The Very Rev. Michael Prokurat died at his home here on July 23, 2003 after a ten-month struggle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, Margaret, their three daughters, and six grandchildren, together with many sorrowing friends, former parishioners, and colleagues from a 33 year career that included parish ministry, Church administration, and teaching at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Michael Dale Prokurat was born in Detroit, MI February 8, 1950. He grew up in the parish of Saints Peter and Paul and studied at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor from 1967-1970, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Religion. He went on to Saint Vladimir Seminary for four years, where he was first awarded a Master of Divinity degree in 1973 and then completed course requirements for a Master of Theology degree in 1974. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1972 and to the priesthood two years later. His parish ministry began in California, where he served as founding pastor of Saint Michael the Archangel Church, Danville [now Concord], CA from 1974-1983. Other responsibilities in this period included service as Diocesan Treasurer and Director of Late Vocations, the latter a program that led to many ordinations to the diaconate. His work toward the systematic and consistent support of diocesan missions was surely foundational for the remarkable later flourishing of the Diocese of the West’s mission program during the 1990s. In addition to these labors, he undertook doctoral studies in the Old Testament at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA, receiving his doctorate in 1988 following his successful defense of a dissertation on the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah. His related work, from 1980-1983, toward an Orthodox presence at the Theological Union contributed to the establishment of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, which he served as trustee from 1990 until his death. From 1983-1986, he was Chancellor of the Diocese of the Midwest, and from 1986-1990 he was Administrative Assistant in the Diocese of the West while serving as pastor of Saint Nicholas Church, San Anselmo, CA from 1988-1994. He fulfilled a life’s ambition to devote himself wholly to teaching by accepting the post of Associate Professor of Sacred Scripture at the University of Saint Thomas, Houston, where he served from 1994 until his death. His published works include articles, book reviews, encyclopedia and dictionary entries, book chapters, essays, the translation and annotation of Nikolai Leskov’s On the Edge of the World, and The Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church, of which he was editor and primary author.
Father Prokurat’s life was lived in conscious witness to the Gospel of Christ and in continual awareness of the believer’s responsibility for the edification of Christ’s Church, to which he contributed greatly and in many ways. Those qualities of his witness which were perhaps most characteristic included an unbending integrity, a seriousness of purpose, an appetite for work, and a thirst for truth and justice which had little place for compromise. He was in consequence not always as flexible as some might have wanted, but he was almost always in the right, and his modesty and wry humor leavened and usually eased the tensions which his uprightness and dedication to principle occasionally provoked. Those who knew him and loved him, and were touched by him, will remember especially that integrity, that honesty, which refused to countenance lies, evasions, or pretense, and because of which, in the many things to which he set his hand, he always understood that he was to serve Christ and the Church with the dedication and reverence proper to a priest standing before the altar. The witness of his life was and will therefore remain a rock of foundation, solid ground, on which those who knew him may with assurance continue to build. While the fact that he was taken away so early is the sort of hard and bitter thing for which there is neither comfort nor answer in a perishing world, the nature of his life’s service, its testimony, points those who mourn him toward the Kingdom not of this world, and toward that time when “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
ADDENDUM: On Friday, July 25, a Memorial Service will be celebrated at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Houston, TX at 7:00 p.m. On Sunday, July 27, a Memorial Service will be celebrated at Holy Trinity Cathedral, San Francisco, at 5:00 p.m., with the Divine Liturgy and Burial Service for a Priest, followed by interment, on Monday, July 28 at 9:00 a.m.
May Father Prokurat’s memory be eternal!