Father and son share calling to ministry
By LINDA M. LINONIS
A coincidence of the calendar placed today’s ordination of Eleftherios Constantine to the deaconate on the ecclesiastical celebration of the Sunday of Holy Fathers and the secular observance of Father’s Day.
Eleftherios said the significance of the day in regard to fathers hasn’t been missed by the Constantine family. “It makes it very special,” he said.
He is the son of the Rev. Thomas Constantine, pastor of St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Church, and his wife, Vasiliki.
Seeing his son take a path in ministry in the Greek Orthodox Church is “humbling,” Father Constantine said. “The priesthood is a special gift and calling. It’s a joyful thing but a difficult one.”
Father Constantine described his son’s choice as a “blessing.”
Eleftherios described his calling as beginning “with a seed planted at a young age and cultivated by the Holy Spirit.” He continued that the realization of choosing a life of religious service didn’t come “as an ‘aha’ moment” but one “developed and cultivated by the Lord” as he was growing up.
The younger Constantine said church and faith have played a big role in his life. While other young people might look for excuses to avoid church, he said he “really enjoyed it.”
Father Constantine recalled his own path to the priesthood. With an elementary education degree, he taught for a short time. His parish priest in Baltimore saw the potential and encouraged him to answer the call from God. “I came to realize a need for God in my life,” he said.
When he visited Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass., Father Constantine said, “I realized this was where I belonged.”
He earned a master of divinity degree and was ordained a deacon Nov. 2, 1985, in Baltimore then ordained a priest July 6, 1986, in Richmond, Va. He was an assistant pastor in Richmond for two years then moved from small churches to bigger congregations in Augusta, Ga.; Miami, Fla.; Chatanooga, Tenn.; Fort Wayne, Ind., then the Boardman church, where he has served for a decade.
His son’s ministry is taking a different path. The 27-year-old and his wife, Elizabeth “Ellie,” both graduated from Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. He earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and a master of divinity degree in 2011, and she earned a master of theological studies. Eleftherios has served for two years as a pastoral assistant at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Mobile, Ala.
“Study gave me a deeper understanding of faith,” Eleftherios said. “I was challenged, and it was a good period of growth.”
Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh, the presiding bishop, will ordain Eleftherios a deacon. He has been assigned as an assistant to Archbishop Demetrios of America, who is based in New York City and oversees churches in New York and Connecticut.
“He’s the spokesman for the Orthodox Church in America,” Father Constantine said, adding the archbishop has been a guest at the White House and participated in an Obama inauguration.
Eleftherios said the term deacon comes from the Greek word di °konos meaning servant or minister.
“It means to serve,” he said, adding his role would be diverse. He will participate in liturgies with the archbishop, work with parishes on planning visits and travel with the archbishop.
Ordination as a priest is in the future if “it’s God’s will,” Eleftherios said. “It will be when I’m ready.”