Fr. EVAGORAS CONSTANTINIDES, a friend and great supporter and benefactor of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia, fell asleep in the Lord on Sunday, April 14, 2013. He was 94 years old. May his memory be eternal.
Fr. Evagoras Constantinides was born in Lapithos, Cyprus, on August 1, 1918, the first of four children of Christopher and Irene (nee Tsangarides). He received his grade school education and first two years of high school in his village, graduating with honors and receiving the Gold Medal award.
From the age of eight he wanted to be a priest, which he finally accomplished despite many obstacles and detours, as you will see. In 1932 he entered Athens College (a private Greek-American high school in Athens, Greece) on a year-to-year scholarship which he maintained for his six years graduating with honors in 1938, and receiving the Delta Public Speaking Prize, and the English Language Prize.
In the fall of 1938, he entered the Civil Engineering Department of Fenn College (now Cleveland State University) in Cleveland, Ohio. He worked his way through College by working in factories and serving as Greek School teacher and Hellenic Board of Education Secretary of the Greek Orthodox Community of the Annunciation in Cleveland. World War II forced him to interrupt his studies in 1942, just short of graduation. Being a British subject, he entered the Canadian Army where he served as private and attended Officers School from where he graduated as 2nd Lieutenant in the Engineer Corps, a specialist in explosives, mines, booby traps and demolitions. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, transferred to the Infantry Corps, and then to the Intelligence Corps. In this last capacity, he studied Japanese for a year and was attached to the United States Central Intelligence Group (later CIA) in Washington, DC. (1946-1947) to translate Japanese documents and the Greek Constitution into English.
Discharged in June 1947, he returned to the United States where he became associated with the St. Sophia Cathedral in Washington, DC., as Greek School Teacher, Executive Secretary, Public Relations Director and head of the Religious Education Department. He organized the Sunday School, supervised the junior youth, assisted the senior youth with the Church’s monthly publication, “The Challenge”, and wrote, produced and directed the “St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Hour”, a half-hour weekly religious radio program, for eight years. He also produced and presented many television religious programs.
After studying extensively in the Theology of the Greek Orthodox Church, and submitting written studies to the Holy Cross Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, he took a comprehensive oral examination administered by the then President of the School, the late Bishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis, of blessed memory, (later Archbishop of Thyateira), which he passed with high honors. As a result of this he was ordained deacon by the late Archbishop Michael on January 27, 1956. On March 11, 1956, he was ordained to the priesthood by the late Bishop Ezekiel, of blessed memory, and appointed to serve at the Community of St. Demetrios in Chicago, Illinois as assistant priest and later as proistamenos for 11 years. He helped the parish grow from 750 to 1542 families. He simultaneously attended North Park University in Chicago, studying philosophy and received his B. A. in June 1967. He also served on the Radio and TV Committee of the Chicago Diocese, and as member of the National Safety Council.
From January 1, 1967, to May 1, 1969, he served as Pastor of the Greek Orthodox Community of St. John the Baptist in Anaheim, California and did graduate work in philosophy at the California State College in Long Beach, and the University of California at Fullerton.
He served as Executive Director of the United Greek Orthodox Charities in New York City from May 1, 1969, to August 31, 1969, and was appointed Pastor of the SS. Constantine and Helen Parish in Gary-Merrillville, Indiana, on September 1, 1969. He led the effort of constructing the Hellenic Cultural center in Merrillville in 1971, and the SS. Constantine and Helen Cathedral in 1975, which he designed, one of the ten largest Orthodox Churches in the Americas, and a tourist map of Indiana highlight. During his 26 year pastorship at SS. Constantine and Helen he trained 10 assistants, one of them being His Eminence Metropolitan Nikitas formerly of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia (now director of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute in Berkley, CA). In May, 2006 he was made an official member of the 1956 Graduating Class of the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. He is one of the founders of Hospice of NW Indiana, and the SS. Constantine and Helen Cathedral Food Pantry for the hungry which is still in operation.
He was honored with the office of Protopresbyter by His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, of blessed memory, in May 1972. He served as Treasurer of the National Presbyters Council from 1970-1974 and 1980-1982; and as member of the Diocesan Council of the Chicago Diocese from 1979-1989. He established and directed the Diocesan Fanari Camp at Williams Bay, Wisconsin, from 1970-1973, and served on the Indiana State Emergency Medical Services Commission from 1975-1979.
He received the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America Service Award and Gold Cross in 1976 for his struggles and lobbying activities for the liberation of invaded Cyprus, a project he still vigorously pursues. He did the following missionary work: In May 1991 in St. Petersburg, Russia. In Kenya and Uganda, East Africa in the summers of 1991 and 1992 where he introduced the financially successful Cow and Chicken Farm program at the Nairobi Archbishop Makarios School of Theology for which he was decorated by the late Patriarch Parthenios of Alexandria with the Cross of St. Mark. In Calcutta, India in September 1998 for three weeks, and again in September, 1999 for two weeks in the village of Akhina, India, some 80 miles north of Calcutta. In Argentina, Chile and Ecuador in South America from September 16 to October 17, 2002. In Jakarta, Indonesia and its environs from October 10 to October 18, 2006. From October 19 to 24 he attended the enthronement of his friend, Serbian Bishop Irinej as Bishop of Australia and New Zealand, in Sydney Australia.
He led 20 pilgrimages to the Holy Land from 1982-2007, a Tour-Pilgrimage to St. Petersburg, Moscow, Zagorsk, Kiev and Constantinople in July 1999, and a Tour of the Central European capitals and the Passion Play in Oberammergau in 2000. Following this tour he visited the Dachau Concentration Camp and later lectured on it at the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center of Chicago.
He authored four Sunday School Books and translated six Orthodox Service Books: “The Priest’s Service Book” (Mikron Efhologion), “280 Dismissal Hymns and Kontakia”, “The Presanctified Liturgy”, “The Great Compline”, “10 Special and Occasional Services”, “Holy Thursday Matins”, and published through Narthex Press, “Orthodoxy 101: A Bird’s Eye View” in 2006.
Since his retirement in June, 1995 he has been raising money for foreign missions particularly the Metropolitanate of Hong Kong, writing, translating, lecturing on Stewardship and has substituted at more than 40 churches of the Metropolis of Chicago. Now he is celebrating the all English congregational participation Liturgy every Sunday in the Chapel of his former parish, the SS. Constantine and Helen Cathedral in Merrillville, Indiana
On February 26, 2006, on the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood and his 60th wedding anniversary, he was honored by the Merrillville Cathedral and presented with a check of $20,000 dollars to distribute to his favored charities something he did with great pleasure. He was also honored by the State of Indiana, by being named “Chieftain upon the Governor’s staff with the rank and title of Sagamore of the Wabash”, the highest honor the State can bestow on a civilian.
On October 2, 2006 he was decorated by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem with the Medal of: “Superior Commander of the Order of the Orthodox Crusaders of the Most Holy Sepulcher accompanied by the Gold Cross with Crown, Wreath and Star” in recognition of “his pious disposition and assistance toward the All Holy Sepulcher and Most Holy Mother of Churches.”
He is listed in the Second Edition 1977 of Marquis, “Who’s Who in Religion”, and he is a member of the Phi Sigma Tau National Honor Society in Philosophy.
He married the former Mary Demetris of Vancouver, BC, Canada in 1945 while still in the army, with whom they have four children: Father Christopher (Angie), Pastor of the Holy Trinity Church in Dallas, Texas, Joanne, John (Sonia) and Andrew. They also have five grandchildren: Evan (a HC/HC theology student), Phillip, Maria, Alyssa and Peter.
He fell asleep in the Lord on Sunday, April 14, 2013.