I heard yesterday of the retirement of a man who many call a “priest’s priest.” The Reverend Father Nicholas Triantafilou, President of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology since 2000, announced that he will step out of the limelight of “our beloved School” and retire. Fr. Nick has been a long-time friend of my family, first through the Denver Diocese Choir Federation where my mother was very active, and then serving as President of the School during my time at Holy Cross, from 2004-2008. There are many who know Fr. Nick, and there are many more who can share stories about his accomplishments as President of the School, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, Vicar General of the Denver Diocese, Parish Priest, Cathedral Dean, and “all-around amazing” Priest.
I won’t tell you about ANY of that. I’ll leave that for someone with more prestige than an average, small-town priest. I want to tell you a story about how Fr. Nick made me feel like one of the family from the very moment I arrived at Holy Cross.
When I arrived in Boston in late August 2004, having applied only two weeks prior to classes beginning, I had no clue how it was all going to work out. I came to know later that my circumstances were common for those answering the call to serve the Church. But as a freshmen still wet behind the ears, and my anderi (cassock) still freshly pressed, I was somewhat terrified. I had moved my wife and son from Denver, Colorado with no plan for how I was going to be able to pay tuition, rent, food, heat, gas, insurance….etc.
When I met Fr. Nick for the first time on campus, he assured me everything would work out just fine. But he assured me ONLY after FIRST greeting my mother, as they were longtime friends. It was from that moment I knew something was different about Fr. Nick Triantafilou. He knew everyone, but more importantly he KNEW them, and CARED about how they were doing. For four years, never once did he forget to ask how my mother was, even calling her directly a few times to “report on my status” at seminary, and he didn’t forget to call me when she lost her battle with cancer in 2011. He was a “priest’s priest” caring deeply for ANYONE and EVERYONE who served God’s Church.
Like a loving father, he never let anyone on campus feel like we were less loved or less appreciated than any other student. But also like a loving father, he challenged us to always give as much as we could for the mission of the Church, as he had for so many years. And if he thought we were slacking, he didn’t hesitate to call us over and set us straight. I will forever consider him a friend and mentor.
Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology will “go on” without Fr. Nick at the helm, and that is exactly what he would expect from the School and any of us who serve God’s Church. Lest we ever forget, “It isn’t OUR ministry…..it is HIS ministry.” The School is God’s, and like a loving father, Fr. Nick nurtured it and cared for it while it was in his keeping, and I, for one, will miss just knowing that he is in his office, caring for the future of our Church in America.
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