Former Pastors

+Archpriest John Sochka

Rector, 1967 – 1980

Archpriest John SochkaThe first Rector of our community, Father John remains a figure of monumental proportions to this day. His name easily enters and remains in conversation with parishioners even 26 years after his passing. One parishioner mentioned in a rather matter of fact way that he was “the greatest priest I ever met.” His picture, now hanging in the Parish Hall, looks down upon the community when gathered; we see great warmth in Father John’s face. His image conveys strength, vision and joy – the joy of a very fatherly man among his children.

The impression that Father John made on so many people seems to come from something that “clicked” when people met him. He put people first in such a way that created energy, a spark, around them and around the activity that brought them together. That activity, we all know, was building up the newly formed Parish of St. Andrew’s. It was an activity that Father John was committed to and it was the measure of his commitment that also spoke demonstratively to people. It was apparent that he would not ask anyone to do anything that he would not first do himself. His willingness to get involved, whether by rolling up his sleeves and cleaning, or building Church School classrooms in the Rectory basement, is what spoke to people, and it spoke volumes. Others can and, on other occasions, have described more completely the details of his commitment, but a mere catalogue of these undertakings cannot convey the substance of this fatherly, active and caring man. That he reposed in the Lord on a Sunday morning, just a short distance from where his picture now hangs in the Hall, seems not strange in the slightest. Unforeseen and tragic as it was, can we see his death in the context of a life lived for others, motivated by giving and building up the Body of Christ? We believe that in the breaking of the Holy Bread, Father John’s presence, as well as that of all our departed brothers and sisters, is revealed to us in a fuller way than during his earthly life.

After his passing, his image remained with the Parish in the lovely person who was his devoted wife and the mother of his children. Eventually she took the habit of a nun and was known as +Mother Xenia. In conversation, one was able to see wonder and joy in her eyes. What could have brought bitterness and despair into her life, the loss of her beloved husband, had not. She found ways of resolving her difficulties, which didn’t prevent her from continuing to believe and sharing joy with others. What better definition of a Sacrament can there ever be?

John Sochka and Dolores Marie DeKatch were married in 1955. Father John served as Rector of St. Andrew’s from September 4, 1967 to November 9, 1980. +Mother Xenia was tonsured on May 13, 1990 at Holy Transfiguration Monastery, and she reposed on January 10, 1996.

Archpriest Eugene D. Tarris

Rector, 1980 – 1982

Archpriest Eugene TarrisFr. Eugene Tarris was the first priest assigned to serve St. Andrew’s Church. Born on July 24, 1934, he was from a pious Orthodox family in Simpson, Pennsylvania. His grandparents on both sides emigrated from Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Father was a high school valedictorian, with an interest in science, and a 1956 graduate of Penn State University. After college, he worked in the aerospace industry until entering St. Vladimir’s Seminary. While traveling on a choir trip, he met his future wife, Sonia Katherine Reshetar, whom he married at St. Vladimir’s on September 5, 1965. He was ordained to the priesthood by +Metropolitan Ireney at St. Sergius of Radonezh Chapel, Syosset, NY on July 4, 1966. During his last year of studies at St. Vladimir’s, he served St. Andrew’s and during this time, Fr. John Meyendorff visited the parish and baptized Fr. Eugene’s first-born son, Theodore.

Fr. Eugene went on to have a long and fruitful ministry, serving parishes in Los Angeles, CA, Dallas, TX, Garfield, NJ, Auburn, NY, San Diego, CA, Temecula, CA, and Littleton, CO. He also served as a chaplain for the Marines at Camp Pendleton Base. Following his retirement, in 2001, he was assigned as an assistant priest at Holy Transfiguration Cathedral (Denver, CO) and awarded the jeweled cross. During these years of service to the Church, Father was also employed as an aerospace engineer, and found time to pursue graduate studies in Biblical languages. His interest in languages is notable, as for years he has been carefully translating the famous Handbook for Church Servers, originally published in 1900 by Sergius Bulgakov.

In addition to Theodore, Fr. Eugene and Matushka Sonia went on to have three other children: Faith, Christopher and Michael. Matushka Sonia reposed in the Lord on June 10, 1994. In conjunction with the Parish’s 40th Anniversary, Father also is celebrating the 40th Anniversary of his ordination to the Holy Priesthood.

When contacted to join us for this anniversary, Fr. Eugene replied,

“I have wonderful memories of the St. Andrew’s Parish. There were and I am sure are many magnificent churchly people there. My wife, Matushka Sonia, liked it there and was very disappointed when instead I was assigned to the Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral in Los Angeles as a second priest. She would have preferred to stay in New York. I am very pleased that the Parish has prospered and grew in stature, in spirit, and in every positive way. If it happens that I can be in the area, I will certainly make it a point to participate in your celebration. It would be one of the highlights in my career as a priest. May St. Andrew’s Parish continue to prosper and grow and see many more significant anniversaries. Many years to one and all.”

+Priest Alexis Tinker

Rector, 1982 – 1984

Priest Alexis TinkerFr. Alexis Tinker was Rector during an important period in the life of the Parish, in which a new log-structure Church was selected, obtained and put into use. In addition to his duties as pastor, Father was also employed as a full-time secondary school teacher in East New York.

Father Alexis was born on March 23, 1930, and ordained in 1965 at St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral (Antiochian) in Brooklyn, NY, where he continued to serve as an assistant priest for many years. At the same time, Father assisted at a nearby Greek Orthodox Church (Zoodos Peghe) on 18th Street. After lengthy service in these Churches, Father began a new ministry out of his home in West Hempstead, NY, and this developed into Holy Annunciation Church (later named St. John Church), now located in Uniondale, NY. Father Alexis then served as an interim priest at Holy Trinity Church in East Meadow, NY, for a period of three months, before being assigned to St. Andrew’s in Dix Hills, NY. At the beginning of this assignment, he had served these various churches a total of seventeen years.

Living in West Hempstead with his wife, Lourice (Larisa), Fr. Alexis commuted to St. Andrew’s, which at that time was the furthest most eastern Orthodox parish on Long Island. His ministry carried him even further east, as far as Riverhead, to which he traveled periodically to bring Holy Communion to Paul Malushizky’s mother, who was living in a nursing home at that time. He also recalls offering prayers at the repose of Helen Campo’s beloved husband, Justo.

During Father Alexis’ time as pastor, acquisition of the new Church building came about. The log-style Church, originally proposed by David Linke, was ideal because it was economical and consistent with the desire of the congregation for a traditional structure. Father Alexis recalls asking John Protopapas to design a roomy Sanctuary area for ease when censing, something that every priest who has served here is sure to have appreciated. The new Church was put together by a father-and-son team, which traveled for this purpose from the Adirondack region, where the supplier was located. One evening, after the installation of the new Church building, the parishioners decided it was time to move and formed a procession of sorts, each person taking a liturgical item and carrying it to the new location (across the parking lot from the old “Church,” currently the Parish Hall). After the procession to the new Church, Vespers was served and then a meal.

In May, 1982, Father Alexis was reflecting on Pascha when he wrote the following:

“Dear Friends, I have just celebrated my second Pascha with you. No use talking about it. I’ll savor the memories and relive the experience until the Lord calls me to a heavenly Pascha. And even after that, I’ll remember. I can’t get over how you are able to pull a rabbit out of a hat and surprise me anew. Just when I think I had you all figured out! Maybe I’m not used to your style. I love it! I love it! What a beautiful Agape you made! What generosity, concern, love, community. What a bunch you are! And I thank you for the outpouring of yourselves on behalf of one another. The Lord looks down and sees that, and loves you for it.”

+Archpriest Michael Mihalick

Rector, 1984 – 2001

Archpriest Michael MihalickFather Michael Mihalick served St. Andrew’s as its third Rector, from 1984 until his untimely retirement due to illness, in September, 2001. All of his years of ministry were characterized by an unfailing devotion to the Church, the Liturgy and the Eucharist. He was truly in love with the Church, and he expressed this love by an attention to detail, sometimes to details so small and seemingly insignificant, that it was hard to believe that anyone could notice them. His discernment in Church beautification extended to everything: flowers, vestments, icons, incense, Church appointments of any and all kinds, manner and style of serving the Liturgy, reading, singing, even standing (stomen kalos!). For him, nothing was ever a decoration – it was truly a celebration of our life in Christ, and of vital importance. Thus it followed that everything must be real, authentic in every way, and never cheap, crude or imperfect. Fr. Michael really believed that we must give the best of our time, talent and treasure to service of the Lord, and he followed this belief in his life and ministry.

As Rector of the Parish following Fr. John Sochka’s death, three relatively short-term pastors, and brief periods when there was no priest assigned, Fr. Michael had his hands full. He felt it necessary to take charge of the Parish and to bring its customs and traditions more strictly into line with accepted Orthodox practice. In particular and given his interests and talents, he focused much attention on the adornment of the Church building. Prior to his arrival, the Parish had purchased a prefabricated log-cabin structure, consisting of Narthex, Nave and Sanctuary. Fr. Michael took on the project of really converting this structure into a traditional Orthodox place of worship. Under his leadership, a comprehensive program of iconography was begun, in the accessible and open style favored by Russian iconographers associated with its 19th century religious renaissance. He was instrumental in obtaining, and some would save saving, the historic, first iconostasis that was once used at St. Vladimir’s Seminary Chapel, prior to the construction of the Seminary’s new Chapel. The installation of this beautiful, wooden iconostasis, a solid screen separating the Nave from the Sanctuary, was not without concern on the part of some Parishioners. In retrospect, however, most would agree that Fr. Michael’s vision and sense of aesthetic has been proven correct. Before the consecration of St. Andrew’s Church in 1991, he oversaw the completion of all the necessary liturgical items, including the Altar Table and Table of Oblation, the Golgotha (memorial) table, a new Baptismal font, and the installation of a new cupola and façade on the Church. By the time of its consecration, the Church had been fully transformed and visitors to this day always remark how authentic and inspiring the Church building is. Finally, as a result of his efforts, central air conditioning was installed in both the Church and the Parish Rectory.

Throughout all this time, the Parish maintained all of the traditional activities and organizations, including Choir, Parish Council, an active Church School and the various volunteer ministries that maintain needed services. Father’s wife, Matushka Janet Mihalick, served as director of the Choir and was known for both her talent in directing as well as her lovely singing voice. In 1986, Father and Matushka were blessed with the birth of their daughter, Alexandra, who grew to become a choir member, a church reader, our bell-ringer, and like her parents contributed greatly to the life of our parish.

During Father Michael’s tenure, three seminarians became associated with the parish and were ordained to the Holy Priesthood: Priests John Klingel, Jonathan Ivanoff and John Cassar. Each of them owes a debt of gratitude to Fr. Michael for time spent in prayerful reflection on the liturgy and its celebration, another area of great concern for Father. A student at St. Vladimir’s during the time of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. Michael was indelibly impressed with Fr. Alexander’s vision and sense of liturgy as life. As a result, Fr. Michael advocated and practiced a manner of liturgical service that was open, alive and truly spiritual, and was strongly opposed to anything uninspired, dull or mechanical. Consistent with Fr. Alexander’s vision, Fr. Michael stressed the importance of a full liturgical life and the frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist. He sought to make the liturgy, the Feasts of the Church, and the Eucharist the center of parish life in every way.

Neither the Parish nor Fr. Michael were prepared for the events of his illness, finally diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. Its progress was both heartbreaking and truly unbelievable. It is no understatement to say that we were all caught off guard and many of us had trouble coming to terms with it. By 2001, it was so difficult for Father Michael to serve or function as pastor that his retirement was unavoidable. After seventeen years as Rector, the transition was neither comfortable nor easy. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine St. Andrew’s without Father Michael, who left such a positive and enduring legacy that we are continually reminded of him here in Dix Hills.

As printed in the Parish 40th Anniversary Journal, July 2006.

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