WAYNE, NJ – Father John P. Orfanakos, Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who has served as pastor of the Saint George Church in Passaic, NJ for more than forty years, has passed away at the age of 83.
The funeral was held at the Church of St. George in Clifton, NJ on August 22.
Fr. Orfanakos and Presvytera Margaret, who survives him, were youth program pioneers in the Archdiocese as Co-Chairpersons for the Saint John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival since 1985. With their help this program of the Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese continues to provide thousands of teenagers the opportunity to talk about their faith and heritage.
Born on February 7, 1932 in Xirokampion, Sparta, Fr. Orfanakos was the son of Reverend Panagiotis and Presvytera Stavroula Orfanakos, who also had three other children, Kalliope (Papadakos), the Reverend Demetrios and the Reverend Konstantinos Orfanakos.
Fr. John attended elementary school in Xirokampion and high school in Sparta. Upon his graduation in 1951 he immigrated to the United States and settled in Brooklyn. After working for a few years to help support his family in Greece he enrolled in Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline, MA.
While studying at Holy Cross, he was the Genikos and was elected the President of the Student Council at the same time. Upon his graduation in 1961 he became a lay assistant to the Very Reverend Titus Siligardakis (later Metropolitan of Rethymnon in Crete) in Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church in Brooklyn, NY. His responsibilities were to direct the Sunday School, teach Greek School and to deliver the sermon every third Sunday.
In June of 1962 he married Margaret Pavlides, and on July 22 of the same year was ordained a deacon by Metropolitan Iakovos of Derkon. Less then a month later on August 12 he was ordained to the priesthood by Metropolitan Germanos Polyzoides. His first assignment was the Assumption Church in Danbury, CT. While in Danbury he pursued post graduate classes at Saint Vladimir’s Theological School. After a successful ministry of five years, Fr. John was assigned to the Saint George Church in Passaic, NJ on October 15, 1967, a community he has served for over forty years.
One of his first accomplishments was to purchase property in Clifton, where the church is currently located. The Eighth Century Byzantine style basilica with a dome now includes classrooms, a community center and a gymnasium. A few years later, the adjacent property was also purchased so the community could expand its facilities. The once small parish of sixty-one families grew to a thriving parish of over five-hundred families.
Fr. John published the Orthodox Light, the monthly church bulletin, various pamphlets and articles. He served as Secretary and President to the combined New York and New Jersey Clergy Syndesmos; Treasurer and President of the New Jersey Syndesmos; a member of the Metropolitan Council of New Jersey and a member of the Archdiocesan Council.
He is the recipient of the following offikia: Sakellarios and Pnevmatikos in 1974; Economos in November in 1978, Protopresbyter in 1984 and Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1986.
Serving God as a Priest since 1962, Fr. John instructed hundreds of young men to serve as Acolytes. He always considered it an important aspect of his ministry to encourage them to enter the priesthood. Among those who followed his lead were: The Reverend Dr. Emmanuel Clapsis, The Reverend Elias Scoulas, The Reverend Dean Mendrinos, The Reverend Paul Kaplanis, The Reverend Michael Monos, Deacon Michael Diamond and his own two sons, The Reverends Peter and George.
Fr. John and Presvytera Margaret have four children. Stephanie, who passed away at twenty-two months old; The Reverend Peter Orfanakos and his wife Vangie; George Orfanakos and his wife Maria; and Katherine and her husband Dr. George Demacopoulos and seven grandchildren.