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Memory Eternal! + Fr. Paul Schneirla

The Very Reverend W.S. Paul Schneirla, longtime pastor at St. Mary Church in Brooklyn, New York, fell asleep in Christ on Saturday, September 20th, 2014 at the age of 98. May his memory be eternal!

Father Paul was ordained an Antiochian priest in 1943, and served parishes in Iron Mountain, MI and Allentown PA, before moving to New York to serve at St. Mary's in Brooklyn from 1951 until his retirement in August, 2002. He served in many capacities within the Archdiocese for 71 years, including: the first chairman of the Department of Christian Education, the dean of the Atlantic Deanery, the first editor of The Word magazine, and as the Archdiocese's Ecumenical Officer.

As a young man, Fr. Paul had converted to Orthodoxy from a Protestant background, and thus years after his ordination, his interest in the Western Rite was kindled by a visit to one of the Rite's parishes within the Romanian Orthodox jurisdiction in Paris, France. Subsequently, he wrote and lectured extensively on the topic, encouraging Metropolitan Antony (+1966) and Metropolitan Philip (+2014) to allow suitable congregations in its practice and development, and serving as the Antiochian Archdiocese's Western Rite Vicar General for many years.

A charter member of the Orthodox-Anglican, Orthodox-Roman Catholic, and Orthodox-Polish Catholic Theological Dialogues, Fr. Paul had been a General Board Member of the National Council of Churches since the 1940s and was the last surviving member of the original founders of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA). In 2007 SCOBA, the predecessor to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States of America, recognized Fr. Paul in a December 10 Resolution that cited his "lengthy and extraordinary" support for inter-Orthodox development and communication.

Father Paul also taught Old Testament at his alma mater, St. Vladimir's Seminary, for many years. Former Dean and Peter M. Gramowich Professor of Church History, Emeritus, The Very Rev. Dr. John Erickson, remembers him as "urbane, witty, and well-read. Father Paul's familiarity with all aspects of 20th-century Orthodoxy was legendary," Fr. John continues, "but conversations with him were not limited to ecclesiastical matters.They could include anything from the gold fields of Alaska (where he was born) to Pharaonic Egypt.

"Father Paul's pastoral ministry also deserves special mention. It extended beyond the usual church contexts. He seemed to sense when a parishioner or friend was in need of a cheery phone call." St. Vladimir's Librarian Eleana Silk remembers, "Fr. Paul's favorite phrase when asked how he was, was always 'never better, never better'."

Married for 70 years to Khouria Shirley, who reposed in 2012, Fr. Paul raised three children with Khouria: Dorothy Downie Orrill and Peter Christian Schneirla, and the late William Sutfin Schneirla, Jr. The St. Mary Website notes that "In keeping with Fr. Paul's express wishes, his children, Dorothy Orrill and Peter C. Schneirla, have arranged for private services on Wednesday, September 24. Burial will occur at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, NY, where his beloved wife, Shirley, and their son, William, are interred. Bishop John, auxiliary bishop of Worcester and New England and the episcopal overseer of the Western Rite, will preside at his services along with Fr. Michael Ellias, (Vicar General of the Archdiocese) Fr. Thomas Zain, and Fr. Robert Stephanopoulos. St. Mary's Church will hold a 40-day memorial service with the Trisagion Prayers in late October or early November."

Read Fr. Paul's articles on the Western Rite:
Occidentalis blog
In the St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly