Today, September 30, 2022, is the anniversary of the passing of Father Nicholas Trivelas, formerly pastor at Charleston’s Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity while I was a student at the Citadel many, many decades ago. Reflections on his passing brought to mind two other Greek Orthodox priests who were a comfort to me during trying times, Father Nicholas Nick of Fort Lauderdale’s St. Demetrius Greek Orthodox Cathedral and my family’s Greek Orthodox pastor in Queens, New York, when I “wore a much younger man’s clothes”. The latter’s surname was, I think, Volides. Because they can marry and father children, Greek Orthodox clerics tend to be more empathic than celibate clerics, and warmer, in a safe manner.
I confess that I am not a “believer” and it may be that I was not then. I’m at best an agnostic and a seeker, but I profoundly respect the faith of others. Indeed, I have studied most major religions and as a young academic, taught a course on mythologies and comparative religions, something that has remained a life-long interest. I was baptized Greek Orthodox at the age of ten at the insistence of my step father, Leonidas Theodore Kokkins, born in Flushing, New York where he is interred, but I had already been baptized as a Catholic and, as a member of a church associated with the Theosophical Society. It’s not really as confusing as it sounds. My maternal family were theosophists and thus generally accepting of all religions. But the three priests I referenced above were special people in my life and in the lives of others, too many to count.
The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, of which I am a proud graduate, was and is a very special place. Although it is in continuous evolution, something with which many of its graduates do not agree (being deeply traditionalist), its values seem constant. The Citadel involves a profoundly demanding, integral experience combing academics, athletics, military training, civic involvement and ethics, one that took everything we could give and then some to complete (indeed, many decent, intelligent and competent people do not succeed there and move on to other endevors elsewhere, with the Citadel’s blessing and best wishes).
Father Trivelas helped me make it through the Citadel’s rigors and supplemented its values, as did the wonderful Greek community of Charleston, special among them three families, the Misoyianis family, the Kirlis family, and especially the Lempesis family. It’s hard to think of one without the others, and each always inspires feelings of profound love and gratitude.
As tends to happen in this mobile and dynamic world, one where values seem much less relevant than they once were, the memories and reflections to which I allude are bitter sweet: sad because of the loss of contact but beautiful because of the shared experiences involved and because of the role played by those to whom I’ve referred in whatever positive attributes I’ve attained. These are memories in which my mother echoes, Powerfully, as do so many others: my classmates, both at the Citadel and at the Eastern Military Academy (once prominent in Cold Spring Hills, New York, but now long gone), and memories inspired by the student’s I’ve been privileged to teach and the colleagues from whom I’ve also learned a great deal.
Memories of Father Trivelas trigger them all. If he was right and there’s a Heaven, he is there, prominently.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2022; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at email@example.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at https://guillermocalvo.com/.