Dying Monk's Wish Granted: Calif. Gov. Signs Burial Bill

By Lisa Fernandez
|  Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014  |  Updated 6:56 AM EDT
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Dying Monk's Wish Granted: Calif. Gov. Signs Burial Bill

Father Stephen Scott

(left) Father Peter Didun, (center) Father Theodor Micka and Father Stephen Scott (right) at Holy Cross Monastery in Castro Valley.

A 76-year-old monk dying of cancer can now be buried at his beloved monastery, thanks to a bill OK'd by California's governor, who studied to be a priest himself.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who was a Jesuit seminary student in the 1950s, signed a bill on Tuesday allowing Archimandrite Theodor Micka to be buried on the grounds of Holy Cross Monastery in Castro Valley.

The bill, which was authored by California Sen. Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett (D-Hayward), allowed an exemption to the current law regarding burial sites. As the law is written, it's a misdemeanor to bury someone in a place other than a designated cemetery without the proper state and county permits. 

In what's known as a "gut-and-amend bill," Corbett wrote the bill to allow Alameda County to expedite the permittng process.

"He had a very compelling story," Corbett said in a phone interview on Tuesday from Sacramento. "We wanted to fulfill his dying wish."

Micka's wish is to be buried on the monastery grounds where he has lived for three decades. The monastery is the only Orthodox one of its kind in the San Francisco Bay Area, and there, monks perform weddings, baptisms and services for Orthodox Christians of all ethnic backgrounds.

Micka is the abbot, or the head monk.

"[Corbett] called us today," Holy Cross Monastery Father Stephen Scott, who is Micka's caregiver, told NBC Bay Area. "We were very impressed. Father Theodor has been the abbot here for basically 50 years. He wanted to be buried here."

When Micka was diagnosed with stage IV cancer last April, Scott said that he discussed his friend's burial issue with members of the Stanford Religious Liberty Clinic, who were already helping the monastery with other legal matters. Students Greg Schweizer and Caitlin Bradley helped draft a narrowly crafted bill, CA SB 124, to allow Micka to be buried on the 9-acre rural grounds of his home. Micka's cancer has spread to his lymph nodes, Scott said, though all his friends and supporters are hoping that "he will rally."

The grounds of Holy Cross Monastery in Castro Valley, Calif. (Photo: Father Stephen Scott)


Micka has been "courageous" in the face of his diagnosis, said Scott, the monastery's co-founder. The two have been friends since 1970, when Micka was a parish priest in Los Altos Hills.

When Micka's mother died, she left her son all that she owned. He decided to use her inheritance to buy the 9-acre monastery, helping to build its walls and plant its gardens. Nature is Micka's passion.

"He made a vow to build a monastery," Scott said. "He creates beauty and order out of chaos. We have no fences so that deer can come onto our lawn. We are surrounded by green and parkland. Father Theodor loves the idea of finding God through the beauty of the place."
 

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