OCEAN, NJ – Amid acclamations of ‘axios – he is worthy’ Emanuel G. Tsarnas, a graduate of the Holy Cross Diaconate Program of the Archdiocese of America, was ordained to the Holy Diaconate by Archbishop Elpidophoros on January 31 at the Church of St. George in Ocean, NJ.
In the presence of his wife, now-Diakonisa Josephine Halkias-Tsarnas, his twin college student sons Stephanos and Evangelos, and as many friends as the pandemic permitted, the Archbishop, with the laying of the hands, performed the sacred rite that connected Deacon Emanuel though a two-thousand year-old chain of many hundreds of bishops to the Holy Apostles, and ultimately to the very hands of the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
The Tsarnas family’s emotional cup runneth over on Sunday as it was also the occasion for the memorial service for the new deacon’s parents, Evangelia and Stefanos Tsarnas, and memories were evoked of the Archbishop tonsuring Tsarnas’ sons Lay Readers nine years earlier.
Archbishop Elpidophoros praised the pastor, Fr. Andrew Eugenis, and the St. George parish, where Tsarnas will serve, and then declared: “Congratulation for your new deacon, Father Emanuel, an august, serious, faithful, and devoted man, an exemplary family man in the service of the Church, whom I declare, Axios!”
Turning his attention and his warm pastoral smile to Deacon Emanuel the Archbishop said, “I am certain you will be a fine deacon, and an example to the many young people that it was a joy for me to see here today.” He then addressed the congregation: “I want our clergy to be the best we have. I want them to be like Fr. Emanuel, people who inspire respect and love. Talk to your children about how important it is for someone to become a priest … and if he has a true calling, the seeds you sow in your childrens hearts will sprout.”
To the new Deacon the Archbishop said “together with Fr. Andrew you will be good teachers, and I believe the younger people will follow your example … you have a lot of work to do, Father Emanuel.”
He is well-trained and ready. Earlier, Deacon Emanuel addressed the Archbishop: “Your Eminence, I stand before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Church this day offering all my mind, body, soul and strength in His service and for the Glory of God and the well-being of His flock. This day will be marked indelibly into my heart … I am humbled to stand before you on this special day.”
The mission of a married clergyman being a joint endeavor, Deacon Emanuel then looked into the congregation and said, “to my soulmate and precious wife Josephine who God brought into my life some 27 years ago. It has been my greatest blessing from God to have such a kind, respectful, selfless, patient, honorable and loving person to share my journey through this life.”
Father Andrew was visibly pleased with his new Brother in Christ as he read the ‘martyria’ that declares that the candidate has been found worthy by his spiritual father, the cry of ‘Axios’ resounding throughout the nave and even to Greece as friends and family followed the service on the internet.
Deacon Emanuel said, “I am grateful and have been blessed to have Father Andrew Eugenis as my mentor.”
The Holy Cross Diaconate Program has become a conduit for leading devout and dedicated men into church service, satisfying both the later-life callings of the candidates and the Archdiocese’s need for clergy. While they cannot preside over sacraments, deacons can distribute Holy Communion and Holy Unction and they offer the Church the benefits of their spirituality and abilities honed in their lay professions and parish volunteering.
Tsarnas, who has practiced law for 35 years in New York and New Jersey, while also serving his parishes pro-bono, is a deacon with lay profession and he will continue to practice law in New Jersey.
The path to the diaconate began in the home of his parents and the Church of Three Hierarchs in Brooklyn, NY, where he served in the altar with Fr. Angelo Gavalas of blessed memory and the Very Rev. Eugene Pappas.