Obituary of Reverend Konstantine D. Tsigas, Protopresbyter
Reverend Father Konstantine Demetrios Tsigas, our beloved husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and spiritual father to many, was called peacefully at the age of 95 to our Lord and Savior on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, to join his parents, sons (Father Demetrios Tsigas and baby Yianni), and siblings.
Father Konstantine is survived by his faithful wife Spiridoula (Stavropoulos), his two daughters Vasiliki (Fotinis) and Katerina (Papaioanou), their husbands Panagiotis and George, his daughter-in-law Eleni (Zuras Tsigas), and seven grandchildren for whom he had an unwavering soft spot: Spyridoula Fotinis, Emmanuel Fotinis, Jordan Tsigas, Jonathan Tsigas, Anastasia Papaioanou, Konstantina Papaioanou, Theofania Papaioanou, and grand-dog Gigi. He also leaves behind many cousins, nieces and nephews in Greece and the United States and countless parishioners and friends he profoundly affected.
Born on April 23, 1928, in Sitaralona, Greece, the fifth child of Demetrios and Vasiliki (Ulthasis) Tsigas. Even though his maternal grandfather was George and he was born on St. George’s feast day, his godfather boldly named him Konstantine. “Kosta” grew up helping his family with the farms, livestock, and family-owned cafe (the “kafenio”). We often heard about his long hikes up and down the mountains to attend high school in Thermo each week with only some dry bread in his bag, a hardship that he considered a privilege.
Thus began his trek on “My Road to Damascus” (the autobiography he wrote detailing his life’s journey) articulating his trust in the love of God. As a mischievous young boy and teenager - smoking, gambling, disobedient and defiant towards his parents and authority - he reveled in describing his life-saving transformation, inspired by an itinerant preacher, that eventually led to his life-long pursuit to love God and all His people. This experience informed his purpose in life until the day of his passing (though he did maintain a competitive streak for checkers, ping pong and other games).
Upon graduation from high school, he became an assistant to a lay-preacher and later to a Greek Orthodox priest in the town of Agrinio. In 1950, Konstantine enlisted in the Greek army and was stationed in central Macedonia (Katerini) where he became a Sublieutenant. Upon completion of his three year duty, he entered the University of Athens Theological School, receiving a Masters of Theology in 1957. He began work as the secretary of the Metropolis of Mesolongi and as a lay-preacher.
On December 13, 1959, Konstantine Tsigas married Spiridoula, the daughter of Ioannis and Katerina Stavropoulos from Nafpaktos, Greece, his beloved wife and partner in ministry for the next 64 years. Their children, Demetrios and Vasiliki were born over the next two years while he taught at a high school in Patras. Their daughter, Katerina, was born two years later in the United States.
After the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America asked for priests to shepherd communities in the United States, the young couple followed their calling. On November 4, 1962, Konstantine was ordained a Deacon and four days later was ordained a Priest in Athens, Greece.
In exchange for passage to America, Fr. Konstantine served as the ship’s chaplain as he and his young family boarded the Homeric for a 13 day journey across the Atlantic Ocean. At day break, they arrived in New York City Harbor and after two days in a freezing Jersey City hotel room they blindly and faithfully accepted the invitation to serve the burgeoning community of Dover, New Jersey. He spoke not a word of English; the community president spoke not a word of Greek. The challenge served them well as the Tsigas family never looked back. He spent the entirety of his priestly ministry as the spiritual leader of St. Andrew’s Greek Orthodox community, first at the little church on River and Union Streets in Dover, and finally on Sussex Turnpike in Randolph, where he led the community in purchasing land and building a beautiful Orthodox edifice, consecrated in December 1991, as well as the community center.
From the first Divine Liturgy celebrated on the Sunday before Christmas 1962 with about 70 families, the community grew to over 500 families over the next 42 years. Together with Presbytera Spiridoula, the couple selflessly served with sincere commitment and concern for the welfare of their Saint Andrew’s family. Their love and devotion was commemorated in 2011 when the newly erected gymnasium was commissioned in their name.
He would often visit the restaurants and diners to spread the Word, especially to those who worked on Sundays. As a spiritual father, he spent many hours regardless of the time of day to be with those whose lives were suddenly beset with trials and tragedy.
Father Konstantine touched the lives of so many people within and beyond the walls of the church, inspiring countless individuals and couples with his marriage counseling, promotion of education as the bedrock for all of life’s challenges, his life story of personal transformation, and the penultimate roles of sacrifice and respect in any loving relationship. Sacrificial love and hospitality, above all else, personify The Tsigas Way. If you ever want to do an impression of Fr. Tsigas, just don your heaviest Greek accent and proclaim with clear and unequivocal conviction, pausing between each word, “Love is sacrifice!” The passion and volume of his stories only grew with time, even as he held court in his final days in the hospital.
Outside the church, he was known and respected by many civic officials, served on the State Youth Committee for 41 years, and was a member of the Randolph Clergy Association. His love of the earth and comfort with animals was manifest in gardens he planted and nurtured, grafting fruit trees, hand feeding birds that arrived when he whistled, and growing the organic vegetables and fruit that made their way to the family dinner table - a table that always included new friends and abundant fellowship. He planted hundreds of olive trees in his hometown, a living legacy for his grandchildren that he tended during his many trips back to Greece in his later years.
In 2005 it was time to pass the torch to his successor and “retire” to Orlando, Florida. Holy Trinity in Maitland, Florida, became their new home even while Metropolitan Alexios tapped Fr. Konstantine, now in his 80’s, to serve extended pastoral assignments for the communities of St. Demetrios, Daytona Beach (2008), St. Nicholas, Fort Pierce (2009), and St. Mark, Ocala (2012).
Reverend Father Konstantine Tsigas was bestowed three Offikia offices of honor in the priesthood. He was elevated to Sakelarios by Archbishop Iakovos on December 21, 1970. Metropolitan Silas bestowed the Offikia of Economos on November 14, 1983, and Protopresbyter - the highest office for a married priest - on December 4, 1992.
The thousands of babies he baptized, couples married, confessions heard, faithful interred, exorcisms performed, sick and imprisoned visited, counseling sessions imparted, all testify to his faith, love and sacrifice for God, while trusting his family to the Lord’s care. Neither family or friends can argue with his focused devotion and relentless quest to bring all people to the loving embrace of Jesus Christ, an embrace that clearly saved him. Perhaps his most egregious sin was the amount of pride that he boasted for his progeny.
Visitation will be held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Maitland, Florida from 4-7 pm on Saturday, July 15. A Trisagion prayer service will be offered at 6:45 pm. A visitation will also be held in Randolph, New Jersey at St. Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Church on Tuesday, July 18 from 4-7pm. On Wednesday, July 19, following Orthros Service at 8:30 am and Divine Liturgy at 9:30 am, there will be a Hierarchical funeral at 11 am at St. Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Church in Randolph, New Jersey. Interment will follow at Locust Hill Cemetery, Dover, NJ, with a luncheon at St. Andrew Community Center afterwards.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church noting “Tsigas Memorial Project Fund”, 1447 Sussex Turnpike, Randolph, NJ 07869. For electronic donations, please visit www.standrewgonj.org