The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 18, 2011

Leader's impact was far-reaching

Metropolitan Smisko touched many lives

The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — Friends, parishioners, clergy and members of the Johnstown community will gather today to celebrate the life of Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko.

The longtime leader of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. died Sunday of cancer at Windber Hospice.

His funeral will be at 10 a.m. today at Christ the Saviour Cathedral, 300 Garfield St., Johnstown.

Tears, smiles and memories will be shared.

He was a great man whose contributions to our region were many.

Those called to a life in the clergy leave behind at their passing many who were touched by their hard work, wisdom and passion.

For Smisko, the trail of impact winds well beyond the doors of the churches he served to include many other faith groups and the local community.

“The church at large was very, very important to him,” said the Very Rev. Protopresbyter Frank P. Miloro, diocesan chancellor at Christ the Savior.

The Metropolitan’s mission naturally included the nurturing and educating of his flock, and the extension of the traditions of his church.

But he also believed his calling included the bridging of gaps and healing of differences among those within his faith, and reaching outward to others.

Smisko’s connections with the greater community were evident in those who visited with him during his final days.

Those at his bedside included many of his closest friends and family members as well as his own parishioners.

But the room was also visited by clergy from other church backgrounds, and by those who knew Smisko through community activities as much as through a shared spirituality.

The Metropolitan wrote a piece for this newspaper that appeared in our August 2010 “Homelands” feature on Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants, and illustrated his understanding that heritage and faith are tightly entwined.

Under the headline “Our religious beliefs are in our blood,” Smisko wrote:

“Our ethnic traditions include a poor immigrant heritage and memories of holy night Christmas, Lenten and Easter customs.

“Our ethnic customs include traditions of respect for grandparents, elders, and humble devotion to the church and her clergy. Our ethnic traditions include our memory of our grandfathers in the mountains and in the pastures of Europe, the farmlands and the villages.

“It has always been our intent to pass on the spirit of this legacy so that all who possess our Carpathian background might be able to share the many good things we have inherited with others.”

Smisko was successful in communicating his message of family, history and faith to those in his own church and diocese.

But his message reached outward and touched the hearts and lives of many who were not of the Russian Orthodox faith.

The following words appeared in his obituary:

“True to his patron Saint, Nicholas the wonderworker, His Eminence was perhaps best known and respected for his pastoral sensitivity, generosity of  spirit and compassion for the sick and suffering and the less fortunate. In the words of St. Paul: He fought the good fight, he finished the course, and he kept the faith. May his memory be eternal.”

Nicholas Smisko was born in Perth Amboy, N.J., where he will be laid to rest next week.

But he attended seminary in Johnstown and lived out most of his life of service here in the Cambria-Somerset region.

For that, we are all blessed.