SARASOTA COUNTY — When Peter Andronache moved to the United States from Romania in 1995 to study computer science and mathematics, he never expected to become a priest.
In fact, before communism fell in early 1999, he’d probably been to church about five times.
“I knew I’d been baptized in the church, but I didn’t really know what the church said,” he said.
But now, more than a decade later, Andronache, with the support of his wife, Presvytera Magda, will lead the congregation at St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church following the retirement of the Very Rev. Archimandrite Frank Kirlangitis.
Although Andronache’s family moved to Nigeria in the early 1990s, Andronache headed back to Romania in 1994. At that time, he only attended church once or twice a month. But that changed when he came to the United States a year later for college.
“Why I decided when I came to the (U.S.) to go to church every Sunday, I have no rational explanation,” Andronache said.
But he did.
By the time Andronache started graduate school at Notre Dame, he was arranging his schedule to go to mid-week services at his church in addition to weekend services.
Coincidentally, Andronache said he began to pay attention. While he enjoyed his work in mathematics and computer science — particularly working with robotics — he recognized that he did not want to become like his advisers, who were so involved with their work that they’d compromised some of the things they swore they’d never do — like skipping vacations and working countless hours each week.
“I realized I have to get out of here or I’ll become exactly what I don’t want to become,” he said. “I liked computers and working with them, but I didn’t (want that for my life).”
Andronache then asked himself a life-changing question: If he had a job he was that dedicated to, what would it be?
“When I answered that, I applied to seminary,” he said, chuckling. “I felt like I needed a spiritual connection on a regular basis — more than just every Sunday.
“It took me 26 years and a Ph.D. in computer science, but I finally figured out what I wanted to do,” he said.
Andronache was ordained a deacon a year before graduating from Holy Cross Graduate School of Theology in Brookline, Mass., as his class valedictorian in 2007. He was ordained a priest June 29, 2007, and soon began serving as an assistant priest at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Clearwater before being appointed to St. Barabara.
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ANOTHER FOND FAREWELL
Also retiring from the church is its administrative secretary Liz Beahm, who leaves July 9.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Beahm, whose been at St. Barbara for the last 13 years.
Beahm will be handing off her administrative duties to Camille Zuenskes.
Beahm, a former dental hygienist and office manager, said she will begin an office management position for a dental company and assist her husband with his work as a Realtor.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better place to work,” she said of St. Barbara.