The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 21, 2013

Right-hand man | Priest delays full retirement to stay as chancellor for new bishop


JOHNSTOWN — The Very Rev. Protopresbyter Frank Miloro of Christ the Saviour Cathedral had every intention of retiring at the end of this month.

However, Bishop Gregory Tatsis, leader of American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, convinced Miloro, 66, to stay on in an advisory capacity.

Miloro will remain as chancellor, a position he has held since 1990.

Tatsis, who has been on the job less than a year, wanted Miloro to remain onboard to ensure continuity.

“The chancellor is a bishop’s right-hand man,” Tatsis said. “While I’m still in somewhat of a transitional stage and until people feel more comfortable with me, I wanted Frank to stay on because he knows everyone.”

Tatsis praised Miloro for being compassionate, caring, passionate, serious and humorous when allowed to be.

While staying as chancellor, Miloro will be relinquishing many of the duties that have occupied him for decades.

He no longer will be the pastor responsible for the parish ministry, which covers everything from preaching and baptisms to officiating at weddings and funerals.

Among his duties, he was dean of Christ the Saviour Seminary.

“I have been wearing five or six hats and now that will be reduced to just the one,” Miloro said. “In fairness to my wife, Connie, who is a partner in my ministry, we look forward to spending more time with our three children and six grandchildren.”

But Miloro was quick to add that everything he has done as a priest, educator and administrator “has been nothing but a joy.”

“I loved every minute of it,” he said. “But I suppose after four decades, we are getting a little weary, and being semi-retired will give us other opportunities.”

Miloro grew up in Windber and is the son of the late Frank and Kay (Baranik) Miloro. He was an altar boy and member of the parish choir at SS. Peter and Paul Church Orthodox Carpatho-Russian Church.

“I knew I wanted to be a priest since I was in high school,” Miloro said.

He entered Christ the Saviour Seminary in 1964, and graduated summa cum laude with the bachelor of theology degree in 1969, and with high honors from St. Vincent College in Latrobe in 1972. He also studied at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

The year 1969 was turning point Miloro’s life. He married the former Constance Ann Evanisko of Johnstown’s West End in April and less than a month later he was ordained to the priesthood.

His first Liturgy was celebrated a week later at his home parish of SS. Peter and Paul in Windber.

Over the years, Miloro’s assignments have led him to various locations and responsibilities.

In Westmoreland County, he served

St. John’s Church in Wilpen and St. Stephen’s Church in Latrobe from 1969-1972.

A transfer took him to St. John’s Church in Rahway, N.J., in 1972, where he completed the building of a new parish complex for the community.

In September of 1976, Miloro was named the first director of Camp Nazareth in Mercer County with the specific assignment of developing a camp, retreat and conference center for the diocese at the new multimillion dollar complex.

During the nine years that he and his wife served as co-administrators of the camp and counseling center, they gained widespread recognition for its programs of outreach to youth.

He also served as chaplain to the Orthodox residents of Polk Center, a facility for the mentally handicapped operated by the state.

“It was there that I established the first permanent Orthodox chapel in Pennsylvania for the mentally handicapped, which is still active,” Miloro said.

The late Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko, bishop of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, transferred Miloro in 1985 to Johnstown and appointed him dean of Christ the Saviour Seminary, associate pastor of Christ the Saviour Cathedral, and vice chancellor and secretary to the bishop.

Under Miloro’s supervision, a new curriculum was developed for nondegree students in cooperation with the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, and the seminary theological program was redesigned.

He also instituted the annual giving appeal that brought financial stability to the seminary.

For the past 28 years, he has taught courses in homiletics, parish administration and pastoral and liturgical practicum to more than 51 new priests. It is a vocation that he plans to continue.

The one major influence on the way Miloro has approached the priesthood was Smisko, who he called his mentor.

“He was my parish priest in Windber and served as a wonderful example,” Miloro said. “Our paths crossed many times over the years and he was the one who bought me back to Johnstown.”

Miloro succeeded the Very Rev. Protopresbyter John Yurcisin as chancellor in 1990.

“I knew I had some gigantic shoes to fill because Father Yurcisin was named the first chancellor of the diocese in 1952,” he said. “And over the last 23 years, I’m only the second.”

While he was pastor at the cathedral, Miloro oversaw the construction of a new rectory. He also directed two extensive interior refurbishings that necessitated closing the edifice to public worship for several months.

He was instrumental in establishing the “Eternal Memory Fund” to ensure a financial future for the cathedral should difficult times arise.

The Miloros are the parents of three married children: Alexandra, married to Neil Vatavuk; Stephanie, married to James Kobal; and Christopher, married to Roxanne Kordish.

Replacing Miloro as pastor will be Very Rev. Protopresbyter Robert Buczak, who is transferring from St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Homestead, Allegheny County.

Tatsis said he views Miloro as a Ben Franklin figure.

“He is an elder statesman who is a font of knowledge and experience,” Tatsis said. “I’m blessed to know that Frank is not going anywhere and if I need him, he’s only a phone call away.”

Miloro’s last service will be Oct. 27, followed by a banquet in his honor at the church’s educational center.

“If given the opportunity to change anything over the last 44 years, I don’t think I would,” Miloro said.

Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.