Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Two deacons ordained at Epiphany Byzantine Church

Published October 20, 2016

ROSWELL—The parish of Epiphany Byzantine Church in Roswell celebrated earlier this year as two men became deacons. These were the first ordinations at the Roswell church in almost 25 years.

Bishop Kurt Burnette, of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, elevated Subdeacons Michael P. Tisma and James J. Smith to the Holy Order of Deacon at the Sunday, June 5, ceremony.

Bishop Burnette officiated at the Divine Liturgy with concelebrants Father Philip Scott, pastor of Epiphany Byzantine, along with other clergy from around the country. Friends and family filled the church. Deacon Tom Gotschall, of St. Andrew Church, Roswell, and Deacon Gerry Kazin of St. Benedict Church, Duluth, friends of the new deacons, also attended. Following the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and Ordination, a luncheon to honor the new deacons was held at a local restaurant.

The Eparchy of Passaic, established in 1963, includes all Catholics of the Byzantine-Ruthenian tradition in New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and all of Eastern Pennsylvania. The eparchy serves a population of 14,356.

Both new deacons completed their studies at Saints Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh.

Deacon Tisma, a native of Pennsylvania and former resident of Cleveland, Ohio, before moving to Atlanta, has had a career of some 45 years working as a financial controller in the hotel industry and a manager and finance director in the tour industry.

Deacon Tisma said that his desire to serve God’s people can be traced back to being with his “baba” (grandmother) as a youngster to help her work at Mount St. Macrina, a pilgrimage site for Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic believers. He also remembers many priests and sisters who educated, encouraged and inspired him in his religious vocation throughout his life.

He has served in many roles at the parish during the past 30 years, from cantor and choir director to ministry to the sick. He entered the deacon formation program in 2011 in response to a “restless heart.”

Deacon Tisma said that emotion overcame him during the ordination ceremony.

He said, “In order to be (God’s) deacon, I must courageously follow and choose the same path as Jesus Christ and submit myself completely to him so that he can transform me into the person he wants me to become in order to fulfill the purpose which he has in mind.”

Deacon Smith grew up in Ohio and served in the U.S. Air Force. He worked at the U.S. Geological Survey and taught geology, astronomy and transmission electron microscopy courses at Perimeter College, Georgia Tech Research Institute and The Art Institute.

He has served his parish as adult education instructor, trainer for altar servers and sick call ministry. Deacon Smith felt called to the diaconate in 2004. He said the path to ordination, leaning on friends at the seminary and family and parishioners, drew him to God in a new way.

He said, “I encourage all men and women to bring at least part of their life into a religious commitment. The reward of growing closer to Christ will outweigh the effort.”

Epiphany Byzantine Church is located at 2030 Old Alabama Road, Roswell. For more information about the church, visit the website at