SS. Cyril & Methodius in Jeannette says goodbye to retiring priest

October 12, 2018

SS. Cyril & Methodius Orthodox Church in Jeannette has had its share of struggles over the years, but it continues to be a survivor.

On Sunday, the small parish said goodbye to its pastor, the Rev. Lawrence Daniels, and his wife, Sophie.

Daniels, 80, of Greensburg is retiring for health reasons after 61⁄2 years as the parish priest. He began serving there as a deacon under Archbishop Kyrill in 1999.

“I just want to go off into the sunset like the Lone Ranger,” he said, referring to his wife as Tonto. “Without her, I don’t know what I would have accomplished.”

Although Daniels served his last Divine Liturgy on Sunday, the parish had a more formal goodbye on the previous Sunday, when Archbishop Melchisedek (Pleska) of the Orthodox Church in America’s Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania visited. The Sept. 30 liturgy was followed by a potluck luncheon celebrating the church’s 108th anniversary.

There are no immediate plans to fill the vacancy, but longtime treasurer Dan Henry said the parish will do its best to carry on without Lawrence and Sophie Daniels.

“They both have done a remarkable job. We think a lot of them, the whole parish does,” Henry said. “It’s a joyous event that he’s retiring, but it’s a sad event for the parish.”

SS. Cyril & Methodius was founded in 1909 by a group of Orthodox Christians from Carpatho-Russia who settled in Jeannette. Dedicated in 1910, the building was destroyed by fire just four years later.

The church was rebuilt and has continued to be a Jeannette landmark over the years.

Its distinctive blue cupolas were renovated in 2015 and 2016, making the Scott Avenue church visible from almost anywhere in the city.

Fire struck again in January, while workers were repairing leaks to the roof, but the damage was minimal.

“We are not a dying parish, that’s for sure,” Henry said. “We are growing, and we will continue to grow.”

Daniels, a native of Pittsburgh, was ordained a deacon at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, Belle Vernon, in 1976 and was elevated to protodeacon in 1999. At the time, the Jeannette parish was without a full-time pastor, so Archbishop Kyrill of the Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania served there as priest-in-charge.

After a long career in sales with Sears, Roebuck & Co., Daniels was ordained to the priesthood and assigned to SS. Cyril & Methodius full time in 2012.

“It’s a parish that through time survives,” he said. “There was a time when you couldn’t find a pew to sit in. Now, you can pick and choose a pew.”

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