Interview with the Newly Appointed Chancellor

BURBANK,IL [DOM Communications] – February 1, 2021 marks the first day of appointment for Archpriest Paul Jannakos as the Chancellor of the Diocese of the Midwest. As the chancellor, Fr. Paul will be responsible for assisting the Archbishop in managing more than 70 parishes within the diocese, along with the clergy, and other various operations of the canonical territory.

Fr. Paul Jannakos was born in E. St. Louis Ill., and grew up in Golden Colorado. In September of 1976 he began his studies as a pre-theological student at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in NY, also taking courses at Concordia College/NY in Bronxville. In 1980 he graduated from Concordia College with a B.A. in Music. He graduated in 1983 with a M. Div. (cum laude) degree from St. Vladimir’s and was married to Michelle (Julylia) Jannakos in Cleveland Ohio, the year before, in 1982.

Fr. Paul was ordained to the holy priesthood on March 3rd, 1985 by Bishop Boris in Chicago at Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral. Since his ordination, Fr. Paul has served in parishes in Minnesota (St. Mary’s Cathedral), Montana (St. Nicholas), and Michigan (Sts Peter & Paul, St. Nicholas, and St. Mary Magdalene). After his four children graduated from high school, he began studies in professional counseling at the University of Detroit/Mercy and graduated with a Dual Master Degree (MA) in Counseling (2010).  Fr. Paul also works part time as a licensed professional counselor (LPC) for Ethos Counseling Group. He loves to compose music, garden, and fly-fish.

The Department of Communications of the Diocese of the Midwest met with Fr. Paul to offer readers a closer look at the new Chancellor.

Q1: Father, you are now being appointed as the first priest of the Diocese of the Midwest. Given this large responsibility, what are you looking forward to the most? 

To begin, I have to say thank you to Fr. John Zdinak for his encouragement, support and guidance these last 3 months during the transition. Fr. Zdinak has left an amazing mark on the diocese, especially in the area of building up our priestly fraternal brotherhood (among many, many, other things) – which has helped to lessen the feeling of isolation that we as clergy often face in our ministry. 

I look forward, most of all, to the new opportunities of being able to serve Christ as the “least, last, and lowest” of all, which it seems to me, is the first condition of ministry in the life of the Church – no matter what our calling may be. 

Unlike worldly structures which measure success in terms of ascendance, influence and power, the Church turns all this on its head (or perhaps turns it “right side up”) by presenting Christ as our living Icon of humble service. 

So, in a way, being Chancellor simply means the opportunity “to wash more feet.” For this I am grateful. 

Q2: You have been a priest in the Orthodox Church in America for 36 years, is there anything specific that you feel has helped prepare you for this task? 

The Orthodox Priesthood is a ministry that is “traditioned” in the literal sense of the word. I spent 7 years at St. Vladimir’s learning Orthodox theology. These years were irreplaceable, of course. 

But when it came to the actual practicing of the priesthood after my ordination in March of 1985, I was blessed to have spent my first 3 years as a priest at our Cathedral of St. Mary’s in Minneapolis – from 1985 to 1988 – being mentored by two extraordinary priests: Fr. Thaddeus Wojcik and Fr. Vladimir Lecko. 

In a way, the spiritual “DNA” of my priesthood has been both formed and replicated for these last 36 years by these two men. There is not a feast day, a sermon, a council meeting, etc, that I experience without thinking, consciously or subconsciously, “How would Fr. Ted or Fr. Vladimir do this?” Fr. Ted was a model of patience and good will to all. Fr. Vladimir, well, here’s a man who embodies all the best of priestly love and service. 

Two other lay persons who were also a wonderful benefit to me were Mr. Jack Novak, the council president at the Cathedral, and + Mr. Bud Kalina of blessed memory. Jack took me under his wing and treated me like another son. Mr. Kalina had been the treasurer of the Cathedral for many years: everything I know about good financial management of parishes and the Church at large I learned from him. I think and pray for them often. 

Q3: Archbishop Paul and his staff have done a lot of work over the past several years bringing in new ministries and energy in the diocese. In what ways do you feel you will be able to assist His Eminence and build on the current momentum? 

Yes, I have to agree that the Archbishop has brought to our Midwest diocese an amazing vigor and sense of forward motion. What amazes me the most is that as our Chief Shepherd and Hierarch, His Eminence does all this without any “personal agenda.” For example, we all know that in the OCA there are those who would like things to “lean” right with more “traditional” modes of Orthodox expression, and those who want the Church to “lean” left by moving things down the road more progressively. 

But for our Hierarch, these two ways of thinking, which are both extremely problematic especially in their polarizing effects, do not exist! His only concern is that the Church be the Church and that it continues Christ’s work in this fallen world. 

We see this especially in His Eminence’s love for the Holy Eucharist. Everything begins at this mysterious “nexus” of being and practice where the Body of our Lord is broken and His Blood is spilled and shed. His Eminence is very insistent that for us, having received these same Holy Gifts, we go on “breaking and spilling ourselves out” in further directions – as is evident in the Book of Acts, with education, mission, philanthropy, etc. 

So I hope and pray to assist His Eminence in the furthering of these good ministries, especially in the work of priestly formation and development and the building up of lay ministries. 

Q4: Finally Father, what is one thing that you would like to share with our readers as we get to know you better? 

I was born in E. St. Louis, Illinois and have always loved living in the Midwest the most: Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois. 

I’m especially grateful to my parents, the Protodeacon Nicholas Jannakos, and my mother Elizabeth for all they have given to me. Looking back as I was growing up they instilled within me a deep love for the services of the Church (my father) and made sure that I was constantly being exposed to beautiful things (my mother): music, art, literature, the out-of-doors. Etc. 

Of course, no one brings me more joy than my wife, Protinica Michelle (Julylia) Jannakos and my four children, Nicholas, Christina, Katherine and Gregory who have been my rock through times of sorrow and rejoicing these many years. 

I also enjoy reading Russian literature, when I can, I compose music for both the Church services and piano. And since my childhood I have been a dedicated fan of fly-fishing. Whenever I can steal a day away, I’m on a river with my son-in-law and grandson, Jack, in Northern Michigan catching Steelhead.

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