[I met Rev. Spyridon Papademetriou a few years ago at the Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Reading, PA. When I told him my name, he explained that he read my columns in The National Herald regularly. Ever since then, we spoke often after church services. He was always very friendly and sociable and had a great sense of humor. Fr. Spyridon was an avid reader of the Herald, as is his daughter, Ourania “Rainy” Papademetriou, about whom we featured an article just a few weeks ago (“Rainy Papademetriou is Running for Judge in Philadelphia: May 19,” Apr. 18). She told me that her father was “thrilled” to read that article. Three days before his death, she won the primary election for a judicial seat on the Philadelphia Court of common pleas. Her father’s biography, which she provided to TNH, follows. Constantinos E. Scaros ]
PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Rev. Spyridon C. Papademetriou of Wyomissing, PA, age 89, passed away on May 22, at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. He served as a parish priest with great distinction for over 60 years and is a member of a family of Greek Orthodox priests and presveteras who for decades have been at the forefront of service to the people and the families of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
He was the former pastor of St. Matthew’s Greek Orthodox Church in Reading, PA from 1974-1998 and during his retirement he served as an assistant pastor at the Saints Constantine and Helen Church also in Reading. He previously served as pastor of the Annunciation Church in Newburyport, MA for 8 years and of the St. Spyridon’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island for 15 years before moving to Reading.
Rev. Papademetriou was born on September 25, 1925 in the Petralona region of Evritanias Karpenision Greece to Rev. Constantine and Presvetera Ourania Papademetriou. In 1945, after graduating from the ‘gymnasion’ (high school), he was invited by Archbishop (later Patriarch) Athenagoras to study at the Holy Cross School of Theology in Pomfret, Connecticut.
His transatlantic trip to the United States began on January 9, 1947 from Piraeus, Greece. The Archdiocese in New York arranged for Fr. Spyridon and 10 other candidates for the seminary to travel to America aboard a war cargo ship, the Middlebury Victory. At midnight on January 26th, while crossing the stormy and turbulent Mediterranean Sea, the ship went aground off the coast of Marseilles, France. The French navy rescued the passengers and crew and brought them safely to shore. The trip to America resumed one week later and the Atlantic crossing concluded on March 3rd when the ship finally reached Baltimore harbor. The “almost drowned” students were welcomed with much love and concern by the Greek-American community and Father Philotheos Ahladas of Baltimore. All in all, the journey from beginning to end lasted 54 days.
Archbishop (later Patriarch) Athenagoras welcomed the eleven students at the Archdiocese in New York. After lunch, a student from Pomfret, the late Father Homer Demopoulos of Reading, packed everyone into a station wagon and transported them to the seminary in Connecticut. The eleven new students finally reached their destination and were joyfully welcomed by Bishop Athenagoras Kavadas, the legendary co-founder and first dean of the school, and the student body who had been misinformed that there were no survivors from the shipwreck. In fact, the faculty and students at the school had already chanted a Memorial Trisagion for the eleven seminary candidates! Of the eleven students that travelled together on this trip to study at the seminary in Pomfret, there are now only two survivors remaining: Reverend Constantine Bebis and Reverend Demetrios Constantelos.
In 1951, Father Spyridon was ordained into the Holy Priesthood by Archbishop Ezekiel Tsoukalas and was assigned to serve the Church of Annunciation in Newburyport. He eventually was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Theology in 1953 and a Bachelor of Divinity in 1956. He also took courses at the Harvard School of Divinity and studied church history and patristics under the internationally known Russian theologian Georges Florovsky.
In 1959 Father Spyridon was reassigned to serve Saint Spyridon’s Greek Orthodox Church in Newport, RI. Following a fifteen year pastorage there, he was transferred to Saint Matthew’s in 1974 where he served as pastor for twenty-three years. During Father Spyridon’s pastorage at Saint Matthew’s, the mortgage was paid in full, the 25th Anniversary of the parish was successfully observed in 1993, and $65,000 was raised to restore the church’s steeple in 1996.
Father Spyridon comes from a family of priests. His late father, Rev. Constantine Papademetriou, was a young teacher and priest in Greece when in 1938 Ecumenical Patriarch Benjamin sent him to help minister to the young and growing Greek Orthodox Church in North America. He served parishes in Burlington VT, Massillon, OH, Moline IL, and Clairton, PA. His brother, the Reverend Dr. George C. Papademetriou, served as a devoted pastor to the needs of his parishioners at various parishes of the Archdiocese and is the former Director of the Library and a Professor Emeritus at Hellenic College and School of Theology in Brookline, MA and a leading author of many books and articles regarding the Eastern Orthodox faith.
In 1959 Father Spyridon was awarded the honorary title of “Sakelarios,” the initial title awarded to a married parish priest. In 1965, Archbishop Iakovos honored Father Spyridon with the title of “Economos,” the second-highest title for a non-celibate priest entitling him to wear a Pectoral Cross. In 1971, upon completion of twenty years as a parish priest, Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople named Father Papademetriou “Protoprebyter of the Ecumenical Throne,” the highest honor bestowed upon a married Orthodox priest. In 1986 he was designated Priest of the Year by Bishop (later Metropolitan) Maximos and the clergy of the Pittsburg Diocese. In 1991 he was honored by the local Chapter of the American Hellenic Education Progressive Association (AHEPA) on the fortieth anniversary of his Ordination and in 1992 he received the Alumni Citation form his alma mater, the Holy Cross School of Theology, for his distinguished ministry to the Lord and His Church.
Father Spyridon has been active in both ecumenical and civic affairs throughout his ministry. In Newburyport, early in his pastoral career, he served as Director of the Newburyport Public Library. Later in Newport, he served as Auxiliary Chaplain for the Eastern Orthodox Priests Association as well as the Aquidneck Island Ministirium. He represented St. Spyridon’s Church at a special Te Deum Service on the lifting of the Anathemas by the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches at the Cathedral in Providence. He offered the invocation at the Inauguration of Governor of Rhode Island John H. Chaffee (later a United States Senator). In Reading, Father Spyridon served as Director of the Greater Reading Council of Churches, President of the Greater Reading Ministirium, a member of the Community General Hospital Pastoral Care Department, a director and member of the Board of the American Lung Association of Berks County, a member of the Ecclesiastical Family Court of the Diocese of Pittsburg for Southeastern Pennsylvania, and President of the Orthodox Council of Churches of Eastern Pennsylvania which embraces all ethnic Orthodox churches of the area.
Father Spyridon opened the Pennsylvania State Senate with a prayer, upon invitation from the late Senator Michael O’Pake and on many occasions has offered the invocation at the opening of Reading’s City Council meetings. Additionally, upon invitations from Congressman Gus Yatron and Senator Arlen Spector, he has offered a prayer to open both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, respectively. He is also listed in the “Community Leaders and Noteworthy Americans” and the “International Who’s Who in Community Service.”
Father Papademetriou’s wife of 59 years was Metaxia (Zerveas), who was born in Detroit, MI and raised in Platza, a region of Sparta, in Southern Greece. She returned to the United States in 1948. She and Father Papademetriou met in Mount Vernon, NY and were married in July 1949. As the wife of a Greek Orthodox priest she bears the title “Presvetera”. Aside from serving in the Ladies Philoptochos Society, which tends to the many charitable and hospitable activities of the parish, she served as the “mother of the parish”, embracing church members young and old. She worked tirelessly alongside her husband to enhance the spiritual and community life of each parish they have served
Father Spyridon was predeceased by Presvetera Metaxia and also by his son, Constantine and brother John. He is survived by his daughter, Ourania, and her husband Jon Belisonzi and his son, Stylianos-John, and his wife Diane (Innis) and also by his beloved grandchildren Eleni and her husband William, Spyridon Alex and his wife Jacqueline, Lisa, Metaxia, and Cassandra, and by his adored great-granddaughter Lola. He is also survived by his adored sister Olga Marudas and his brothers Rev. George and his wife Presvetera Athanasia, Evangelos and his wife Lucia, and Alkiviades. In addition, he leaves behind many cherished nieces and nephews and cousins both here in the United States and in Greece.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Rev. Spyridon and Presvytera Metaxia Memorial Scholarship at Hellenic College Holy Cross, 50 Goddard Avenue, Brookline MA 02445.