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Memorial Tribute to Fr. John Estephan

from the December 2011 issue of The Word:

The Very Reverend Father John Estephan, retired priest of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, completed his earthly journey on May 1, 2011, at the age of 92. He has left behind hundreds of families forever grateful to him for his strength, compassion, commitment and love.

He is survived by wife of 62 years, Khouria Soad, and their five children: Salam, Salwa, Sanaa, Soad, and Elias, and their families, including 14 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. He faithfully served St. George from 1962 to 2002, during which period he led our parish through two major renovations and the addition of a stunning, award-winning banquet and conference center.

As the leader of the oldest Orthodox church in West Michigan, Father John was always a forward thinker, encouraging women to read the epistle and serve as ushers at St. George. In addition to being our spiritual leader, Father John was a well-known leader in Grand Rapids, where he was often interviewed for news articles about our faith and the Middle East.

To honor Father John Estephan’s memory, we want to recall and acknowledge his many achievements and awards. Born in Mexico and educated in Lebanon, Father John was an energetic, highly motivated young man. He earned master’s degrees in Arabic Literature and Middle East History from St. Sauveur Seminary and the Center of Arts and Literature, a college of the St. Joseph Jesuit University in Beirut. In addition to earning academic accolades, he served as Secretary of the Lebanese Embassy in Mexico from 1950 to 1959. During his tenure there, he was the Executive Secretary of the Lebanese Union in Mexico and Central America. In 1960 he led a delegation to Lebanon to attend the International Lebanese Congress in Beirut. He published articles in the leading magazines of Lebanon and served as editor of two leading publications in Mexico City. In 1967 the Academy of Arts and Science of the International Institute of Anthropology awarded him an honorary doctorate for his “Study of Man.” In 1975 he was promoted to the rank of Archpriest in the Archdiocese of the United States and was named Dean for the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Fluent in Spanish, French, English, Greek and Arabic, Father Estephan was a teacher and lifelong learner.

The most important aspect of his life, however, cannot be measured by diplomas and awards. Rather, his greatest achievement is what he left behind in our hearts and minds. A dignified, intellectual man, Father John was like a cedar of Lebanon, standing tall and proud, a source of strength for all of us. He will be forever remembered as a man of faith, love, devotion and inspiration.


His Grace Bishop Basil writes,

MEMORY ETERNAL! Father John Estephan, retired from St George/Grand Rapids, MI, fell asleep in Christ early Sunday morning, May 1. Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time. Father John was one of the senior-most priests of our Archdiocese, having served for many years as Dean of the Michigan Deanery. Condolences may be sent to Khouriya Soad and the Estephan family at Please join me in praying a rope for the repose of Father John's soul, saying, "O Lord Jesus Christ, grant rest to the soul of Thy departed servant." May he be granted Paradise, and may you be granted long life.