WHITESTONE, NY – Holy Cross Whitestone bid farewell to Fr. George Anastasiou on November 12, his last day as presiding priest of the community before he takes a sabbatical. Fr. Chrysostom Onyekakeyah and Fr. Nicholas Soteropoulos assisted in the Divine Liturgy on Sunday.
Following the service, Fr. Anastasiou said, “I wanted to take this opportunity during my last day with you to offer my profound love, appreciation, and thanks to you and your families, I will cherish our moments, I will forever hold a very dear and special part in my heart for all of you.”
He continued: “From wherever I am, I wait to hear the good news, the special news, and the Christian and philanthropic work that will be done led by, of course, Fr. Nicholas Paros, but also by you, our wonderful parishioners, our wonderful Philoptochos, our extremely active PTA that is year after year coming up with even newer ideas.”
“I want to thank, like I said last week, the Parish Council, the Philoptochos, the PTA, our wonderful altar boys… our Day School, our Afternoon School, but also these two special clergymen, Fr. Nicholas Soteropoulos and Fr. Chrysostom [Onyekakeyah]… and I wanted to take one moment to acknowledge and highlight the fact that I love them deeply and appreciate them… I don’t have to pick up the phone to ask for help from these two clergymen, they volunteer,” Fr. Anastasiou noted. “Fr. Nick told me last week ‘well, I hope you know I’m going to be there next week… I want to be there and say something,’ and Fr. Chrysostom called me yesterday and said ‘tomorrow’s your last day my brother… I want to be there for you.’”
“I didn’t even have to ask, and so this is a testament of the caliber of the clergy that we have in our Holy Archdiocese, they are men of service and sacrifice, and I want to thank them for allowing me to call them, not only fellow priests, but friends,” he said. “I wish Fr. Nick and Fr. Chrysostom all the very best in your priestly road ahead in your life for you and your families and I thank you deeply on behalf of myself and my children for enveloping us with your warmth and with your love.”
“I also just wanted to clarify something… We had a conversation with a small group of the Executive Board during which time I told the Executive Board… ‘I think it’s time I visit the Archdiocese’ and I want to make it clear, it was I who visited the Archdiocese, it was I who asked the Chancellor and His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros to relieve me of my duties as it were for a lack of better terms, and forgive the lay expression, so with love and humility and respect for you all, I want you to remember this fact, it would sadden me if anything else was spread.”
“May God bless you, keep you, love you, and thank you for the four wonderful years, be blessed, be well,” Fr. Anastasiou concluded.
The parishioners then applauded and Fr. Soteropoulos came forward to say a few words, noting that when he was president of the Retired Clergy Association he received many calls from retired priests saddened by the fact that some priests would not allow them into the altar, but he was welcomed by Holy Cross’ previous presiding priest Fr. Dionysios Anagnostopoulos and by Fr. Anastasiou. “They treated me not as a retired priest but as a brother, a fellow priest, and for that I thank them… I’m still a priest and that means a lot to me,” Fr. Soteropoulos noted and asked: “What makes a priest a good priest?”
“Have you ever heard a dull liturgy from Father [Anastasiou]? His liturgies are full of life, he means what he says, he reads not words, he reads things from his heart, and I commend him for that,” said Fr. Soteropoulos. “That’s the way I judge Fr. George… have you ever heard a bad sermon? He speaks in Greek, he speaks in English, he speaks directly to you… there are priests who write sermons, Monday, Tuesday… by Sunday it was a dull sermon… he [Fr. George] doesn’t write them, he speaks to you, he talks directly to you, he gives you examples from this life, from our life, he gives you examples of how to find salvation and how to better yourself.”
“As the Old Testament says… ‘You are a priest for eternity, according to the rites of Melchizedek,’ that is Father, and I pray the Lord gives him strength,” Fr. Soteropoulos said. “He’s going on sabbatical and I hope in that sabbatical he gets more energy… through the Holy Spirit and that he becomes an even better priest in time. My prayers are with you Father… and I pray the Lord will constantly be on your side.”
As they received the antidoro on the way out of church, parishioners wished Fr. Anastasiou well and two youngsters presented him with cards they made for him.
The coffee hour followed in the community hall and was held in honor of Fr. Anastasiou.