Paul (Gassios) of Chicago
Hieromonk Paul (Gassios) is the Administrator of the Diocese of the Midwest, in the Orthodox Church in America. On 7 October 2014, he was nominated by the Diocesan Assembly to be bishop of the Diocese.
Paul Nicholas Gassios was born on April 6, 1953, in Detroit into a Greek Orthodox family from Castanea (near Ioannina, Greece). He was baptised in the Greek Orthodox Church, with Sts Constantine and Helen, Detroit, being his home parish for his first 28 years. He went to Sunday School at that parish, and began serving in the altar at 15, establishing a group of friends with the other altar servers. A defining feature for him was that he couldn't understand the service. He graduated from Cooley High School in 1971 and went to Wayne State University, Detroit, majoring in history. A period of searching led to him being impacted by Christianity, attending a Bible study and adding a second major in psychology. He graduated in 1976 and became a child care worker, working in particular with emotionally and physically abused children. Around 1977, he began to have concerns with the idea that not being Greek or married to a Greek would cause difficulties in being accepted in parish life, and stopped attending church in 1979.
Returning to Wayne State in 1978, Paul received a Master of Social Work; around 1981, he realised that Bible study couldn't sustain him, and looked for a church, experiencing Lutheran, Presbyterian and pentecostal gatherings. He and his altar server friends still met for coffee, and got into the habit of attending Sunday evening Vespers. One evening around 1983, Fr Michael Matsko spoke on secularism and the Church, making the point that Orthodoxy is about Christ, not simply philosophies or religious viewpoints. Paul started attending Fr Michael's church - an English-language parish - and understanding more about how Orthodox practice is ultimately all about Christ.
Encouraged by people to attend seminary, he began studies in 1991 at St Vladimir's Seminary, singing with the Seminary Octet, making the choice to be a celibate, and graduating with a Master of Divinity in 1994. He was ordained a deacon in March, graduated in May, ordained a priest in June and immediately began an 11 year assignment to St Thomas Orthodox Mission, Kokomo, who had been received into the Orthodox Church (from the Evangelical Orthodox Church) that year. Fr Paul was able to bring worship into line with accepted Orthodox norms while keeping the whole community within the Church.
In 1995, he began a relationship with St Gregory Palamas Monastery - staying there for the summer of 1999 and for a year in 2005-06. At the end of May 2006, he moved to St Louis to Archangel Michael Church in St Louis in order to stabilise a parish in decline. A suggestion he made - of merging Archangel Michael with a newly-received parish - has meant that the parish is still continuing. In October, though, he was contacted to be dean of the Cathedral of the Bulgarian Diocese - which, to be closer to the monastery and his sister, he accepted and took up duties on January 1, 2007. Fr Paul's experience at St George's Cathedral gave him an understanding of the breadth of the OCA. As he had previously, he was able to ensure a greater uniformity with Orthodox practice through patience and education. It was around this time that he was elevated to Archpriest.
In 2010, he was contacted to be considered for the vacant see of Chicago and the Midwest, and made the shortlist (with Fr Matthias Moriak and Fr David Mahaffey), with Fr Matthias ultimately being nominated. He was immediately put forward as an optimal candidate for the Bulgarian Diocese, but because he felt that his views were not aligned with the views of the diocese, he demanded that there needed to be another candidate. Fr Paul and Igumen Alexander Golitzin were put forward by the search committee and, to Fr Paul's relief, it was Fr Alexander that was nominated, elected, and consecrated to the episcopacy. Fr Paul submitted a letter to Bp Melchisedek asking to be removed from future consideration for the episcopacy, declining inquiries from Alaska, the South and Eastern PA. In the summer of 2013, he contacted Fr Joseph at St Gregory Palamas Monastery regarding moving there; when asked, Bp Alexander (Golitzin) requested that he pause thoughts along that line. Having been told that he would be nominated for the episcopacy of the again-vacant see of the Midwest, Fr Joseph told him to go through with the episcopal search process again.
He was appointed Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago and the Midwest by the Holy Synod during 18-21 March 2014, and assumed his duties on August 1. On October 7, 2014, at the special nominating Assembly, he was nominated to fill the vacant seat of Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest. On October 20 of the same year, he was tonsured a monastic at St Gregory Palamas Monastery by the abbot, Hmk Joseph (Morris), and was named for St Paul the Confessor, Patriarch of Constantinople.