Echoing the Prophet Hosea in the Old Testament, St. Paul, in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians, declares triumphantly, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55) And in the passage from his 1st Letter to the Thessalonians, read at the Funeral Service, he writes: “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.” (I Thessalonians 4:13-14)
Our Lord has taken from our midst a beloved priest, colleague, good friend and brother in Christ; and, in addition and no less important, a beloved husband, father and grandfather. We mourn, but we do so with hope in the Risen Lord, the Lord of Glory, the Lord that Fr. John served faithfully, sincerely and with zeal for these past fifty-four years.
I met Fr. John forty-four years ago, in 1967. At that time he was serving the parish of the Annunciation in Modesto, where he served from 1964 to 1981. I had been a priest for one year, having served as an assistant to Fr. Anthony Kosturos, of blessed memory, at Holy Trinity in San Francisco, and had just been assigned as pastor of the Church of St. Basil in Stockton. Our respective ministries in these two parishes overlapped fourteen years. In that time we forged a bond that included a lasting friendship between our families, and a number of joint ministry activities, including retreats, youth rallies, participation in the Feast Day celebrations of our parishes, and many joyous moments in the context of family and social events.
Fr. John was a good friend, and source of encouragement and good advice. He was also honest enough, in a good-humored way, not to let you off the hook, especially if he thought you were wallowing in self-pity. I remember very distinctly the early years of my ministry, and at times feeling sorry for my self, as the exuberance of youthful zeal came into conflict with the realities of everyday parish life. We were having lunch and I was bemoaning and lamenting any number of things, when he looked at me, and said in his inimitable fashion, “Poulaki mou.” The Greek version of “You poor thing.”
In his life, Fr. John strengthened and ennobled the faith and commitment of many by his faith and commitment to Christ. He was not only a spiritual father but a natural father as well. His Presbytera Maria was always a tremendous source of love, strength and support, throughout his ministry. He enjoyed, and will always enjoy the deep love and respect of their children and grandchildren. He was sincere, filled with energy and commitment. He loved the Divine Services of the Church and celebrated them with great devotion. He was a teacher and pursued higher education to better himself and his ability to minister to his flock. He ministered to countless spiritual children who loved him and will continue to hold him in high esteem and regard, and will honor and cherish his memory. Short in physical stature, but large in spiritual stature, Christ our Lord manifested His grace, power, and strength, through him and his good works, which in turn brought many blessings to many people.
Father John’s example of faith, devotion, and service, are an example and inspiration to all of us. We are deeply grateful to God for the many years he served our Lord and His Church and his fellowman. He inspired many generations. May his example of unselfish service and devotion continue to inspire all of us. The well-known author, Mark Twain, is quoted as saying “Fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” Fr. John lived life fully, loving and serving God and His people, and he was prepared to go to his Lord.
May your memory be eternal, our dear and ever to be remembered brother, Fr. John, and may our gracious and loving Lord remember your priesthood in His Kingdom, always, now and forever and to the ages of ages.