Fr. Iakovos (Bert) Olechnowicz
1997 – 2002
Father Iakovos was born Bert James Olechnowicz in White Plains, New York, in 1957. He was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church that same year, and raised in a pious Catholic home with his two brothers. In 1980 he married Joleen Puterbaugh. They had 2 children, Nicholas (1981) and Rebekah (1985).
At the age of 17, following high school graduation, he was enlisted and served in the US Marine Corps. Following military service he graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Logistics. He worked in various supervisory and technical positions leaving the workforce to pursue a seminary education at Christ the Saviour Seminary, Johnstown. He graduated with a Master of Business Administration from St. Francis University, Loretto, PA, an Associate of Arts and Sciences awarded with honours from Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse City, MI, an Associate of Applied Sciences awarded with honours from Northwestern Michigan College, Great Lakes Maritime Academy, Traverse City, MI and as a US Merchant Marine 3rd Assistant Engineer, Diesel and Steam Plants, Unlimited Horsepower, license awarded by the United States Coast Guard.
He converted to Orthodoxy in 1985 and was received into the Church by chrismation by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese at St. Michael the Archangel Church, Binghamton, NY. He was ordained Deacon by H.E. Nicholas of Amissos (of blessed memory), Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, in 1987 and ordained Priest by H.E. Nicholas of Amissos, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, 1987. In 1990 he was transferred to omophorion of H.E. Kyrill (of blessed memory), Archbishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Orthodox Church in America. In 1999 he was re-named “Iakovos” by Archbishop Ioannis (of blessed memory), Archbishopric of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Father Iakovos served as parish priest at St. Michael’s Orthodox Church, Wood, PA Carpatho-Russian Diocese and St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church, Philipsburg, PA Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania, Orthodox Church in America before coming to South Africa with his family, where he was parish priest at St. Nicholas of Japan from 1997 to 2002. While serving here he was appointed as H.E. Ioannis’ representative in all things dealing with the conduct of missionary endeavours. After leaving South Africa, he served at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Metropolis of Detroit, and St. Gabriel Greek Orthodox Church, Metropolis of Detroit. In 2011 he was granted leave of absence from active ministry.
He is currently serving as an engineering officer afloat in the United States Navy Military Sealift Fleet Support Command.