Honoring My Cousin, Father Eugene Pappas

There’s nothing that compares to a Brooklyn, New York gala — live band, gourmet food, beautiful venue — everything needed for a first-class celebration. On December 2, my cousin, The Very Reverend Father Eugene Pappas, Archimandrite, was honored at an elaborate and festive gala held in commemoration of his 50 years of service as a Greek Orthodox priest, and 35 years as priest at Three Hierarchs Church in Brooklyn. To say that I was delighted to be there is an understatement; this was an event to be long-remembered and I was thrilled to be part of it.

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Father Eugene Pappas

Nicholas Leon Pappas (Father Eugene) is the son of Pauline Drivas and Leon Pappas (Papagiannakos). He and his siblings, Konstandinos and Georgeanne, were born and raised in the Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn, in the center of a thriving Greek-American community. Although he studied law, Father Eugene had deep desires to become a priest. The family name “Papagiannakos” indicates that in the past, a man in the Giannakos family became a priest (παππάς – papa) — thus, forever changing the surname to indicate this honor. Father Eugene told me that he felt, from childhood, that he was destined to be a priest and to carry on the tradition initiated by our ancestor. He was ordained into the priesthood in 1965.

Father Eugene began his ministry in South Korea as the First Foreign Missionary of the Holy Archdiocese of Archbishop Iakovos. In 1969, he opened an orphanage and worked in a boys’ home. His service in South Korea helped pave the way for the Orthodox Christian Mission Center of the USA. Along with South Korea, Father Eugene served in many foreign posts including Japan, the Philippines, Switzerland and Greece. Upon returning to the United States, he became pastor in the faith community where he was baptized, raised and educated.

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Father Eugene preaching the gospel at Three Hierarchs Church, Brooklyn, NY

Father Eugene’s service is not confined to either religious causes or his parish. He is a renowned civic activist and public speaker and is esteemed by civic and faith leaders of all political affiliations and religions. As scholar educator, he has taught Orthodox Theology in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn/Queens, and a special commemoration was held for him by the Catholic community. He is lauded for his leadership and participation in public causes and numerous community initiatives. The walls of his office are lined with plaques, degrees, and honorary citations.

As a man of the times, Father Eugene uses today’s media to exhort and educate audiences far beyond Brooklyn. For the past 18 years, he has hosted a radio program, “Matters of Conscience” on COSMOS FM every Saturday from 1 to 2 P.M.

Father Eugene broadcasting at Cosmos-FM studios. His radio program, Matters of Conscience, has aired for 18 years.

Father Eugene broadcasting at Cosmos-FM studios. His radio program, Matters of Conscience, has aired for 18 years.

He also has a presence on YouTube. This interview gives a brief perspective of his influence in the community:

Despite a schedule that would wilt an ordinary man his age, Father Eugene takes time for the individual. During a recent visit to his office, he paused our discussion to minister to a stranger who walked in off the street and asked for a blessing. His love of family has broadened to a passion for learning about his family history. We have shared many stories, photos, and discussions of our ancestry–much to our mutual delight.

This Saturday, I will be Father Eugene’s guest on Cosmos FM, and we will be discussing Hellenic genealogy–the rewards, the challenges, and how to get started. The radio show will be broadcast at this link, beginning at 1:10 PM Eastern time:  http://www.cosmosfm.org/podcast/.

Along with the many religious and civic dignitaries who have honored this man, I add my voice–thank you, Father, for your faith, your service, and the honor you have brought to our Papagiannakos/Pappas family.

A few photos from Father Eugene’s 50th Gala Celebration.

Father Eugene and his family, Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Father Eugene and his family, Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Georgeanne Conis, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Father Eugene Pappas; Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Georgeanne Conis, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Father Eugene Pappas; Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Father Eugene and his siblings: Konstandinos (Dino) and Georgeanne Pappas Conis; Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Father Eugene and his siblings: Konstandinos (Dino) and Georgeanne Pappas Conis; Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Father Eugene receives a gift from the parishioners of Three Hierarchs Church -- a trip to anyplace in the world he wants to go! Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Father Eugene receives a gift from the parishioners of Three Hierarchs Church — a trip to anyplace in the world he wants to go! Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

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Return to Greece, 2016. Part Six: It’s All About Family

This is the sixth post in a series about my trip to Greece, June 30-July 20, 2016 — an amazing journey of history, family and discovery. Previous posts can be found here.

Open arms with tight hugs. Kisses on both cheeks. Happy smiles and joyful reunions. This is how my family greets me when I return to Sparta. There are so many places to explore and discover; but for me this is the bottom line:  it’s all about family. Prior to my visits to Greece, the names and places on my pedigree chart were simply long names and dots on a map. Now, they are attached to real people who have become a vibrant and important part of my extended family.

Joy is sharing what you love with whom you love. For me, joy is introducing my family to their roots — touring our villages and meeting our relatives. Kathy’s paternal grandparents are Kallianes from Kastania (now Kastoreion) and Linardakis from Vordonia. Although we don’t know of family now living there, we so enjoyed exploring the towns, peering into shops, watching chickens, dogs and cats roam their yards, and looking at stone and stucco houses that have sheltered countless families through countless years.

Kastoreion, Laconia. July 2016

Kastoreion, Laconia. ancestral village of the Kallianes family, July 2016

Vordonia, Laconia, July 2016

Andrew, Ben and Kathy at the Linardakis village of Vordonia, Laconia, July 2016

I love the monuments erected in every town that memorialize those who died in military service. My heart skips whenever I find an ancestral name etched in marble. Even if I cannot connect that individual to my line, I know that in these small villages, people with the same surname are almost certain to be related. While driving in Vordonia, we turned into a back street and unexpectedly were confronted by the village monument. stopping to examine it, I became emotional when I showed Ben and Andrew several men with the Linardakis surname.

Finding the Linardakis surname; Vordonia, July 2016

Finding the Linardakis surname; Vordonia, July 2016

Visiting our Aridas and Kostakos familes in Agios Ioannis has endeared my grandchildren to their Spartan relatives and grounded them to the land of their ancestors. Bridging the Atlantic and meeting kin has widened their concept of family. Eating a meal in a house built by their ancestor in the mid-1800’s has brought them a sense of “rootedness” that is unparalleled. And best of all, they were warmly embraced and loved immediately by all who met them.

These are photos of my Kostakos and Aridas family in Agios Ioannis, Sparta. They are on my father’s side — my grandparents were John Andrew (Ioannis Andreas) Kostakos and Hariklia Aridas, both born in Agios Ioannis. On the Kostakos side, our common ancestor is Andreas Kostakos who was married twice: first to Anastasia, then to Poletimi Christakos. These two Kostakos families are descended from Andreas and Anastasia; I am descended from Andreas and Poletimi. On the Aridas line, our common ancestor is Michail Aridas and his wife, Stamatina.

Ioanna Kostakos Family, with Ben Soper, Andrew Soper, Kathy Lynard, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Peggy and Vassilis Vlachogiannis, Agios Ioannis, July 2016

Family of Ioanna Kostakos of Agios Ioannis. With Ben Soper, Andrew Soper, Kathy Lynard, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Peggy and Vassilis Vachaviolis, and Ioanna Kostakos, July 2016

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Family of Eleni Kostakos of Agios Ioannis. Natasa, Panos, Eleni, Eleni, Panorea, Carol Kostakos Petranek, July 2016

Family of George Aridas, Agios Ioannis. George, Roula, Adamandia Aridas; George's sister, Afroditi. July 2016

Family of George Aridas, Agios Ioannis. George, Roula, Adamandia Aridas; George’s sister, Afroditi. July 2016

This is the Chelidonis Family of Athens. Nikos is my second cousin on my mother’s line. His mother was Tasia Eftaxia from Mystras; our common ancestor is Ioannis Eftaxias, born 1809. My grandmother, Angelina Eftaxias Papagiannakos, was Tasia’s aunt. Panagiotis found me on Facebook three years ago, and we met in person during my trip in 2014. We were so excited to connect our families, as neither of us knew that the other existed!

Family if Nikos Chelidonis, Athens. Viki, Nikos, Panagiotis. July 2016

Family if Nikos Chelidonis, Athens. Viki, Nikos, Panagiotis. July 2016

The Eftaxias family of Mystras has long roots in Mystras. My grandmother, Angelina Eftaxias is the aunt of Andreas (photo on left). Andreas’ son, Lewnidas, is a master stone mason and works on churches and other buildings throughout southern Laconia.

Andreas Eftaxias, his son. Lewnidas ad Afroditi. Mystras, July 2016

Andreas Eftaxias, his son. Lewnidas ad Afroditi. Mystras, July 2016

Lewnidas and Andreas told me that our first Eftaxias ancestor escaped from Constantinople during the Ottoman conquest in 1453! He and three friends fled together and settled in Mystras. Lewnidas showed me a bronze medallion that was brought by this ancestor and kept by the family for generations. I posted this photo on our HellenicGenealogyGeek Facebook page and knowledgeable friends there described the medallion: l-r: Christ on the cross; Byzantine cross with words, ” Ιησούς Χριστός Νικά”; the Holy Mother, Mary; and the Holy Trinity, possibly based on Rublev‘s painting of the same name.

Medallion dating to 1453, belonging to Eftaxias family; Mystras, July 2016

Medallion dating to 1453, belonging to Eftaxias family; Mystras, July 2016

I was so thrilled to extend my family further on this trip. My new-found cousin, Dimitrios Papagiannakos, and his wife, Georgia, own a beautiful home goods store in Sparta which sells a myriad of items from cooking utensils to beautiful crystal. I think I gave Dimitrios quite a shock when I walked into his store and introduced myself as his cousin from America! I had brought photos of his Pappas family in the U.S., including a group shot taken at our Pappas Cousin’s Reunion. Working around his customers, we managed to have a spirited and lovely conversation about our families. My only regret was that his parents were out of town and I was unable to meet them. Next trip!

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Dimitrios and Georgia Papagiannakos in their lovely home goods store, Sparta, July 2016

I also traveled to Markopoulos, northeast of Athens, to meet Vassilis Papagiannakos, owner of the Papagiannakos Winery. The winery was started by his grandfather, also named Vassilis, in 1919. Now managed by the 3rd generation of Papagiannakos’, Vassilis and his wife, Antonia, have expanded the business, developed new and award-winning wines, and constructed a beautiful edifice where business events, weddings and other activities are held. Although Vassilis and I do not know how–or if– we are related, we are looking to explore our family roots together.

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Vassilis and Antonia Papagiannakos and their daughter, Aggeliki. Papagiannakos Winery, Markopoulos, July 2016

Every trip to Greece strengthens my family ties. I love these cousins. They set an example of hard work, honesty and devotion to our family and our heritage. I am ever-grateful to have the means and the opportunity to introduce them to my own descendants. Together, we carry on traditions and relationships that honor our ancestors.

Easter in Heaven

My family often celebrated Greek Easter at the home of my parents or my mother’s sister (Bertha Pappas Pouletsos and her husband, Nick). It was always Dad’s job to carve the lamb.

Andrew Kostakos carving Easter lamb, 1992.

Andrew Kostakos carving Easter lamb, 1992, Kensington, Maryland

When Aunt Bertha and Uncle Nick traveled from Long Island to our house in Maryland, the celebration was even more special.

Catherine Kostakos, Carol Kostakos Petraek, Bertha Pappas Pouletsos, Mabel Mercer Wirth, 1981, Kensington, Maryland

Catherine Kostakos, Carol Kostakos Petraek, Bertha Pappas Pouletsos, Mabel Mercer Petranek Wirth, 1981, Kensington, Maryland

Andrew Kostakos, Bertha Pappas Pouletsos, Gary Petranek, 1978, Kensington, Maryland

Andrew Kostakos, Bertha Pappas Pouletsos, Gary Petranek, 1978, Kensington, Maryland

I grew up living close to Aunt Bertha and Uncle Nick in the small community of Hillsdale, New Jersey. My brother and I shared many special times with our cousins, John and Louis; and to this day, we refer to our mothers as “two peas in a pod.” Mom and Bertha were the best of sisters and the best of friends.

Bertha and Catherine Pappas, Hoboken, New Jersey, about 1945

Bertha and Catherine Pappas, about 1944-45, Hoboken, New Jersey

Old photos unleash a plethora of memories for me — a lifetime of family gatherings and activities. After the deaths of Mom, Dad, Aunt Bertha and Uncle Nick, my Easter table was bereft of these beloved people. However, I found consolation in knowing that my grandparents’ table was now complete — mother and father with their sons and daughters — a loving family on earth, now reunited in heaven.

My parents and their siblings traveled to be together on holidays, and now it is my turn. Yesterday, Gary and I drove to Lewes, Delaware, to have Greek Easter with cousin Louie Pouletsos, his wife, Debbie, and their children, Nikki and Maddison. We shared memories of our parents and even poked a little fun at our mothers. We missed them.

l-r: Louis, Maddison, Nicki, Debbie Pouletsos; Gary Petranek, Lewes, Delaware, 2016

l-r: Louis, Maddison, Nicki, Debbie Pouletsos; Gary Petranek, 2016, Lewes, Delaware

2016 Easter, Carol-Gary Petranek, Debbie-Lou Pouletsos

Carol and Gary Petranek, Debbie and Louie Pouletsos, 2016, Lewes, Delaware

As our parents celebrate in Easter heaven, we now carry on their traditions on earth. We cling to familial and cultural patterns as our anchor of tradition, and to the Savior as our anchor of faith.

  • Our traditional Easter dinner of roast lamb symbolizes the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
  • Our recitation of “Christos Anesti,” (Christ has Risen) attests to the reality of the resurrection.
  • Bright red eggs “kokkina avga” on the table symbolize the blood of Christ that was shed for each of us.
  • The breaking of eggs symbolizes Christ breaking the bands of death and coming forth from the tomb. Each person takes a red egg and cracks the ends with another person. This proceeds around the table until one individual is left with an unbroken egg, and he/she can expect to have good luck throughout the year.
  • Partaking of the “tsoureki,” or Easter bread, reminds us that Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life. (John 6:48: “I am that bread of life.”)

It is tempting to speculate how our departed families will celebrate Easter in heaven. One thing I know is that they will:  “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (Romans 6:8)

Christos anesti to you and your family!

Maltsiniotis House in Agios Ioannis, Sparta

This is the Maltsiniotis house located in Agios Ioannis. My cousin, Father Eugene Pappas, was told by Demetrios Papagiannakos (“Jimmy” Pappas 1875-1948) that there is a blood connection between the Maltsiniotis and the Papagiannakos families. Possibly, the Maltsiniotis name was the precursor to the Papagiannakos name because a member of the Maltsiniotis family became a priest whose name became “Father John”. I haven’t found anything that can prove this interesting story, except that the Maltsiniotis house and the Papagiannakos School (built by this same Jimmy Pappas) share the same property. So, whether the connection is blood or business remains unclear.

The house is a replica of the amazing stone towers found in Mani, which is another clue that the family/families traveled north towards Sparta from the southern Peloponnese, most likely after the Revolution of 1821. It surely was a grand structure in its day! Wouldn’t it be amazing to restore it?

Maltsiniotis Tower Home, Agios Ioannis, Sparta. July 2014

Maltsiniotis Tower Home, Agios Ioannis, Sparta. July 2014

Papagiannakos School, built by Demetrios Papagiannakos (Jimmy Pappas)

Papagiannakos School, built by Demetrios Papagiannakos (Jimmy Pappas). Agios Ioannis, Sparta, July 2014

Sign on Papagiannakos School. Agios Ioannis, Sparta. July 2014

Sign on Papagiannakos School. Agios Ioannis, Sparta. July 2014

Surnames from Agios Ioannis (St. Johns), Sparta

During my visit to the Archives in Sparta last summer, I obtained pages of the Mitroon Arrenon (Male Registers) for the village of Agios Ioannis, Sparta. The records begin in 1844. This village is the birthplace of three of my four grandparents (Papagiannakos, Kostakos, Aridas/Michalakakos). Almost every page had surnames of my grandparents’ families, or those who married into my family. I was thrilled to have copies of these records!

I am ever-grateful to the staff at the GAK in Sparta: Pepi Gavala (Archivist), Maria Stellakou, and Michalis Sovolos. They are kind, gracious and most helpful!

Below is an index of the surnames in the pages that I obtained (this list may not be complete.

Surnames - Agios Ioannis