MANCHESTER — The Rev. Andrew H. Mahalares began his 10th year as pastor of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral Thursday. But it was a short year, because Friday night, at a dinner in the Puritan Back Room Conference Center, parishioners and other members of the community said farewell to the priest, who is retiring and moving to Seattle.
His last liturgy, and last day, as pastor is Sunday.
Mahalares said he has mixed feelings about leaving. He has enjoyed his time here and feels he has had success in terms of membership and his career goal: “to effect change.” His 42-year career has taken him from the East Coast to out near the West Coast and back again.
Now he is headed west again, this time to retire.
Geoge Copadis, who was president of the cathedral board in 2005 when Mahalares was chosen as pastor, recalled that “he was a standout candidate.”
Copadis said Mahalares has led a strong Bible study, increased parish membership and has great interpersonal skills.
“He’s met or exceeded all our expectations,” said Copadis. “His spiritual leadership has been outstanding.”
A Utah man posted on his blog an incident involving Mahalares that has had a lasting impact. He said in his 2010 post, that Malahares’ pragmatism resonated with him even as a college student.
According to the blogger, he witnessed the “Father Andrew Amendment” in 1985, when Mahalares was a priest in Prophet Elias Church, part of the parish including Holy Trinity Cathedral in Salt Lake City.
The blogger was at church with his sister after his parents skipped church at the last minute to go golfing with friends one warm spring Sunday. His parents weren’t the only missing parishioners.
In the 2010 post, the blogger says Father Andrew addressed the situation in his homily. “He opined if a person says he or she is going to be with God on Sunday but goes, say, golfing instead, that is a sin.... But, he continued, if you say you’re going to be with God and go golfing AND thank God for the warm weather, rejoice in the fellowship of your friends and are grateful for the beauty of nature, then you didn’t need to be in church that day!”
Mahalares has had a positive impact wherever he was assigned. “I’ve always been myself,” he said.
Mahalares is proud of the Bible study and religious discussion group he has led since he arrived. The group, which sometimes totaled 19 men and women, met Wednesday mornings, unless there was a funeral.
Baked goods were always a feature of the group’s meeting. Malahares said he was one of the bakers and was able to hold his own with goodies to include cupcakes, his mother’s oatmeal cookie recipe and a pumpkin nut bread recipe, for which he credits Ellen Goupil. “It was kind of like a bake-off,” he said.
As for why he is retiring now, he said: “I’m healthy. I’m not really old.” Malalares didn’t reveal his age, though he appears to be in his mid-60s. He could probably serve as pastor for another couple of years, he said, but he wants to enjoy his life closer to his daughters, who live in Oregon.
The choice is his alone to make; his wife died 11 years ago.
Both daughters are married. One is married to a priest and has nine children. The other has no children.
Why Seattle? “I have friends there,” he said. He won’t be completely retired. He expects he will be called upon to fill in at various churches because the area doesn’t have extra priests. Another advantage to Seattle is that he will be closer to his grandchildren, but not too close. They will be about a three-hour drive apart.