Fr. Elias John Palmos
Parish Priest

Father Elias was baptized in the Orthodox Church as an infant, his father being Greek. Over 30 years
later, the parish of St Nicholas of Japan provided him with his first Christian community. Thereafter
he embarked upon a journey that would take him from holy place to holy place, from continent to
continent, until he returned once again to the Parish where it all began, to take up a position as
parish priest.
In the world, he achieved university degrees in Theology, Computer Science, Economics, and
Electrical Engineering, and furthered these with post graduate studies in Ancient Languages of
Greek, Latin, Syriac and Ancient Egyptian. He achieved honours in Control Systems and in designing
mathematical tools to control those systems. He learned to speak and read modern languages from
different parts of the Orthodox world and became proficient in Ancient Greek and Church Slavonic
used in liturgical texts. Although he excelled in worldly gifts and talents his spiritual journey was by
far the more important.
It was this that sent him on my course of travels around the world. He travelled around North
America, and lived in the Serbian Orthodox parish in Orlando, Florida. He also travelled with his
spiritual father to Russia and to Serbia, where he was ordained a deacon, and then as a priest. He
had the experience of feeling like a stranger wherever he was: in America, he was the African, in
Serbia and Russia, he was the American Greek and in Greece, he was a Slav. He started off as brother
John and ended up as Father Elias.Father Elias is married to Laura Ariadne and has 3 sons and a daughter.

Fr. Athanasius Akunda
Parish Priest
2009 - 2015

Father Athanasius was born Amos Akunda in Kenya in 1971. He was the eldest of six children whose father is a theologian from St. Tikhons Theological Seminary.  He became Orthodox at the age of 8 after his parents converted to Orthodoxy. He attended Makarios III seminary in Kenya and graduated with a Diploma in Theology, followed by a Master of Divinity at Holy Cross School of Theology.  At the International institute of Church Management he graduated in a Doctor of Divinity and at the University of South Africa a Doctor of Theology. He also completed a Diploma and Post Graduate Diploma in Education Management at the India Institute of Management, and a Certificate in teaching English as a foreign language at the Cambridge Institute of English Language in Boston.

Father Athanasius worked in African literature, Christian religious education, Social education and Ethics at Ebukhaya High School, Ebusiloli High School and Ngoro Orthodox High School, all in Kenya. He held the position of Catechist in Western Kenya, and Secretary in the office of the Archbishopric of Kenya.

He was ordained as a Deacon in Kenya in 1998 by His Eminence Archbishop Seraphim and ordained as a Priest at Pantanassa Church also by Archbishop Seraphim in 2002. In 2010 at the Church of St Athansios in Benoni, on the feast day of that church, he was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite by His Eminence Archbishop Damaskinos. He has served as the Parish priest St. Seraphim in Soshanguve and at St. Raphael,  Irene and Nicholas in Yeoville,  Johannesburg. He was also Dean and lecturer at Petros VII seminary. He was the parish priest at St. Nicholas of Japan from 2009 to 2015.

Other positions he has held include Director of missions from 2003 to 2008 and Vicar in charge of missions since 2010. Father Athanasius has represented the Patriarchate of Alexandria at the World Council of Churches, and the All African Conference of Churches.

Father Athanasius left St Nicholas to serve at the Patriarchal Seminary “Makarios III” in Nairobi, Kenya.

He was appointed by His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Nairobi as the Director of missions and lecturer at St. Makarios Seminary in cultural anthropology, pathology and teleturgics. He was elevated to Episcopal throne of Kisumu and All western Kenya on 24th of November 2015.
Bishop Athanasius reposed in the Lord on 4th January 2019. 

Fr. Mihai Corpodean
Parish Priest

Mircea Mihai Corpodean was born in Cluj Napoca City,
Romania in 1969, and baptized as an infant in the Romanian Orthodox Church.  After completing high school in Cluj Napoca, he graduated from the Romanian Orthodox Theological Seminary with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology. After studying further in Pastoral Theology at the Theological Faculty in Sibiu and at the Theological Faculty in Cluj Napoca, he graduated with Distinction in Canonical and Ecclesiastical Law.

In 1993 he married Delia Anca, and has three sons, Mircea (1994), Alin (1996) and Tudor (2001). He obtained a Magister Artium Diploma in Theology, with Distinction, in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Pretoria, through which university he is currently reading for a Doctoral Degree in New Testament.

In 1995 he was ordained as Deacon in the Romanian Orthodox Church and in the same month, as a Priest in Cluj Napoca. For 5 years he served as Parish Priest for Bogata Village, Cluj County. In 2000 he was sent by His Eminence Josef Pop, Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in Paris for Western and Central Europe, to South Africa, where he founded the first Romanian Orthodox Parish in Africa, the Romanian Orthodox Parish of Saint Andrew.

In 2002 the Romanian parish combined with St Nicholas of Japan, with Father Mihai serving as the Parish Priest. In Father Mihai’s own words: “I served as Orthodox Priest in South Africa for seven years, six months, two weeks and two days. We loved and we still love South Africa very much and I am sure it will always be like this, missing all the brothers and sisters in Christ that are still there, or elsewhere in the World, or departed from among us. Serving as a Romanian Orthodox Priest in Saint Nicholas of Japan Missionary Parish in Brixton, Johannesburg, was a very special experience and blessing, sometimes very challenging (because of the language, of different traditions, different culture…), sometimes very demanding, sometimes very sensitive due to the different emotions experienced among parishioners with different background, nationalities, experiences, social integration … and always very rewarding. In the six years of serving in the Saint Nicholas of Japan Missionary Parish in Brixton, Johannesburg I have been granted with many special moments and experiences, some of them unrepeatable and unique for me: the Vespers Service with His Beatitude Theodoros, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria; the first Holy Liturgy Service in English ever Broadcasted on a National Radio Station in South Africa, “The Earthquake” of every Great Saturday with “Arise, o Lord and Judge the earth …!” … Lord, thank You for them all!”

After leaving South Africa, Father Mihai and his family briefly returned to Romania. He was soon appointed as Parish Priest to the Romanian Orthodox Church of Saint Ignatius in Auckland and as Dean of the Romanian Orthodox Church in New Zealand, and has held these  positions since 2009.

Fr. Iakovos (Bert) Olechnowicz
Parish Priest
1997 - 2002

Father Iakovos was born Bert James Olechnowicz in White Plains, New York, in 1957.  He was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church that same year, and raised in a pious Catholic home with his two brothers. In 1980 he married Joleen Puterbaugh. They had 2 children, Nicholas (1981) and Rebekah (1985).

At the age of 17, following high school graduation, he was enlisted and served in the US Marine Corps. Following military service he graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Logistics. He worked in various supervisory and technical positions leaving the workforce to pursue a seminary education at Christ the Saviour Seminary, Johnstown. He graduated with a Master of Business Administration from St. Francis University, Loretto, PA, an Associate of Arts and Sciences awarded with honours from Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse City, MI, an Associate of Applied Sciences awarded with honours from Northwestern Michigan College, Great Lakes Maritime Academy, Traverse City, MI and as a US Merchant Marine 3rd Assistant Engineer, Diesel and Steam Plants, Unlimited Horsepower, license awarded by the United States Coast Guard.

He converted to Orthodoxy in 1985 and was received into the Church by chrismation by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese at St. Michael the Archangel Church, Binghamton, NY. He was ordained Deacon by H.E. Nicholas of Amissos (of blessed memory), Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, in 1987 and ordained Priest by H.E. Nicholas of Amissos, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, 1987. In 1990 he was transferred to omophorion of H.E. Kyrill (of blessed memory), Archbishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Orthodox Church in America. In 1999 he was re-named “Iakovos” by Archbishop Ioannis (of blessed memory), Archbishopric of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Father Iakovos served as parish priest at St. Michael’s Orthodox Church, Wood, PA Carpatho-Russian Diocese and St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church, Philipsburg, PA Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania, Orthodox Church in America before coming to South Africa with his family, where he was parish priest at St. Nicholas of Japan from 1997 to 2002. While serving here he was appointed as H.E. Ioannis’ representative in all things dealing with the conduct of missionary endeavours.  After leaving South Africa, he served at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Metropolis of Detroit, and St. Gabriel Greek Orthodox Church, Metropolis of Detroit. In 2011 he was granted leave of absence from active ministry.

He is currently serving as an engineering officer afloat in the United States Navy Military Sealift Fleet Support Command.

Fr. Chrysostom Frank
Parish Priest

Reverend Father Chrysostom Frank was born in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, USA in 1954. He graduated from Concordia College with a Bachelor of Arts in 1976, from Nashotah House with a Masters in Divinity in 1980, and from St Andrew’s University in Scotland with a Doctorate in Church History in 1985.

In 1981 he was Chrismated in the Orthodox Church in Oxford, England. In 1982 he married Marica Catacousinos, a South African of Greek decent, at St Andrews, Scotland. In May 1985 he was ordained to the Diaconate and Priesthood in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria in the Church of the Virgin Mary, Johannesburg. He served there a parish priest for two years. He then spent at year at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in New York, and in 1987 he was canonically transferred to the Orthodox Church in America.

In September 1987, Fr Crysostom founded the Orthodox Parish of St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg, under the authority of the Orthodox Church in America. In 1988 he joined the Department of Church History as a lecturer at the University of South Africa, and held the post of Head of Department from 1997-1999.

Three sons were born to Fr Chrysostomos and Marica during their stay in Johannesburg: Nicholas Vladimir (in 1987), Paul Konstantin (in 1989) and Alexander Benedict (in 1995)

Fr. Kobus van der Riet

Fr. Kobus van der Riet

Father Jacobus van der Riet was born in Stellenbosch in
1959, where, after brief sojourns in Wellington and Harrismith, he attended school and university and obtained degrees in Classics and Theology in the 1980s. He also obtained a Ph.D. from Wits in Classics in 1999 on the subject of Roman and Greek poetry, and a Masters in Theology from St Tikhon's Orthodox Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1999. In 2012 he obtained a diploma in Library Science from UCT.

He was received into the Orthodox Church at St. Nicholas of Japan in 1994, after a year-long catechumenate. Presvytera Marica Frank, his colleague at the time in the Classics Department at Wits, had invited him to attend services at St Nicholas and he gradually came to appreciate the Orthodox faith and worship and way of life.

In 2001 he lived in a monastery in the Peloponnese to learn Greek, Byzantine chant and iconography. He was ordained a Deacon in 2002 and a Priest shortly afterwards by Archbishop Seraphim and some years later elevated to the rank of Archimandrite.

He served at first in St George's Church in Brakpan for eighteen months, then in the chapel of Sts. Constantine and Helen in Eldorado Park since 2004 up to the present (the latter parish of being an offshoot of St. Nicholas of Japan Church), and later in addition in St Basil's Church in Springs for twenty months. At present his ministry in Eldorado Park is combined with ministry in the Church of the Dormition of the All-holy Theotokos in Rustenburg, since the end of 2011. Being for the most part a non-stipendiary priest, he works in a public library. In 2013, Fr Kobus (together with Fr Zacharias van Wyk) was awarded by the Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Associations (FAK) in recognition of his work in translating the Orthodox liturgical texts from Greek into Afrikaans.

Father Jacobus has always had a close relationship with St Nicholas of Japan, and has on frequent occasions throughout the years, stood in when the parish priest was absent.

In 2012 he published, through the publisher Protea, a book of poetry, Die Onsienlike Son, which contains 66 sonnets on Christ and the Saints, from Old Testament times up to the present.

For details on this book or to purchase a copy go here:

Fr. Dn. Stephen Hayes
Father Deacon

Fr. Dn. Stephen Hayes

Father Deacon Stephen Hayes was born in Durban
in 1941. After matriculating at St Stithians College, he completed a BA in Theology at the University of Natal. This was followed by a Diploma in Theology at Durham University in the UK. He then completed a Bachelor’s, a Master’s and a Doctorate in Theology all through UNISA.

His first exposure the Orthodoxy was a seminar he attended in Switzerland in 1968 for non-Orthodox theological students, followed by attending services for Holy Week and Pascha in Paris. The Easter kiss that followed made a very strong impression on him, and he began to read about Orthodox theology. Although he was Anglican, and remained so for 15 years thereafter, he found that the theologies of the two churches were in conflict. In 1985 he and his family, including his wife Valerie, and his children Bridget, Simon and Jethro started attending services at Pantanassa Church, where the services at the time were in English. After an incident in which a visiting priest in 1986 announced that the church was built with Greek money and was for Greeks, he along with several others, formed the Society of St Nicholas of Japan with the aim of promoting the Orthodox Christian faith among people of all ethnic groups. In November 1987 the family were received into the Orthodox Church by Fr Chrysostom Frank, who was then chaplain of the Society.

In 2001, he was appointed as the secretary of the Diocesan Mission Committee, under Metropolitan Seraphim. He was involved in teaching in various congregations and groups from the African Orthodox Church who were interested in Orthodoxy, first as a Reader, and later as a deacon. He was mainly involved with the former congregation of the African Orthodox Episcopal Church in Mamelodi East, several members of which were baptised on the day I was ordained as a deacon. . In 2005 he was involved in planting a new Orthodox parish in Tembisa. After Fr Johannes Rakumako was assigned to Tembisa, Father Stephen began to spend alternate Sundays at St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, and with the congregation in Mamelodi East, where they have the Hours and Readers Service (Obednitsa) With the blessing of Archbishops Paul and Seraphim at the time, he had the Hours and Obednitsa translated into North Sotho and Zulu for use in mission congregations where there was no regular priest."

Father Deacon Stephen participates in a number of internet discussions on Orthodoxy and missiology (the study of Christian mission) and continues to supervise post-graduate student in missiology at the University of South Africa. His blog Khanya has articles on Orthodox missiology, the history of St Nicholas parish, and other topics.

Diaconissa Katherine (Val) has always shared in Fr Stephen’s mission work. Their daughter, Julia (Bridget) is a professional iconographer in Greece, and her work can be viewed here.