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” (Jn 14:6)—in Jesus Christ!