American Mum, Ugandan Son

Ginny Nieuwsma
Supporting African students through the St. Cyprian of Carthage Fund

When New Hampshire innkeeper Susan Karalekas watched her son, Cornelius Schuster, drive off to seminary at the start of the 2016–2017 school year, she had no idea that a new chapter in her own life was beginning as well. It started when, through Cornelius, Susan and her husband, Nickolas Lupinin, met Seminarian Simon Menya.

As first-year residents of the Germack Building on campus, Cornelius and Simon became close friends. When Simon returned to Gulu, Uganda, for his wedding in the summer of 2017, Cornelius even journeyed to Africa and served as his best man.

During their African visit, Cornelius and Simon were joined by seminary President The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield. “Together they toured Orthodox churches and ministries in the diocese of northern Uganda,” says Susan. “I followed their daily activities via photos and social media and learned how much one African seminarian can do for his community when he is equipped with a theological education from St. Vladimir’s.”

Simon was ordained to the diaconate while in Uganda that summer, and Susan was impressed by his continued dedication, as he began his third year of study at St. Vladimir’s. “He had left his entire family behind in Uganda to pursue his theological studies,” she reflects. “I hope to meet them someday!

“We’ve had Dn. Simon in our home many times now,” Susan explains. “I feel that he is my Ugandan son, and he calls me his ‘American Mum.’”

In the process of adopting Dn. Simon into her family, Susan also began to feel drawn to the community and mission of St. Vladimir’s. “As an Orthodox Christian from a Russian family, my husband was familiar with the Seminary, but I first visited in March of 2017,” she says. “I have since returned many times to attend services at Three Hierarchs Chapel and to fellowship with the students.

“There are Serbians, Romanians, Coptics, Greeks, Russians, and Armenians among the student body—it’s wonderful!” she notes. “I love the music and the choirs, and I appreciate how the Seminary cares for its students, including my son.”

The missionary spirit is alive at St. Vladimir’s, Susan observes. “Uganda and other African countries have a dire need for Orthodox priests,” she says, “which St. Vladimir’s is proactively addressing through vehicles such as the newly established St. Cyprian of Carthage Fund.”

When she learned about the St. Cyprian of Carthage Fund through a seminary brochure, Susan didn’t waste any time. “I actually contacted them to ask for more return envelopes, so that we could share the good news about the fund with others,” she laughs.

Susan began to write personal letters to friends and family, explaining why she had given to the St. Cyprian Fund, and encouraging them to do so as well. Many of them had already met Dn. Simon; moved by his faith and devotion, they wanted to help.

“I am compelled to support African students who might not otherwise be able to attend,” she says. “People know that when you give to St. Vladimir’s, the impact is exponential!”

Learn more about the St. Cyprian of Carthage Fund

Read about Dn. Simon’s Christmas 2015 visit home to Uganda

Susan Karalekas was brought up in the Orthodox faith by her Greek-American parents. For many years she attended St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Keene, New Hampshire, where she met her husband, Nickolas Lupinin, a specialist in Russian history. They married in 2009. For years, they served in many volunteer positions at St. George: parish council members, editor of the monthly newsletter, webmaster, and communications coordinator.

After attending services at Three Hierarchs Chapel in 2017, Susan felt drawn to attend an OCA parish. She and Nickolas now attend Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, an OCA parish in Claremont, New Hampshire, led by seminary alumnus Fr. Andrew Tregubov.

Susan retired in August of 2017 from her work as a writer and editor in the field of business and technical communications. In 2006 Susan had bought a bed and breakfast in Swanzey, New Hampshire; she and Nickolas are busy managing the historic inn, but Susan notes that she also looks forward to investing her time in helping seminarians.