Enthronement Address of His Grace, Bishop Gregory of Nyssa
SLAVA ISUSU CHRISTU!
GLORY TO JESUS CHRIST!
Your Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Your Eminence Metropolitan Antony of Hierapolis, Your Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, Your Eminence Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh, Your Grace Bishop Daniel of Pamphilon, Reverend Fathers, Panis and Presbyteres, Deacons and Subdeacons, Esteemed Archons of the Order of St. Andrew of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Diocesan Board of Trustees, Beloved Representatives of the Senior ACRY and Junior ACRY, Dear Seminarians of Christ the Savior Seminary, Esteemed Guests of the Clergy and the Laity, Beloved Faithful of this Cathedral, and this Holy and God-Protected Diocese, Family and Friends.
Today I stand before you as the newly ordained and enthroned Hierarch of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese. Somehow God whom I have trusted my whole life has brought me to this place at this moment. An awesome responsibility has been placed on my shoulders. My heart is filled with many things at this moment. Many feelings of thanksgiving. I thank Almighty God whose mercy has followed me all the days of my life and I pray that He will grant me the strength, wisdom and love necessary to lead the faithful flock entrusted to me all the way to Paradise. I thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who showed all of us a new way of life. "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me," (Jn 14:6). In the Gospel of St. Mark we read, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all," (Mk 9:35). I have come to this Diocese to serve you the people, not for you the people to serve me.
I am also very thankful to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and to the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the great and extraordinary honor of bestowing upon me the awesome responsibility of tending the faithful flock of the God-Protected American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese. The Patriarch and members of the Synod serve the Orthodox Church worldwide tirelessly and selflessly and with great commitment and joy.
I give thanks to God for His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios who has served as the Locum Tenens during the many months since the falling asleep of our beloved Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos. He has carefully guided the Diocese with kindness, love, and wisdom. In addition he has been very supportive of my journey to Johnstown for nearly a year now.
My heart is overflowing with thanks and love to God for His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta who has been our Hierarch for over fifteen years in the eight states of the South (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisana, and the eastern third of Tennessee). He is a role model of non-stop ministry and love in the Metropolis of Atlanta. His Eminence is constantly striving to offer new ministries and programs to his flock. His concern for families and especially our youth are always on his mind. He not only ordained me to the diaconate and to the priesthood, but now to the episcopacy. He is a true brother in Christ.
Thank you Your Eminence Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh. We met several years ago when you were serving as Chancellor of the Archdiocese and I was a senior seminarian at Holy Cross School of Theology. Your guidance and friendship were very helpful on my journey to the priesthood. Thank you Your Eminence Metropolitan Antony of Hierapolis and Your Grace Bishop Daniel of Pamphilon for your participation in today's services. We met for the first time recently in Constantinople in the presence of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Holy and Sacred Synod. I have fond memories of our trip to Halki and the presence of your group for the Mega Minima where I accepted my election as Bishop of Nyssa.
I must take a few moments to thank all priests and parishes that I visited during my five years as the Ierokyrix (Itinerant Preacher) and Confessor of the Metropolis of Atlanta. You made me feel welcomed and loved. Four parishes in particular I want to acknowledge for their importance in my life. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Charlotte, NC where I spent the first 35 years of my life enjoying the full parish experience. St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC where we worked to establish a new church. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Raleigh, NC where I served as a parish priest for the first time. And finally, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New Orleans, LA where I served until my recent election to the episcopacy. The parishioners of these communities have meant the world to me.
Thanks also to Fr. Nicholas Triantafilou, President of Hellenic College/Holy Cross in Brookline, MA. He encouraged me to come to seminary and has served as my Spiritual Father. He is not with us today due to a family funeral.
In addition, I wanted to thank the brother monks of the Agia Lavra Monastery in Kalavryta, Greece for accepting me as one of their own and supporting me in my life. This is where I received the name Grigorios or Gregory, my Patron Saint being Gregory Palamas, a 14th Century Bishop of the Church, whose feast day it happens to be today using the Old Calendar.
Thank you to Fr. Frank Miloro, the Consistory Priests, and all the other brother priests who trusted in God enough to nominate someone they barely knew to be their Hierarch. I promise to work as hard as I can, not to disappoint you, your hopes, dreams and expectations for our Diocese. Together we will work diligently to shepherd the flocks entrusted to us.
Today with this Ordination and Enthronement, I take my place alongside those wonderful Hierarches who served you in the past. First, Bishop Orestes Chornock who was elected by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in September of 1938 with the titular title Agathonikeia. He was installed on November 24, Thanksgiving Day by Archbishop Athenagoras of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
Second, Bishop Peter Shymansky who was elected an Auxiliary Bishop in October of 1963 to assist Bishop Orestes. He fell asleep in the Lord unexpectedly in May the following year.
Third, Bishop Methodius Kanchuha who served as an Auxiliary Bishop for a short time in the spring and summer of 1965.
Fourth, Bishop John Martin who was elected by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the titular title of Nyssa and appointed as the Auxiliary Bishop in August of 1966. He was consecrated Bishop in October in this Cathedral with 83 year old Metropolitan Orestes serving as one of the co-consecrators. At his Consecration, Bishop John promised those in attendance: "I will be the best Orthodox Bishop that I can be." Today I promise you the same thing. Bishop John fell asleep in the Lord unexpectedly in October 1984.
Fifth, Bishop Nicholas Smisko who was elected Bishop of the Carpatho-Russian Diocese on March 20, 1985 by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the titular title of Amissos. His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos formally installed him in this Cathedral on April 19, 1985. His Grace was elevated to Metropolitan on November 24, 1997. He served his flock with great love for 26 years before falling asleep in the Lord on March 13 of last year. Many people offered reflections on his passing. They wrote:
"He was very approachable, kind and loving, an unwavering and steady guide. He was an icon of Christ the Most High Priest. He was a man of great humility, energetic, forward-thinking, committed. We will miss him."
These five men served you very well. May their memories be eternal!
As we begin our ministry together, please allow me to put forth a few challenges that we face as a Church and I hope and pray that we will meet them head-on in the coming months and years.
Our first challenge: We barely know each other.
We just met a few months ago. Most of you are not from a Greek Orthodox background, and I am not from a Carpatho-Russian Orthodox background. We are however Americans who are Orthodox. For me to get to know you and you to get to know me, we must look into each others eyes. The only way to really accomplish this is for me to visit you in your communities, so within the next two years I plan to visit all 81 parishes of the Diocese. Pray for me as I pray for you. Let us have patience with each other as I learn from you and you learn from me.
Our second challenge: We must teach our youth the importance and the relevence of the Orthodox faith in their lives.
As a country more and more people are abandoning their Christian beliefs for something else. Statistics show us that more than 60% of our young people are graduating high school, going to college and never returning to their faith group. I do not mean their parish or community, but their faith. In other words, more than 6 out of 10 Orthodox young adults will abandon Orthodoxy. This is a huge challenge for all of us. We must address it or we will probably disappear as an authenticexpression of Christianity in this country. Every parish must examine its youth programs and make all the appropriate modifications to remain relevent to our children. Some of the old ways of doing things will not be enough in the coming months and years. Many times we hear that our children are the future of the Church. In reality they are the present. The unborn are the future. His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios has said that "the children are not the future of the Church, but the Church is the future of thechildren." My brothers and sisters if we do not teach our children the faith who will?
Our third challenge: We must grow the active membership of our local churches.
A recent study of Orthodoxy in America has shown that 47% of the members of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese attend Church weekly. This is near the top of all Orthodox jurisdictions, something to be proud of, but where are the other 53%. They are out there. We need to approach them with kindness and love and bring them home so that we can pray and give thanks together to our God. We need to reach out to all our fellow Orthodox Christians who have somehow fallen away from active participation in the faith. They may be coming to Church only a couple of times a year. Maybe it has been several years since they have stepped into the Church. Whatever the reasons, we know where they are, we have to make a real effort to bring them back into the Lord's House. We miss them and so we will reach out to them.
Our fourth challenge: We need to minister to those who are being led to Orthodoxy by the Holy Spirit.
They are on a journey to our faith. We must help them with catechism classes and guidance by the priest. How we respond as individuals and as a community will in all likelihood determine whether they join us or move on to something else. A lost opportunity if we handle it incorrectly. Hopefully we are prepare to receive them with open arms.
Our fifth challenge: The number of priests to shepherd the flocks never seems to be enough.
There always seems to be a shortage of good men willing to dedicate their lives to serve the Lord and His Church. We are always in need of good priests, God fearing men. I am asking the priests to keep their eyes open and to encourage those acolytes and men within their communities who may seem to have a feeling of service or a calling. Talk to them about our seminary in Johnstown, maybe bring them for a visit. Please do not let the difficulties that we as clergy sometimes encounter in our ministries dissuade them. Remember what Bishop Orestes said late in his life, "You'll always have problems as long as you live. You choose to follow Christ."
These are the five challenges that we must address as we begin our time together. For sure other challenges will present themselves and be identified as we move forward, those too will be addressed to the best of our abilities.
My dear friends the time has arrived, let us begin our work together.
Glory, thanksgiving, and honor to the One who never ceases to grant us every good and perfect gift from above, to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and onto the ages of ages. Amen
(Delivered Tuesday November 27, 2012 At Christ The Saviour Cathedral)