To Contemplate or Create?
In Memory of Protopriest Simeon Kichakov
For any clergyman, wherever he may begin his ministry, he starts from ground zero. He must win the trust of his parishioners, discern their spiritual lives, remembering that he has no right to contemplate, only create.
Nineteen years ago, Protopriest Simeon Kichakov began his ministry from zero, assigned to his first parish at the Church of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in Geelong, Australia, where he served until his retirement due to health problems.
Fr Simeon was born and raised in China. In 1961, he moved to Australia with his parents, older brother and sister. The Kichakov family settled in a camp in Bonegilla, then to Geelong. The young Simeon enrolled in Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY. His spiritual education proceeded under the guidance of Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky), Bishop Laurus (Skurla), Archbishop Averky (Taushev) and Professor Nicholas Talberg. Those who knew Fr Simeon well would hear a great deal from him about Archimandrite Cyprian (Pyzhov). When a group of hungry seminarians arrived in Jordanville on the first week of Great Lent with Metropolitan Philaret in 1966, Fr Cyprian took them under his wing. Among the young seminarians in his care was Fr Simeon, whose portrait the talented Fr Cyprian would later paint.
Seminary study was difficult, but with God’s help, Simeon prevailed, though burdened with obediences: working in the cow barn, the garden and the chancery. Once, when he was peeling potatoes in the kitchen, someone told Simeon: “You’ll become a priest after you graduate seminary,” but he objected. Still, he became a priest, but not right after graduating.
Simeon returned home in 1976. At the request of his uncle, Ivan Mikhailovich Kichakov, who was the warden of “Joy of All Who Sorrow” Church, Simeon became the parish secretary, then at the invitation of the parents’ committee, became a Russian-school teacher. This helped Simeon come to know the parishioners well.
On September 14, 1979, Priest Michael Protopopoff officiated at the wedding of Simeon Semonovich and Valentina Konstantinovna Kargina. They later had six children.
On March 16, 1980, Simeon was ordained a reader by Metropolitan Philaret and joined the kliros. On March 5, 1988, he was ordained to the diaconate and appointed to the parish in Melbourne by Archbishop Paul (Pavlov). After ten years of service as deacon, Fr Simeon was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Hilarion (Kapral), and on October 14, 1998, was appointed rector of “Joy of All Who Sorrow” Church.
Fr Simeon was always in a creative mode. He taught the Law of God at the parish school, organized a conference of Russian Orthodox youth, renovated the church and replaced the church cupolas, wrote a book on the history of the parish, oversaw the painting of the church frescoes and icon frames, planted trees, mowed the grass, planted flowers, traveled to Russia, renovated the parish hall and laid the foundations of the parish museum. He would perform the regular cycle of services and services of need, visit sick parishioners, console the grieving, lead someone to baptism into Orthodoxy. Even when he became seriously ill, Fr Simeon did not slow down. He never complained that he was sick, that there wasn't enough money for his projects. Faith and trust in God always prevails: benefactors and donors can always be found.
Fr Simeon created on the basis of love for Christ and His Church, in his discussions and sermons. Fr Simeon always prepared for sermons and discussions by referring first to his library of books which he began to assemble as a seminarian. He would always find a book or article that would interest a parishioner, no matter what problem they would come to him with. He often spoke of the worst of all sins—condemnation. In his opinion, people pay attention to the faults of others all the time while ignoring their own failings. This sin poisons the soul, people ignore their inner life and only notice what is around them. Fr Simeon’s advice in battling this sin was very simple: Hold your tongue.
For his excellent service to the Church, Fr Simeon was awarded the right to wear the nabedrennik, kamilavka and pectoral cross, elevated to the rank of protopriest, granted the palitsa and ornamented cross.
It was difficult to miss the tall figure of Fr Simeon, wearing his cassock and ornamented cross. But it was hard to notice his constructive work. When God finished creating the world, He granted His creation to us. How we treat this creation depends on us alone. Should we contemplate or create? Creating is more difficult, but brings more joy. Fr Simeon served as an example of such a life.
Fr Simeon reposed in the Lord on June 25.