Easter welcomes Fr. Steven Theodore Ziton to St. George
by Emily Essa

(Plain Press, June 2005) May 1st, 2005, besides being “May Day”, also marked Holy Easter for the Eastern Orthodox people throughout the world. The Eastern Orthodox are the world’s second largest communicants and still follow the old calendar.

This year the parish of St. George Antiochian Christian Church at W. 14th and Starkweather Avenue celebrated their Pascha (Holy Easter) with their new priest, Reverend Father Stephen Theodore Ziton.

Ziton is the son of a Eastern Orthodox priest, the Reverend Father Theodore Ziton, of Canton, Ohio. Rev. Stephen Theodore Ziton’s grandparents hail from Damascus, Syria. While his father’s family settled in Toledo, Ohio. Ziton’s mother’s family immigrated to Rhode Island.

Stephen Theodore Ziton was born in Montreal on November 6, 1959 where his father served as pastor of an Orthodox church. His only memories of Canada were of cold weather and winter sports. At an early age his father was transferred to the warmer climate of Vicksburg, Mississippi. From there the Diocese relocated his father to parishes in Wichita, Kansas; New Kensington, Pa; Indianapolis, Indiana; Detroit, Michigan; and finally to Canton, Ohio where his father has served since 1975.

After Father Steven took his vows in 1993, he was appointed to several posts before coming to Cleveland. Among the congregations he served was his father’s former congregation in Wichita, a congregation in Toledo, Ohio and one in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Father Stephen says he loves Cleveland and its diversity. His family recently moved to town and established their home.

Wore many hats

Father Stephen wore many hats before his ordination. In 1981 he put on the square tasseled cap of a college graduate when receiving his degree from Akron University. However, before graduating he spent two summers training at the Marine camp in Quantico, Virginia.

Thus upon receiving his B.A. from Akron he was automatically commissioned as a 2nd Lt. In the United States Marine Corp. As such, he served with the European NATO forces in several countries among them England, Norway, France and Spain. Altogether he served for 10 years in 25 different countries around the world.

Besides Europe, the Marines took him to the continents of South America, Africa and Asia. For one year he lived in Japan. In 1985 he left active service but remained in the Corps as a Marine Reserve until 1990.

Upon leaving active service he attended the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy in Columbus, Ohio from 1985 through 1986, where he met Victoria Deffibaugh of that city. They were married on October 17, 1987 and now have two daughters, Maria Alexandra and Anna Sophia.

From 1986 through 1990 his work with the Highway Patrol took him to the five counties of Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Lorain.

Religious Turning Point

After four years, his life took a sudden turn. Something, which had lain dormant within him, was re-kindled and emerged. “Mainly,” he says, “it was after the birth of my two daughters that I realized the importance of family life.”

As an undercover agent he saw life at its immoral worst. “I saw the tragedy that occurs when one lives outside of Christ, “ said Father Stephen. Having been raised in a religious household he knew now that priesthood was the right pathway for himself.

In 1991, he entered St. Vladimer’s Seminary in Crestwood, New York. He was ordained as a priest in 1993 at the Orthodox Convent in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip Saliba.

Cleveland – Many Firsts

Cleveland has marked many firsts for this pastor, who has brought with him rich and colorful life experiences. He started here at the opening of Pascha – the Easter season, which is the most powerful religious period of the church. His first Liturgy was during the opening periods of the Great Lent. The first Friday Lenten service at St. George for the first time in its history was officiated by the three priests of the area’s three Antiochian Churches, Father Andrew Harmon from St. Mathew’s of North Royalton, Father James Barkett from St. Luke’s of Solon and of course Father Steven Ziton of Cleveland’s St. George.

Father John Henry, the Orthodox Abbot of St. Herman’s Monastery on Franklin Avenue, also joined them in the celebration.

Another important first was the visit and participation of the newly elevated Bishop Mark Mayman, who now heads the Mid-West Diocese, which includes Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

It is noteworthy to mention that in the Orthodox religion a Bishop cannot be married and since Father Mark Mayman remained celibate when the proper election came about, he was elevated to the Bishopric.

Lent—Holy Week – Easter

The Great Lent is a time of 40 days of solemnity, fasting and prayer. Holy Week has many highlights: on Wednesday are the healing prayers and Holy Unction when the congregants are anointed with Holy Oil; on Thursday morning there is mass and communion followed by a Lenten breakfast; Thursday night is a very moving procession as the priest carries a six foot wooden cross depicting Christ carrying his own cross to Calvary; Good Friday is the evening when traditionally St. George joins with the Greek Church of Annunciation as both congregations march around Lincoln Park each carrying a floral decorated bier, “it is Christ’s funeral procession”; and Saturday’s midnight mass holds a most important procession for here all of the parishioners leave the church.

The church now represents Christ’s tomb. When the procession returns symbolically the tomb is empty. A very appropriate Eastern Hymn is heard as it proclaims, as it has for 2000 years, “CHRIST IS RISEN, TRULY HE IS RISEN.”


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