Dn. Michael Fadel
Voice: (978) 531-0777
Deacon Michael was born in Niagara Falls, New York and given the name Robert Michael.
His parents were immigrants from Lebanon. He was baptized and attended Sunday School at St George Orthodox Church. At the age of twelve he became an altar server. At the age of fifteen he was admitted to the church choir. He attended public schools and graduated from Niagara Falls High School. After his graduation. Robert Michael enrolled in Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan from which he earned his BA and MA degrees in History and Religion.
While at the university Robert Michael was elected president of the Pan-Orthodox Student Association. In this position he associated with Orthodox Christians from around the world. In association with other presidents of Orthodox university and college student associations a state-wide association was formed. The pastor of St Andrew Orthodox Church in East Lansing was the Rev Fr. Photius Donahue PhD and a member of the faculty of MSU.
Fr Photius directed five university students in missionary work in Jackson, Michigan where there was no Orthodox Church. The lay leader of the group was Robert Michael. After two years of traveling on Saturdays with the other students to teach religious education to the children and parents who were gathered in rented quarters, the parents bought an old school bus to transport the children. At the end of the third year the lay leadership of the community requested a part time priest be assigned and thus the Saint Demetrios Orthodox Church was established in Jackson.
Robert Michael had by this time married to Kristi Kokolaki , a foreign student from Greece. He was ordained a deacon with the name Deacon Michael. He was assigned to assist the part-time pastor and act as advisor to the parish board. This parish is now over fifty years old and is served by a full time priest.
During this four year period Deacon Michael served as administrative assistant to Fr Photius for the Orthodox Catechetical Conference held each June for five days from 9 am to 4 pm with an evening lecture by a feature Orthodox personage. Members of the university faculty discussed methodology appropriate to different age groups and concepts appropriate to these groups. During these conferences there were featured talks on developing parish living and missionary opportunities.
In 1963, the Deacon and his wife travelled to Greece and they spent a year teaching and traveling throughout the country and the Holy Lands, and they also had their first child Eva Marie.
Just prior to the Deacon’s departure from Greece, through the efforts of his father-in-law, Colonel Demetrios Kokolakis he was granted an invitation to attend the thousand year celebration of the establishment of monastic life on the holy mountain of Athos. Leaders of the Orthodox Church from around the world were in attendance and religious leaders from every non-Orthodox Christian community throughout the world. It was during this trip that he had the honor and blessing to meet and serve with His Holiness Patriarch Athenagoras of blessed memory and Archbishop Anthony Bloom, a noted theologian of the Orthodox world.
In 1967, Bishop Dositheos of the Russian Patriarchal Church offered Deacon Michael the opportunity to go to Russia to study at a theological school in Moscow. For this purpose he traveled to Russia where he remained for two weeks. There were discussions with two priests who were professors at the theological school. Unfortunately he had to alter all plans and rush to Greece where his wife Kristi was staying with her parents after the birth of their second child Robert Demetrios. Greece had come under a military dictatorship and it was not safe for his family for him to be behind the Iron Curtain. He decided not to study in Russian and returned to the United States and his home town. He was assigned by his bishop to serve the small parish of Saint George, in Buffalo, New York. While the deacon and his family lived in Niagara Falls he taught high school English during the day and in the evening a class in Soviet History at Niagara University.
After a period of five years the family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where the deacon and the family joined the deacon’s brother and his family for a period of four years.
Then in 1975 Kristi’s parents were in failing health and advancing years so the family moved to Greece on a permanent basis. The deacon and Kristi gained positions in a Greek private school. She as the teacher of home economics, and he as the director of English as a foreign language. For several years their life moved along smoothly as they lived in a land where the Orthodox Christian faith was the established religion of the land. They traveled extensively throughout the country visiting monasteries and many of the Holy Shrines.
In 1997 the time for retirement had came, and with both their children, university graduates, married and with children, the time had come to complete the Odyssey. On December 1st Deacon Michael and Kristi returned to a new world – the United States but to New England and a city name Peabody.
“One Sunday morning we entered the beautiful church of St. Vasilios Greek Orthodox Church and a gentleman in the narthex said with a smile, 'Hello, I’m John'. Kristi and I turned to each other and smiled. We were home.”