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Fr. Matthias Moriak Nominated by Midwest Assembly as Next OCA

Bishop of Chicago

Hieromonk Matthias Moriak was nominated to become the next Bishop of Chicago for the Orthodox Church in America during a Special Assembly of the Diocese meeting in Minneapolis today. A  widower with two children who took monastic vows following the death of his wife, Moriak, 61, has served in the American Carpatho-Russian Diocese  of the Ecumenical Patriarchate since his ordination to the priesthood in 1972.  An  M.Div. graduate of St. Tikhon's, Moriak was elected on the second ballot, over Fr. Paul Gassios, a priest of the OCA's Bulgarian diocese. Moriak's name will now be forwarded to the OCA's Synod of Bishops for canonical election, which is scheduled to take place at their next meeting  in November in Syosset, NY.

The Diocese's choice of Fr. Moriak caps a 10 month discernment process undertaken by the Diocese that began 40 days following the unexpected death of the late Archbishop Job in December 2009.   A selection committee composed of clergy and lay members of the diocesan council, chosen only two weeks before the Archbishop's passing, was suddenly confronted with fulfilling their tasks in two months instead of two years as originally planned. The committee oversaw an open, transparent and accountable nomination process that resulted in almost thirty names being presented for consideration. That number was eventually reduced to four names, after which the Diocesan Council selected the final three candidates last June.

During the summer months the three candidates were able to visit the Diocese, meet with diocesan clergy at the annual Convocation, and participate in video interviews that allowed all the faithful to familiarize themselves with the three men. (You can see those videos here.) All three, Frs. Morak, Gassios and Mahaffey then were invited to attend the Diocesan Assembly, held October 4-5 in Minneapolis, where their presence  and willingness to meet and speak with delegates and observers - and obvious personal camaraderie - was a remarkable witness.

Following the conclusion of the Assembly, the 141 delegates reassembled the following morning for the Divine Liturgy at St. Mary's Cathedral, celebrated by Metropolitan Jonah, at which prayers and thanks were offered for all three candidates. Following a brunch, the candidates departed, and the delegates filed into the historic cathedral, reconstituing themselves as a Special Assembly for the sole purpose of nominating a candidate. After prayers, voting began. As no candidate received a 2/3 majority on the first ballot, the candidate with the fewest votes (Fr. Mahaffey) name was dropped from the list, and a second ballot was held with only two names. After balloting Fr. Moriak's name was announced as the having received the most votes, and according to pre-arrangement, a motion was made and seconded that the vote be considered unanimous. The motion carried unanimously, and the delegates closed the Special Assembly with prayer.

Pending his canonical election in November, Fr Moriak is scheduled to return to the diocese in December for a Diocesan Council meeting, and appointment as administrator of the Diocese on January 1, 2011.  He will be formally installed as the Bishop of Chicago at ceremonies as both Christ the Saviour Church (next door to the diocesan headquarters) and at Holy Trinity Cathedral, currently scheduled for the weekend of May 14-15, 2011.

- Mark Stokoe


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