IN MEMORIAM: PROTOPRESBYTER THOMAS HOPKO
FROM HIS GRACE, BISHOP MICHAEL; RECTOR, ST. TIKHON’S SEMINARY
On behalf of the faculty, administration, staff, students and families of the St. Tikhon’s Seminary community, I express our deepest sympathies on the falling asleep in the Lord of the ever-to-be-remembered Protopresbyter, Father Thomas Hopko.
So often our society idolizes celebrities and billionaires; we make them our “heroes” and our “role models”. But, in reality, their records are short-lived and their fame is fleeting. We need to exalt and pattern our lives after the Saints who imitated Christ … and the pastors who imitate them. Father Tom lived such a life: teacher, author; scholar, dean; husband, father; mentor, friend … But primarily, he was a priest.
From his days in Endicott serving as an altar boy, to his years at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, as one of its renowned Deans, Father Tom loved serving the Lord, His Church, and His people. He celebrated the Divine Services in a manner that would make one wonder if he were in Heaven or on earth. He preached with the boldness of a prophet, the brilliance of a patristic father, and a clarity that reached the youngest of children – and the most senior of faithful.
In his parishes, he was loved as a father and a friend. He led people to Christ by his preaching and guided them on the path to theosis as a confessor. His writings, which were both brilliant in depth and easy to understand, touched the minds and hearts and souls of countless individuals, not only in his parochial assignments but throughout this country and all over the world.
Father Tom was the consummate priest. He trained men to become priests. He mentored them in the Seminary and in their parishes. He gave them advice and inspired them, guided and comforted them, but most of all, loved them. He was, in fact, a priest’s priest.
In the book of Sirach, there is a passage praising a high priest, Simon. Its words are applicable to the Protopresbyter – the first of priests – Father Tom: “When he put on his splendid vestments and was clothed with the perfection of grace, and went up to the altar to serve … he honored the priesthood itself.” (50:10).
All of us whose lives were touched by Father Tom are better for it. The faculty, students and alumni of St. Tikhon’s Seminary – for many of whom his teachings have been pivotal in their discerning of vocations – are richer for the years we have had him, as is the entire Orthodox Church in America. We pray for the repose of his soul, that the Lord will indeed say to this consummate priest among priests, “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:21).
May God beatify him and give him rest with the Saints … and may his memory be eternal!