the founders. His mother, Anna, was the daughter of Michael Lazorchak, another listed founder of the parish. Father Paul was born, baptized, and raised from infancy by his dedicated parents.
Throughout his years in the Canonsburg Public School System, Fr. Paul was always a good student. In High School he did particularly well in such subjects as mathematics, physics and chemistry. Upon his graduation, he enrolled at Pitt in 1957 majoring in the field of chemical engineering. During the summer of 1960, he worked as an engineering trainee for the Bethlehem Steel Corp. in Buffalo, NY. In 1961 he received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.
From an external perspective, the path of his life seemed to be set before him. Internally, however, such was not the case! He began to realize increasingly that, while this path would no doubt lead him to a certain level of external and financial success, there was very little room along its way for that powerful, inner experience and vision of life which had motivated him from his childhood. That experience and vision was grounded in a totality of love, dedication, and service to God, and was revealed most directly to him in the life and worship of the Orthodox Church. During a profound consultation with his parish pastor in Canonsburg, Fr. Nicholas Fedetz, Fr. Paul was gently but wisely advised to “give it a try”, i.e., to postpone (perhaps only temporarily) his well-constructed career as a chemical engineer, and to enroll at St. Vladimir’s, a graduate school of Orthodox theology, located at that time in New York City.
To the dismay of many, including some of his family members, neighbors, and friends from both his high school and college days, Fr. Paul followed this advice and, in September of 1961, enrolled at St. Vladimir’s. During his initial journey by bus across the State of Pennsylvania, from Canonsburg to the Seminary in New York City, he was accompanied by none other than his encouraging first-cousin, Frank Lazor (later known as Metropolitan Theodosius, now retired as the Head of the Orthodox Church in America), to St. Vladimir’s Seminary, his own alma mater. Once classes began at the Seminary, the profound and spiritually inspired teaching and personal demeanor of the school’s excellent faculty—especially the dean, Father Alexander Schmemann, and Professors Fr. John Meyendorff, Serge Verhovskoy and Veselin Kesich—really “hit home” within the mind and heart of the new enrollee. Coupled with the Seminary’s most excellent daily liturgical life, as well as his becoming close, lifetime friends with several of his fellow seminarians (especially the departed Fr. Thomas Hopko, a future dean of the Seminary, and David Drillock), all the interior doors of his life were opened. By the Grace of God, he found, once and for all, the path toward the ongoing fulfillment—“from one degree of glory to another,” as the Apostle Paul writes (2 Cor 3:18)—of the goals and purposes of his life. This path was and is, stated simply, none other than “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) in Jesus Christ!
During his three years of choral singing within the daily worship at the seminary, Fr. Paul rediscovered the power and brilliance of the tenor voice with which, from his childhood, God had gifted him. The Seminary was expanding and growing. It was moving to a new campus located to the north of New York City, near Yonkers, NY. A mode of developing a renewed and powerfully direct public contact and image for the Seminary was specially realized by the Seminary’s formation and dispatching of three consecutive “summer” octets (during the summers of 1962 to 1964). Father Paul participated in these three inaugural octets and directed the latter two. The schedule of the second octet in the summer of 1963 included a visit to Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco, CA. During this visit, Paul unexpectedly met his future wife and lifetime love, Natalia (Natasha) Manturoff, a devout Orthodox Christian woman who was born in China. She is the daughter of Russian parents who, in life-preserving fashion, had fled from Russia during the Revolution and takeover of that country by the Communists in 1917. The Manturoff family initially resettled in China and lived there until their immigration to San Francisco in 1950. Natasha eventually moved to New York City, where she obtained a job at the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America, a position which utilized her bilingual skills (Russian and English) as well as her personal, gifted ability to be at ease in meeting with and accommodating people. On September 13, 1964, she and Paul were married in the Seminary Chapel. For more than 55 years, they fully shared their lives, remaining always a deeply loving couple. They were blessed to have three beloved children, Alexander, Elizabeth and Paul, as well as six grandchildren.
After graduating from St. Vladimir’s and completing a final octet tour, Paul was ordained to the priesthood of the Orthodox Church, again in the Seminary Chapel, by Archbishop John of San Francisco, on October 17, 1964. In that same year, he was assigned as the pastor of the parish of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Milwaukee, WI, where he served until 1967. In that year he was assigned as rector of the parish of the Holy Trinity in New Britain, CT. During the ten years of pastoral service there that Father Paul described as unforgettable and that certainly shaped his pastoral teaching, he also accepted the Seminary’s invitation (in 1969) to teach several courses at St. Vladimir’s on a part-time basis. In 1977, he completed his years of direct parish ministry by accepting the Seminary’s invitation, and his subsequent re-assignment by Metropolitan Theodosius, to a full-time ministry at what was now their alma mater. He was appointed to be the Seminary’s dean of students and a full-time member of the faculty. He taught courses in the following areas: liturgics and liturgical theology, practical (pastoral) theology, as well as the Russian, Church Slavonic and Greek languages. He also served as priest and rector of the Seminary’s Three Hierarchs Chapel. During those years of service at St. Vladimir’s, Natasha worked on the Seminary staff and then for BOCES for 21 years in special education. Father Paul retired from St. Vladimir’s Seminary in June of 2007.
As an author, translator, and editor Fr. Paul produced numerous articles, tracts, booklets of liturgical services, and several introductions to books of other writers. His largest work is the book, Evening Worship in the Orthodox Church, an edited translation (with introduction) of three articles by Nicholas Uspensky. His article, "Pastoral Care Today," appeared in the St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly in 1996. On January 28, 2007, Fr Paul delivered the 23rd annual Fr. Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture, entitled: “A Personal Memoir,” in honor of Fr. Alexander.