Eternal Memory: Monsignor Russell A. Duker, SEOD

Reverend Monsignor Russell Andrew Duker, SEOD, a retired priest of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, fell asleep in the Lord on Jan. 22 at Mt. Macrina Manor, Uniontown, Pa.

He was born on August 24, 1943, in West Aliquippa, Pa., the youngest of the children of Stephen D. Duker and Mary A. Varhola. He received his elementary education at Washington School there, and in 1961 he was graduated from Aliquippa High School.

He attended Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa. where he earned the Bachelor of Science degree and was graduated “Summa Cum Laude” in 1964. He also did graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh. He then entered Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary and attended Duquesne University.

In the fall of 1967, Monsignor Russell was assigned to complete his seminary studies in Rome, at the Pontifical North American College. While there he attended at the Gregorian University and the Pontifical Institute for Eastern Studies and was awarded the Baccalaureate Degree in Sacred Theology.

Returning to the United States in 1970, he was ordained to the Priesthood in his home parish of St. George in Aliquippa on Sept. 20 of that year by Archbishop Stephen J. Kocisko.

Monsignor Russell’s first priestly assignment was Assistant at St. John Cathedral in Munhall, Pa., and he was also appointed Assistant Chancellor and secretary to Archbishop Stephen. His next parochial assignments were: St. Stephen in North Huntingdon, Pa. where he was the founding pastor of the new parish; and St. Nicholas, Youngstown, Ohio.

In the Autumn of 1979, Monsignor Russell again returned to Rome for further study at the Gregorian University’s Pontifical Institute for Eastern Studies. Here he first earned the Baccalaureate and Licentiate Degrees in the area of Eastern Church Studies, and then on June 9, 1982, he publicly defended his doctoral dissertation entitled The Byzantine Catholic Synod of Vienna of 1773, and he was awarded with “High Honors,” the Degree of Doctor of the Theological Sciences of the Eastern Churches.
Returning from Rome, Monsignor Russell was appointed Pastor of Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church in McKees Rocks, Pa. and the Director of the Archeparchial Office of Religious Education.

The Holy Father St. John Paul II named him Prelate of Honor with the title of Monsignor on Sept. 21, 1984.

In 1990, Monsignor Russell was appointed Rector of Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary where he also served as Professor of Dogmatic Theology and Homiletics. On June 15, 1995, he assumed the pastorates of Holy Spirit Church in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh and at St. Pius X Church in Carrick, Pa, where he remained until retirement after 26 years as the pastor and administrator.

From Sept. 14, 1994 until Feb. 7, 1995, he served as Administrator of the Archeparchy, having been elected by the College of Consulters to fill the vacancy created by the death of Bishop John M. Bilock. Under Archbishops Judson M. Procyk and Basil M. Schott, Monsignor Russell served as Protosyncellus and Chancellor,
His other Archeparchial responsibilities included: Liturgical Commission, Associate Editor of the Byzantine Catholic World, secretary of the Priests’ Pension Board, member of the Matrimonial Tribunal, and Consultor. He also represented the Archeparchy at the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, serving in executive positions; and he was on the Board of Delegates of the Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania. He likewise participated in many ecclesiastical societies, ecumenical forums, and civic organizations.

Monsignor Russell was the author of numerous articles and publications that deal with the history, liturgy, and theological tradition of the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church. He was well-known as a speaker who lectured extensively on these same topics at many academic and ecclesiastical institutions throughout the country and abroad.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers: Igor, Dr. Daniel and Raymond (Mary Jane), and Michael; and sisters, Juliann (Paul) Smerigan and Olga (Joseph) Mackin and brother-in-law John Chabala. Surviving him are his sister, Peggy Duker Chabala; sister-in-law, Janet Shema Duker; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, parishioners, and friends.

Friends were received at St. John Cathedral on Jan. 30 and 31, with the Parastas celebrated both evenings by Very Reverend Andrew J. Deskevich.
Metropolitan Archbishop William C. Skurla presided at the Funeral Divine Liturgy on Thursday morning Feb. 1. Most Reverend Robert M. Pipta, Bishop of Parma, was the celebrant and concelebrating were: Very Reverends Thomas J. Loya, Ronald C. Barusefski, Frank A. Firko, and David A. Bosnich; Reverend Father Kevin E. Marks, and Monsignor Lawrence Dominik. Very Reverend Loya was the homilist and Deacon Kyprian A. Wojciechowski assisted as Deacon. Reverend Fathers Valerian Michlik and Will Rupp led the congregational singing.

Interment followed at Mount Macrina Cemetery, Uniontown, Pa.
In blessed repose, grant O Lord eternal rest to your departed servant Monsignor Russell and remember him forever!