Father Panagiotis Malamis may be celebrating his 50th anniversary in the priesthood, but he’s not slowing down. Learn more about him.
Father Panagiotis Malamis: 50 years of ministry in Chicago
Father Panagiotis Malamis first aspired to the priesthood as young boy. This year he celebrates his 50th anniversary as a Greek Orthodox priest. For half a century, he’s served Chicago’s Greek Orthodox faithful, including 45 years at The Greek Orthodox Church of St. Demetrios in Elmhurst, IL. The devoted priest, now 83, accepted the calling and considers it a privilege to continue to serve the Lord and minister to the faithful. The community will celebrate the ministry of their faithful and loving steward on February 3, 2019.
From humble beginnings
The son of Konstantinos and Demetra Malamis, Father Panagiotis was born in Sigouni, Kalavryta in 1935. From humble beginnings, he grew up during World War II and the Greek Civil War. Perhaps it was the ravages of war, or the influence of his beloved grandfather who was a chanter, Father Panagiotis first heard the call to the priesthood at the tender age of nine. He said those years were difficult and it was a challenge to finish school. But unlike many others, he did complete his schooling.
Fast forward to adulthood, Father Panagiotis was introduced to his Presbytera Theodora, who hailed from a nearby village. They were married in 1962 in Montreal, and committed themselves to each other, to raise a large family, and dedicated themselves in service to Christ.
With great love and pride, the couple welcomed nine children: three daughters and six sons. Presbytera not only raised the children but was a driving force in Father Panagiotis’ ministry.
In 1966, the couple moved to Boston, where Father attended the Holy Cross Theological School. In May 1968, in Connecticut, Father Panagiotis was ordained a deacon by His Grace Bishop Demetrios of Olymbou. The following May, he graduated the seminary, and the same bishop ordained him to the Holy Priesthood. By July 1969, he was assigned to his first parish, the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago. In 1971, he was transferred to St. Demetrios Church in Chicago.
Finding his lifelong home
Father Panagiotis came to the then-fledgling St. Demetrios parish in Elmhurst, in 1974. There, he not only found a lifelong home, but a place to serve God with every ounce of his being. The parish flourished under his leadership.
Later that year, Father would complete his bachelor’s degree from Governor’s State University and pledged his efforts where they were needed most – guiding this young community to thrive and strengthen their relationship with God. You won’t see Father Panagiotis’ name on committees or extensive writings. This faithful servant of God has dedicated his entire life to his parish family. The results of his efforts resonate throughout the community. When he came to the parish in 1974, there were only 100 families. Today, more than 600 families call St. Demetrios home. In fact, over the last 15 years the community has nearly doubled in size.
Growing a community
Father Panagiotis was the fourth Proistamenos St. Demetrios — and the longest serving — from 1974-2006. During that time, he led this community through many milestones, and would prove to be a much-respected leader, one loved and cherished by his flock. Under his leadership, the community center/school building and church were constructed, as well as two chapels – the Holy Anargyroi Chapel adjacent to the community center and the St. John Chapel at Arlington Cemetery, also in Elmhurst. May other ministries were created, serving the ever-changing needs of the parish. Additionally, Pythagoras Greek School flourished, and Pythagoras Children’s Academy (PCA), a parochial day school, was founded in 1998.
In 1985, Father was bestowed the title, “Ofikion tou oikonomou,” which is a higher rank for a married priest. When he celebrated his 25th anniversary in the priesthood at Holy Cross School, the late Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America granted him the title, “Ofikion tou Presbyteriou,” the highest rank and distinction attainable by a married priest.
A liturgical legacy
Father Panagiotis is known not only for his leadership and service to the Church, but also for bringing life to the words of the Scripture. He set an example for other priests and other parishes to follow. He was the first priest in the area to celebrate the 40-day liturgies during the Christmas fast. With enthusiasm, he embraced the Epiphany tradition of blessing homes and businesses each year, even when the parish began to grow exponentially. He still observes these traditions today.
One of his children followed his footsteps into the priesthood. With an exemplary example, and ongoing inspiration from his father, Father Sotiris now serves the community of Ascension of Our Lord in Lincolnshire, IL. The next generation is following suit. Several of Father Panagiotis’ grandsons serve in the altar and chant.
Father Andrew Georganas was assigned to the community in 2001, and called Father Panagiotis a “tremendous mentor,” citing the elder priest’s commitment to God, the Church and all who enter in it. He reflected on the legacy of Father Panagiotis.
“His legacy will be that his office was the altar. He lives and breathes the liturgy.”
Not slowing down
Officially, Father Panagiotis retired in 2006, but he hasn’t slowed down. He remains steadfast in his work, as the Church and his parish are far too important for him. Ministering to the faithful is his life; every ounce of his being is dedicated to this service. He celebrates liturgy each week, counsels parishioners, and continues to share his wisdom. It’s not unusual to find him in the kitchen helping to prepare a lunch for the students or teaching a religion lesson. Like a beloved grandfather, Father Panagiotis can often be found sitting and speaking with students and reminding them that they are loved and blessed.
Parish Council President Irini Garbis said that Father Panagiotis embodies Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering…”
“Father Panagiotis does everything in a humble way, without seeking attention. He does things with pure love and faith.”
Parishioners expressed great respect for their beloved elder priest, and of him, they reiterated the words he often says to them: he’s “The best in the West!” They describe him as the first to line up to help, and that he does whatever he can for everyone. He is so loved by his parishioners — they’ve honored him several times in the last 30 years — at his 20th, 40th, and 45th anniversary in the priesthood, and now at his 50th.
At the 40th anniversary of his priesthood, I asked Father Panagiotis about the future.
“I will stay close to the Church. My hope and prayer is to keep everyone close to the Church; The Church is my life.”
No doubt, this faithful and humble priest will serve God and his community until his final breath. And, of course, he’ll enjoy his children and 25 grandchildren.
50th anniversary celebration for Father Panagiotis Malamis
The Greek Orthodox Church of St. Demetrios, located at 893 N. Church Road, Elmhurst, IL will celebrate Father Panagiotis Malamis’ 50th anniversary in the priesthood on Sunday, February 3. Orthros begins at 8:00 am, and Divine Liturgy at 9:30 am. A luncheon will follow at The Empress Banquets, 200 E. Lake Street, Addison, IL. For reservations, call 630.834.7010.