Remarks of Newly-Ordained Deacon Steven (Stylianos) Sarigiannis to His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

Remarks of Newly-Ordained Deacon Steven (Stylianos) Sarigiannis to

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

Σεβασμιότατε,

Σας ευχαριστώ από τα βάθης της καρδίας μου, δια την παρουσία σας και την ευλογία σας την οποίαν που προσφέρεται σήμερον. Παρότι έχετε τεράστιες υποχριοσις απέναντι του τίμιου σας, εν τούτης όμως βρίσκεται το χρονικό διάστημα να μας τιμήσετε συμμετοχή σας.

I have taken time to reflect upon my life’s journey in Christ up to this point. I am so immensely grateful to God for the many people who have shaped, guided and instructed me, and for the experiences that have deeply impacted me. Time nor words would permit me to adequately express my heart’s gratitude – but Your Eminence, I so wish to offer the following:

I first thank God to have been born into and raised in an Orthodox family. My initial awareness of God’s presence and providential care came when I was very young. My beloved parents James and Florence would regularly gather my siblings and I to offer evening prayers – in this sacred context I came to know the most Holy Trinity. My parents, opened the doorway for me to know Jesus Christ, and develop a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, who is the doorway to Paradise. Of who I am not worthy. I have received an immeasurable amount of selfless love, care, instruction, and wisdom from them since my birth. But their single greatest gift to me was knowing Christ, of which I will forever be grateful. I am honored to be your son.  

I thank God for my beloved grandparents, Father Steven and Presvtera Electra. I have also received so much them, most especially in these recent years, months, and days. They imprinted upon me from young the high example of a life of service as a priest and presvytera. And like my parents, their evident love for Jesus Christ created a strong desire in me to follow The Way. I would not be who I am without them; they are precious to me.

I glorify God for my upbringing here at the St Barbara parish. This community, its families and its many ministries helped raise me, and cultivate me. This is a true church family. It was through the leadership, spiritual efforts, and liturgical grace of Fr. Peter Orfanakos in particular, that had an enduring effect on me. I loved to serve, and especially in the Holy Altar. I will recall one Sunday though, while kneeling for the consecration of the Gifts, I experienced a moment of Divine Grace. In this timeless moment, as a boy, I knew that Jesus Christ was calling me to Him. A seed was planted in me for service in ordained ministry, although I didn’t fully understand it at the time.

Your Eminence, God’s providential care for me is evident from my final year at The University of Connecticut, when my mentor Professor Ilias Tomazos encouraged me to study abroad in Greece with his program. I thank God for him and this experience. In these months, I came to deeply appreciate and more closely identify with my Greek heritage and roots. Far more important than this, I came to deeply appreciate and identify with my Christian roots, more than ever before. I walked the land where so many saints had lived; I felt their living presence in our living Lord, and I returned back to America a changed person. That seed within my heart (for priesthood) was growing.

After graduation, I recognized the Spirit moving me to serve others, especially in summer camps. My soul was thirsting for the everlasting wellspring that is Jesus Christ, and I knew I must dedicate my life to God. But like Jonah I denied the promptings, once, and then again. I hadn’t learned yet to trust in the Lord with my heart, and as the psalm says, “to be still, and know I thank God.” Because I was still young in faith, I was granted another divine encounter, in which I heard with my spiritual ears the soundless words to “just go and see.” This, and the encouragement Father Peter Orfanakos, who was and is my role model, a true mentor, and my guide in life from young, finally propelled me forward. I cannot forget his and Presvytera Vangie’s attention to me at this pivotal time. They are like a second set of parents to me.

I thank the Lord God for the myriad academic, liturgical, and all the formative experiences at Holy Cross seminary. I want to thank my beloved professors, Fr. Phillip Zymaris, Fr. Peter Chamberas, Fr. Maximos Constas, Dr. Timothy Patitsas, Dr. James Skedros, and Dr. Bruce Beck. My dear brothers and classmates Fr. Paul, Fr. Nicholas, Fr. Christian, and Father Nektarios I also thank for their guidance and friendship.

At Holy Cross, I formed a close relationship with Father Luke Veronis, who was my professor, but also became my spiritual confessor. He was and continues to be a strong motivating force in my life, helping me first as a single student, then as a married man, and later, a missionary. He is a most insightful, deeply caring, and dynamic priest, who has offered so much to me over the past 10 years, and has been instrumental in my spiritual growth. I couldn’t have been blessed more than to have him as a spiritual father, and I am so grateful for him.

I am immensely grateful to God for the four beautiful years serving as a lay assistant at the Church of the Archangels in Stamford. This community welcomed me like a son. Its families, Fr. Harry and Pres. Kerry will always be near and dear to my heart. Fr. Harry Pappas is a tremendously skilled pastor, teacher, preacher, and by his humble example and always fitting instruction, provided a high model for me to emulate in countless ways. I am deeply grateful for our time together, and for him.    

For my beloved wife Theophani - I give special thanks to almighty God. For truly she is like an angel who was sent to rescue me from my own selfishness and errors. In her, I have a sincere, beautiful, faithful, caring, and devoted partner. I could not imagine journeying to the Kingdom without you. It is my honor to share this life together.  God’s providential care for the two of us is most evident in that we were married through the hand of a blessed man such as His Grace Athanasios Akunda. Memory be eternal!

We also have been richly blessed with our beautiful daughter Despina-Agapi, who is a continual source of joy. I hold her and she melts my worries away. She lights up the room with her smile and radiance. Like her mother, little Despina is a precious new light in my life, and I cherish that she already has an adoration for holy icons, sacred hymns, and the services of our Holy Church.

I praise God Almighty for instilling in our hearts the zeal to serve as missionaries, and to “be sent.” It is true Your Eminence that “as for me and my family, we shall serve the Lord.” And it was our privilege to represent the faithful from America, and to serve the sincere and humble people of Albania. We gained many dear brothers and sisters, true friends in Christ, while serving abroad, and as a couple grew in knowledge and understanding. In the beautiful, yet short time we had there, we appreciate the guidance of Archbishop Anastasios and cherish our relationships with all our students, peers, and dear friends. To all those individuals and families from the U.S. who supported us in our mission work, I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart. For the assistance of those at the Orthodox Christian Mission Center over the years, I am also truly thankful.

I would be remiss not recognize and offer thanks to God for my dear siblings, Eleni, Anna, and Michael and the years of our upbringing; my wonderful in-laws Elias and Agapia, my beautiful Godparents Dr. Marcus & Ellene, my many aunts, uncles, and cousins who diligently serve Christ and the Church, for all our koumbaroi in the faith, for all the local area clergy, and the parishioners of St. Barbara and Archangels parishes. I give thanks for those reposed in faith: beloved grandparents Nicholas & Eleni, and my dear Thea Helen, and so many others. Memory eternal!

In the time leading up to my ordination, Fr. Elias Villis has been truly instrumental in assisting me, and I am deeply grateful for his guidance. I want to thank also His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit, whom I am being sent to serve, who has been most gracious and loving towards me and my family.

I am standing here in no small part because of the intercessions of the saints, the prayers of those I have mentioned, all those present here who have traveled from near and far, and the many who are with us in spirit. My heart overflows with gratitude and love for you all – you all have empowered me and my family, and continue to do so by your faith and consideration of us. We love you all.

Now, Your Eminence, so many years later, that seed within me has matured, and I stand before you, in the presence of my family, friends, and guides. I am humbled to return to the same church I grew up in, the very altar I first was called, in order to offer myself fully to our Lord Jesus Christ: in mind, in body, and in spirit. I stand before you ready, devoted, and eager to beginning my ministry, to fulfil that which I am called, and continue to be sent like the Apostles, as I am needed. I know I am unworthy of this Grace, yet I dare to stand before you praying that I will be made worthy of this blessing.

Finally, I want to thank you, Your Eminence, for the loving manner in which you have embraced me as spiritual father.  I am deeply appreciative of the guidance and consideration you offered to me back in September, and that you continue to offer me. You put my heart at ease with your loving embrace. The tireless and dedicated manner in which you serve the Great Church of Christ and the Holy Archdiocese of America stands a testament to the devotion and dedication to Jesus Christ and the Church. You are a beautiful example to me, to all those studying and preparing for the priesthood, and to the faithful everywhere.

I feel truly humbled and blessed to receive by your hand, the Sacrament of Ordination to the Diaconate, and that despite your many and varied responsibilities, you have graced us all with your presence today.

Eἰς πολλὰ ἔτηΔέσποτα!

And glory to God in all things!

Photo: GOARCH/D. Panagos

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