Archimandrite Nikolai [Soraich], former Rector of Saint Paul the Apostle Church, Las Vegas, NV and Chancellor of the Diocese of the West of the Orthodox Church in America, was consecrated to the episcopacy at Saint Seraphim Cathedral here on Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22, 2001.
Archimandrite Nikolai, 52, was elected Bishop of Baltimore and Auxiliary to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America by the members of the OCA Holy Synod of Bishops at their spring 2001 session. His consecration was celebrated in conjunction with the consecration of recently completed Saint Seraphim Cathedral.
Presiding at the two-day celebration was Metropolitan Theodosius, assisted by His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South; His Eminence, Archbishop Herman of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania; His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate; and His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco and the West. Also participating were Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, Dean of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY, and nearly 50 priests and deacons.
The celebration opened on Saturday evening, as Archimandrite Nikolai celebrated Great Vespers at the cathedral, after which the formal Rite of Election and Acceptance were conducted. In his Statement of Acceptance, Archimandrite Nikolai painted a touching picture of the inspiration with which his parents, devout Orthodox Christians, had provided him. Reflecting on their simple yet unswerving faith in God, Archimandrite Nikolai spoke of the great wisdom they shared with him as they encouraged him to serve the Church from his earliest years.
“During the week of the Holy and Life-giving Cross of the Great Fast that we have just concluded, the Holy Synod of Bishops called me to serve the Church as a bishop,” Archimandrite stated in his Statement of Acceptance. “I am prepared to respond as a monastic - with obedience to the will of God as expressed through the hierarchs of the Church. I am prepared to lay down my life and accept the Cross which that office will place upon my shoulders. The beginning of my episcopal ministry, under the guidance of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, will take me to the land first blessed by Saint Herman and his missionary companions, to that land and to the peoples to whom Saint Innocent dedicated his life’s efforts. My desire to serve the Orthodox Church in America and share in its mission has seemingly been blessed in a very real way by the saints and missionaries who first inspired me to share in their missionary work. I have now been called to share in their work. I am now being sent to walk where they walked. I am now being asked to give my life to the same peoples to whom they gave their lives. All this I willingly accept, confident in the support of the prayers and intercession of Saint Herman, Saint Innocent, and all the Saints who have ‘shone forth’ in North America.”
Archimandrite Nikolai continued by thanking Metropolitan Theodosius and Bishop Tikhon for their guidance and support throughout his ministry as a monastic, a parish priest, a missionary, and an administrator.
“I admit and acknowledge my many weaknesses and the great office - the office of service - to which I have been called,” Archimandrite Nikolai concluded. “And I am assured, comforted and encouraged by the words of the prayer of ordination - that the Divine Grace which always heals that which is infirm and supplies that which is lacking will be my strength and my inspiration as I begin a new ministry in and for Christ’s Holy Orthodox Church.”
On Sunday, April 22, the cathedral was filled to capacity as Archimandrite Nikolai made a formal Profession of Faith before the five hierarchs who concelebrated the consecration Divine Liturgy. After his consecration, Bishop Nikolai ordained Athanasius Hilton and Deacon Emmanuel Rodriguez to the diaconate and priesthood respectively. Deacon Hilton is a “native son” of the Diocese of the South, while Father Rodriguez, a student at Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, South Canaan, PA, is a member of the OCA’s Mexican Exarchate. Many of Father Rodriquez’s family members and friends traveled from Mexico for his ordination.
At the conclusion of the consecration Liturgy, Metropolitan Theodosius presented Bishop Nikolai with the archpastoral staff, a sign of the bishop’s office as shepherd of the flock of Our Lord.
“You are now entrusted with the archpastoral staff as a sign of your Episcopal dignity and of your episcopal service,” Metropolitan Theodosius said as he presented the staff to Bishop Nikolai. “May it always remind you to imitate the one True Shepherd. I exhort you to serve God’s people with love and generosity. Minister with fatherly concern to Christ’s priests. Care for all who come to you in any kind of need. Love them as Christ Himself loves them. Then, having perfected the souls entrusted to you in this present life, may you one day stand before the Throne of God and receive the great reward which He has prepared for those who have fought with valor for the preaching of the Gospel. Ascend now the episcopal ‘cathedra’ to give the apostolic blessing to the four corners of the earth, to all those who have taken part in your consecration, and to all God’s people - for now, in a very real and tangible way, you belong to them; for now you have become their servant.”
Following the Liturgy, a luncheon was held in the cathedral hall, during which Craig Vladimir Norville presented Bishop Nikolai with an archpastoral staff on behalf of the numerous faithful from Saint Paul the Apostle Church, Las Vegas, NV who were present for the consecration.
“This was an historic weekend for the Orthodox community in Dallas,” according to Mr. Milos Konjevic, a cathedral parishioner and Treasurer of the Diocese of the South. “Not only was our new cathedral consecrated, but we also witnessed the consecration of a new bishop - two events which are not every day experiences!”
Complete coverage of Bishop Nikolai’s consecration will be featured in the May/June 2001 issue of The Orthodox Church newspaper. A biography of Bishop Nikolai, together with photographs of his consecration, may be found on the Orthodox Church in America’s web site at http://www.oca.org.