Grace Has A New Resident!
by Verger Dave Rubin
Some years ago, the Residency Program was initiated at Grace. Its purpose was to give newly ordained or soon-to-be ordained priests hands-on training in operating a church under the mentorage of a trained priest, i.e. Father Jonathan. The Program has had remarkable success to date, graduating Rev. Caroline Osbourne, Fr. Daniel Pinell, and Fr. Frans Van Santen, each having been called to serve at a church. We now have a new Resident to join their ranks: Brian Stankich. Let’s get an introduction to Brian and his wife Dona.
Brian was born in Hobart, Indiana, a town about 40 miles from Chicago. His family was members of the United Methodist denomination, formerly known as “Methodist Episcopal”. Brian jokes that he was kind of a cradle Episcopalian – although not really! While growing up, Brian was very much into sports, both watching and participating in them, especially basketball and tennis. He attended Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and graduated with a BS in Economics. After graduation, Brian settled in Denver, Colorado, where he spent 7 years working in the Banking industry. During this time period, a friend at work – who is still his best friend – began evangelizing him. He joined his friend’s Evangelical Presbyterian church and, in 1987, attended a Billy Graham Crusade. Brian states that this is where he began his walk with the Lord.
As a member of that church, Brian took on many lay ministries, one of them being making follow-up calls to church visitors and newcomers. One of these calls was to a visitor named Dona. The two of them hit it off, dated for 9 months, and, in 1990, were married at Faith Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Colorado. Brian felt a call to ministry and began discussing it with Dona. She totally supported him in this and, in 1991, he began studying at Denver Seminary, which he describes as a “wonderful experience.” During his time at Seminary, Brian felt drawn to an organization called Pioneers, an ecumenical, evangelical group dedicated to following Jesus’ Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20) and plant churches and bring the Gospel to the unreached peoples of the world. After he graduated seminary with a Masters of Divinity degree with emphasis on Missions, Brian and Dona threw themselves wholeheartedly into Pioneers, ministering to the unreached for 26 years until May of 2023. Much of this time was spent in the Southeastern Europe country of North Macedonia, ministering to the Roma people – formerly called Gypsies, where he started a small church in the city of Shutka which is in existence to this day. After 3 years, civil war broke out in the region and he was forced to leave Macedonia. So in 2001, Brian moved to Orlando, FL to engage in providing care and support for missionaries worldwide. In 2005, he was asked to transfer to Egypt and spent 3 years overseeing missionaries in North Africa and the Middle East. Afterwards, he temporarily left Pioneers and spent 4 years as a member of a Baptist Church missionary team. In 2014, Brian returned to Pioneers and served in financial administration until 2023. Throughout his career, he has visited 35 countries.
While in Orlando, his wife Dona visited the Episcopal Cathedral and was impressed by the liturgy. Brian was unsure if this denomination meshed with his worship, but discovered that our liturgy, the BCP, was totally gospel-driven, which drew him in. They decided to join the Cathedral, become Episcopalian, and were confirmed on Easter Day 2021. About 18 months ago, the Lord told Brian to become a priest and Dona was in full agreement. He read about the Residency Program on the Diocesan website and spoke with Father Jonathan about becoming a Resident. His application was accepted and Brian is now Grace’s new Resident. As Resident, Brian hopes to continue his Anglicization process, learning the mechanics of leading an Episcopal church, and looking forward to a preaching and teaching ministry in English. He feels he can offer the congregation his widespread life and ministry experience; he is skilled at engaging and comforting people; comes from a mission background, and is a good brainstormer. He hopes to be able to contribute to the clergy and staff at Grace and come to know the city of Ocala better. He’ll begin studying toward his Transitional Diaconate in the summer or fall.
Dona was born in Columbia, Mississippi, into the Christian faith in the Baptist tradition. The family moved 14 times during her childhood – all over the country and finding different church homes in each location, so she worshiped in 4-5 different denominations as she grew up. She accepted Christ as a young teenager. She attended Evangel University, a private Christian university in Springfield, Missouri, receiving a B.A. in Psychology. After graduation, she worked as an insurance adjuster for 10 years, switching over to stay-at-home mother when they had their 3 boys: Jacob, Benjamin, and Seth. While in Macedonia, Dona ran a Women’s Ministry and has been engaged in whatever ministries Brian was involved with. Dona has been working with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ, International) for 2 years as a network admin for the Jesus Film Project. Her interests include crafts, reading, and meeting with women. While at our church, Dona looks forward to a better understanding of the people of Grace, hoping to gain friendships and allow God to use her for who she is to love and serve in Ocala, experiencing the joy of serving together with Brian and the people of Grace for their 2 to 3 years of his Residency.
Now you know a bit of the history of our new Resident and his wife. Be sure to welcome them into our church family when you see them!