Fr. Stacey (as he was affectionately called) was a proud Manitoban, and his journey to Orthodoxy and the Priesthood was woven into various Orthodox Churches throughout Winnipeg, especially at St. George’s Romanian Orthodox Church where he was received into Orthodoxy, St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary, where he studied, and our own St. Nicholas where he was ordained to the Priesthood on Aug. 4th 2001. Fr. Stacey would go on to serve in Edmonton AB and Moose Jaw SK, before moving to the United States with his young family.
Unfortunately I never got to know Fr. Stacey the way that many many people across this city, province, and continent did, being “late to the game” so to speak. I certainly knew about his energetic demeanor and overwhelming enthusiasm for the Gospel, but never got to experience it first hand. There is something quite fitting that the first time I was able to meet him formally was where he began his life of service to the Body of Christ as a Priest, at St. Nicholas, while his family were visiting Winnipeg. Later on that week both Fr. Stacey and myself were able to steal away and grab a coffee. We talked about everything from family, to Church politics; but all our conversation would inevitably come back to the providential love of God for our families, our Church and the whole of the world. “It has to be about the Gospel and nothing else” was a constant phrase he would say, regardless if it was about a difficult situation he was in, or about the blessings he had received.
Those words that I’m sure many people across the continent have heard from him, have echoed in my head and heart ever since that day we had coffee.
As we now know, this past Sunday morning Fr. Stacey Richter, collapsed in the altar during the Liturgy at the parish of St. Elizabeth where he was the rector. He was rushed to the hospital, and although he was in good health, was pronounced dead a short time later. I am not one who is superstitious, or one who sees omens in everything, but as I served Proskomide before the Liturgy (the preparation of the bread and wine), and made my way through my list of commemorations, his name (and that of his family) seemed to jump off page as I read them. I paused for a moment and remembered his words “it has to be about the Gospel and nothing else” and said “thank you God”, then kept on going thinking nothing of it, until after I heard the news of his repose.
We remember many of the Saints of our Church because of the “big things” they did whether it was stopping invading enemies, performing miraculous healings, or mortifying their flesh through prayer and fasting. But all those “big things” are in many ways like the tip of an Iceberg; what is seen might be a pristine chunk of ice floating in the ocean, but what is not seen is deceptively profound and massive. For every Saint, those “big things” of miracles were always built on the “little things” of grace and mercy and a life lived in the Gospel; unseen by the world, beneath the waves of life. I say this, because as I was considering all that had happened while I was serving Proskomide, and our blessed conversation over coffee, there was the realization that the only way to truly be a priest, a husband, a father, a friend, and even a Christian, is to live out the “little things” of grace and mercy; and it is only “Gospel and nothing else” that can do this. In the same way that the Saints throughout the ages manifested this, our beloved Fr. Stacey did; even to the end, while serving at the Altar of our Lord.
My heart goes out to Matushka Trudi and their daughters Anika, Sarah, Michal, and to the community of St. Elizabeth, as well as the many people who were blessed to know Fr. Stacey better than I did. May the Lord grant consultation and peace to them all, and grant the Archpriest Anastasy the Kingdom of Heaven!
May His memory be eternal!