Friday, November 2, 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the repose of Protopresbyter Joseph Pishtey, the first person to bear the title “Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America.”
Father Joseph, together with Archpriest John Kivko and other contemporaries, were representative of a generation of American-born clergy who guided what at the time was known as the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America—the “Metropolia”—during some of the most turbulent years of its history, especially during the decades following the Russian Revolution. Fully formed and raised in the life of the Orthodox Christian faith, this outstanding group of brave clergy remained faithful in the face of “darkening clouds” surrounding the Church’s financial and canonical situation, the “Living Church” threat, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and a host of turbulent historical circumstances that today seem somewhat unimaginable.
Born April 6, 1899 in Bridgeport, CT to parents who hailed from the Carpathian mountains, he received his primary education at Saint Tikhon’s preparatory school, after which he pursued theological studies at Saint Platon’s Seminary, Tenafly, NJ. He served as choir director in a number of Pennsyolvania parishes until his ordination to the priesthood by His Eminence, Metropolitan Platon at New York City’s Saint Nicholas Cathedral on June 16, 1924.
After ordination, he served parishes in Terryville, CT, and Old Forge and Olyphant, PA prior to his assignment to Holy Trinity Church, Yonkers, NY, where he served for many years. During his pastorate, he was responsible for the expansion and redecoration of the church and the construction of a new rectory and parish center. In addition to his pastoral ministry, he served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Metropolitan Council from 1946 until 1964, when he was appointed Chancellor of the Metropolia by the Holy Synod of Bishops.
During the 1960s, he traveled to Geneva, Tokyo, and elsewhere while serving most capably as a member of the Metropolia delegation that entered into dialogue and later negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate, ultimately leading to granting of autocephaly in 1970 to what is today the Orthodox Church in America. He continued as Chancellor until the eve of his repose.
A genuine churchman as well as gentle pastor, Father Joseph touched the lives of many throughout his illustrious ministry, and served as a model of ever-faithful devotion to Christ and His Church during some of its most dramatic years. In many ways, his personal history mirrored that of the Church at large, especially during the tenures of Metropolitans Platon, Theophilus, Leonty, and Ireney.
May Father Joseph’s memory be eternal!