A Message from Fr. Andreas Vithoulkas
As Presvytera Anthoula, Nikolas, Petros and myself prepare to transition back to New York from our previous assignment at Holy Trinity in Bridgeport, Connecticut, we cannot help but feel like we are returning home. In fact, as we have already been greeted by many of you here at Holy Resurrection, one overwhelming sentiment keeps coming out over and over again, “Welcome home!” Today is a homecoming for a few reasons. It is a homecoming because I am returning to my roots. Growing up in Manhasset I have many fond childhood memories where I grew up with my four siblings, attended school and graduated from Manhasset High School. My parents Nicholas and Panagiota instilled in us love for our Greek Orthodox heritage, culture, traditions and religion. It is where I developed my “calling” to the priesthood, my deep love for the Church and the desire to one day devout my life to the ministry.
It is also a homecoming because on July 1, 2008, on the Feast-day of Saints Cosmas and Damianos, I was ordained to the Holy Priesthood here at Holy Resurrection by then Bishop Savas, who is now Metropolitan of Pittsburgh. I was also very blessed because at my ordination was the Reverend Father Emmanuel Gratsias, of blessed memory, or Father Manny as you all know him and founder of this community. the ordination is a very special event in the life of a clergyman because it is the day we devote our lives to God and to carrying out the message of the Gospel. It is a day that we re-dedicate our lives to serve the Church and others. Above all, the life of a priest is one of sacrifice and service to others. I learned this very important lesson at my ordination from Father Manny. At the time of my ordination Father Manny was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of pancreatic Cancer. He knew that he had limited time to live and not be able to see his vision come to fruition. However, I will never forget with what joy and enthusiasm he welcomed and embraced me and my family. In spite of his illness he welcomed us and sacrificed his own feelings for the good of the church. He could have easily said he was too sick and he would have had all the reasons not to host my ordination.Father Manny was very special for many reasons as you all know but one of those reasons was he understood that God’s plan is greater than any one person. He had the discernment and humility to know that even though his fruitful ministry was coming to an end and God was now calling him into His Kingdom that God would not abandon his Church and people. Father Manny knew there was a plan greater than himself and that a new beginning was taking place in my ordination. I do not believe Father Manny thought my ordination here at Holy Resurrection was coincidental. God’s plan, which was hidden at the time, has now come full circle and is being revealed today. I believe God had a plan for me to one day come back and serve this great community of Holy Resurrection.
Father Manny had a tremendous vision for this community and I am humbled and honored to continue his legacy. I would be remiss if I did not thank my predecessor Father John Vlahos who was called to serve this community at a very difficult time with the loss of Father Manny. He was able to resurrect the vision of Father Manny and prepare the groundwork for the next generation of faithful. Father John has always been an inspiration to me as a clergyman and I ask him to keep me in his prayers. I am certain with the prayers of both these exemplary clergyman and all of yours, our Lord Jesus Christ will strengthen and guide me to serve His church for future generations of Orthodox Christians to come.
Forefeast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary; The Holy Prophet Michaias (Micah); Holy Hieromartyr Marcellus, Bishop of Apameia; Holy New Martyr Symeon of Trapezoundos (1653)