The Igumen John [Scratch], 64, a member of the Monastic Community of Saint Silouan, former dean of the Cathedral of the Annunciation here, and in retirement attached to the Bishop’s Chapel of Saint Silouan, fell asleep in the Lord at home on the morning of January 15, 2006.
Born in Lethbridge, AB, Canada on August 2, 1941, the son of Lydia and Clare Scratch, a Pentecostal minister, he spent his early life joining his parents and sister Lorraine on missions to the third world and the Orient. It was during one of these trips that he first encountered Orthodoxy as a young boy in the streets of Shanghai China, namely in the presence of Saint John Maximovitch. Father John would often say that his time in China was a definitive factor and blessing in his journey to and in Orthodoxy.
In 1967 he married Suzanne Park, and continued his studies at Bishops University near Sherbrooke, Quebec. He was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church in early 1969. By the late 1970s, he, his wife, and their family, were living in Ottawa. It was during this time of turmoil and secularization in the Anglican communion that he and his family found refuge in the Orthodox Church. In the spring of 1979, he, his wife, and their six young children left the financial security of Anglicanism and were received into the Orthodox faith at Saint Nicholas parish, Ottawa, under the omophonion of the late Archbishop Sylvester of Montreal. He was soon ordained to the diaconate, and shortly thereafter to the priestood. He worked as a security guard to support the family. Later, his wife also found work.
In the winter of 1980, Father John and a small handful of people, founded the first English Orthodox mission in Ottawa, Holy Transfiguration, in the living room of a house. In March 1987, his wife suffered a major stroke, forcing him into semi-retirement in order to care for her and their children. With all of this, he was still able to shepherd his flock into reconciliation with its mother parish, reuniting the two under the protection of the Mother of God, the Annunciation to the Theotokos-St Nicholas Cathedral.
For the next few years, Father John became more involved with the 24-hour care of if his wife, Suzanne. After a serious heart attack, he retired fully, but he always devoted himself to the care and well being of his flock, even if he was often not physically available or accessible.
On January 10, 1998, Father John’s wife fell asleep in the Lord. After a period of discernment, he came out of retirement to serve with the Very Rev. Dennis Pihach at Saint Herman Sobor, Edmonton, AB. He again entered full retirement after a second, more serious heart attack, at which time he returned to Ottawa to be with his family and his ever-increasing number of grand children and later to witness the ordination of his eldest son, Gregory, to the diaconate in 2003.
In August of 2004, Father John became, as His Grace, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada described, described “what he was” as he was tonsured to monastic orders, taking the name John in honor of the Forerunner of Our Lord. It was in these last few years of monastic life that his witness of faith, perseverance, and suffering for the love of the Lord were truly blessed and revealed to others. For him, and those around him, the assurances of the Lord’s abundant mercy always brought consolation and peace. It was in this context that he always cared for, and in a fatherly way nurtured, those who turned to him as a Christ-like pastor to the end.
According to Bishop Seraphim, in the days just before his death, he was diagnosed with a large tumor, yet immediately he blessed and thanked God for all that was given him in his life, accepting the diagnosis with great peace and open confidence in God’s love.
Father John is survived by his sister, Lorraine, and her husband Roy; his nephew Gregory; and six children: the Deacon Gregory and Taesia (and the child soon to be born of her) Scratch, Jeremy and Helen Scratch, Subdeacon Sebastian and Helen Scratch, Lydia and Michael Holden, Subdeacon John and Michelle Scratch, Mary-Teresa and Karl Nye, and by his grand children Juliana, Gabriel, Alexandra, Sevastjan, Maria-Suzanne, Taiece, Seraphim, Benjamin, Elizabeth, and Parryn.
A Memorial will be celebrated at Annunciation Cathedral, Ottawa (corner of Lebreton N. and Eccles Streets) on Monday evening, January 16, at 7:00 p.m. On Tuesday evening, the Monastic Rite of Burial will be celebrated at 7:00 p.m., with the Divine Liturgy slated to be celebrated on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. Burial will be at Pinecrest Cemetery, Ottawa.
May Igumen John’s memory be eternal!