For the most part, the priest serves as the spiritual father/leader and overseer of the parish entrusted into his spiritual care, spending countless hours teaching, preaching, and counseling others. He may challenge or encourage his flock to draw closer and dedicate one’s life to the Lord. In doing so, a priest is forever trying to lead others down a path of spiritual life, righteousness, which means a change for many of many of Church members. Some are willing and some are not so willing.
A pastor’s calling is a marvelous calling but at times, can be very challenging, lonely, exciting, frustrating, and yet very satisfying. Just as it is important for any man to have a help mate, it is doubly important for a pastor to have that “special someone” to assist and fulfill God’s calling for their “special work” or ministry.
The Bible does not address the involvement of the priest's wife in any ministry. In other words, the pastor and his wife determine how active the pastor's wife should be. The main area of responsibility for any wife is to support her husband (Ephesians 5: 22-24). However, if the Lord calls a man into the ministry, He calls the whole man, and that includes the man's wife and his family.
With such reflections and discussions about the ministry of a wife of a priest, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, accompanied by Fr. Vasyl Pasakas, spent some quality time with Pani-matka Tetiana Zemlachenko, a wife of Protopresbyter Michael Zemlachenko of blessed memory, whom the archbishop visited on Thursday, June 27, 2019 in a local Northern New Jersey assisted living facility.
Bringing the joy of the Holy Mystery of Eucharist to Pani-matka Tetiana, Archbishop Daniel and Fr. Vasyl, prayed and held a conversation on a variety of topics related to the ministerial service of the clergy in the life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. Surrounded by the love of her sons Michael and Nicholas Zemlachenko, pani-matka Tetiata briefly reflected on the life’s journey, that recently marked the 94thbirth anniversary.
…In reality, there is no cookie cutter approach on the actual role of a pastor’s wife. The wife does not do the work of the priest, but the priest and his wife are a team who are yoked together to do God's work. Few recognize the reality of this and want to put the pastor's wife in a box and delegate to her to do some type of traditional church work, submitting, keeping the home fires burning, and of course, being a prayer supporter for her husband. That certainly is a responsibility, but quite often the pastor's wife has gifts that can and should be used in the ministry. Her role does not necessarily include being a church school teacher, being an extra worker in the church, or even the women’s ministry leader…As a priets's wife, she would not be necessarily employed by the parish or the Church, but would utilize her God-given gifts to volunteer in different areas of ministry…
A pastor’s wife has a very special role in the church and in the life of the pastor. She will often keep her husband’s long hours, shoulder his pressures, feel his disappointments, and suffer his defeats - often as profoundly and as deeply as he does. She will often analyze sermons, catching grammatical errors, smile in the face of criticism and negative comments about her husband and children.
There is no other occupation - besides, perhaps, being the actual First Lady - in which a spouse is so defined by what her husband does. I cannot think of a single instance in which a woman was expected to give up her gifts and calling in service of her husband, the dentist…Or lawyer…Or plumber. But a woman who is married to a priest will inevitably face expectations about her role in the congregation that have nothing to do with how she is gifted by God.
A pastor’s wife provides a sounding board for her husband to vent, brainstorm, and question his progress or goals, yet encouraging and steadfast to support the vision that God has given to them. She is often a nurse, healing emotional wounds that seem to cause many pastors to give up. She is a counselor that helps her husband to work out difficulties that are too close for him to see. She is a lover and protector to shield him from harm and to provide the loving care that is so vitally needed, especially when one feels they are in a lonely profession. Many priests do not have close friends with whom they can vent or share their problems. A pastor’s wife provides that companionship that encourages him to continue even when he feels like giving up.
One of the truly remarkable qualities of a priest’s wife is when they are able to show a faithful love for the members they serve. I believe there is a special blessing upon the priest’s wife to go beyond the normal call of duty. It is a patient love, almost as if the person they are helping is a small child…
While actively reflecting on the life of a priest’s wife and the historical account of pastoral assignments that both Fr. Michael of blessed memory and pani-matka Tetiana have experienced, Archbishop Daniel offered gratitude to for her devotion and love for the Church and with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony presented pani-matka Zemlachenko with the Centennial medal of the UOC of the USA.