Protopresbyter Alexander Warnecke (June 2, 1923 – July 1, 2001) was a priest of the Orthodox Church in America. He is noted for his support of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, and for his role in the formation of both Ss. Cosmas and Damian Adult Home and St. Andrew's Camp.
Birth and military
Born June 2, 1923, in Wilkes-Barre, PA, the son of Alexander and Anna (Horne) Warnecke, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after completing his secondary education. During his military service, he taught Russian at Camp Ritchie (presently Camp Davis), MD. He also served overseas in the Adjutant General Department, and, in the late stages of World War II, served as military interpreter in Berlin with the Intelligence Department of the Office of Military Government for Germany.
Early clerical life
After receiving an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force in 1946, he enrolled at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary and Columbia University in New York City. In addition to his studies, he was instrumental in organizing an Orthodox Christian Fellowship chapter at Columbia and served as the campus group's first president. In September of 1948, he married the former Pauline Stepanovna Shafran of Olyphant, PA.
A 1950 graduate of St. Vladimir's Seminary, he was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence, Metropolitan Ireney (Bekish), on July 7, 1950, and to the priesthood by His Grace, Bishop John (Shahovskoy) of Brooklyn on July 28 of the same year. After his ordination, he continued his ministry at the seminary where, among other duties, he served as assistant chaplain. He also helped to initiate the first English-language community at Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral, New York, NY.
Work outside parish life
In July 1951, Fr. Warnecke was assigned as the rector of Ss. Peter and Paul Church, Syracuse, NY, which was to be his only parish assignment. Through his leadership, the parish prospered and grew, and the church was restored and redecorated by noted iconographer, Pimen Sofronov. He also served Saint Michael's Church, Syracuse. Through his efforts, property on Lake Oneida was acquired and developed as the home of St. Andrew's Camp, which has offered summer programs for children and teens for four decades. He helped serve or establish other parishes in Syracuse, Cortland, and Rochester, NY.
In addition to his parish duties, Fr. Warnecke served on the diocesan and metropolitan councils and as group leader for the Orthodox Church in the America Pension Plan and Group Term Life Insurance Program, president of the Alumni Federation of the Orthodox Catholic Seminaries, dean of the New York State Deanery, and bookstore manager and member of the board of trustees of the Orthodox Christian Education Commission, a pan-Orthodox agency under the auspices of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas. In 1961 he was appointed chancellor of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey.
In 1961, Fr. Warnecke saw the need to provide St. Vladimir's Seminary, which had rented space in New York City for over two decades, with its own campus. He was impressed by a property in Crestwood, NY, which featured several buildings. Believing the property to be ideal, he urged seminary and Church officials to purchase it immediately, but they hesitated. Fearing a lost opportunity, he purchased the property himself, planning to turn it over to the seminary or to use it as the site of an Orthodox adult home. Subsequently, the property became—and remains—the site of St. Vladimir's Seminary. For many years, he served as a member of the seminary's financial committee, chairman of its building and grounds committee, and corporate secretary of the school's board of trustees. In the 1970s, Fr. Warnecke's dream to establish an adult home became a reality with the establishment of Ss. Cosmas and Damian Adult Home, Staten Island, NY, which he continued to serve as president and executive director.
Fr. Warnecke received many awards in recognition of his dedicated labors and ministry, including the jewelled cross. In 2000, he was elevated to the rank of protopresbyter.
Fr. Warnecke was well-known for the pastoral and material assistance he freely offered, especially to those in need. After the fall of communism in Eastern and Central Europe, he sponsored and hosted many children from abroad to attend St. Andrew's Camp.
Protopresbyter Alexander Warnecke, 78, died at 7:15 p.m. on Sunday, July 1, 2001, the feast day of Ss. Cosmas and Damian
In addition to his wife Pauline, Fr. Warnecke is survived by two daughters, Daria and Argyra, and several grandchildren.
Honors and positions
- Chancellor Emeritus of the OCA's Diocese of New York and New Jersey
- Assistant Chaplain at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary
- Rector of Ss. Peter and Paul Church (Syracuse, New York)
- Founder of St. Andrew's Camp and Chapel (Jewell, New York)
- Member of the OCA's Diocesan Council of New York and New Jersey
- Member of the OCA's Metropolitan Council
- Group Leader for the Orthodox Church in America Pension Plan and Group Term Life Insurance Program
- President of the Alumni Federation of the Orthodox Catholic Seminaries
- Dean of the OCA New York State Deanery
- Member of the Board of Trustees of the Orthodox Christian Education Commission
- Founder of Ss. Cosmas and Damian Adult Home (Staten Island, New York)