Ordination of Fr. Gregory Justiniano
September 17, 2006
DANBURY, CT - Saturday, September 16 was a day full of preparation as the parish of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church anxiously waited for the arrival of His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas. The visit of His Eminence was for the ordination of Deacon Gregory Justiniano to the Holy Priesthood. Born in San German, Puerto Rico, Fr. Deacon Gregory came to the United States with his family over 20 years ago. Not only was the church cleaned but site for the new church, presently under construction, was prepared for the Metropolitan to see the progress of the new church building. The visit began with the arrival of His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas, Fr. Andrew Bartek and seminarian, Reader Matthew Stagon. Vespers was served at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church with his Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas presiding. The responses were lead by Fr. Peter Paproski, along with Fr. Michael Macura, Fr. Andrew Bartek, Sandi Fong, and Stephen Fong. The Vespers was served by Fr. Luke Mihaly, Deacon Robert Hubiak and Deacon Gregory Justiniano.
Following the Vesper service, His Eminence, along with most of the clergy visited the new church building site. The new church recently passed its insulation inspection and now funds are being sought to buy sheetrock in order to move ahead the completion of the new church.
People began to arrive early at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church on Sunday, September 17. It was a beautiful day. Well over one hundred-fifty people packed the old Holy Trinity Church building, spilling out over the threshold of the church to witness the ordination and pray for Fr. Gregory Justiniano. The choir loft was overflowing with people and the stairs leading to the loft also packed with people. Many of Fr. Gregory's colleagues from Danbury High School, where Fr. Gregory is an ESL teacher, were in attendance. Attending were not only faculty but also many of his students as well as the Mayor of Danbury, Mark Boughton. Serving at the altar along with His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas was Fr. Luke Mihaly, Fr. Andrew Bartek, Deacon Gregory Justiniano, Deacon Robert Hubiak, Deacon Siloan (Justiniano), Subdeacon Wylie Meath, Subdeacon Nicholas Mihaly and the seminarian, Reader Matthew Stagon. The responses were lead by Professor John Galpin along with Sandi Fong and Stephen Fong.
In his sermon and exhortation to Fr. Gregory, His Eminence reminded Fr. Gregory that today by his ordination through the laying on of hands he is no longer the same person he was this morning. He can no longer be the same person he was before. He is to be an icon of Jesus Christ and therefore his entire life must reflect his priesthood, his entire life must revolve around his priesthood. He is a priest and now his home is the altar.
Following the liturgy, a banquet in honor of the newly ordained Fr. Gregory was held. Nearly 150 people were in attendance. Fr. Gregory spoke eloquently and thanked many people for helping him to be where he is today. He thanked his children, his parents and his mother-in-law. And he thanked his wife, Pani Edna:
My beloved wife: Edna Euphemia, who has walked with me through the most difficult moments of my life. She has cried with me; she has sacrificed for me while never letting me down. She has always been by my side encouraging me, praying for me and sustaining me. As you see me here standing in front of you, you only see one half of me, my other half is she, Oh my beloved wife, Edna, how much I respect you; how much I love you!
In his words to His Eminence, he stated:
My bishop, His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas, who accepted me. Even with this strong Puerto Rican accent, he accepted me. I have never experienced any kind of rejection from him. To the contrary, he opened his arms and embraced me as a father to a son. Since our diocese is an icon of the bishop, I can say the same thing about our diocese, our priests and laymen. You have accepted me with brotherly love without mentioning my ethnicity. Thank you, your Eminence, for working with me throughout these ten years of studies and discipleship.
Fr. Gregory spoke openly to all those present about his journey to the Orthodox Church:
People have asked me why I have chosen to be an Orthodox Christian. They are usually in a state of shock since most people who know me know that I used to be a Pentecostal minister for 18 years and a very active member of the same denomination for 28 years. They ask; why did you leave the Pentecostal church to join the Orthodox Church? My answer to them is this: God is constantly working in all us. The Holy Trinity is molding us into what He wants us to be. We are His creation. He is our builder even though sometimes we think He is finished with us, if we listen to Him with attention and honesty of heart, we will see that He is bringing us to a state of completeness. Through His mercy and Grace, He has guided me to His Holy Church. In His Church I have found the fullness of the Truth. This is why I am an Orthodox Christian.
He also related to those presently a common question that is often asked of him.
Once I heard someone said to me: What is a Puerto Rican doing in a Russian Church? And I replied to them, "What Russian Church?" In my experience Holy Trinity is an Orthodox parish. Even though we speak different languages and have many cultures among us we partake of one Holy Cup. Another person asked me, why did you not choose a bigger church in which to be ordained? My reply to that was, "This small church is home. You are my family and this is who we are.
My brethren, pray for me now. I need your prayers more than ever. This is a very intimidating place to be. I am surrounded by a cloud of Holy Men. Allow me to finish with this prayer:
Under your protection we hasten, O virgin Birth-Giver of God. Do not turn away from us in our time of need but pure and blessed Lady, save us! Amen