NEW YORK: October 19, 2009
The Celebration of the 15th Anniversary of the Priesthood of the Senior Priest of the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign
From the Editors: Below are remarks made by clergymen who participated in the celebrations of the 15th anniversary of the pastoral service of Protopriest Andrei Sommer:
Protopriest Serafim Gan, Chancellor of the Synod of Bishops and Secretary of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Rector of St Seraphim Church in Sea Cliff, NY:
- I have known Fr Andrei since our youth, when he had just become a reader at the Church of All Saints of Russia in Burlingame, CA. It so happened that I was present at all the main events of his life.
I congratulated him when, on the day of his consecration, His Grace Bishop Kyrill of Seattle ordained him to the deaconate. We rejoiced when Fr Andrei received his “fresh grace” from a new bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Fr Andrei always took his ecclesiastical duties seriously, still as an altar boy, and later when he himself became a priest, just as did his spiritual fathers and guides: His Eminence Archbishop Anthony (Medveev, +2000) of San Francisco and Western America, and Protopriest Stefan Pavlenko.
I remember how in the 1990’s, positive changed began occurring in Russia with regard to the Russian Orthodox Church, and the late Vladyka Anthony insisted that the Synod of Bishops of the Church Abroad express its approval of the new rebirth of spiritual life in Russia, and note progress in the life of the Church.
The views held by his superiors helped Fr Andrei in the difficult period during which talks were being held over the reestablishment of canonical communion between the two branches of the Russian Orthodox Church, in the Fatherland and the diaspora, leading him to take the correct position in this matter, which was so complicated for the Church Abroad.
I wish Fr Andrei continued success not only in his daily pastoral work, but in his ministry with youth, which is so crucial for our Church today. It is often said that the youth is our future, but the youth is first of all our present. It is they who, thanks to contemporary thinking and easy adaptation to today’s world, find new paths to spread the Word of God.
Protopriest Alexander Abramov, Deputy Representative of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in the USA:
- I met Fr Andrei in 2003, even before the unification of the Russian Orthodox Church, when it was not clear how our relations would develop. We would meet with priests who loved the Muscovite tradition, who thought, spoke and served as we did. Fr Andrei Sommer is one of those priests. As Senior Priest of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign in New York, heading youth ministry, he often visited Russia and understood that the time had come for unity. As it was then, it continues to this day to be enjoyable and fruitful to work with someone like him.
I wish to express to Fr Andrei the hope that we will continue to work together towards mutual joy and benefit.
It is customary to wish a priest many years. In addition, I wish for Fr Andrei that these years do not fade, but that his labors are understood and duly noted, and that his efforts are appreciated.
Protopriest Andrei Sommer:
- The desire to become a priest arose in me even before I joined the seminary, and even before I learned that our family had a 200-year tradition of the priesthood. One of these priests was my great grandfather, Protopriest Nikolai Zataplyaev.
I served in Chicago for the first five years after my ordination. This was the late 1990’s, when many immigrants from the former Soviet Union came to the US, and needed spiritual guidance, and personal support. I was at the time the only Russian Orthodox priest in Chicago, which is the third-largest city in America.
There were days when we would baptize several people a week, marry several couples and conduct funerals, too. In those years, I would come across human suffering, and I would suffer along with my parishioners and came to see in my ministry what it means to be a pastor and help save human souls, to help the needy. These feelings and experiences I carry in my heart to this day.
Now I have a slightly different mission, to bring to life the project of spiritually guiding young people and establishing a bridge between our youth and the growing generation in the Fatherland. But the essence of the mission remains the same—to strengthen the faith in those who are our helpers now and will come to replace us in the work of preserving and increasing Russian spiritual life on the various continents, while taking into account the experience we have gained in meeting with young Orthodox Christians from Russia.
Most recently an important and joyful event occurred in my life—I was granted Russian citizenship, which I value greatly. A few years ago this would have been unthinkable, but our hearts, even then, despite all obstacles, were with Russia.
I would also like to thank my matushka, who has helped and supported me all these years.