Sacramento, CA (SFGate) - For nearly 35 years, Abbot Theodor Micka tended to the grounds of his 9-acre monastery in Castro Valley. Now, the 75-year-old is asking state lawmakers for a rare exemption to California law that would allow him to remain at the monastery he co-founded after he dies.
"From the moment the request was made, we got on this immediately," said state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, whose district includes the monastery. "We looked at the best way to address the request with all due haste so he knows his final request will be granted."
SB124 would allow Alameda County to issue a burial permit for Micka on the Holy Cross Monastery grounds. Existing state law requires a burial at a cemetery, unless a person is cremated. Because the monastery is not a designated cemetery, burying the abbot on the property would be considered a misdemeanor without the special law.
With the legislative deadline to introduce bills having passed, Corbett employed a routine process known as a gut-and-amend, where the contents of a bill are replaced with new language. In this case, a bill to create incentives for the state to hire clean-energy contractors who use California products had stalled and was going nowhere.
Now the bill is scheduled to be heard Thursday in the Assembly, where it is expected to pass and head to the Senate on Monday.
"We are hoping to have this on the governor's desk by next week," Corbett said. "This is something we should do so the abbot can rest in peace."
Ordained in 1964, Micka knew he wanted to build a monastery with the inheritance his mother left him. Micka and the Rev. Stephen Scott made a pact in 1970 to open the monastery, spending nearly a decade raising the additional money needed. The pair expanded the monastery over the years by buying properties adjacent to their rural lot, which is surrounded by regional parks, wineries and a few homes.
Scott said Holy Cross is the only Orthodox monastery in the Bay Area. Monks provide weekly religious services, along with baptisms, weddings and memorials for Orthodox Christians.
In April, Micka was diagnosed with advanced cancer at the junction of the esophagus and stomach. Scott said Micka continued to deliver services up until recent months, when his condition worsened.
"He's restricted to his bed," said Scott, who is now Micka's caregiver. "He gets a lot of visitors. He's very much loved."
Scott said he envisions the abbot's final resting place to be somewhere near their chapel. After working with the Religious Liberty Clinic at Stanford University, Scott said they decided to pursue a narrowly crafted state law that allows Micka to be buried at the monastery.
The state Legislature passed a similar exemption in 2005 that allowed Metropolitan Anthony Gerigiannakis, a spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco, to be buried on the grounds of the St. Nicholas Monastery he founded in Fresno County. Gerigiannakis died a month before the bill was signed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Scott said he hopes to be able to tell Micka his final request has been granted.
"We are trying to get this done," Scott said, "while Father Theodor is still alive so he has the peace of knowing where he will be."