MOUNT CARMEL - Bishop Mark, of Baltimore, administrator of the Diocese of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, celebrated a Hierarchal Divine Liturgy Oct. 13 at St. Michael's Orthodox Church in honor of Archpriest Michael Evans, who retired at the end of October.

Several other priests served during the liturgy, including the Very Rev. Claude Vinyard, a prior rector at St. Michael's, and the Rev. James Chuta. Deacons Gabriel Bilas and Ignatius Gauvain from St. Tikhons Seminary and parishioners Stanley Zbicki, David Bushick, Charles Timpko and John Chidovich assisted with the service.

St. Michael's Choir performed beautiful acapella music that was arranged by Peter Yastishak. Choir members are Julie Bushick, Chris Bushick, Olga Thomas, Jean Mathias, Vera Zbicki, Valerie Winnick, Sandy Tosca, Chris Mathias and Hal Smith.

Father Michael and Matushka Sonya were married Sept. 17, 1972, at St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Edwardsville. Father Michael was ordained one month later in October 1972 at the same church. They have a son, Michael, who is a graduate of Mount Carmel Area High School.

Father Evans obtained a Master of Science in religious education from Marywood University, while Matushka Sonya attended Wilkes-Barre Business College.

Father Evans served many parishes, all in Pennsylvania, during 40 years of service, including St. Vladimir Church in Lopez, St. Basil the Great in Simpson and St. Mary's in St. Clair. He and Matushka arrived at St. Michael's in 1989. In addition to serving at St. Michael's, he has also been the priest-in-charge for the past 17 years at Holy Ascension Church in Lykens.

Father Michael and Matushka Sonya were joined by many family members and friends at a dinner provided by the parish in the church hall following the Divine Liturgy. Among those who spoke at the dinner were Bishop Mark, who reviewed the vows an Orthodox priest makes during his ordainment. He also talked about the sacrifices priests make, sometimes at the expense of their families. He thanked Father and Matushka Evans for their years of service.

Archpriest John Kowalczyk, chancellor of the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania, who attended the seminary with Father Evans, talked about the pastor's artistic ability and generosity. The Very Rev. Michael Hatrak, dean of the Frackville Deanery, talked about a bus trip from the Pittsburgh area that he and Father Evans took to St. Tikhons, which became their inspiration to enter the priesthood.

Father Michael Hutsko, rector of SS Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church in Mount Carmel, commented on how Father Evans was the elder of the local clergy in the area and how he appreciated Father Evans' leadership among the group.

The Evans' son, Michael, his wife, Jen, and children, Owen Michael and Mya Natalia, were also in attendance.

Parishioners offered expressions of appreciation for Father and Matushka Evans' service and for the spiritual leadership Father Evans provided to St. Michael's for 24 years. It was noted that Father and Matushka were always willing to help with parish projects, especially the monthly pierogie project, Parishioners commented that they left a positive imprint not only on St. Michael's Church, but on the entire Mount Carmel community, and will be missed.

They plan to spend their retirement in their house in Edwardsville.

St. Michael's was founded in 1908. Services are held at 9 a.m. Sunday, and all are invited.