Plans and Projects at SS Peter and Paul Cathedral
Interview with Protopriest George Lapardin
This year, the feast day of SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in Strathfield (Sydney), Australia, falls on a Wednesday (July 12). Despite the fact that it is a work day, hundreds of parishioners and friends from neighboring parishes are expected to attend divine services, which this year marks 60 years of its existence. The website Edineniye interviewed Protopriest George Lapardin, Senior Priest of the cathedral.
— Fr George, a few years ago you celebrated 25 years of your clerical service. You have been fortunate in that you have been at the same church all this time. Were you appointed here right after your seminary studies in the USA?
— Yes, for the first 17 years, I was second priest, but for the last ten years I’ve been senior priest, serving at the pleasure of the rector, the Ruling Bishop.
— One of the main responsibilities of a priest is conducting divine services. How often are they held at the cathedral? Most people just go to church on Sunday morning. But you have other services throughout the week.
— We celebrate divine services on all the great feast days, almost every day of Great Lent, many of the minor holidays, Ancestors’ Saturdays, etc. We have all-night vigil every Saturday night. We also have services for the major patron saints. For the second year now we perform a moleben and akathist every Thursday evening to St Nicholas the Miracle-Worker, who is revered by many who pray to him for themselves or for their friends and family.
— How many services are held throughout the year at the cathedral? It must be over 200 days.
— I never counted. A week before Pascha we have Liturgy on Lazarus Saturday, and I serve every day after that for about two weeks, until Radonitsa. I take one day a week to rest, either Monday or Tuesday. I need time to read, time to spend with my family.
— Next year your parish will celebrates its 65th anniversary. This year you completed construction of an addition to your parish hall.
— Yes, the addition provides extra space for the hall, and we installed a new kitchen. During our feast day, we won’t need to put up a tent to accommodate everyone, we can put another 100 people in the hall. We could also have a lecture in one part and lunch in another; the hall can be divided by an expanding wall. We have a washing machine, the latest ovens, and the sisterhood is very happy; for years they washed all dishes by hand.
— What else is the parish council planning?
— We turned our attention to the cathedral itself, which has cracks in the walls. The foundation was not very deep due to old regulations, which led to the cracks forming. We want to add lighting and an exterior paint job—the last one was done 15 years ago. Inside we plan on having frescoes painted. This is a big job, but Rome wasn’t built in a day!
— How big is your parish, and what is its demographic?
— The number of parishioners is fairly stable. Some pass away, new people show up. There are many people from Russia, and a lot of them already know the life of the church and become full-fledged parishioners.
— Do the old and new parishioners get along?
— Yes, I don’t notice any divisions. This is because people attend church for spiritual reasons, and our clergymen don’t suffer from an “us versus them” mentality. When people come with a pure heart, with a genuine desire to be with God, they don’t divide themselves into factions. We also have native Australians, whom we welcome. Maybe it’s different in other organizations, but in the Church, man is God’s creature, and there can be no division.
— Do new parishioners play an active role? Do the sisterhood and parish council have recent immigrants?
— Yes, they participate in both. Of course, there could be more, but it takes a little while for people to see how we work before they join. A certain Seryozha started attending major services for a few years, and he was asked to help at the candle shop; now he has proven himself and was invited to join the parish council.
— You can estimate the number of parishioners by funerals and baptisms—which are there more of?
— They’re about equal, about thirty baptisms, and an equal number of burials. We try to prepare catechumens well before baptism, make sure we answer their questions.
— You’ve been painting icons for many years.
— Yes, during free time, and evenings. It brings me great consolation. Most of the icons in the iconostasis are my work. Recently I got an order for the iconostasis in Melbourne. My icons are also in Brisbane and Rocklea. I have less and less time, but I can't stop painting.
— Do you also have a civil job?
— I used to work in construction, but I hardly have time for anything. We are now looking for another priest for the parish, and found a few candidates.
— You recently turned 50, has anything changed in your life?
— I’m 51 now, and just became a grandfather. My granddaughter has brought me great joy; it seems a new phase in my life has come, and it’s pleasing. I have three daughters and a son, they’re all grown up and independent now.
— You also head the diocesan youth committee. I heard positive things about its work, conferences, trips to Russia and family summer camps.
— Last year we held our third camp. This is run by our parish and Sunday school, though families from neighboring parishes were also invited. Young families and their children come for three days outside of town. There we study the Law of God, talk about rearing our children. We try to help each other outside of the walls of the church. We have time for prayer, games and entertainment. About 20-30 families participate.
We also have conferences for kids and young people, usually at the end of the year. This year we decided to have a conference for older youth in the winter. This year's event is titled «Recollections of the Russian Martyrs a Hundred Years Later.” It’s going to be a symposium, at which Metropolitan Jonah from the United States is coming to speak, as well as Protopriest Michael Protopopov and Protopriest Nikolai Karipoff. Our new parish hall will host it. We plan for the lectures and discussions to be held over two days, Saturday and Sunday. On the evening of the murder of the Royal Family, July 16, we will have all-night vigil. Service will begin at 10 pm, and Liturgy will commence at midnight, after which we will have a trapeza luncheon. Kids 18 and older are invited, plus young married couples up to the age of 40. Lectures will be in English, so that we can attract a larger audience. We think that most of the people will be from Sydney, and if it’s a success, we plan to expand the event next year.
— Your youth also travel to Russia every year.
— Yes, this year they are participating in the Concord of Orthodox Youth event, about 20 people. Protopriest Gabriel Makarov will head the delegation, along with Archimandrite Alexander Abramov. In addition to visiting the Kursk-Root Hermitage, they will make a tour of the “Golden Ring” of Russian cities.
— Do the kids like going to Russia?
— Very much. Sometimes there are issues, but on the whole, they love going.
— I heard that some kids find their match on these trips.
— Yes, a number of married people me there. This year one young man is going with the intention of proposing to his girlfriend, whom he met at the last event.
— Our ruling bishop, Metropolitan Hilarion, no longer visits us as often as before.
— Metropolitan Hilarion can’t attend our feast-day celebrations this year, but he will come at the end of November. For many of us, he’s like a father. Last year we celebrated his twentieth year at our diocese.
— Thank you, Fr George, and accept our congratulations on your feast day.
— May God grant you continued success.