Fr. John Simon Sfikas - Greek Orthodox Retired Clergy Association
Agrégateur de contenus
Born: February 3, 1930
Died: January 12, 1994
John Simon Sfikas was born on February 2, 1930, to Greek immigrant parents, Stamatios & Chris Sfikas, in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Tragedy, which was to hound him through so much of his life, struck him almost immediately: his father died when he was only 9 months old. He was shot in Clarksburg, West Virginia, by the KKK.
As an infant, he returned to Greece with his mother, older brother, Pete, and older sister, Helen, when his father died and was raised on the island of Chios. There, suffering met him through the form of poverty and hardship brought on by World War II and the Greek civil war in its aftermath. Yet, Fr. John was blessed by the Lord with good teachers at school who, along with members of the lay religious movement called “Zoe” (meaning Life), taught him the Gospel and the Greek Orthodox faith that would shape him so profoundly. These early lessons of faith (Scripture, spiritual songs) and culture (especially Greek poetry and literature) were to prove crucial for his life and work.
Education & Marriage
After the War, his brother Pete sent for the family to join him in Athens, Ohio, where Fr. John, then 16 years old, completed high school. His favorite subject was English literature. In fact, Fr. John had the heart of a poet and composed poetry himself (in Greek and English), and was fondly able, even in some of his worst periods of health, to recite classic English and Greek poetry.
After high school, Fr. John studied briefly at the University of Youngstown, but then decided to pursue the priesthood and enrolled at Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1948. n 1952, shortly after graduating, he met Stella Theodore of Ambridge, Pennsylvania and they were married on October 12, 1952. Presvytera was to be a strong and faithful spouse that Fr. John needed. She remained a great support to him not only in his priesthood but also in his own personal struggles. Fr. John was ever thankful to God for his marriage and devoted wife. They enjoyed 43 years together.
Fr. John was ordained one month later and assigned as a priest to Wheeling, West Virginia, where he served for 2 years. There, their first child, Helen Ann, was born in 1953. From 1954-59 Fr. John served the parish in Erie, Penn., where he was greatly loved and long remembered. During this time, their second child, Stephanie, was born in 1959. Next, Fr. John joined the U.S. Air Force as the first Greek Orthodox chaplain in the US. Air Force and was assigned to Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. Nashville. With an honorable discharge in 1960, Fr. John returned to parish ministry and came to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He served full time from 1961 until 1978 when poor health (a constant source of suffering during his adult life) forced him into retirement. Fr. John’s 18 year long tenure as spiritual leader was by far the longest and most stable in the history of the parish. He served faithfully during the entire time, despite difficulties within the parish and in his own life. He happily saw his children grow, become very well educated, embark on successful professional careers, marry and establish their own families nearby. The parish also prospered under his leadership. Fr. John was persistently vocal about the need for the community to relocate and build in order to grow. But the seeds he planted were not to take shape until after his retirement. All the same, Fr. John took great spiritual pride and satisfaction in living to see the parish move to its present 13 acre site in 1986, and then build the present Byzantine style church in 1992.
Another accomplishment that Fr. John rejoiced in was his formation of a mission parish of St. Constantine and Helen in Huntsville, Alabama. He traveled regularly there each month from 1965-67; as a result a permanent community was established that ever since has been Holy Trinity’s nearest Greek Orthodox neighbor.
Despite his poor health, which continued to plague Fr. John throughout retirement, he continued to be involved in a variety of the parish’s activities, and kept in touch with many members of the community. He and Presvytera Stella particularly enjoyed taking annual cruises to places like the Caribbean and Alaska. He delighted in watching his family grow – with two sons-in-law (Larry Kamm and Mark Davis), four grandchildren (Sara, Jonathan, Stella and Nicholas), and one adopted grandchild (Irena).
In addition, he was a constant source of blessing, an enjoyable companion and a great support to the clergy who served after him, including Fr. Mark Arey, Fr. Nick Capolis, Fr. Harry Pappas and Fr. Gregory Wynick. Significantly, just before his fatal illness befell him, Fr. John remarked to his family, “I have had a good life. I am ready to die. I love you.” Following his death, his body lay in state in the new church that he inspired, with a constant vigil of psalms and hymns read by members of the parish. Assisted by many priests, a deacon and a sub-deacon, Bishop Timothy of Detroit presided over his funeral service on Friday, January 14, 1994. He was then interred at Woodlawn Cemetery.
When death finally came, it signaled the end of a remarkable life that was filled with great tragedies but even greater blessings. Truly Fr. John was a walking miracle of Christ’s love and presence, for it is only by the grace of God that he was able to do what he did. He will always be remembered by those who knew and loved him as a genuine believer, a champion of the Orthodox Church, a sensitive, loving and generous soul to everyone around him, and a man full of gratitude to God for all things. One of the amazing qualifies of his poetic and gentle spirit is that, in spite of numerous trials and afflictions throughout life, he never complained and continually offered thanks to God. May his memory be eternal!
On Wednesday, January 12, 1994, at 2:10 a.m. Fr. John Sfikas fell asleep in the Lord. His family was by his side in the Intensive Care Unit of Baptist Hospital, where he had been in critical condition since suffering a stroke shortly before Christmas.