The Very Reverend Archpriest John Michael Fields of Frackville, PA entered into eternity on Friday, November 27, 2020. The son of the late John “Jack” Fields and Olga Uhryn Fields, John was born on February 19, 1950 in Butler Township, PA.
In his communique to the Archeparchy on Friday, His Grace, Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak regretfully informed the bishops, clergy, religious and faithful that Fr. John passed away peacefully in his home. Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys called him “an ardent American and a proud carrier of the legacy of his Pennsylvania coal-mining homeland.” Father John remained “hopeful” about the future: the future of the Church, of the United States and of his ability to help make a better future for us all.
John began his extensive academic résumé at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, graduating magna cum laude with a dual degree in Russian Studies and Political Science in 1972. He continued to Villanova University in Villanova, PA, graduating from The Charles Widger School of Law with his Juris Doctorate in 1975. Upon passing the bar exam, he began practicing law in Frackville partnering with Attorney Jack Thomas to form the Thomas and Fields Law Office.
Years later John entered St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Washington, DC to begin his pursuit of religious studies. During this time, he entered The Catholic University of America in Washington at the School of Theology and Religious Studies, obtaining his master’s degree of Sacred Theology from the university in 1986. During that year, he also completed coursework from Catholic University’s School of Canon Law, receiving his Doctorate of Canon Law.
On April 4, 1985, John was ordained to the diaconate at the Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Philadelphia by Metropolitan Archbishop Stephen Sulyk; a year later, on May 11, 1986, Deacon John was ordained to the Holy Priesthood also in Philadelphia. On May 17, 1998, Archbishop Sulyk conferred upon Fr. John the honor and title of Protopresbyter, or Archpriest, for his dedicated work in the priesthood.
His pastoral and administrative work within the Archeparchy of Philadelphia was numerous and varied. Fr. John began his parish assignment as an assistant in 1988 at The Presentation of Our Lord parish in Lansdale, PA. Later that year, he was named the administrator of the parish and at the neighboring St. Anne’s parish in Warrington, PA. During this time, from 1988 through 2004, he oversaw the construction and rededication of two new churches and took pride in helping design both to emulate the traditional wooden church structures found in Ukraine. In 2003, Fr. John was named Pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Frackville, PA, his home parish, and also the neighboring St. John the Baptist Church in Maizeville, PA until 2014. Finally, from 2013 until his passing, he was the Director of Communications with the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
Father John served in various and numerous ministries within the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy. Over the years, he was assistant editor, and later editor, of “The Way,” the official newspaper of the Ukrainian Archeparchy; member of the Archeparchial Insurance Department; Assistant Finance Officer; member of the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference of Bishops; Spiritual Director of the Holy Name Society in the South Anthracite Council; member of the Presbyteral Council; President of the Priests’ Beneficial Fund; member of the Archeparchial Corporate Board; Protopresbyter of the South Anthracite Protopresbyterate; Director of Ascension Manor Nursing Facility in Philadephia, PA; and Vice-Chancellor of the Archeparchy.
Father John’s civil involvement and achievements were likewise numerous and varied. He was a member and past Grand-Knight of the Frackville Knights of Columbus, a member of Frackville Rotary, member of Frackville Centennial Committee, previous member of the North Schuylkill School Board (during which he was instrumental in building the Jr. and Sr. High School in Fountain Springs, PA). He was also an active member of the Schuylkill County and Pennsylvania Bar Associations, former partner of Thomas and Fields Law Office in Frackville, PA, instructor of religious studies at Cardinal Brennan Jr./Sr. High School in Fountain Springs, PA, and participant in the recent Moderna Covid-19 Vaccine Trial being conducted by the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA.
He is survived by his sister Diane M. Berkheiser and her husband Dennis, and sister MaryAnn Fields-Whyne; nephew Keith John Berkheiser and his wife Shawn, niece Kristen A. Berkheiser, niece Katharine A. Whyne and her husband Chris, and niece Maria A. Whyne; great-niece Caroline G. Berkheiser and great-nephew Wyatt "Jack" Berkheiser.
On Thursday at 11 AM, the clergy of the South Anthracite Deanery and the priests of the Archeparchy will celebrate a Panakhyda at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Frackville. Father John will lie in repose at St. Michael's Church until 7 PM for those wishing to pay their respects. At 7 PM, a priestly Parastas will be celebrated by the bishops and clergy of the Archeparchy.
On Friday, his viewing will begin at 7 AM with the Divine Liturgy beginning at 10 AM. The main celebrant will be His Grace, Most Rev. Borys Gudziak. Following the Funeral Liturgy, interment will take place at the parish cemetery.
Father John's family request in lieu of flowers or other offerings that donations be made in his name to the St. Josaphat Seminary Endowment Fund, c/o Archbishop's Chancery, 810 North Franklin Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123, as he was dedicated to the academics and study of those wishing to enter the priesthood.
Father John's family is being served by the Gricoski Funeral Home, Frackville, PA.
Special Note: The viewing and all services are open to the public. All CDC Covid-19 regulations regarding masks and social distancing will be strictly enforced. Upon entering the church building, everyone is required to wear a face mask. All services will be Live-streamed on St. Michael’s parish Facebook page
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