South Canaan, Pennsylvania: St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary announces the appointment of The Very Rev. John Kowalczyk, as Interim Chair of the Department of Pastoral Theology at the rank of Assistant Professor. Fr. John has been a member of the adjunct faculty since 1986 and has served for decades as the Director of Field Education. He was also recently appointed by the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) as the Director of Spiritual Care. He served as the first chancellor of the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania.
Fr. John’s broad education includes: St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary – Diploma in Orthodox Theology, 1975; Marywood University – MS in Religious Education, 1981; Moscow Theological Academy, Russia – CSc (Candidate of Science in Theology – doctoral degree), 1996;
Among his many professional qualifications, he earned counseling certification and privileges for psychotherapy from Fairview Hospital (now SCI Waymart, Forensic Treatment Center) in 1994. Since 1987, he has served as a Chaplain at SCI Waymart Forensic Treatment Center, where he has interviewed and completed over 8,000 religious assessments on inmates for the Treatment Team.
Fr. John was the long-time editor of Your Diocese Alive in Christ, the official magazine of the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania. He published An Orthodox View of Abortion (Light and Life Publishing, 1977). He has written essays for OCA.org and the OCPM, as well as for St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, and The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate.
For many years, he represented St. Tikhon’s Seminary at SYNDESMOS International Theological Conferences in Boston (1986), Poland, (1990), Moscow (1992) and Finland (1998).
Fr. John has been interviewed for Ancient Faith Radio and the OCN regarding his expertise in Prison Ministry and long-standing work for the Sanctity of Life. He has produced teaching videos on prison ministry, available at theocpm.org. Fr. John has given retreats in various Orthodox jurisdictions, including addresses at the Greek Orthodox Clergy-Laity Congress and Antiochian Orthodox Christian National Conventions, and on frequent occasions, at the All-American Councils of the Orthodox Church in America. He has lectured extensively on his pioneering work in many specialized areas in forensic and mental health units of prisons.
Fr. John is celebrating 47 years of service in the Holy Priesthood. Matushka Kathy, his helpmate, and his two children, Sophia and Nicholas, have provided support on this journey of faith through his assignments, the last of which is St. Michael’s Church, Jermyn, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 38 years. Through these assignments he has embraced the joy of the priesthood while also facing its difficulties and has become well equipped to share his extensive lived experiences with the seminarians.
Concerning this appointment, Fr John said the following,
My position at the Seminary has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. Early on, during the first state accreditation, I was tasked to begin a Field Education Program. My charge was to bring seminarians out of the classroom to receive specialized training at Fairview State Hospital (SCI Waymart). This work, coupled with years of parish experience, amounts to a precious gift to the classroom, not dealing with theoretical pastoral analysis, but rather real-life scenarios which have great teaching value for future clergy.
For his many years of faithful service, Fr. John has received the following ecclesiastical awards:
- The Order of St. Mary Magdalene by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Vasily of Poland.
- The Jeweled Cross, The Order of St. Innocent, and the Synodal Gramota, awarded by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, and
- The Jeweled Cross, presented by His Holiness, Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow.
When asked a final word, Fr. John highlights,
Pastoral care and pastoral theology have been in the forefront of my ministry for nearly five decades as a priest. It will be my joy to develop courses which reflect these many years of experiences, along with the examples I can draw from them. My goal is to continue the long tradition of pastoral formation as established and articulated in the ethos of St. Tikhon’s Seminary.
Fr. John begins his appointment July 1, 2023.