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Old St. Thomas deacon to be new Orthodox priest

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2006/03/26/news/faith/0cdd0a9e09410c9e8625713c00121e42.txt Sunday, March 26, 2006 Sioux City, Iowa Sioux City Journal
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 26, 2006
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      http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2006/03/26/news/faith/0cdd0a9e09410c9e8625713c00121e42.txt
      Sunday, March 26, 2006 Sioux City, Iowa Sioux City Journal

      Old St. Thomas deacon to be new Orthodox priest
      By John Quinlan Journal staff writer

      St. Thomas Orthodox Church in Sioux City will be missing about a third of
      its congregation Sunday when a busload of parishioners rolls into Wichita,
      Kan., to witness the ordination of their Deacon Sava.

      Stephen Leida, known as Deacon Sava for three years at St. Thomas and as
      Steve for 19 years to his co-workers at Morningside College, will be
      ordained by Bishop Basil (Essey) during the Divine Liturgy at St. George
      Orthodox Christian Cathedral in Wichita.

      Leida will be only the third member of St. Thomas to be ordained a priest
      in the church's 90-year history, according to the Rev. Thomas Begley,
      church pastor. The first, more than 45 years ago, was the Rev. Thomas
      Skaff, followed about a dozen years ago by the Rev. Dennis Heifner, he said.
    • Rev Fr John Brian
      Old St. Thomas deacon to be new Orthodox priest By John Quinlan Journal staff writer
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 8, 2006
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        Old St. Thomas deacon to be new Orthodox priest
        By John Quinlan Journal staff writer
        http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2006/03/31/news/faith/0cdd0a9e09410
        c9e8625713c00121e42.txt


        St. Thomas Orthodox Church in Sioux City will be missing about a third of
        its congregation Sunday when a busload of parishioners rolls into Wichita,
        Kan., to witness the ordination of their Deacon Sava.

        Stephen Leida, known as Deacon Sava for three years at St. Thomas and as
        Steve for 19 years to his co-workers at Morningside College, will be
        ordained by Bishop Basil (Essey) during the Divine Liturgy at St. George
        Orthodox Christian Cathedral in Wichita.

        Leida will be only the third member of St. Thomas to be ordained a priest in
        the church's 90-year history, according to the Rev. Thomas Begley, church
        pastor. The first, more than 45 years ago, was the Rev. Thomas Skaff,
        followed about a dozen years ago by the Rev. Dennis Heifner, he said.


        A group of 35 to 40 parishioners plans to attend the ceremony, along with
        Leida's parents and brother from Tulsa, Okla., and friends from around the
        Midwest.

        Following ordination, he will be attached to St. Thomas, learning the ropes
        as an assistant to Pastor Thomas. He will continue to work at Morningside
        College for the time being but hopes to eventually serve the church full
        time, assigned to his own parish.

        "I always wanted to be a priest," said Morningside's 49-year-old director of
        information services who will be 50 in May.

        But Leida and his wife, Mary, a biology professor and Morningside College's
        dean for advising, took a roundabout way of getting there.

        "When I was young, I always liked to be in church, and I thought the life of
        a priest was perhaps the most joyful thing that a person could do in this
        world," he said. "Eventually, I came to the place where I am now."

        Leida and his wife grew up in the Lutheran church. He went to a Lutheran
        seminary and worked as a pastor for five years at a church in Scandia, Kan.,
        before being converted to Orthodoxy about 20 years ago.

        Born in New York, he spent part of his childhood in Pennsylvania before
        moving to Tulsa, where he attended high school. He met Mary, at church,
        while they were attending Oklahoma State University. After seminary time in
        Minnesota, they moved to Kansas.

        After deciding to convert to Orthodoxy, they moved to Decorah, Iowa. Mary
        took an interim position at Luther College. Lacking job skills for being
        anything other than a Lutheran pastor, Leida took computer classes and did
        some graphic design and computer consulting work. After moving to Sioux City
        19 years ago for his wife's teaching job at Morningside College, he became a
        Mr. Mom for their young son Hans, who is currently finishing up a doctoral
        program at the University of Wisconsin -- Madison. Leida continued doing
        computer consulting work until taking a job at the college when Morningside
        decided to provide computers for all of its students and needed someone to
        manage this new program.

        Always active at St. Thomas Church, Leida sang in the choir and served as a
        chanter. He was ordained a deacon three years ago, at which point he had to
        give up his singing. At that time, he also began his formal preparation for
        becoming a priest.

        He took the three-year St. Stephen's Course of Study in Orthodox Theology, a
        program of directed reading and essay exams, with a weeklong church camp
        every fall for more intensive studies where students spend time praying and
        learning the services. It is a rigorous, low-tech correspondence course,
        perfect for students unable to spend three years at a seminary.

        "The other part of my preparation is, I've been simply living the life of an
        Orthodox Christian in a healthy parish here at St. Thomas and learning from
        Father Thomas," he said. "I've learned so much from him and hope to continue
        to learn from him as I become a priest."

        The delineation of duties between the two priests has yet to be settled.

        Leida said he expects to continue to do many of the things he did as a
        deacon, whose job is to assist the priest, and to basically do whatever the
        pastor tells him to do, though now, as a priest, he can do a bit more.

        Begley said he will also be a "supply" priest, filling in for Orthodox
        priests as needed in the Wichita Diocese, though mostly sticking to the
        upper tier of states. The diocese extends from Texas to North Dakota. He
        will also continue to assist with the diocesan missions.

        For about 11 years, Leida has helped Begley serve the needs of the All
        Saints Mission in Fargo, N.D., and that work could continue. Originally,
        they went to Fargo about four or five times a year, officiating at services,
        visiting the sick and so on. For the last couple of years, services in a
        newly purchased mission building have been held twice a month. Leida has
        been going once a month and another priest from the Twin Cities handling the
        other monthly date. Eventually, he said, the Fargo people will be able to
        support their own full-time priest.

        Leida chose the name Sava when ordained a deacon as it is a custom to pick a
        saint's name. St. Sava Nemanjic founded the Serbian Orthodox Church, and he
        has developed a great love for the Serbian people, Leida explained. He has
        gotten to know them through a Serbian girl who came to stay with them as a
        high school exchange student six years ago, and will remain with them until
        she completes her studies next year at Morningside College. This love
        prompted a pilgrimage to Serbia last year -- and his choosing the name Sava.

        "At church I'm Sava, and at work I'm Steve. But I hope one day just to be
        Sava, to serve in the church full time," he said.
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