The V. Rev. Peter C. Katopis (1928-2012) Chicopee, MA
Fr. Peter C. Katopis of Sts. Constantine and Helen Church in Chicopee, Massachusetts passed away peacefully on October 15, 2012. Here is the Eulogy read at his funeral by Fr. Harry Vulopas.
The Rev Fr. Peter Christos Katopis, the son of Christos and Styliane Cosmopoulos Katopis was born in the storied town of Langadia, in the Province (Nomo) of Gortynia, 84 years ago. He was the scion of a prominent family. His maternal grandfather and maternal uncle were highly regarded physicians in the region. Another uncle was a distinguished member of the Areios Pagos, the Supreme Court of Greece. The young Panagiotes attended elementary and middle school in Langadia and graduated from the 5th gymnasium in Thessaloniki. An excellent student, he excelled in the language arts and mathematics.
Life was good until the German occupation of Greece in 1941. After witnessing and experiencing first-hand the ravages of the Occupation—the “Katoche,” Panagiotes joined the guerilla forces in the mountains of the Peleponnesus, commanded by the charismatic Aris Velouchiotes, perhaps the most effective (and controversial) resistance leader fighting against the Axis invaders during that history-shaping period. Compelled by his profound love for his beloved country, the 15 year-old Panagiotes risked his life daily, going from one detachment of guerillas to another, carrying highly confidential information from group leader to group leader. With his flaming red hair, he was given the sobriquet, “To kokkino aeto-poulo,” “the red eaglet.” Following the defeat and withdrawal of the Axis forces from the Greek mainland in October of 1944, a huge celebration took place in the city of Tripolis. Three individuals were asked to address the thousands who had gathered there. They were the guerilla leader, Aris Velouhiotes, Panagiotis Kanellopoulos, twice Prime Minister of Greece, and “the red eaglet,” Panagiotis Katopis.
In 1948, Fr. Peter, his mother and is brother, Thanos, emigrated to the United States to join the father who was residing in Waterbury, CT. That same year, Panagiotes made the decision to enroll in the Theological School of the Holy Cross in Pomfret Ct. Relatives and friends alike were greatly surprised by this decision. An idea, a persistent prompting and calling had taken root in Panagiotes’ consciousness. Certainly, the still vivid images of death and destruction, of man’s inhumanity to man that he had witnessed during those terrible war years had a great effect on his sensitive psyche. He thus responded, perhaps hesitantly at first, to the whispering of the Spirit in his heart, deciding that he could best serve God and his fellow man as a priest of the Church. Once having yielded to God’s call, he acted resolutely, without the slightest hesitation. He applied for admission to Holy Cross School of Theology in Pomfret, CT, and was immediately accepted as a second-year student. One is not at all surprised to hear unanimously from former classmates that Fr. Peter was an excellent student, loved by peers and faculty alike. A classmate once told me that he remembered him in the Holy Cross days as an exceptional young man: intelligent, witty, considerate, compassionate, debonair, impeccable in dress and behavior. These were traits and characteristics that defined him to his last days among us.
In Waterbury, he had met a young woman, the lovely Kay Zaiogas from Bristol, CT, a communicant of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Waterbury, and a member of the church choir. They married in 1952, and thus began a union of two individuals whose love for, and devotion to each other spanned the 54 years of their marriage, until Presvytera Kay’s untimely passing six years ago. Fr. Peter was never the same after his beloved partner’s death. Fr. Peter was ordained to the diaconate and to the priesthood in the fall of 1952 by the then dean of the Theological School, Bishop Ezekiel Tsoukalas of blessed memory, later Archbishop of Australia and Metropolitan of Kos.
In October of 1952, the community of Sts. Constantine and Helen welcomed its new pastor with much joy, for he was one of their own, a son of Langadia, where more than half of the parishioners had their roots. Filled with youthful enthusiasm and boundless energy, he quickly set out to re-organize every facet of church life. Church attendance, Choir, Church School, Greek School, Goya, all began to flourish under his guidance and encouragement. In due time, he spearheaded the project for the total reconstruction of the church building, thereby transforming a small, unremarkable structure into a beautiful Chicopee Falls landmark. As a result of his dedicated and tireless stewardship, Sts. Constantine and Helen stands as proudly and regally today as it did 55 years ago.
Fr. Peter devoted his life to Christ and this community. Sts. Constantine and Helen and its communicants were always the focus of his unwavering concern for the six decades of his pastorate. He never thought of his small community as a stepping stone to greater opportunities for himself and his family. In his mind, these were always to be his people, his spiritual children….his friends. Their joys and their sorrows were his as well. He rejoiced in and celebrated their births, their baptisms, their marriages, their accomplishments. He was always with them in their times of sadness, illness, and loss---sympathizing, consoling, nurturing.
So many times, I observed him shedding tears at a funeral for a beloved parishioner, as we stood in the sanctuary during the chanting of the “Defte teleftaion aspasmon,” “Come, brethren, let us give a last embrace to him whom death has taken.” Fr. Peter was the quintessential pastor. To paraphrase John 10:14, He knew his sheep and he was known by them. He was ever vigilant in his concern for the welfare of his people and for their growth in Christ.
He never affected a false piety nor did he utter vacuous, sanctimonious platitudes. His manner was forthright and manly. His comments and observations were invariably flavored with wit, humor and, yes, at times tinged with irony. He did not wear his faith on his sleeve. For him, it was not a superficial sentient. The focus of his faith lay in the deep recesses of his heart—firmly rooted and unshakable. He guarded it carefully; for to him, faith was a precious possession—“a pearl of great price.”
Presvytera Kay was a blessing to Fr. Peter, to their family and to all who knew her. She was an exceptional individual: always by her husband’s side—a helpmate for all his seasons; supporting, encouraging, inspiring, comforting, advising, suggesting alternatives. She was the consummate hostess, able to entertain a house-full of guests calmly and efficiently with but an hour’s notice. Her passing cost him dearly. He never adjusted to being without her. She was always in his thoughts…and his prayers. They are together, once again, in that day that has no end.
Fr. Peter adored his children, Stella, Joanne and Chris. He wasproud of them and of their accomplishments. He had great affection for his daughter-in-law, Mary Ellen, and for his son-in-law, Gary. His granddaughter Elizabeth was the apple of his eye, mention of her always brought a smile to his lips. He had great affection, as well, for her husband, Joseph.
Fr. Peter will be missed by us , his fellow priests. We will miss his wise counsel, his quick wit and warm humor. He would call us frequently to get together for lunch and good fellowship. He thoroughly enjoyed the company of his brothers as we did his. Your Eminence, he truly had great respect and affection for you. He often spoke to me of his admiration for you and of your accomplishments for the benefit of the Church. He treasured the friendship you shared.
When my presvytera and I arrived in this area 51 years ago, Fr. Peter, Presvytera Kay, and their family welcomed us as one would close relatives. And so it was until he left us. Almost every week, he and I would meet for an hour or two. We were as close as brothers. Oh, over the years, there were little pulls and snags in the rich fabric of our relationship, but that happens with individuals who are joined by strong bonds of feeling and affection. He was my brother and I loved him deeply.
He was a true and faithful Levite and, as the time of parting drew near, he could surely say with St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And surely in the depths of his being he heard in return the Lord’s sweet words: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.” That “joy” in which Fr. Peter now shares is limned in spare yet evocative terms by the English poet, Evangeline Paterson, who penned these words:
‘And That Will Be Heaven’
and that will be heaven
and that will be heaven
at last the first unclouded
seeing to stand like the sunflower
turned full face to the sun drenched
in light in the still centre
held while the circling planets
hum with an utter joy
seeing and knowing
at last in every particle
seen and known and not turning
away never turning away again
May God grant you blessed rest among His saints!