The Very Rev. Fr. Paul Moses passed away on Saturday, 23 May 2009. His funeral
will be at 11:30 am on Saturday, 30 May at St. George Orthodox Church in
Orlando, FL. The internment will be on Monday 1 June in the Melbourne, FL
area with the assistance of St. Anthony the Great, Melbourne, FL, a mission
founded by Fr. Paul. Fr. Ernesto M. Obregon of St. Anthony the Great Orthodox mission
of Melbourne, FL has prepared this remembrance.
About five months ago I received the news that one of my fellow priests, The
Very Rev. Fr. Paul Moses, had terminal cancer and was expected to last only
four months. He actually lasted five and a half months. On Saturday, May 23,
2009, I received the news of his death. It is appropriate that he passes
away during Pascha season. "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down
death by death, and to those in the tombs restoring life."
But, if you think of Fr. Paul as merely a life-long priest, you would be
sadly mistaken. He grew up as the son of immigrants from Lebanon, but spoke
no Arabic. Like many immigrants of yesteryear, he grew up in the big city.
He was raised as a Maronite, but became Orthodox. He had no particular
calling to be a priest at that time.
Like many young people his age, his moment of truth came on December 7,
1941. He signed up and became part of the US Army Air Force. He started out
as a young fighter pilot, but quickly became the commander of a bomber. He
was part of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, flying repeated bombing
missions in support of the invasion. The statistics show that about 175,000
Allied soldiers fought on D-Day, facing about 250,000 German soldiers in
Normady. And the statistics show a high death rate over the first few days.
Fr. Paul nearly became part of the death rate. His plane was shot up, but he
managed to guide it to the English Channel where he ditched. One man died in
the original attack. A second man died in his arms on the inflatable raft on
which they were floating. When his men asked what they should do, he
suggested prayer. And, he then prayed, promising the Lord that he would
become a priest if they were saved. Eventually search and rescue picked them
After the war, he married his beloved Hilda. They were to be married 54
years. And, he kept his promise to God. Although he worked for a few years,
he was also in contact with his bishop about becoming a priest. He was
afraid that he would be rejected to go to seminary because of his age. And,
he was right. The bishop did not send him to seminary. Instead, the bishop
decided to ordain him directly and have him train by studying under another
priest. His bishop's comment was to the effect that what he learned as a
plane commander was more than adequate to teach him the leadership he needed
as a priest, and that the theology he could learn while he pastored. I doubt
that such would be the approach nowadays. Frankly, this reminds me of some
of the stories of how some early bishops were chosen by acclamation.
He went on to pastor for many years, and many are the stories that could be
told about his ministry. Eventually, his beloved Hilda died. It was after
that that our Metropolitan PHILIP decided to further honor him by making him
an archimandrite. Bishop ANTOUN was proud to be the one who represented our
Metropolitan on that important occasion. But, being an Archimandrite did not
matter to Fr. Paul. He remained the same humble man many had always known
him to be.
I met Fr. Paul when Saidna ANTOUN sent me to Melbourne, FL, to meet him and
possibly take over from him as he retired (yet again). He had founded the
mission to which I was assigned at a time when many would have been happy to
have been resting on their laurels. We became friends, and he did retire.
And so, we would visit with each other regularly, and I had the opportunity
to learn something of the history of this Archdiocese from a man who had
actually lived through the many changes. It was a collection of anecdotes,
remembrances, etc., that has given me a better “feel” for who we are than
anything written in books or webpages. When he first found out about his
cancer, he told me that he was looking forward to rejoining his beloved
Hilda. That was more important to him than the many honors he received. And,
so, today, Fr. Paul is with his beloved wife. And, I know that the
homecoming was with great rejoicing.
"Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those
in the tombs bestowing life."