Orthodox America

  In Memoriam - Matushka Susan Young

+November 16/29, 1996

Who can find a virtuous woman ? For her price is far above rubies (Prov. 31:10) 

Born October 29 (NS), 1943, Matushka Susan Young was raised in the Episcopal Church and, as a girl, attended private school in England In college she became a Roman Catholic and, in 1964, married the future Fr. Alexey Young, one of the founding editors of Orthodox America. Thc Youngs converted to Orthodoxy at the Synod Cathedral in San Francisco in 1970 and then, following Fr. Alexey's ordination to the priesthood in 1979, began their life of shared labors in missionary service to the Orthodox Church.

      Maushka bore three children, Ian, Felicity and Faith, and served as godmother to scores of other children over the years. In 1987 she entered full-time employment and was, at the time of her unexpected repose on November 29, 1996, employed at the Mental Health Care Center in Denver, where her calm and cheerful presence was appreciated by her fellow-workers and her clients, the chronically mentally ill. In addition to being active in whatever parish her husband was serving, she also donated time to community organizations that reflected her own humanitarian and cultural interests: volunteering at a local hospital, teaching computer skills to the mentally ill, and guiding vi~sitors once a month at the Molly Brown House. Besides all this, she was a voracious reader -- with a particular appetite for mysteries

      She had a life-long love of travel and had been granted to fulfill one of the great pilgrimages of Orthodox Christianity when she traveled to Jerusalem in 1988 and worshipped at the Church of the Resu rection. In accordance with ancient custom, she was adorned in death with a funeral shroud blessed on and brought back from the Tomb of Christ during that pilgrimage.

    But such bare facts cannot adequately express a human life, still less convey any measure of the life led by the wife of a missionary priest. Matushka Susan's agreement to her husband's ordination, long ago in the mountains of northern California, was a full-hearted and sincere agreement to share fully in the often-heavy burdens, at times even the deep sufferings, that active pastoral and missionary work brings upon a marriage and a family. That she bore all this with fortitude says much for the quiet, sometimes almost hidden, but intensely real Christian faith and courage that was her distinctive trait.

     For nearly twenty years, Matushka Susan, by nature a most private person, graciously opened her homo to visitors, pilgrims, and Church figures from near and far, offering a dignified and cordial hospitality that is of the essence of old-world Orthodoxy. In addition she provided endless hours of uncomplaining and often unnoticed effort, in church and out: reading and chanting at mission services, organizing liturgical materials, baking prosphora, collating Nikedemos, teaching Sunday school, treading the sometimes volatile minefields of parish life with courtesy and restraint. If all this were not enough, for many years of mission service in northern California her own home served as a parish hall on Sundays.

      Through it all she remained non-judgmental and simple and very much the "same on the reside as on the outside," keeping old fashioned standards for herself without condemning others. (Fr. Alexey recalls that in the 32 years of their marriage he never once saw her in pants, jeans or shorts; always, in every circumstances, she remained a lady

      The last fifteen years of her life were for Matushka a "bonus" gift from God. In late September, 1982, just weeks after the repose of Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), she was diagnosed with melanoma. The insidious cancer had already metastasized, leaving her, according to the doctors, a 20% chance of living another five years. Faith was only five months old, and for her sake Matushka begged God to grant her this reprieve. Meanwhile, every night Fr. Alexey anointed the spot on her neck, from which the primary tumor had been removed, with oil from the lamp over Fr. Seraphim's grave. The cancer disappeared. Doctors at the Denver clinic specializing in melanoma acknowledged it to be a miracle. And this miracle, no doubt, reinforced Matushka's uncomplaining acceptance of the various trials that came her way

      Matushka Susan didn't get much human praise in life, but the fruits of her unsung labors were revealed in her repose, which was uncomplaining and meek, fortified by the Holy Mysteries, and in her funeral at All Saints of Russia Church in Denver, which drew a huge crowd of mourners, whose number and variety could have surprised only those who didn't really know Matushka. During the three days prior to her burial, many Orthodox from local parishes of all jurisdictions came to pray, light candles and read the Psalter over her body as it lay serenely in the church which had been the setting of Fr. Alexey's first assignment in Denver in 1985.

      We pray for the repose of the soul of Matushka Susan and for the comfort and strengthening of the grieving family, she leaves behind, We thank God for the witness of her life of bidden and quiet goodness. Truly, as the proverb says, a virtuous woman is beyond price.

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