+ Archpriest Michael John Lewis +

Fr. Michael was born on June 3, 1963, to John and Irena Lewis. He and his younger brother, Mark, were raised in a small rural southeastern Pennsylvania town, where his family regularly attended a “non-denominational” Bible Church. Stable family life, prayer, scripture reading and church attendance all served to cultivate him with a deep love and devotion for God. He was thankful for those days of his youth, for God was indeed preparing him to receive the fullness of the Christian Faith in Holy Orthodoxy. He stumbled upon – or, as he would more accurately say – God led him to the Orthodox Church in a way that he could have never foreseen. He was in college, studying Russian, in his words: “in order to become some sort of “Rambo” or “007” in service to my beloved country, and exact some serious revenge on those nasty Commies who killed millions of innocent people and expelled my mother’s family from their native homeland of Latvia.” “Plus”, as Fr. Michael said, “according to Hollywood, those sleek spy types never get hurt and they always get the beautiful women.”

In Russian class, he met a young Orthodox Christian woman named Kyra who invited him to her church one cold Sunday in January, the feast day of St. Seraphim of Sarov. The sermon that day was on the life of St. Seraphim and his teaching “On the acquisition of the Holy Spirit”. In all his life, he had never heard such words of spiritual illumination. And, he had never experienced such a deep communion of worship: the people of God with God, and the people of God with one another. The experience of worship in the Orthodox Church shook him to his very core. He said, “I didn’t understand it at first – people kissing everything and everyone, making the sign of the Cross, the smoke, the icons, etc. – but, I knew that everything about this experience was holy”. He found the nearest Orthodox parish and began attending regularly and reading as much about Orthodoxy as possible.

He was baptized at St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church in early 1983. He graduated magna cum laude from Kutztown University in 1985 with a degree in Russian, and received a blessing from Metropolitan PHILIP to attend St. Vladimir Orthodox Seminary, from which he graduated cum laude in 1988. While still in seminary, Metropolitan PHILIP ordained him to the Holy Diaconate in February 1987 and to the Holy Priesthood in July 1987. During those summers, he also did maintenance at the Archdiocese Headquarters, tending to the grounds, the garden, the bookstore, and whatever else was needed. He enjoyed working there, as it reminded him of his younger days working in the summers with his father and grandfather in construction. He and Kyra were married on August 15, 1986. Their daughter, Anastasia, (Ana) was born in December 1987; and their daughter, Ekaterina, (Katya) was born in July 1989. Upon graduation from seminary, Metropolitan PHILIP sent Fr. Michael to be the pastor of St. Mary in West Palm Beach, Florida where he served for nine years. He was appointed as the Southeast Region Teen SOYO Spiritual Advisor for the first five years of that region’s existence (1992-1997) and also served several sessions at the Antiochian Village Summer Camp.

In July 1997, His Eminence sent Fr. Michael and his family to St. Luke’s in Garden Grove. When Fr. Michael arrived at St. Luke’s, he made the transition peaceful, calm, and prayerful. And this was the way he did most everything. During his entire ministry, his motivation for all that he said and did was always the salvation of the faithful – most especially his family and all of his spiritual children.

He was appointed and served as the Spiritual Advisor for the Western Region AOCWNA from 1998-2003. He was appointed by Metropolitan PHILIP to serve as a judge on an Archdiocese Spiritual Court (1998-1999) and to serve as a member of the newly formed Archdiocese Board of Mission and Evangelism (1999-2003). In 1999, Fr. Michael was elevated to the rank of Archpriest by His Eminence, Archbishop JOSEPH.

In late 2009, just after St. Luke’s 50th Anniversary, Fr. Michael was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He once said that he would like for this experience to be a blessing for all. We at St. Luke’s are truly thankful that he was with us for a few months short of two years from the time he was diagnosed; as so many with this disease succumb to it much sooner.

Fr. Michael did so much as the shepherd and worthy leader of St. Luke’s, that it would be impossible to list everything. He tended to the faithful and took care of the community of St. Luke’s with faith, devotion, compassion, and tenderness; while at the same time, teaching his dear spiritual children in a firm yet always loving manner. He performed the Holy Sacraments of the Church for hundreds of people during the course of his ministry. He rejoiced with his spiritual children through the many joys of their lives; and, he consoled them, with compassion and wisdom, during the difficult times. Everybody who came to know Fr. Michael, no doubt, has many memories of his love, wisdom, support, understanding, and guidance. His wife, daughters, and all of his family in Christ were always in his thoughts and prayers, even until his very last breath. God’s love is truly mirrored in the fatherly care which Fr. Michael showed towards all those he came to know.

Fr. Michael served St. Luke’s from July 1997 until the day of his repose, August 15, 2011 – the Great Feast of the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos. His Eminence, Archbishop JOSEPH, along with over forty clergy, his family, his spiritual children, and hundreds upon hundreds of people came to St. Luke’s on Thursday, August 18, 2011 to be present at his funeral service. On Monday, August 22nd – one week after he fell asleep in the Lord, Fr. Michael was laid to rest at St. Philip Orthodox Cemetery in Souderton, Pennsylvania. He truly leaves a lasting legacy in his dear wife, Kyra, his precious daughters, Ana and Katya, and in all of his beloved spiritual children. May we find comfort in knowing that our dear spiritual father continues to pray with us and for us even more fervently than he did while he was with us. And, may we all thrive in the peace and unity which he inspired through his love, prayers, leadership, and dedication as our worthy shepherd. May his soul dwell with the righteous and may his memory be ever eternal! Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen!

   UPDATE:  Blessing of Fr Michael Lewis’ Gravestone

On Saturday, September 22, 2012, at St. Philip Orthodox Cemetery in Souderton, PA, Fr. Noah Bushelli led the Trisagion Prayers and blessed the icon and headstone at Fr. Michael’s grave.  After Fr. Noah finished the Trisagion and blessed the gravestone, he concluded by singing the Paschal Troparion three times.

May the memory of our dear Fr. Michael be ever eternal and may he dwell with the righteous.  Christ is Risen!  Truly He is Risen!

Pictures of the Blessing [pdf]