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Longtime Greek Orthodox priest taught by example, ‘humility, service, caring’

SHARE Longtime Greek Orthodox priest taught by example, ‘humility, service, caring’

SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah's Greek community gathered for the 41st annual Salt Lake Greek Festival Friday, the annual event renown for its food, dancing and hospitality was tinged with sadness following the passing of The Rev. Father Matthew Gilbert.

The Rev. Gilbert, a longtime priest at Salt Lake City's Holy Trinity Cathedral, died Wednesday in Phoenix surrounded by family, where he was undergoing treatment for cancer. He was 58.

The Rev. Father Elias Koucos, a fellow priest in the Salt Lake County's Orthodox community, said the weekend festival is dedicated to the Rev. Gilbert's memory.

Memorial wreaths were hung on the doors of the cathedral and the Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Holladay.

The Rev. Koucos said the Rev. Gilbert's passing had been a tender time for the Rev. Gilbert's family, the Greek Orthodox community and for him personally.

"He was a very special person, a very loving, caring individual that extended himself beyond anyone asking. It's going to be quite a void for us," he said.

A prayer service was held at Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Holladay on Thursday followed by a coffee hour during which church members and clergy celebrated and remembered the Rev. Gilbert's life.

A memorial service will be held at 9 a.m. Sunday at Holy Trinity Cathedral.

On a personal level, the Rev. Koucos said the Rev. Gilbert had taught him many lessons by example, including "humility, service, caring and loving and respecting people and serving everyone."

The Rev. Gilbert was born and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He earned a bachelor's degree from Hellenic College in 1979, where he studied for the priesthood, which was followed by a master of divinity degree from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 1982.

The Rev. Gilbert was ordained to the Holy Diaconate in his home parish of Saint Nicholas in Bethlehem in 1981 and ordained to the priesthood at Holy Cross Chapel in Brookline, Massachusetts.

He served churches in Illinois, California and Washington states before his service to the communities of Holy Trinity Cathedral and Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Utah from 1999 until his death.

The Rev. Gilbert and his wife, Denise Bruskas Gilbert, were wed 35 years. The couple has six children — five boys and one daughter. Two of their sons followed their father into the priesthood.

Funeral services were conducted Friday at St. Anthony's Monastery in Florence, Arizona, with Archbishop Demetrios, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, in attendance. On Sunday, the 50 parishes within the Denver diocese will host a memorial service honoring the Rev. Gilbert.

In the Greek Orthodox faith, death is considered "the deep sleep," a period of transition "as we await the Resurrection," Rev. Koucos said.

"It's a hopeful message. We're awaiting the Resurrection when our souls and bodies are reunited again."

The Rev. Elias said the Rev. Gilbert, or Father Matthew as he was known to parishioners, will be greatly missed.

"He left quite an example and legacy for clergy to follow. He was committed to answer the call of the ministry," he said.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com