A Journey to Priesthood

Fr. Panagiotis Hanley receives his Cross from Archbishop Demetrios upon becoming a seminarian

In April, a group of seminarians who had benefited from the Leadership 100 Scholarship for Excellence established at Holy Cross School of Theology visited the Leadership 100 offices in the Olympic Tower in New York City. Each gave testimony to his calling. One, Fr. Panagiotis Hanley, moved us all. Here is his story:

The time I spent in the military was truly a blessing from God. I traveled extensively all over the world; I learned how better to deal with a wide variety of people, complex situations, as well as dealing with incredibly difficult situations. I matured, grew responsible, and came to realize the true value of being an Orthodox Christian; to love one’s neighbor. I would serve in a combat zone four times and my experiences during that period of my life brought about a change in me that I cannot express in words. At the end of the summer in 2002, I left active duty and was discharged honorably from the U.S. Air Force. At this time I realized that it was time for me to enter seminary and that is exactly what I set out to do.

On reflection, my fondest memories of my childhood are centered completely around the Church. I can honestly say that the most peaceful times I spent growing up were while I was in church or at a church function, especially the years I spent as an altar server. At the age of 22, I received my calling from the Lord to the Holy Priesthood. I was still uncertain about a great many things in life, and to be honest the calling I received scared me more than comforted me. I entered college and completed an Associate’s Degree in 1995. That fall I moved to New Mexico to continue college. That’s when I took another odd turn on my journey and I left civilian employment for the military.

The journey towards seminary was not without difficulties however, that is, financial difficulties. When I sent in my application for seminary I had enough money for one semester of study saved up. At the time there were no scholarships available because I was applying late in the year. I called Hellenic College-Holy Cross, asking for help. Eventually, I remember sitting in my office, at home, and saying to myself, “Okay God I am going to seminary with everything I have. If you want me to stay there you will have to provide the rest.” Later that evening I received a call from the school saying that I had received a Leadership 100 scholarship and that it would cover my expenses. Humbled and overjoyed beyond belief, I set off for school at the beginning of September.

People often ask me, “You have worked in such dramatically different environments. How did you get from one to the other?” My answer while simple is honest and something I believe in with all my heart and soul. Throughout all my experiences in the military, the good, the bad, and those I would like to forget, but cannot; the one thing, the one piece of life experience I value the most, is the realization that I came to concerning life itself. That is, there has to be a better way to treat people in this world, and for me that is exactly what I am seeking to accomplish in my priesthood and ministry within the Church. 

In looking back, at the start of my seminary career, it was Leadership 100 that provided me with the first true example of this concept, by granting me the scholarship to pursue my studies at Hellenic College & Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. It was with this wonderful example that my seminary career was launched, and now some years later as I prepare for graduation, I can take that same example in to my priesthood as graduate of Hellenic College and Holy Cross.


Former U.S. Senator Paul S. Sarbanes and wife, Christine (right), are surprise visitors as Paulette Poulos, L100 Executive Director led seminarians to Onassis Foundation art exhibit in Olympic Tower

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