-By Chor-Episcopos Dr. Kyriakos of Chicago, Chief Editor-
(Editor’s Note: We are editorializing the life of Katherine Valone a great Orthodox Christian, who lived primarily for Orthodoxy. She spent all her energy and resources for the Holy Church. Katherine Valone was one of the few who encouraged this writer to get into Orthodox journalism. Her 40th day Requiem Services will be held at Sts Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, Palos Hills, Illinois on Sunday, January 13, 2013. We believe her life will be a great inspiration for our laity who are generally indifferent to active involvement in the work of God. Please read this brief sketch of her life.)
A powerful voice of true orthodoxy thus became no more vocal at 11.00 a.m. on November 27, 2012 after a long bout with cancer. An indefatigable fighter for genuine orthodoxy, Katherine Valone finally succumbed to her final call to eternity. An untiring energy behind orthodox conservatism, a relentless warrior against heretical ecumenism went to her Creator and Redeemer to receive her eternal reward of being united with Him in paradise. This writer could not control his tears at the end of her funeral when her mortal remains were laid to rest at Cypress Grove of Evergreen Cemetery in Chicago. The burial service was officiated by His Eminence Nikitas, former Metropolitan of Hong Kong, her long time friend for whom she had reverential predilection as a priest and later as a bishop.
Katherine Valone’s funeral and burial were modest events. She was the youngest of six children; all but one of her siblings had passed away many years ago. The only living brother is in a nursing home and could not attend the services due to his invalidism. Hence her nephews and nieces and their children were the only close relatives that attended a somber funeral and burial service which included a great number of her close friends who were associates and beneficiaries of her ministry; the presence of Metropolitan Nikitas (formerly of Hong Kong) and this writer, who were dear to her hearts, was specially recognized.
She had enough time to properly prepare as an Orthodox Christian for this journey into eternity. Her illness was so long that she often expressed to this writer that it was time for her to leave and that she wanted to die. She did not seem to have any unbearable pain or agony; or at least she did not express it when asked about it. But we know she was going through the real pain of her fatal disease. Even during this period of uncomfortable days she was lamenting for her Church; she was complaining that genuine orthodoxy is at a vanishing point as our clergy, particularly the bishops, have become so liberal or in the camp of political correctness and heretical ecumenism; she would call them ‘ecumaniacs’. She was worried about the Church losing her mission on earth due to inordinate affection for hedonism and materialism. WE have to specially remember Priest Mousa of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, who was gracious, to fill in and nourish her spiritually very often, particularly by serving Holy Communion to her when her own parish priest happened to be busy in his very large parish.
Why does this lady deserve special treatment in a periodical like this?
For past thirty-two years she has been a coworker of this writer with activities of the Voice of Orthodoxy and of St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, and of his intellectual ministry. She promoted and supported his ministry wherever and whenever she could, with financial and moral support. They had the same wave length in tuning the traditional patristic and scriptural messages of Orthodoxy. They would discuss on a regular basis every week on topics ranging from women’s priesthood to married episcopate to the doctrines of Christian eschatology. Is there a woman like this in the Orthodox Church? Yes, now we see there is such a woman! She is Katherine Valone!
Kay Valone’s activities were multifarious. There is no realm in the activities of the Orthodox Church that she has not been involved in. She was writing her weekly columns in two newspapers every week. She was active in the global missionary activities of the Orthodox Church. You could see her as the coordinator of the society that functions to protect the Orthodox shrines in the Holy Land. You could see her submerged in the various activities of her metropolis and archdiocese. On Sundays and some week days you could see her teaching Church school and other religious classes. Every week on Wednesdays she conducted bible classes at St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, which was under my vicarate, and which was also acquired through her instrumentality; it was Kay Valone who located that property as soon as it had come on the market. On week-ends you could see her lecturing at orthodox gatherings. You could see her raising funds for Mama Staverista, the missionary who was constructing church buildings (literally with her hands- how many laywoman would do this now?) in African missions. The week after that you could see her engaged in shipping bibles and liturgical books to orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe. Her activities went on and on. The litany of her multifarious activities is too lengthy to enumerate. With all these she had to find time for raising funds for her own activities.
The suspense is greater when you realize that she was taking care of a 100 year old mother, who had been very ill and dependent on constant care for well over a decade unable to speak, move, or feed herself. During this period she also worked as a professional educator until her retirement. After her mother’s death, the burden of taking care of her sick brother was also on her shoulders in addition to the enormous task she had undertaken as a choice of her vocation. Look at this hard reality: she sacrificed her beautiful womanhood (yes, she was a beautiful person not only spiritually but also physically) for her faith and her family. This deliberate sacrificial Christian living alone would suffice her to be justified before the throne of the Almighty and for her to be counted among the saints.
Along with all these heavy responsibilities she managed the PhosAdelphia Mission as its founder and president. The mission provided instructional materials, books and tracts, bibles and liturgical books financial assistance, and even vestments for foreign missions and home missions. Regardless of race and creed, she supported projects that would help the poor people anywhere in the world. She was also concerned about sanitary conditions and even drinking water in the remote corners of Africa; and that was the reason, it is reported, that she set aside a large portion of her Trust for such activities in Africa pioneered by the Patriarchate of Alexandria.
What a woman! No, she was not just a woman; she was an angel with a body, and a woman with the spirit and speed of an incorporeal! She had a melting heart, but her will was as strong as steel. No one could change her will once she has committed to certain positions. She would explode and snap at anyone whom she thought would be there to exploit her or to take advantage of her. Sometimes she becomes inclement by attacking and grilling bishops and priests who are responsible for improprieties and immorality. One day this writer confronted her by saying: “Miss Valone, please don’t be judgmental… let God be the Judge; let us pray for these clergy”. She replied: “ Yes, I am also human; I cannot stand this erosion of clerical indecency… If everyone is silent, who is going to correct them? The Church is hurting because these scandals…”
Bishops and priests were afraid of her pen, because it was as sharp as a surgeon’s knife that penetrates deeper detecting clerical impropriety and surgical corrections. She does not worry who it is at fault, but worries what it is at fault. She attacked the issue at its root if it is contrary to traditional orthodox doctrines and morality. She does not want to please any hierarch or priest in order to receive his pleasure, or sympathy, or blessing. She even had the courage to criticize the Patriarch of Constantinople for being “flirtatious” with Rome in recent times! Sometimes this approach of her has created distance between her and the hierarchy. She rejected and vehemently attacked exotic embellishment of the modern episcopate; she has no hesitation to show displeasure when our new bishops appear wearing gold-filled encolpion and gold-stringed vestments. She told this writer: “ In our Church a monk is consecrated a bishop unlike the Roman and Anglican churches. Our bishops should be examples of simplicity like the Lord Himself; anything contrary to that is antithetical to the orthodox episcopate”. In September 2001, she attended the consecration of St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, which is under the Catholicate of the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East (Malankara). Metropolitan Barnabas of America was the chief consecrator, and Kay Valone was deeply impressed with the down-to-earth simplicity of this bishop. She later told this writer: “This is how a bishop should look like, very simple as a mendicant monk, eliciting profound piety. Look at his vestments, there was no glittering. His staff and hand-cross were true examples of deep simplicity…”
Her column, “Views from the Pews”, in the Greek Star and Greek Press, discussed issues ranging from episcopal selection to autocephaly of the American Church to the sophisticated theology of redemption. They contain diagnostic analyses of the Church and her various problems and a set of well-informed prescriptions. To add, Kay Valone possessed a glowing tongue; her language was lucid, but very cogent and sharp. It could move the readers like a whirl-wind; the effect could be contagious; it could move the minds and hearts of readers one after the other, which ultimately would create a momentum for further action on the basis of her writing. It was a thrill to read her columns. WE will miss those columns now.
How did she obtain enough information on the various theological and social issues affecting the Church? You should have gone to her home. You would find current periodicals and theological journals scattered on the floor, on the sofas, and on the beds. Her house contained a library comparable to that of a seminary, containing precious books and documents. She referred to the Rudder and the many volumes of Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers to justify her positions. She also kept modern and most modern theological authors at hand to defend her writings. When did she have the time to read and write after being busy with her regular church -related duties and domestic chores? “I am a night person. I read and write in the night, often until 4.00a.m“. She told this writer.
Her ambitions? She never wanted to become a woman priest like many woman church activists in other churches. She was dogmatically opposed to woman’s priesthood, because Christ never taught it, nor practiced it, nor did tradition substantiate it with such a practice. She taught that even if one hundred bishops lay their hands together on a woman, she would never be ordained a priest, because she is not a proper vessel to contain the grace of ministerial priesthood. Such was her firm and deep faith as a traditional conservative of Orthodoxy. She had no personal ambition whatsoever. Her only desire before her death was to establish an Orthodox Retreat Center and Missionary Institute in order to maintain a theological, spiritual, and instructional base for global missionary activities, and to provide committed men and women for the missions abroad and at home. Funds were her major problem. She often said: “We Orthodox are not generous in our contributions to the right causes of the Church. Look at the Roman Catholics and Protestants; they are generous in their giving. Our people might build a large church, but we are behind in giving for worthwhile projects that support and build our base, i.e., spreading the faith”. She finally set apart her entire Trust for realizing her dream project. However, God did not permit her dream to be realized; she got very seriously ill, and could not work towards the realization of her dream. Having clearly understood God’s plan for her, she rewrote her Trust so that the bulk of her wealth could be utilized for the missionary projects of the Patriarchate of Alexandria (so it is told).
She was deeply humble in her heart. She never liked flattery. She did not particularly like gifts or compliments. When people brought flowers, she would ask, “Why did you buy these flowers and plants? This could be used for something useful, like helping the poor and the needy, or helping our missions; these plants and flowers are going to trash tomorrow…”. When this writer sent her Christmas and Thanksgiving cards, she would call him and say: “Why did you spend this much money for nothing? You could call me and say the same greetings over the phone”.. She disliked pomp and glamour; it was just meaningless vanity for her. Kay Valone was frugal with money; she would never spend money unnecessarily; but was never miserly in treating people. She would treat you in a dignified manner when you visit her. It was her pleasure that this writer ate with her when he visited her, until the time she was totally disabled. She would even give you something to take with you for your journey back home.
She was a faithful keeper of public funds donated for missions; she would add more from her own funds to replenish it. She distributed funds to the beneficiaries only on verified needs; and later monitored how the funds were utilized; she would definitely ask for genuine records. Yes, this woman was tough. She was an honest custodian of the ministry.
A leading professional educator, a talented religious education curriculum developer, and an insightful missiologist, Valone held several lay positions within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. She also was the head of the Sunday School at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Palos Hills, and also served as the President of its School Board for a long period. After receiving her bachelor’s degree and two graduate degrees from the University of Chicago, she was with the Chicago Public School System for over thirty-five years. She was a regular contributor of articles and monographs to many social and religious publications. Listed in the 1982 edition of the World Who’s Who of Women, the 1986 Who’s Who in Religion, and the 1985 Biography International, Kay Valone received several recognitions and service awards, including the prestigious Order of St. Paul from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese for Outstanding Orthodox, and the Distinguished Public Service Award from Greek American Community Services.
She was a conservative Orthodox who did not feel comfortable with the ethnocentric divisiveness of Orthodoxy in America. She believed in ONE autocephalous and autonomous Orthodox Church in America under ONE Patriarch for America, without the administrative control of mother churches in Europe. She was very unhappy that the powerful and resourceful Greek Orthodox Church in America did not give leadership to make it a reality. Kay Valone firmly believed that this was the only way Orthodoxy could effectively witness Christ in this hemisphere. However, she was a friend of all jurisdictions. Moreover, it was her ardent desire to see both factions of Orthodoxy, the Oriental Orthodox and the Byzantine Orthodox, come together in faith and worship discarding the hairsplitting semantics of Christological terminologies which were products of cultural diversity or political ambitions of the time some fifteen centuries ago, and recently reckoned as mutually acceptable orthodox positions; she considered this more important for Orthodox Christian witnessing than anything else in modern times.
Indeed, it was a blessing for this writer to have known this woman and to have been associated with this great woman as a friend, mentor and as a spiritual inspirer.
Katherine Valone, our sister, we will miss you, your wisdom, your wit, and above all your presence until we meet again in paradise. May you rest in peace and may your memory be eternal! -TVOO