In Memoriam: Archpriest Sergius Kuharsky

 [Jackson, NJ] - Archpriest Sergius S. Kuharsky fell asleep in the Lord on Thursday, January 5, 2023 at the age of 92. He served Holy Trinity Church in New Britain, CT (1956-1964), Saint Theodosius Cathedral in Cleveland, OH (1964-1976) and Saints Peter & Paul Church in South River, NJ (1976-98).

“Father Serge was a people’s priest, a priest’s priest, a priest of the Most High God,” said His Eminence Michael, Archbishop of New York and New Jersey. “A man of simple elegance and Christian distinction, the consummate husband, a devoted dad and grandfather, a beloved spiritual father and altar brother, a trusted confidant of hierarchs, and a humble servant of the Lord. He was the ultimate preacher of the Word—in homily, in music; in services, in service; in instruction, in confession; in guidance, in love. “It was my honor to bestow upon him the mitre; he never sought or wanted one. He no longer needs it; for he now receives a crown of glory. His wife and family, his spiritual children and his altar brothers, and his bishop will miss his loving smile, his gentle but firm word, his prayerful presence and his awesome example. Our loss is Heaven’s gain.”

Father Serge was born on August 26, 1930 in Central City, PA where his father was pastor of Holy Assumption Church. He grew up in St. Clair, PA, singing with his father and five sisters at home and at divine services conducted by the Mitred Archpriest Andrew Kuharsky at Saint Mary’s Church. Father Serge’s love of singing extended to school and community groups. He was a graduate of Columbia College and Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, which was then housed at Union Theological Seminary. His close group of seminary friends called themselves the 8-Balls and included Father Daniel Hubiak, who died in 2021. His influences included Father Georges Florovsky, Father Alexander Schmemann and Archbishop John (Garklavs).After graduation, Father Serge served as choir director at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. where he met and married Faith Stchur his wife of nearly 67 years.

He was ordained into the deaconate on February 15, 1956 by Metropolitan Leonty and the priesthood 18 days later by Bishop John.

He then spent eight years as pastor of Holy Trinity in New Britain, CT, where he was instrumental in organizing the New England Diocese of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as its first executive secretary. When he arrived in Connecticut, he remembered visiting the parish as a child and enjoying sweet black cherries from a tree on the parish grounds. He lamented having to cut that very tree down shortly after he took over as rector.While dean of Saint Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Cleveland from 1964-76, he served eight years as secretary and two years as president of the Eastern Orthodox Clergy Association of Cleveland and spent four years as the national spiritual advisor of the Federated Russian Orthodox Clubs, now FOCA. He also oversaw the Cathedral’s plan to build and run Ridge Manor, a banquet Hall adjacent to the parish cemetery. As at the two parishes before, at Saints Peter & Paul, he guided the church to more consistent use of English, more frequent communion and a transition to the new calendar.

All three parishes Father Serge served celebrated their 100th anniversaries during his lifetime and he and Matushka Faith attended services and festivities to mark the occasions.After his retirement in 1998, he was a popular colleague to priests in multiple Orthodox jurisdictions, serving liturgies around New Jersey as a substitute and sharing his personable style with numerous congregants.

In 1971 he attended the canonization of Saint Herman of Alaska. He also visited the USSR with the FROC in 1977 and again with Bishop Dmitri for the OCA in 1978, went to the Holy Land in 1983 and Jerusalem in 1987 and traveled to Austria, Yugoslavia and Greece in 1984. When Father Hubiak served as OCA Representative to the Moscow Patriarchate Father Serge attended the 1999 consecration of Saint Catherine’s OCA Representation Church in Moscow. He also led family trips to national parks and beaches on both coasts where he instilled his fearlessness as a swimmer—and confidence fighting rough waves and enduring cold water—into his children, often leaving Faith fearful he was too far from shore. The couple visited several Caribbean Islands, often with the Hubiaks.While growing vegetables in a backyard garden, he fought rabbits and rocks.

He loved to go on long walks, though he sometimes offset them with an Egg McMuffin at the halfway point. And he was an avid reader, always intent on learning more about the lives of the Holy Fathers and Saints, increasing his knowledge of the gospel, reviewing classics he read in college and occasionally taking a family suggestion on a work of nonfiction.

He is predeceased by his sisters Xenia Kostun, Catherine Oluich, Lydia Lewis, Vera Kuharsky; brother, Andrew Kuharsky who died as a boy; and a granddaughter Sara, who died of SIDS.He is survived by Matushka Faith; his sister Manya Kuharsky of Conklin, NY; and four children: Andrew Kuharsky (Merry), director of The Greenville Ballet and a CPA in Greenville SC; Gallia Vickery (Bill), a math and dance teacher at The Thacher School in Ojai, CA; Sergei Kuharsky (Celia), a marketing executive and professor from Princeton Junction, NJ; and Paul Kuharsky (Teresa), a sportswriter in Nashville, TN; as well as seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Donations may be made in his memory to Distinguished Diocesan Benefactors of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey of the OCA or to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

The schedule of services for Father Serge is as follows:

Tuesday, January 10 
Saints Peter & Paul Church, South River, NJ
4:00 PM - 7:00PM Viewing
7:00 PM Funeral for a Priest

Wednesday, January 11
Divine Liturgy at 9:00 AM
Wednesday afternoon, interment at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA

May Father Sergius’ memory be eternal!

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