Michael Senyo always wanted to be a priest. His grandparents had emigrated from the farmlands of Carpatho Russia, and coming to America, they chose a similar landscape in rural Western Pennsylvania. In the “anything is possible” culture of the west, the Senyo family prospered in farming and building strong relationships with their
neighbors. Known for their kindness and generosity, the Senyos brought their Christian values with them, and helped found the local parish church. Growing up in a nurturing, loving family that centered their values on the teachings of Christ and a deep love for their adopted homeland, Michael knew at a young age that his first love was to serve God. His early years were marked by service as an altar boy; later he would enroll at St. Tikhon’s Seminary near Scranton, Pennsylvania. After a year at St. Tikhon’s, he had the opportunity to transfer to St. Vladimar’s Seminary in New York City. It was at St. Vladimar’s that he became deeply grounded in the teachings of the Orthodox Christian Faith. It was during his student years at St. Vladimir’s that he had the opportunity to first visit Silver Lake. Traveling with other seminarians, he visited Holy Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Silver Lake as part of an outreach to Orthodox communities. The experience created a romantic impression upon him. “I fell in love with the Silver Lake parish”, recalled Father Senyo, “after spending about a week in the community.”
During a trip back home from school, through friends, he met his future wife, Susanne, a college student in Pennsylvania. It was love at first site. After graduating from college, Susanne began working in New York City for NCR Corporation and later for Unilever United States, Inc. They were married in 1983 at Susanne’s college parish. A year later, Michael was ordained a deacon in 1984 and a priest in 1985. After a brief assignment as an assistant priest for a local parish in Passaic, N.J., Father Michael returned to his roots in Western Pennsylvania. From 1985 to 1999, he served at seven parishes, usually serving at least two, and sometimes three, parishes at the same time by alternating services and traveling between them. In 1999, Father Michael was called to Silver Lake. A school chum from St. Vladimir’s, Father Benjamin, was called to Alaska, providing an opening at Silver Lake.
The Holy Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Silver Lake is a special place. Founded in 1922 by Russian immigrants fleeing the chaos of the Russian Revolution and the end of the First World War, the church initially met in a rented hall, while a Ladies’ Society raised funds through a variety of activities. In 1928, the church began its building program, purchasing two lots on Micheltorena Street, and retaining A.A. Tolubeyev, a Russian-born architect to design the structure, which was built in the Pskov Style of 12-13th century northern Russia.
Update: Father Senyo is currently the Dean of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Allison Park, Pennsylvania.