Archpriest Paul Lazor fell asleep in the Lord after extensive illness at a hospital near his home in Tobyhanna, PA on May 9, 2020. Before his retirement in 2007, Father Paul served as the John and Paraskeva Skvir Lecturer in Practical Theology, as priest and one-time Rector of the Three Hierarchs’ Chapel, and as the Dean of Students at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York. For generations of graduates and clergy serving in the Orthodox Church in America and throughout the world, Father Paul was a trusted teacher, guide, confessor, and spiritual father.
Father Paul was born on June 28, 1939, in Canonsburg, PA - a small town located to the southwest of Pittsburgh. His father, Joseph, was a Russian native of Galicia. For 50 years, Joseph served as the choir director and cantor at the Orthodox parish of St. John the Baptist in Canonsburg, PA of which, in 1918, he was one of the founders. His mother, Anna, was the daughter of Michael Lazorchak, another listed founder of the parish. Father Paul was born, baptized, and raised from infancy by his dedicated parents.
Throughout his years in the Canonsburg Public School System, Father Paul was always a good student. In High School he did particularly well in such subjects as mathematics, physics and chemistry. Upon his graduation, he enrolled at Pitt in 1957 majoring in the field of chemical engineering. During the summer of 1960, he worked as an engineering trainee for the Bethlehem Steel Corp. in Buffalo, NY. In 1961 he received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.
From an external perspective, the path of his life seemed to be set before him. Internally, however, such was not the case! He began to realize increasingly that, while this path would no doubt lead him to a certain level of external and financial success, there was very little room along its way for that powerful, inner experience and vision of life which had motivated him from his childhood. That experience and vision was grounded in a totality of love, dedication and service to God, and was revealed most directly to him in the life and worship of the Orthodox Church. During a profound consultation with his parish pastor in Canonsburg, Father Nicholas Fedetz, Father Paul was gently but wisely advised to “give it a try”, i.e., to postpone (perhaps only temporarily) his well-constructed career as a chemical engineer, and to enroll at St. Vladimir’s – a graduate school of Orthodox theology, located at that time in New York City.
To the dismay of many, including some of his family members, neighbors and friends from both his high school and college days, Father Paul followed this advice and, in September of 1961, enrolled at St. Vladimir’s. During his initial journey by bus across the State of Pennsylvania, from Canonsburg to the Seminary in New York City, he was accompanied by none other than his encouraging first-cousin, Frank Lazor (later known as Metropolitan Theodosius, now retired as the Head of the Orthodox Church in America), to St. Vladimir’s Seminary, his own alma mater. Once classes began at the Seminary, the profound and spiritually inspired teaching and personal demeanor of the school’s excellent faculty — especially the Dean, Father Alexander Schmemann, and Professors Father John Meyendorff, Serge Verhovskoy and Veselin Kesich — really “hit home” within the mind and heart of the new enrollee. Coupled with the Seminary’s most excellent daily liturgical life, as well as his becoming close, lifetime friends with several of his fellow seminarians (especially the departed Father Thomas Hopko, a future Dean of the Seminary, and David Drillock), all the interior doors of his life were opened. By the Grace of God, he found, once and for all, the path toward the ongoing fulfillment - “from one degree of glory to another,” as the Apostle Paul writes (2 Cor 3:18) - of the goals and purposes of his life. This path was and is, stated simply, none other than “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) – in Jesus Christ!
During his three years of choral singing within the daily worship at the seminary, Father Paul rediscovered the power and brilliance of the tenor voice with which, from his childhood, God had gifted him. The Seminary was expanding and growing. It was moving to a new campus located to the north of New York City, near Yonkers, NY. A mode of developing a renewed and powerfully direct public contact and image for the Seminary was specially realized by the Seminary’s formation and dispatching of three consecutive “summer” octets (during the summers of 1962-63¬-64). Father Paul participated in these three inaugural octets and directed the latter two. The schedule of the second octet in the summer of 1963 included a visit to Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco, CA. During this visit, Paul unexpectedly met his future wife and lifetime love, Natalia (Natasha) Manturoff, a devout Orthodox Christian woman who was born in China. She is the daughter of Russian parents who, in life-preserving fashion, had fled from Russia during the Revolution and takeover of that country by the Communists in 1917. The Manturoff family initially resettled in China and lived there until their immigration to San Francisco in 1950. Natasha eventually moved to New York City, where she obtained a job at the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America – a position which utilized her bi-lingual skills (Russian and English) as well as her personal, gifted ability to be at ease in meeting with and accommodating people. On September 13, 1964, she and Paul were married in the Seminary Chapel. For more than 55 years, they fully shared their lives, remaining always a deeply loving couple. They were blessed to have three beloved children – Alexander, Elizabeth and Paul, as well as six grandchildren.
After graduating from St. Vladimir’s and completing a final octet tour, Paul was ordained to the priesthood of the Orthodox Church, again in the Seminary Chapel, by Archbishop John of San Francisco, on October 17, 1964. In that same year, he was assigned as the pastor of the parish of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Milwaukee, WI, where he served until 1967. In that year he was assigned as rector of the parish of the Holy Trinity in New Britain, CT. During the ten years of pastoral service there that Father Paul described as unforgettable and that certainly shaped his pastoral teaching, he also accepted the Seminary’s invitation (in 1969) to teach several courses at St. Vladimir’s on a part-time basis. In 1977, he completed his years of direct parish ministry by accepting the Seminary’s invitation, and his subsequent re-assignment by Metropolitan Theodosius, to a full-time ministry at what was now their alma mater. He was appointed to be the Seminary’s Dean of Students and a full-time member of the faculty. He taught courses in the following areas: Liturgics and Liturgical Theology, Practical (Pastoral) Theology, as well as the Russian, Church Slavonic and Greek languages. During those years of service at St. Vladimir’s, Natasha worked on the Seminary staff and then for BOCES for 21 years in special education.
Father Paul also served in several capacities within diocesan and Church-wide ministries. He was frequently invited as a speaker at churchly and other conferences and special, educational events throughout the United States (including Alaska) and Canada. His bi-lingual abilities (in Russian and English) enabled him to lecture formally and to speak throughout Russia and Europe. In 2004, the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America awarded him a gramota (special citation) in connection with his 40th anniversary of ordination to the Holy Priesthood. In 2015, he was awarded the Order of St. Innocent, Silver Medal, by Metropolitan Tikhon as a formal recognition of his years of service in and for the Orthodox Church in America in multiple ministries. Father Paul would frequently note that at all times during those five decades of his active ministry and service, he was supported by the full participation of loving wife and co-worker in Christ, Natasha.
Their three children (mentioned earlier) were also born and raised, and their lives indeed developed, during that same space of time. Alexander (Sasha), and his wife Penny (Penelope), have four children (James, Katya, Patrick and Sarah). He works with Human Resources with Eversource in Hartford, CT. Elizabeth has two children, (Caroline and Gracie). She is a registered nurse employed at the Danbury Hospital, in Danbury, CT. The youngest son, Paul (known lovingly at home as Pavlik), through his international work as a Flight Dispatcher met his wife, OIL (Bungorn Namprom), in her native country of Thailand.
During those same years, Father Paul also served as an author, translator and editor of numerous articles, liturgical service books for popular usage, and several introductions to books produced by other writers. A great example of the work he performed in this latter area is his translation of the important Russian book by Prof. Nicholas Uspensky published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press under the title: Evening Worship in the Orthodox Church. His principal contribution to the St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly was is excellent presentation (in 1996) entitled: Pastoral Care Today. In 2007 he delivered the Father Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture at the Seminary.
In 2007, Father Paul retired from active ministry. He continued to serve and to conduct retreats. With his devotion to the liturgy of the Church, he enjoyed “filling in,” particularly at Holy Trinity Church in Stroudsburg, PA, where he also enjoyed singing. There the Lord has provided a “home parish” for Father Paul and his family. Father Paul was always incredibly grateful for the care and love shown to him by his former student, the pastor of Holy Trinity, Father Nicholas Solak, who also ministered to him in his last days.
In 2015, Father Paul was diagnosed as having Parkinson’s disease: a condition affecting the totality of a person’s life. In his case, the effects were noted especially in the areas of speech, movement, and memory loss. When asked about his serious physical struggles, Father Paul would say that he daily recalled the words of the Righteous Job: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.” Even in his years of hardships, Father Paul remained a teacher and father to many: calling and encouraging especially priests in their ministries and modeling prayer and discipline in his own life.
Father Paul recently noted his kind and comforting neighbors. He expressed his gratitude to God for the mutual, long life he has shared with Natasha in joy and peace, along with the families of their three children, in loving service to Him, within, and for His Holy Church.
Father Paul was taken to the hospital on May 2 with symptoms of aspiration pneumonia unrelated to the current pandemic. He fell asleep in the Lord on May 9, the feast of St. Nicholas who he taught generations of church school children to sing. Upon hearing of his departure, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon expressed the sorrow of the entire Church that due to restrictions related to COVID-19, the burial services of Father Paul will be quietly held at Holy Trinity Church in Stroudsburg, PA, with only a small assembly gathered. His Beatitude noted, “all of us weep with Matushka Natasha and will be praying with her and together for the Lord’s faithful servant, the Archpriest Paul. The Paschal character of the Christian funeral is emphasized at the funeral of a priest and the multiple Epistle and Gospel readings powerfully proclaim that the ‘hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live’ (John 5:25).” His Beatitude emphasized that in this, Father Paul’s hour, we are reminded of his preaching to us all that love and obedience to Christ is, ultimately, deliverance from the sting of death.
The Funeral Service for a priest will be held at Holy Trinity Church, 1501 Trinity Court, Stroudsburg, PA, on Wednesday, May 13 at 10:00 AM. A live-stream of the service will be available on the YouTube page of Holy Trinity Church. Interment will follow at St. Tikhon’s Monastery Cemetery at 3:00 PM. The funeral services and internment, as previously stated, will be closed to the public per state regulations due to Covid-19.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be given to Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.
May Archpriest Paul’s memory be eternal!
- View a photo presentation prepared for the occasion of Father Paul’s retirement in 2007.