Ordination Remarks of Reverend Presbyter Gabriel Galifianakis to His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

Ordination Remarks of Reverend Presbyter Gabriel Galifianakis

to His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

May 12, 2024

Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church

Southampton, New York

Your Eminence, I stand before you and our Lord today eager to accept the great gift of ordination to the Holy Priesthood, and thankful beyond words for your presence here in my home parish in the Hamptons. Your tireless dedication to our Holy Archdiocese is an inspiration to me, and to many others.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to shadow you in both Virginia and Washington, DC. These three days alone, packed with Liturgical services, talks, dinners, and long-distance driving, were for me—an anomaly. As a clergyman assigned to a single parish, I work somewhat regular hours throughout the week, and spend most evenings at home with my wife, unwinding and decompressing from the day’s work. However, spending just those three days shadowing your schedule made me realize that for you, the day’s work is never truly over. What was for me a weekend of extreme busyness, was for you a daily reality, and I truly do not know how you do it. A simple glance at your calendar, packed sequentially with non-stop traveling, services, events, talks, and other responsibilities, leaves me bewildered—and your Herculean dedication to serving Christ and His Holy and Orthodox Church is a gift not only to me, but to every Greek Orthodox Christian in America. Not only do you accomplish all these things on a daily basis with efficiency and tact, but you accomplish them with a smile, love, and warmth for the people of God, as a true Shepherd and leader of the Church.

You Eminence, today my dreams come true. I have been fantasizing about this moment for so long. For years now, so many people have approached me asking what made me want to become a priest, as if there were a single—lightning bolt moment that made me stop and say, “I have to become a priest.” While it is surely an understandable question, I don’t know that any clergyman’s answer would be so cut and dry. Rather, the role of ordained ministry is a mysterious calling from the Lord, a calling to “raise the Cross with integrity, zeal according to knowledge, and with intensity,” to “permeate the world with the apostolic teaching of Christ,” as you said to me on the day of my ordination to the Diaconate last September. Although my calling to ordained ministry was [and is] a multifaceted combination of life experiences, study, and divine grace, one thing is for certain. And that is the fact that I would not be standing here before you on this day without my beloved spiritual fathers, Father Alexander Karloutsos and Father Constantine Lazarakis.

Growing up with two disabled parents meant that for me and my family, money was always tight—and so I didn’t get to travel much as a child. However, in the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to visit Japan, Jerusalem, Turkey, Greece, and many other incredible destinations. But out of all of the beautiful and diverse places I’ve had the opportunity to visit in these last few years, I can say with full certainty that my favorite place on planet earth is the ground on which I am now standing—here, in Kimisis Tis Theotokou, Greek Orthodox Church of Southampton. And not for the architecture, not for the beautiful iconography. No, but rather for the lifelong love and support of Fathers Alex and Constantine, their families, and our entire parish family. This is my home. This, the spiritual womb that nourished me and raised me in the faith.  

Growing up as a young child, I was completely oblivious to all of Father Alex’s accomplishments to both the Church and the State. All I knew was Father Alex our local priest, whom my mother and father loved. Father Alex the man who was always willing to listen to me and to help me with the great cross of having two very sick parents. Father Alex the man who invited my whole family into his home every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, and Father Alex the man who even purchased our groceries when the struggles of my parents’ disabilities became too heavy. We had no money, nothing to give back, but it didn’t matter, because he never asked for anything in return. It was witnessing Father Alex’s superhuman drive to help the less fortunate, as well as his devotion and most serious dedication to the Gospel that acted as the seed in my heart which sparked my desire to try and do the same for others, to give back to the world in the same way that God gave me through his beloved priest. 

A few years back, I remember we had a big event here at the Muses next door. There were archons, and dignitaries, and many wealthy people, and when everyone had left, I saw Father Alex going into the fellowship hall, rolling up his dress shirt sleeves, and beginning to clean the plates and glassware of the event’s attendees, who had all just left. He told me, “Come here son,” and wiped the debris from one of the plates into the garbage can. He said “Never forget that the life of a priest is a life of service. Don’t EVER think that you are above serving others. If you are going to become a priest, you are to serve the people of God, that is your job.” His words that day were the culmination of everything I had witnessed throughout my entire life, both to me, and to any destitute family that he came in contact with, and not a day goes by that I don’t thank the Lord for sending Father Alex into my life. He fundraised my entire seminary education, helped me and my family both spiritually and materially for as long as I can remember, and is my inspiration to be standing here on this day. This simple speech cannot possibly enumerate the myriad of ways that Father Alex, Presbytera Xanthi, and the entire Karloutsos family have sustained me and my spiritual development, but suffice to say, I would be nothing without them.

Likewise, I would be remiss not to mention Father Constantine Lazarakis, whose wisdom and guidance in my teenage and young adult life doubly motivated me to take up the mantle of the priesthood. Father Constantine has been there for me at every juncture of my life, in times of joy and times of sorrow. The word Israel within the Scriptures literally means “the one who wrestles with God,” and through all of the hardship and turmoil of growing up with two disabled parents, I can certainly say that I also wrestled with God in my teenage years. However, Father Constantine and his lovely wife, Presbytera Anastasia, were always there to help me and my sister Christina, and their love and support with anything in the world that I needed continued into my young adult years and continues to this day.

I would also like to thank Father Bartholomew Mercado for his mentorship, support, and guidance over the last few years. When I was the Ecclesiarch of our beloved σχολή, Ι learned so much about the Liturgical and Canonical traditions of our Church under his leadership. He is an incredible scholar, a most faithful and devout priest, and more than any of this, he is a dear and beloved friend. Father Bartholomew supplied me with every diaconal set of vestments that I’ve worn since September, and I’ve called him multiple times since graduation from seminary with questions about the rubrics of our Liturgical tradition, all of which he answers with extreme thoroughness and remarkable knowledge.

I’d also like to thank Father Anastasi Hallas, who although couldn’t be here today, has mentored and assisted me so much with all of my diaconal responsibilities.

I’d like to thank Father Steven Zorzos, whose guidance over the last few months has been integral to my priestly formation. I’d likewise like to thank the entire community of Saint Sophia Cathedral in Washington, DC, who welcomed my wife and I with open arms and great love from the moment we arrived in February.


I’d like to thank my entire Kimisis parish family for being present with me on this amazing day, the Parish Council, altar servers, and everyone else here present—and especially my childhood Sunday School teacher, Sia Arvens.

I’d like to thank my amazing wife Samantha, without whom I would collapse in a moment. Diakonissa Samantha has followed me from New York, to Boston, to Washington DC. Wherever I go and whatever I do, she is always there for me, upholding and encouraging me with a smile and with love.

Lastly, on this beautiful celebration of Mother’s Day, I would like to thank my own mother, Helen Galifianakis, may her memory be eternal. My mother was the chief catalyst that bolstered my faith and my desire to become a priest. I remember being a four-year-old boy in Queens, pretending to give my mother and my sister communion with a kitchen spoon and a blanket as a communion cloth. What started as a naïve and juvenile fascination with the exterior trappings of our faith, morphed into a palpable and powerful calling from the Lord to join the Holy Priesthood, and it is all because of my mother’s unwavering faith and love for Jesus Christ and the Panagia. Through all of her hardship and turmoil, up until her last day, she never abandoned her faith in God. She was a living Saint, a woman who was stronger than any man I’ve ever met in my life, and I have no doubt that she is resting with the Lord now.

Your Eminence, I thank you once more for all that you do for us and for our Churches, and I ask that you pray that I continue to be found worthy to serve the Great and Holy Church of Christ, and our Sacred Archdiocese until my dying breath, Glory be to God, Amen.

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