A Remembrance of Father Dan Gurovich. Father Paul Makar
God’s will for us in this world is so very inscrutable. We cannot figure out why things are happening the way they are. The Fathers of the Church teach us that this is for our own good, that if we are to know exactly what and when events are to happen, we would happily sin right up until death, only to seek salvation at the very moment our souls would be summoned to God’s heavenly judgment seat.
With a war raging in Ukraine that threatens to ignite into a worldwide conflict, a parish and many friends suffer yet another loss. The loss of a dearly beloved priest who touched the souls of all who came near. The loss of Father Daniel Gurovich, “Danny” as he was lovingly known by his brother clergy, and “Father Dan” to his people, tears a hole in many hearts. It prompts a basic existential question, “Why? Why would God allow this?”
I am certain that he would answer with loving compassion, yet firm and gentle adherence to the teachings of the Church Fathers in this situation. Father Dan was a pastor and spiritual father with many years of experience under his belt. A man of deep prayer, he had a pastoral touch that was unparalleled in his candor and fidelity to the Church.
Father Dan was a native of Cleveland, OH, born to an American family of mixed heritage. He heard God’s call to the holy priesthood early on in life, and studied at both St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Cleveland and later at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. He diligently served as a priest within the Byzantine Eparchies of Parma and Van Nuys/Phoenix.
Later on, after much discernment, Father Dan was brought over to the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia by Metropolitan Steven (Sulyk) to assist with the Archeparchial Tribunal. On weekends, he would help out at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Perth Amboy, NJ, where I first met him as an altar boy. From there, he was sent to St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church, Bethlehem, PA, as its pastor, replacing their long-serving priest, Father Vladimir Karmazyn, who retired in 1986.
Father Dan then faithfully served St. Josaphat Church for 36 years of his life along with his job on the Archeparchial Tribunal, handling many marriage cases and counseling people through rough times with regard to their marital status. He told me many stories about his pastorate, one of the most important being how he was American and could not speak Ukrainian, that our church is for the salvation of ALL people, that salvation is not founded in a nationality or language. Instead, the treasures of the Ukrainian Catholic Church ought to be shared with everyone in the world, so that anyone who loves God may find a true home in His Church.
He had an uncanny ability to bring many diverse people to our Church and help them understand her services, her theology, and her way of living the Christian life. A skilled teacher, he had a special way of explaining the faith in simple, clear, and uncompromising terms that was orthodox and faithful to the Gospel of Christ and the teachings of the saints. He would often use his quirky sense of humor in order to put people at ease, especially when things looked impossible to overcome (such as when he and his dear friend, Deacon Michael Waak, helped teach liturgics and congregational singing to the faithful of St. Josaphat’s Bethlehem). His fidelity to the faith, his orthodoxy, if you will, was never an obstacle, but only provided an impetus for those with open hearts and thirsting for God’s Holy Spirit to learn more about the rich spiritual treasures of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
The falling asleep of Father Dan in the Lord, while sudden and soul-rending, does give birth to questions addressed to God. Basic questions as said before. But, and I am certain of this, it should not cause us despair. It can only bring hope, for Father Dan would always remind me of how our Church, in the Eastern tradition, is “Resurrection-centric.” That the major item of importance is Christ’s Resurrection and the shattering of the chains of death. If we truly believe in the words triumphantly sung during the Paschal, “Christ is Risen!”, if we but have faith of the size of a mustard seed, then we should take comfort in the prayers of the Church, for we will see that, as long as we have a humble and patient heart, that God will provide that which we need, both here in this world, and in the life to come.
I always remind my own people, like a broken record, that it is not for sentimental reasons that we sing “Eternal memory” (Вічна Пам’ять) whenever we commemorate the dead outside the Paschal seasons of the year. Rather, it is a reminder to us. When we pray for those dear departed souls whom we loved, our prayers are heard. God then gives us those happy and joyful memories of the times we spent with them. It is those memories that fill in the hole in our hearts left by the death of a loved one, and the sweetness of those memories temper, and ultimately overcome, the bitterness of loss. We then truly understand that, with faith, that God will grant them, and us, rest in a place of light, a place of verdure, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no mourning, but only life without end.
May Father Dan’s memory be eternal!
Father Paul Makar