Three generations of the Zervas family were on hand for Father Nicolaos Zervas’ 45th St Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church Easter services over the weekend.
It was a “special” and “emotional” time for the 84-year-old priest, who was ordained for the Newcastle Greek community in 1973.
The Greek Orthodox Easter is usually celebrated at a different time to western Easter because the dates are based on the old Julian calendar.
While most of the world follows the Gregorian calendar, the Eastern Orthodox Church still uses the earlier Julian calendar for calculating the dates of festivals such as Easter, which are not fixed.
Mr Zervas was surrounded by his four children and ten grandchildren over the weekend for the milestone.
His grandsons assisted as alter boys during some of the services.
“It was a little bit emotional for me as I may not be around as a priest next year,” Mr Zervas revealed.
“I’m thinking of retiring, maybe.”
Having been involved with the Newcastle community for so long, Mr Zervas said the weekend’s services took on extra significance.
“It’s special for me, I’ve been there for 45 years,” he said.
“I knew a lot of people who are no longer still around.
“I baptised thousands, I married hundreds… so it’s emotional for me.
“We had a lot of people in the church, over 600 or 700 on Friday and about 500 on the Saturday for resurrection night.”
Mr Zervas recounted his journey to becoming a priest and living in Newcastle to Topics on Monday.
He was born in Greece in 1934 and lived in a village outside the city of Corinth.
He came to Australia as a 19-year-old for a trip and had no initial plans to stay.
After working a few different jobs, he opened a restaurant in Morwell, Victoria, and later ran one in Sydney, NSW.
He wanted to be priest from a young age, but there were “not many” churches when he first came to Australia.
Eventually, whilst living in Sydney, an opportunity became available.
After gaining his wife’s permission, he was shown to the city of Newcastle where he would be based.
“I didn’t know Newcastle at all,” Mr Zervas said. “It was something different to me.
“I said: ‘this is the town for my children to grow up’ and I met with the Greek community. I spent another four weeks in Sydney and then moved to Newcastle.”
Mr Zervas’ daughter, Soula Crook, loves being able to see her dad deliver services.
“It’s a blessing, whenever we see the church service, whenever I see my dad standing up there,” Mrs Crook said.
“I’m so happy and appreciative that I’ve got a father that’s still up there, still doing what he’s doing and we’re all there surrounding him.
“And to see my children, his grandchildren, up there because they want to be up there. I’m very proud.”
Mr Zervas said the support of his wife and family during his time as a priest at St Demetrios has been crucial.
“My family was always there,” Mr Zervas said. “Especially my grandchildren, they are there every Sunday for the last 20 years.”
An Order of Australia Medal recipient in 1993, Mr Zervas’ work in the community has been considerable.
He is still a volunteer with Meals on Wheels at Hamilton and still involved with the Northern Settlement Services (formerly the Migrant Resource Centre), which he considers one of his proudest achievements along with his work on the Ethnic Communities Council.
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