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The V. Rev. Paul Schneirla + September 20, 2014

Father Paul was born on April 11, 1916 on a gold mining property owned by his family in Ophir, Alaska. In 1942 he married Shirley Dillon Warriner Page of New York and Far Hills, New Jersey. His mother’s side of the family - the Sutfin’s - arrived from Holland in 1676 and settled in what is now called Bay Ridge, home of Father Paul’s last parish. Father Paul was a mixture of German and Dutch ancestry; a cultural heritage he wore well.

William Sutfin Schneirla, taking the name, Paul, was ordained by Metropolitan ANTONY in 1942.  One Sunday when serving together in Iron Mountain, MI, the newly ordained, Father Paul, could not find a hand cross for His Eminence, so he handed him the processional cross. Looking at this large cross, ANTONY quipped: “I asked for a hand cross not a German war club!” There was great levity in their relationship.

Metropolitan ANTONY loved Father Paul: they had a symbiotic relationship all through their years together. Saidna had so much confidence in his friend that he appointed him Ecumenical Officer to represent him in these circles.Based on the Encyclical of the late Patriarch ALEXANDER and the foresight of Metropolitans ANTONY and PHILIP, Father Paul launched the Western Rite with Orthodox content, thus allowing North Americans, used to their own traditions, to be fully integrated into the Antiochian Church of North America.

Father Paul was both a forerunner and a leader of all that was best in mankind. Whether in his ecumenical encounters or the pursuit of Orthodox Unity, Father Paul was an activist and an authentic sober leader respected by all who encountered his genius of articulating what is true. He was at once subtle but poignant and profound.

Father Paul left an indelible imprint in every organization that he associated himself with. These included the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops; The National Council of Churches; The Orthodox Theological Society; and the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation. He was either appointed executive secretary or president of these bodies as well as maintaining his position in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. This was due to his clarity of thought and strokes of his pen. Because of his editorship of The Word Magazine, he gave literary credibility to this monthly journal. He was appointed General Secretary of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees by Metropolitans ANTONY and PHILIP. During his long tenure as General Secretary he presented succinct and lucid minutes of each Board meeting and of every Archdiocesan Convention..

Father Paul, a scholar in all aspects, was likewise a pastor “par excellence.” He served parishes in Iron Mountain and in Ironwood, MI, Allentown, PA and finally at St. Mary’s in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Shirley purchased and donated the house next to St. Mary’s in Iron Mountain, MI for use as the parish rectory. Characteristically, she never mentioned this gift to the church to anyone. Father Paul and Shirley were a team. It would be impossible for any clergyman to do the work that Father Paul did without the assistance and love of his wife. Shirley immersed herself in the ministry, lending her hand in whatever endeavor Father Paul was engaged. She was his stalwart partner.

Father Paul and Shirley were the parents of Dorothy and Peter; their son, Billy, died unexpectedly of pneumonia at six years old. During the wake, Metropolitan ANTONY’s sister, Adele, collapsed at seeing this beautiful young child before her in a small coffin. It was Billy’s mother, Shirley, who  consoled her, telling Adele she had to be strong. Such was the innate faith of the Schneirlas. Father Paul stood stoic as ever, celebrating the Liturgy, the following Sunday accordingly. They bore their sorrow with dignity; it was a combination of their family’s tradition and constancy that carried Father Paul and Shirley through this very tragic time in their lives.  In their unique way they touched the lives of those whom they served with grace. Peter and Dorothy lived their lives fully and completely with their parents in whatever rectory they found themselves, experiencing their parents’ mission and chosen calling.

The sudden loss of Shirley particularly wounded Father Paul’s soul as their lives were interwoven like no other over a 71 year marriage. Their combined heritage and talents served them well throughout their years together, as an enlightened and devoted couple.

Nearing his end, Metropolitan ANTONY spent one of his last evenings listening to Elie Abu-Madey’s recorded poem: “Who am I”, in Arabic. He later called on Father Paul to accompany him to Boston when he entered the Lehi clinic, and where the Archbishop later reposed unto eternity. It was Metropolitan ANTONY who first grasped the significance of Father Paul’s substantive qualities as a spokesman for American Orthodoxy and especially for the relevance of the Antiochian Archdiocese in “the new world.”

The history of this Archdiocese is finely woven into the fabric of Paul and Shirley’s lives. It is well-known that their ministry and profound pursuits made the Church, and all whom they encountered, richer and better for the journey they made during their long and fruitful lives.

Read the memorial post for Fr. Paul