Reflections of a Long and Beautiful Friendship Richard Stephen Seminack (March 3, 1942~ August 16, 2016)

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It was August of 1976 when I moved into the Campus of Manor Junior College (MJC) in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. One of the first teachers that I met was the Chaplain and Religion teacher Father Myroslav J. Lubachiwsky, also known as Father Luby. (Yes… Father Luby is the former Patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church!) (It was Father Luby that gave me the nickname Buttons!) I introduced myself to Father and shared with him that although I was  Protestant on paper, I was Catholic in my beliefs; first and foremost in my beliefs of Transubstantiation. I asked him if he had any problems allowing me to receive Holy Communion during the Divine Liturgy; thankfully, he did not!

Year 1 at MJC continued as planned. However, one month into my second year at MJC, I developed a serious bone infection in my left leg which landed me in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for 3 months; needless to say, I had to withdrawal from Manor.

Fast forward to 1 year later~ 

August of 1978, I am back on campus of MJC! Father Luby is now the Metropolitan Archbishop and living on Franklin Street in Philadelphia. The new Chaplain and Religion teacher at Manor is a young, 36-year-old Priest named Richard Stephen Seminack. (Father Rick was transferred from Saint Anne Ukrainian Catholic Church in Warrington, PA) (Saint Anne’s is now my Parish!) 

Unbeknownst to me, a long and beautiful friendship was about to begin. I introduced myself to Father Rick and shared with him the same thing I had shared with Father Luby, two years prior: although I was Protestant on paper, I was Catholic in my beliefs; first and foremost, in my beliefs of Transubstantiation. I asked him if he had any problems allowing me to receive Holy Communion during the Divine Liturgy; thankfully, Father Rick had no problems either!

The Divine Liturgy was offered in the College Chapel on Fridays at 12 noon, and Saturdays at 5PM. (Within the first two weeks of our friendship, Father Rick made me his Sacristan. I set up for all the Liturgies; I even baked the Prosphora! For the Friday Liturgies there were perhaps 12-15 persons in attendance which included Sisters, teachers, and a handful of students. The Saturday evening Divine Liturgy was offered for the dorm students; I was the only person that attended. (Keep in mind… I was a Protestant!) However, it was beautiful! Every Saturday evening, for two academic years, Father Rick and I had Liturgy together… and we sang!

Father Rick co-owned a 4-seater airplane; named 472 Romeo! I had shared with Father that I had never flown in a plane of any size. He shared with me that when he takes his friends for a ride, he will allow them to “fly” the plane from the co-pilots seat. So… one beautiful Friday afternoon, (October 1978), Father Rick phoned me in the dorm and asked: “Buttons do you want to go for a plane ride? Let’s take Sister Bohdanna with us; we’ll fly down to Cape May (NJ), circle around the Light House then fly home.” The three of us arrived planeside. After Father Rick completed the necessary checklist, we boarded the aircraft; I climbed into the back passenger side seat, Sister Bohdonna was up front in the “co-pilot’s” seat. After reaching altitude, (4000 feet perhaps), I saw Father Rick flicking some switches. He then leaned back, looked at me, gave me a wink and said: “Bohdanna, do you see that wheel in front of you?” “Yes, Father Richie!”Bohdanna replied. Father Rick said to Sister Bohdanna: “Put your hands on it, (which she does), YOU are now flying the plane!” Well… Sister Bohdanna immediately became the Red Baron by taking us into a nose-dive; Father Rick quickly regained altitude! (For the rest of our friendship we joked about the day that Sister Bohdanna almost killed all three of us!)

In February of 1980, I once again was admitted to CHOP. My left leg was DARK black, blue, and purple from toes to groin; the excruciating pain required morphine around the clock. Both of my doctors, (the late Dr. C. Everett Koop, and the late Dr. John Templeton) could not figure out what was causing the bruising. On Sunday February 24th, at 7PM Father Rick arrived at CHOP to visit me. He gave me Holy Communion, anointed me with Holy Oil, and placed his hands on my head and prayed extemporaneously. As Father Rick was praying, the heat coming out of his hands was intensely warm! The heat did not burn, it was merely intense; in fact, it felt awesome! Having never received the Sacrament of the Sick before, I thought the heat was normal, which is why I did not say anything! Father Rick then went downstairs to the McDonald’s in the hospital’s lobby, purchased a bunch of junk food, and the two of us stuffed ourselves. At 11PM, Father Rick left to go home, and I turned out the light and went to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, the first thing that I realized was I had no pain whatsoever! I then flicked the sheets down to go to the bathroom and immediately noticed that the bruising was ENTIRELY gone, no sign of bruises whatsoever! Shortly thereafter, Doctor Templeton came to see me. I showed him my leg; I shared with him about Father Rick’s visit (Holy Communion, Anointing, extemporaneous prayers with heat!)! Doctor Templeton began to cry. He wrote on my chart “miracle cure” and said, “call your parents; you are discharged!”

During Bishop Rick’s Episcopal ministry, I was accused, by a handful of people, of showing disrespect when I called him Bishop Rick rather than Bishop Richard. Father Rick, Monsignor Rick, Bishop Rick~ the man did not change; his title did.

The final two weeks of Bishop Rick’s earthly life, (August 3, 2016, through August 16, 2016), I had the extreme honor of being at his bedside and ministering to him in every way humanly possible. On the morning of Tuesday, August 16th, when I entered Bishop Rick’s room, I could sense death approaching; I could sense the presence of Jesus in the room as well. A lot of silence took place that day. At 3PM, Bishop Rick said to me: “OK Buttons~ I’m ready to go.” I asked, “where are you going?” He replied: “Heaven.” I reminded him that what we shared stays between us, God, and the four walls of this room. He replied: “I know that Buttons; thank you, I love you.” I then said: “I hope that the words I shared with you gave you a sense of comfort and peace.” Bishop Rick replied: “I am very comforted Buttons, thank you~ I love you… and I am very much at peace, which is why I am ready to go to heaven, thank you; I love you.” “I love you too Bishop Rick!” I then continued: “OK Vladyko, when you are ready you need to let go of my fingers and reach for the hand of Jesus because I promise you my friend…Jesus Himself is going to escort you through the Royal Doors of the Pearly Gates!” Bishop Rick replied: “Really Buttons?” 

Not terribly long after, Bishop Rick’s left arm rose from the bed with his fingers outstretched. He was still holding my right fingers with his right hand. His arm went as high as where the wall meets the ceiling; he held that “pose” for a good 30-45 seconds. Slowly, his left arm started to lower, as it did, his grasp on my right fingers loosened. By the time his left arm was back on the bed, his right hand was gently laying atop my right hand, no more grasping. I looked at his face~ his eyes were wide opened; his jaw was dropped open; I looked at his belly; he gave two final “snorts”. My friend, Bishop Rick, was now in heaven. I took my bottle of holy water and made three crosses on his forehead as I said: “Well done good and faithful servant. Thank you, my friend~ I love you~ Vichnaya pamyat.”

Nancy B. Claflin

 

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