Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko Reposes in the Lord
Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, 75, dean emeritus of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York, and noted Orthodox Christian priest, theologian, preacher, and speaker, fell asleep in the Lord at Good Samaritan Hospice of Concordia, Wexford, PA, on the afternoon of March 18, 2015.
Father Thomas was the beloved husband of Matushka Anne [Schmemann] Hopko. They were married on June 9, 1963. Together, Fr. Thomas and Anne are the parents of five children, sixteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
The Very Reverend Dr. John Behr, current Dean of St. Vladimir's, noted the influence that Fr. Thomas has had on his own life, saying, "Fr. Tom quite literally changed my life, bringing me to St. Vladimir's Seminary, and thereafter inspiring me with a love of Scripture and the Gospel.
"His reach and touch has been immeasurable for so many, and not least upon the seminary," he continued. "He will be sorely missed, but his touch and influence remain. May he rest in peace and rise in glory!"
Thomas John Hopko was born in Endicott, NY, on March 28, 1939, the third child and only son of John J. Hopko and Anna [Zapotocky] Hopko. He was baptized and raised in St. Mary’s Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek-Catholic Church, and educated in Endicott public schools, graduating from Union-Endicott High School in 1956.
Father Thomas graduated from Fordham University in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in Russian studies. He graduated with a theological degree from St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in 1963, from Duquesne University with a master’s degree in philosophy in 1969, and he earned his doctorate degree in theology from Fordham University in 1982.
Ordained to the Holy Priesthood in August 1963, Fr. Thomas served the following parishes as pastor: Saint John the Baptist Church, Warren, OH (1963–1968); Saint Gregory the Theologian Church, Wappingers Falls, NY (1968–1978); and Saint Nicholas Church, Jamaica Estates, NY (1978–1983). Father Thomas was honored with the clerical rank of Archpriest in 1970 and the rank of Protopresbyter in 1995.
Beginning in 1968, Fr. Thomas began his long service to St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. Over the years, Fr. Thomas held the following positions: Lecturer in Doctrine and Pastoral Theology, 1968–1972; Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology, 1972–1983; Associate Professor of Dogmatic Theology, 1983–1991; Professor of Dogmatic Theology, 1991–1992; Dean, Rector of Three Hierarchs Chapel, and Professor of Dogmatic Theology, 1992–2002.
"Among Father Tom's many accomplishments and exceptional contributions to the seminary, two unique aspects of his deanship are particularly notable," remarked Theodore Bazil, senior advisor to Advancement at the seminary. "He was the first non-European, U.S.-born Dean of St. Vladimir's, and he also steered the seminary through the most successful capital campaigns ever."
During his years of priestly ministry, Fr. Thomas authored numerous books and articles. Most well known of these publications is The Orthodox Faith: An Elementary Handbook on the Orthodox Church. A prolific speaker and preacher, he spoke at conferences, retreats, public lectures, and Church gatherings of all kinds, many of which were recorded. Father Thomas performed countless duties on behalf of the Orthodox Church in America, including representing the Church at intra-Orthodox gatherings and ecumenical meetings.
"My first contact with Fr. Tom was through his writings prior to my conversion to Orthodoxy," remembered the Very Reverend Dr. Chad Hatfield, seminary chancellor/CEO. "He was a powerful influence then, and the wisdom found in his popular podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio will continue to achieve his goal of 'Speaking the Truth in Love' (to borrow a title from one of his books). He stood as a true 'Protopresbyter' in the ranks of the clergy of the OCA."
Upon retirement, Fr. Thomas and Anne moved to Ellwood City, PA, where they lived near the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, and Fr. Thomas began a new ministry: internet-based Orthodox Christian radio talks. Since 2008, Fr. Thomas has produced well over 400 podcasts for Ancient Faith Radio.
Father Thomas exercised untiring and loving pastoral care on behalf many who sought him out for spiritual guidance. His greatest desire was that every person would respond to these words of Jesus Christ: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Father Thomas is survived by his wife, Matushka Anne, and their five children: Archpriest John Hopko and his wife Macrina, of Terryville, CT; Juliana and husband Gregory Thetford, of Ellwood City, PA; Catherine and husband Raymond Mandell, of Clearfield, PA; Mary and husband Archpriest Nicholas Solak, of East Stroudsburg, PA; and Alexandra and husband Joseph Sedor, of Ellicott City, MD. He is also survived by two sisters, Mary Ann Macko, of Endwell, NY, and Barbara McPherson, of Sayre, PA, and Frostproof, FL. Additionally, Fr. Thomas is survived by sixteen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, as well as many, many other dear relatives, colleagues, and friends.
Father Thomas’s family wishes to thank all those who ministered to him so lovingly during his long final illness. Special thanks are extended to Mother Christophora, Abbess, and the entire sisterhood of The Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration for their constant support and help, the Very Reverend Fr. Michael and Matushka Susanne Senyo, Protodeacon Michael Wusylko, M.D., and Good Samaritan Hospice.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be given to St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, NY; The Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City, PA; Ancient Faith Radio, and Good Samaritan Hospice of Concordia, Wexford, PA. Memorial gifts offered to St. Vladimir's Seminary will be used to build up The Father Thomas Hopko Scholarship Fund, established in 2007 to provide financial aid to the sons and daughters of alumni who are enrolled in any of the Seminary's academic degree programs. (Donate online)
Tributes and Condolences
Letter of Condolence, from His Eminence, The Most Reverend Hilarion (Alfeyev), Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, Russian Orthodox Church
Letter of Condolence, from His Grace, Metropolitan Zachariah Mar Nicholovos (Poothiyottu), Metropolitan of the Northeast American Diocese, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
Letter of Condolence, from His Eminence, Metropolitan Elias of Beirut
Letter of Condolence, from Fr. Porphyrios Georgi, Dean of University of Balamand, St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology
Letter of Condolence, from Saint-Serge Institut de Théologie Orthodoxe, Paris, France
Letter of Condolence, from Christ the Saviour Seminary
Expression of Sympathy, from His Grace Bishop Michael, Diocese of New York and New Jersey The Ninth Hour: Remembering Fr. Thomas Hopko, podcast by Fr. John Parker
"In Loving Memory of Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko," by Fr. Charles Baz
"Memory Eternal, Fr. Thomas Hopko!" by Matthew Namee
"The Passing of Fr. Tom," by Fr. Lawrence Farley
A tribute by the Reverend Sergius Halvorsen, St. Vladimir's Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program
A tribute by alumnus and friend of Fr. Thomas, Fr. Kevin Gregory Long
Read alumni tributes and memories on Facebook
"Protopresbyter Fr. Thomas Hopko—Memory Eternal!" by Fr. Stephen Freeman