Lord, how we Loved our Dear Friend and Spiritual Shepherd
Archpriest Daniel Rentel
The Archbishop, then known as Paul Gassios, first became known to my wife and me as one of the student singers in the traveling Octet from St. Vladimir’s in the early Nineties of the last century. He was one year ahead of my son, Alexander, but both sang in the Octet that year. For my fledgling mission that visit proved special. The singing was uplifting. The seminarians impressed their hosts. And, Seminarian Gassios visited with us at our house allowing us to get to know him a little better. From that time on I don’t think we ever lost contact with one and another.
Soon after his ordination to the priesthood he was assigned to St. Thomas Church in Kokomo, Indiana. At that point in time there was a Columbus Deanery over which I was Dean. I visited the parish, discussed matters over the phone with him, and did what I could to help him and that fledgling parish that had recently come into the ranks of the Orthodox Church from an evangelical past.
During that time I learned much of the character, integrity and desire of this humble cleric to do what the good Lord would have him do. From a willingness to live in the undercroft of the parish fellowship area, needing to shower at the local YMCA, to how to rightly answer a mother of a fifteen year old who wanted to go to football practice rather than to liturgy on a Sunday morning… I share this only to bear witness to how deeply this servant of the Church struggled always to do what was right in a remarkably self-sacrificing way.
We followed each other as he moved to St. Louis through Missouri and on into Toledo and the OCA St. George Bulgarian Cathedral there.
In time he became our diocesan hierarch. We maintained our friendship. When he visited St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Hayesville, Ohio, he would often come down the road to spend a day or two with us. Always when he made an archpastoral visit to St. Gregory’s in Columbus, my wife, Elaine and I gladly welcomed him to our house and hospitality. In truth he last stayed with us just back in February of this year. We were concerned. During that visit he shared concerns with us about his own health issues. From that point on, I put him on my prayer list for ‘The Sick and the Suffering.’ As we became informed of the gravity of his health issues our prayers were co-enjoined with sadness, his falling asleep in the Lord now has us praying for his blessed repose and they will not end so long as we are able to offer them up for him.
Lord, how we loved our dear friend and spiritual shepherd. We trusted him knowing that in any and all decisions he made, they would come only after deep consideration, many prayers, and the intense desire to always do what was right.
I grieve the loss of Archbishop PAUL.
May his memory be eternal.