June 22, 2002
By Michael Stroh and John Rivera | Michael Stroh and John Rivera, SUN STAFF
The Very Rev. Constantine M. Monios, dean of the Cathedral of the Annunciation and the senior-ranking Greek Orthodox clergyman in Maryland, died yesterday afternoon of prostate cancer. He was 68 and lived in Cockeysville.
A man who first dreamed of becoming a priest at the age of five, Father Monios served as the head of the cathedral on Maryland Avenue and Preston Street for almost 27 years and was widely admired by parishioners and priests alike.
"He was enormously respected and loved by his congregation," said Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a longtime parishioner who has known Father Monios since the priest arrived in Baltimore in 1975. "He was also regarded as one of the leading Orthodox priests in the country."
One of just two priests serving the more than 1,200 families who attend the cathedral, Father Monios frequently worked 12-hour days ministering to his congregation and running the church.
Despite his hectic schedule, he always found the time to make each baptism, wedding or funeral something special.
"One liturgy wasn't like the next one to him. He tried to make each one different," said the Rev. Dean Moralis, who has worked alongside Father Monios for the past seven years.
Active in ecumenical and interfaith relations, Father Monios served as mentor to many Greek Orthodox priests in the Baltimore area .
"He showed you how to be a pastor, not just a priest," said the Rev. Louis Noplos of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Cub Hill, who had worked with Father Monios for nearly 15 years. "A pastor is more of a shepherd. He was there to teach us to be shepherds of our flocks."
The Rev. Manuel Burdusi of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Highlandtown said one of Father Monios' greatest gifts was his ability to intently listen to anyone who approached him for counsel.
"You felt like you mattered the most to him at that particular time," Father Burdusi said. "I know it's a hard thing for me to do in my own church, when I've got a hundred things on my mind."
Another of his gifts was as an orator, those who knew him say. His sermons - and especially eulogies - were legendary among his congregation.
"He was so great at delivering eulogies, you almost wanted to die just so someone could tape it," said Lou Panos of Timonium, a parishioner at the cathedral nearly all of his 76 years.
Panos recalled that when his cousin died, Father Monios sat him down and asked him to describe the man. "He didn't make a note," Panos said. But later Father Monios gave a stirring eulogy using practically every detail of their conversation. "He was a great source of strength for members of the congregation," Panos said.
Born in Monessen, Pa., Father Monios was the child of immigrants from the Greek island of Chois.
Growing up in the town's small, tight-knit Greek community, little "Costa," as Father Monios was known then, quickly acquired a love of his Greek tradition, especially when it came to the church.
Enchanted by its sights and sounds, he became an altar boy at 5 and entertained dreams of becoming a priest even then. Not long afterward, his destiny was sealed.
In a chance encounter he would recount the rest of his life, a 14-year-old Costa met the then-head of the Greek Orthodox church in America, the Archbishop Athenagoras, who looked into the boy's eyes and told him that one day he would be a priest. Four years later, Father Monios entered Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary in Brookline, Mass., and was ordained in 1957.
Afterward he sent a picture of himself in priestly garb to the archbishop as thanks.
After serving in several parishes in the Northeast, Father Monios arrived at the Annunciation Cathedral in 1975.
Father Monios was nationally known for his work on the National Presbyters Council, one of many ecclesiastical and professional organizations he served on over the years.
"Really, all of America is mourning for our priest here in Baltimore," said Father Burdusi of St. Nicholas.
Father Monios is survived by his wife of 46 years, the former Mary Christodoulou; three daughters Athena Stem of New Freedom, Pa; Amalia Monios and Nikki Anagnostou, both of Perry Hall; two sons, Harry Monios and Michael Monios, both of Perry Hall; and nine grandchildren.