Former Bishop of Sendai, Japan Ordains Seminarian John Culbreath-Frazier

Saturday, March 12, 2011 • Campus Ordination • By Deborah (Malacky) Belonick

During the first Memorial Divine Liturgy of Great Lent, th(from left) Fr. Alexis Vinogradov, Fr. William Mills, Mat. Mandy, Bishop Seraphim, Fr. John, and Fr. Michael Plekon(from left) Fr. Alexis Vinogradov, Fr. William Mills, Mat. Mandy, Bishop Seraphim, Fr. John, and Fr. Michael Plekonird-year seminarian Dn. John Culbreath-Frazier was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by His Grace Bishop Seraphim (Sigrist) in Three Hierarchs Chapel. The eucharist celebration drew together not only the campus community and family and friends but also people and places representing important threads in the lives of both Fr. John and his wife, Mandy, and Bishop Seraphim.

Co-celebrating at the liturgy was Fr. William Mills of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, the place where Fr. John was received into the Orthodox faith and the place where he and his wife were married. Also co-celebrating were Fr. Alexis Vinogradov, rector of St. Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church, Wappingers Falls, New York, and Fr. Michael Plekon, who is attached to that same parish. Fr. John, with Matushka Mandy, attends St. Gregory's each Sunday, as a parish intern. Fr. Alexis, who gave the homily during the liturgy, expressed his gratitude and joy at having the couple as part of his parish community for this academic year.

His Grace Seraphim, former bishop of Sendai, Japan and seminary alumnus ('67), who met and got to know the Culbreath-Fraziers at St. Gregory's Church as well, offered prudent words to the couple following the liturgy. He spoke about two dimensions of the priesthood—poverty and service—but outside of their usual secular connotations.

Poverty, he noted, suggests something beyond material lack. "With reference to the priesthood," said His Grace, "it implies a person without a specific vocation, a person whose only vocation is to offer the world the ministry of Christ. Just as in the Book of Acts, when Peter looked at the begger and said, 'Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you,' so the priest brings to the world what it chooses to forget, and he reminds the world of what it dare not hope for. As a priest, you will represent healing and wholeness in life."

Speaking about service, Bishop Seraphim observed that the secular mind linked service to servility. "But Christian service," he said, "implies a freely given heart—to be with others and to share with them; to learn as well as to teach. This type of service, imitating the Lord who said, 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light,' enables the Church to be the Church."

Bishop Seraphim's words about poverty and service were especially cogent: first, because Fr. John and Mat. Mandy had met and been drawn together through their life in the Church and mutual interest in community service; and, more broadly, because His Grace informed those gathered for liturgy about the devastation to his former diocese, Sendai, Japan, just the prior day, due to a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami. "Sendai is a poorer region of Japan," the retired bishop said, "and the faithful there will need our help to rebuild churches that were destroyed by this natural disaster."

In light of Bishop Seraphim's words, Fr. Alexander Rentel, chapel ecclesiarch, asked that a special collection be taken to benefit the Orthodox faithful and all those suffering in Sendai—a fitting conclusion for a eucharistic celebration and an ordination rite that embraces the virtues of poverty and service.

View a gallery of photos by Deborah Belonick, Logan Johnson, and Fr. Alexis Vinogradov.