Archpriest Elias Bitar, "the Voice," Retires from St. Vladimir's Seminary


Archpriest Elias Bitar, who has been Lecturer in Liturgical Music (with a specialty in Byzantine music) and Practical Theology for nearly thirty years at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, Yonkers, New York, was feted at the community's annual Thanksgiving Dinner, on the occasion of his retirement. Known for his rich and powerful voice, Fr. Bitar had earned the title "the voice of the Archdiocese" among seminarians. His resonant chanting and musical talent, and his kindness and concern for all, impressed students, faculty, and staff alike.

Recalling his days at the seminary, Fr. Elias said, "St. Vladimir's is a place where friends are made and their future is formed. I recall all these years with much joy and warmth, and I always pray that this 'cradle of education' will ever remain a burning torch for teaching Orthodoxy worldwide."

At the celebratory dinner Fr. Elias was presented with a beautiful icon of the Holy and Great Prince Vladimir, patron of the seminary. Archpriest John Behr, dean, in making the presentation noted, "Fr. Elias, dubbed 'the voice' for his expertise in chant in the Antiochian Archdiocese, has been a highly valued presence and teacher at St. Vladimir's for many decades, teaching chant to many generations of students. His ministry here has been very fruitful and will continue to bear fruit in the lives of many. We are honored to be able to honor him this evening, and to continuing his legacy here."

Fr. Elias and Khouria Joanne Bitar, honored at the Thanksgiving Dinner.Fr. Elias and Khouria Joanne Bitar, honored at the Thanksgiving Dinner.Father Elias, who currently is rector of St. George Antiochian Christian Church in Little Falls, New Jersey, studied for his Master of Divinity degree at St. Vladimir's from 1972–1975, and subsequently earned a Doctor of Ministry from the seminary in 2001. He and his wife, Khouria Joanne, have served the parish in Little Falls since 1985. They have four children—Katrina, Sara, Martha, and Anthony; Katrina is also a seminary alumna.