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Church

Hundreds of Faithful Attend Final Liturgy of Fr. George Tsoukalas in Lynn

BOSTON – Hundreds Greek Orthodox faithful of all ages filled the nave of the historic parish of St. George in Lynn, MA, participating in the final Liturgy of their priest and spiritual father, Protopresbyter Fr. George Tsoukalas, who is retiring after 56 years of pastorship – 26 of them at St. George.

The presence of the congregants was such that it brought to mind the packed nave of Holy Saturday midnight resurrection services.

Many parishioners were crying, especially during Fr. George’s last sermon, when he said, “I love you all and I will always love you. You will always be in my heart. You filled our Church, our home, you have touched my heart.”

In another instance Fr. George said that, “I have the best memories for my whole life. I Love the Church – you are the living icon of Christ,” and he urged the faithful to “continue the progress.”

Fr. George Tsoukalas urges the congregation, “let us lift our hearts” during the Divine Liturgy, standing at the Royal Door of the Holy Altar at St. George. (Photos “TNH”/Theodore Kalmoukos)

Fr. George, at the end of his sermon, placed his priestly cross on the icon of St. George.

The following priests co-liturgized with Fr. George: Fr. Nicholas Anctil from Holy Trinity parish in New Rochelle, NY, Fr. Harry Providakis from St. George in Dartmouth, Fr. Michael Kouremetis from Holy Cross School of Theology, and Fr. Nicholas Pelekoudas from Holy Trinity in Lowell. At the altar also praying were the retired priests Fr. Peter Chrysafidis and Fr. Andrew Demotsis.

The hymns were chanted by Kostas Parayios, the chief canter for 45 years, and George Tsounis, a student of the School of Theology of the University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

A luncheon followed at the Community Center. On the behalf of the family, Fr, Tsoukalas’ daughter Stephani spoke, saying among other things that, “it is my honor to speak on behalf of our family today, to welcome you – our friends and family – to this gathering to share in the retirement celebration of our dad, Fr George Tsoukalas. As I look around this room, I see that our dad is rich not because of material possessions but rich from being surrounded by so many endearing people. Rich, as he has an amazing and loving wife – Francine – of 56 years, who is his true companion, rich as he has three wonderful children – Stephanie, Michael, and Daniel – rich as he has a great daughter-in-law Alyssa and two great sons-in-law -Charlie and Malcolm – and rich as he is blessed with four doting grandchildren – Charles, Victoria, Juliana, and Thea – who adore their Papi/Papou!”

Fr. George Tsoukalas offers communion to his granddaughter, Thea Tsoukalas. (Photos “TNH”/Theodore Kalmoukos)

An another point she added, “rich, as he has been touched by all of you here today who have come from near and far to wish him well as he embraces the next chapter of his life. It is my opinion that there is no other priest in this diocese like my dad, Father George, nor will there ever be another priest like him in all of our lifetimes, that has his strong faith of our Church, his love and belief in God, his compassion for his parishioners, his genuine empathy and kindness, his humility, and his true love of being a priest… that could even attempt to try to walk in his shoes. He has given his complete dedication, profound commitment, and unwavering devotion to each and every one of his parish communities Peabody, Nashua, Woburn, Jamaica, Haverhill, and Lynn these past 56 years of his priesthood! AXIOS!!! Our dad is truly blessed as each one of you here today has touched his life in a unique and special way. We sincerely thank all of you for coming today to honor our dad, your Priest Father George.”

Mr. Parayios, the chief chanter, told TNH that “we collaborated with Fr. George so harmoniously all these 26 years. I will miss him; he will be missed from our parish.”

Sophia Pentikis, secretary of the parish, stated to TNH that, “I have been with Fr. George for 26 years. I learned a lot from Father. I started working as church secretary at 16 years old. When I married, I moved to Lynn. When Fr. George came to the parish I was asked to come and work here.”

Fr. George Tsoukalas, at the end of the Divine Liturgy, placed his priestly cross on the icon of St. George on the iconostasis. (Photos “TNH”/Theodore Kalmoukos)

Fr. George’s son Daniel Tsoukalas, well known in field of computers, replying to TNH’s question about his thoughts that day, said “I’m very emotional, very happy just to have seen dad’s journey from when he first came to this church to this point now; it is very emotional for me. I can’t find words right now.”

Asked to describe your father in one sentence, Daniel said: “My dad is a holy, and loving man. He loves his people, he loves his church, he loves the priesthood – he loves it. He is a ‘priests, priest.’”

Arthur Argeros, president of the Parish Council, said “my thoughts are that this is a happy occasion for Fr. George but a sad occasion for the parish – we are going to miss him. We wish him nothing but the best health and happiness. What Fr. George did for the church very few priests can do: that voice, that sound, his emotion, everything that Fr. George did with the goal as being as close to perfect as you can be when it comes to the Liturgy and Service. So, we are going to miss that. He touched every person in this room one way or another and everybody who is here has a connection with Fr. George.”

Tom Demakes businessman and grand benefactor of St. George, told TNH that, “Fr. George is the best – he has done more in 26 years than was done in the previous one hundred years. You see the beauty of the church and the community center – that all was inspired and directed by Fr. George. Of course, we have a good Parish Council and we have lay leaders that worked hand-in hand with him, no man can do anything by himself. Fr. George has been the glue that held us together in the last 26 years.”

Fr. George Tsoukalas with his presbytera Francine and his good friend Tom Demakes, grand benefactor of the St. George parish. (Photos “TNH”/Theodore Kalmoukos)

Fr. Nick Anctil a former Altar boy of Fr. George, who inspired him to go to Holy Cross School of Theology, told TNH: “Fr. George moved to Nashua in 1967 when I was nine years old. I was his first Altar boy – and subsequently we became ‘koumbaroi’. After his son Daniel was born my father and mother baptized Daniel and then Fr. George sent me to the Seminary – he was an inspiration to me. He drafted me at 12 years old to become the custodian of the Evangelismos church in Nashua before Evangelismos and St. Nicholas were united and with St. Philip it became a united parish.”

Messages and greetings were delivered during the luncheon by Fr. Nicholas Anctil, Fr. Nicholas Pelekoudas, Fr. Makarios Niakaros, Arthur Argyros, and Tom Demakes.

The Mayor of Lynn and the City Council sent official proclamations for Fr. George, and the pupils of the Greek School sang Greek songs. Welcoming remarks were made by Evangelia Hatzis, secretary of the St. George parish council, and Emcee was John Meklis, member of the Parish Council and former president.

Fr. George Tsoukalas concluded the program with words of thanksgiving and gratitude for all.

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