The week after Katie's death, two memorial services were held in Bucharest: a small, private ceremony at her office, and a large public service at a basilica. Working with the Romanian Orthodox Church and the US Embassy, the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC--Katie's employer in Romania) coordinated two beautiful ceremonies that allowed her colleagues, friends, and family in Romania to celebrate her life and to grieve our loss. My brother, Jeff, and my sister, Jean, who both flew out to be with me in Bucharest that week, attended these services with me.
The private ceremony at Katie's office, held on Wednesday, June 27th, involved the IOCC Romania staff, and a priest sent by the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Using her desk as a memorial space for the service, prayers were sung in Romanian, incense was lit, flowers were placed, and blessed wine and bread were shared. The desk itself was (and is) particularly meaningful for me. Since receiving news of Katie's death, the IOCC Romania staff had decorated her desk with flowers, placed a large framed photograph, and lit candles in her memory for the three days preceding the ceremony. Cosmin, Katie's colleague and a student of Romanian Orthodoxy, sang the prayers in harmony with the priest. When the servicewas complete, we told stories and paid tribute, together, informally.
The public service, at a local basilica near the area where Katie and I lived during the summer of 2006, was held on Thursday, June 28th. While it followed much of the same program from the private ceremony, the scope of the service was larger. Five seminary students sang classical hymns, while three priests led prayers, lit incense, blessed wine and bread, and made a short speech about Katie's life and work in Romania, which included a statement from the Patriarch. Cosmin stood by Jeff, Jean, and I, and translated the speech, so that we could understand the thoughtful things that were being said. When the service was complete, attendees came forward to place flowers at an altar decorated with a photograph of Katie, flowers, incense, and candles (much like the desk, see below). Along the side of the church, attendees wrote memories, prayers, and messages for Katie's family in a black book. Outside of the church, wreaths of flowers arranged by attendees, IOCC, Katie's family, friends, the Patriarchate, and the Embassy were placed as a memorial. Wine and bread (this time both a plain baked bread and a very sweet pastry) were shared. Representatives from the US Embassy, Romanian Orthodox Church, organizations who worked with Katie including JSI and USAID, Georges Cosbuc high school, and friends filled the basilica, which made for an intimate and affecting experience.
In the middle of July 2007, IOCC held its formal media event in Bucharest to recognize the achievements of its HIV/AIDS and Family Violence initiative in Romania. This was the project that Katie directed. At the event, a chair was left empty on the stage in honor of Katie's absence, and several people spoke positively of Katie's work on the project, including Patriarch Teoctist, Ambassador Taubman, and Mark.
I remain impressed by and grateful to IOCC and its Romania office for the good work that they did in making these two ceremonies happen, and for being so helpful in general during my last week in Romania. In particular, Mark Ohanian (regional director) acted with great consideration and speed to access the best resources for Katie and her family, while also acting immediately to help me get from Busteni to Bucharest (to his apartment, where I stayed that first night). Additionally, Cornelia Fote (office manager) and Cosmin Grigorescu (program coordinator) were a great help. To see executive staff from IOCC at the services for Katie in Antioch, IL, where Archbishop Nicolae of the Romanian Orthodox Church spoke so eloquently of Katie and her life and work, was and is a comfort to me.
Here are some photos of what I described above. Jean took them (thanks, Jean!), though I scanned them, so the quality may not be the best:
priests celebrating public service
sharing bread at the end of the public service
interior of basilica, public service
interior of basilica, public service