When Orthodox Christians need help, they know without a doubt they can turn to the Church and to their clergy for not only prayers but real tangible support which can save lives—the question is this: what happens when our clergy, who sacrifice everything for the salvation of our souls, need our support to save their lives?
Father Serhii Chebotar is a Ukrainian-born priest of the ROCOR with an amazing, even miraculous, story. Seven years ago he came to Cleveland, Ohio, from the Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra in Ukraine, to undergo an extremely difficult, life-saving surgery: a double lung transplant! And now, seven years later he just had a second double lung transplant—and he needs help.
Fr. Serhii underwent that first surgery quite literally under the protection of the Mother of God—he received two new lungs on the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, which is the feast day of Pochaev Lavra as well as the Kiev Caves Lavra, where he received not only his theological formation, but his musical education.
Father Serhii is a world-class church musician, easily one of the greatest from Ukraine in our times. Before coming to America, he was the choirmaster of the Hierarchical Choir of Pochaev Lavra in Volhynia, Western Ukraine. Volhynia is very close to Galicia and Carpathian Rus’, where the heart of the first Orthodox parishes in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio came from, making Father Serhii yet another part of that great tradition that unites us all. We remind our readers that Holy Trinity Jordanville Monastery is in fact a living continuation of Pochaev Lavra.
After coming to Cleveland, Father Serhii quickly became the beloved choir director of the St. Sergius Russian Orthodox Cathedral (ROCOR) in Parma. Despite the incredibly difficult operation on his lungs, he still sings no less beautifully than before, and has even sung in Cleveland’s Severance Hall, home of the world-famous Cleveland Orchestra, where he has collaborated. Sadly, two years after the transplant, the doctors said his body was rejecting the new lungs, and he has been struggling to maintain his health.
Priest Serhii Chebotar in St. Sergius Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Cleveland OH
Father Serhii is one of the most loving and dedicated priests one could ever wish to meet: As a simple testament to his faithfulness, despite having a life-threatening lung condition, and his new lungs only working at 16 percent (!) he continued to fearlessly serve throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, knowing full well he is at the very top of the “risk group”, and if he contracted the virus it could very likely be fatal for him.
Father Serhii did all this for his love of the Church and his parishioners. He is without a doubt a most worthy son of the Holy Fathers of the Pochaev and Kiev Lavras. Anyone who has ever met him can attest to his faith, humility, kindness, and sheer joyfulness. Despite so many hardships, Fr. Serhii is always smiling, and despite being a very famous clergymen and acclaimed choir master, he speaks to everyone with love and warmth.
Now, immediately after receiving Communion on the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos—when he received his first transplant seven years ago, the Cleveland Clinic has just announced Father Serhii would be receiving a second double lung transplant!
Update: Glory to Jesus Christ, it was later announced, literally during the writing of this article, that Fr. Serhii was in recovery after a long 10-hour surgery. The talented surgeon was pleased with the result, but the recovery will be difficult, as this was a very complex surgery being performed a second time.
This story is nothing short of a miracle—two double lung transplants, seven years apart, all on the same feast day of the two Lavras where he lived and studied, before he came to serve in a church in honor of the Saint he is named after.
With the blessing of the Cathedral Dean, Archpriest Ilia Marzev, parishioners of St. Sergius Russian Orthodox Cathedral have set up a Go Fund Me campaign to help raise money. Archpriest Ilia described the situation in detail saying:
Our beloved choir director of our Cathedral, Fr. Serhii Chebotar just received word from the Cleveland Clinic that a second double lung transplant will be preformed tonight аt 9 pm! This is a great miracle!
Seven years ago today on the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God he received his first double lung transplant. This feast is especially dear to him as it is the feast day of the Pochaev Lavra as well as the Kiev-Caves Lavra, where he received his spiritual formation and musical and theological education. He also served as the Hierarchical choir director in the Pochaev Lavra for many years.
Today, without even suspecting the upcoming surgery, he communed at Liturgy as was his tradition, not knowing he would be getting the call for his second transplant. We thank God and the Holy Theotokos for this incredible miracle and love for Fr. Serhii. His first surgery only lasted 2 years before he began rejecting it for unknown reasons. For 5 years he has been struggling to maintain his health. Yet, even with his breathing capacity at 16 percent he still manages to serve the church by conducting and singing. He conducted even during the pandemic with his oxygen tank! This would have been life threatening if he had contracted the virus. His selfless dedication to God and the church is exemplary for all of us.
His insurance covers the surgery, however with any surgery there are other medical overhead expenses that cannot be avoided. Please be generous in helping to offset his upcoming major expenses. Second transplants are typically more complicated and riskier than the first. Please pray for Fr. Serhii! We pray that this transplant will be more successful and he will have a speedy and painless recovery. May God bless you for your generosity!
Archpriest Ilia Marzev
Now that Fr. Serhii is in recovery, he is still very much in need of prayers and support.
His church is part of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America, which is under the omophorion of His Eminence, Archbishop Peter of Chicago, a spiritual son of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, whose vestments are in display in the beautiful Cleveland Cathedral of St. Sergius located in the very Slavic suburb of Parma—home to many Ukrainians and Russians.
Everyone who has been touched by Fr. Serhii’s ministry from Pochaev Lavra to Kiev Caves Lavra, to Saint Sergius Cathedral in Cleveland Ohio are very grateful for prayers and donations. If you would like to hear Fr. Serhii sing, the first, third, and fifth voice performing the Ode of the Theotokos (More Honorable then the Cherubim) below is this video recording:
The Hierarchical Choir of Pochaev Lavra, under his direction, can be heard here. Thanks to Father Serhii, one need not go all the way to Volhynia to hear such a choir; the same beauty can be heard at Saint Sergius in Cleveland, Ohio. The very same spirit which caused the envoy of Rus’ to wonder if they were on heaven or earth, upon visiting the Great Church of Constantinople, is very much alive at Saint Sergius, where the Divine Liturgy is served according to the finest Orthodox traditions.
Father Serhii has dedicated his life to the service of Holy Mother Church; surely God will bless ten-fold anyone who donates to help save the life of his priest. If you are able in this difficult time, please consider donating.
Through the prayers of the Theotokos, may Fr. Serhii recover quickly, may he return to Saint Sergius, and may his sonorous voice again be the adornment of every church where he sings.