Raphael from Ocean Funerals shares compelling journey

Ocean Funerals is a new funeral company owned and operated by Greek-Australian Raphael Demirgelis. The company specialises in Greek funerals

; however, it offers a wide range of services catered to the specifications of each family. Farewelling a loved one is never easy. Ocean Funerals aims to make this process beautiful and seamless, to give your loved one the service they deserve.

Ocean Funerals Logo
Ocean Funerals Logo

Raphael Demirgelis, owner of Ocean Funerals, has a fascinating story of his journey navigating life through his strong Orthodox faith. Raphael has shared his experiences with Greek City Times in an exclusive interview. We discuss the importance of his faith and his outlook on life, death and life after death. Here is his story:

Raphael Demirgelis, owner, Ocean Funerals
Raphael Demirgelis, owner Ocean Funerals

“My journey began back in 1989 when I went overseas to Greece. I was 22 years old and involved in a religious group where we would discuss our faith. The leader of this group had said something I didn’t like about Father Paisios of Mount Athos. I simply couldn’t accept what he said. So, I had to go over there and see if his claims had any truth behind them.

I had heard about monks who had left to live ascetic lives in the desert, which really piqued my curiosity. How can someone abandon the world and live out their lives in isolation in the desert?

So I went to my spiritual Father, Father Nicholas Marketos, who wrote me two letters. One for Father Panteleimon, the guard of the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem, and one for Father Philoumenos at Mount Athos.


Mount Athos Monastery
Mount Athos Monastery

Then, I ventured off to the Holy Land, to the monastery of Saint Savva, a 1500-year-old monastery. It had no running water, no electricity and was in complete isolation from the rest of the world, in the middle of the Judea desert. I stayed there for a few days and met the most interesting people there. I immediately fell in love with the place.


Monastery of Saint Savvas, Jerusalem
Monastery of Saint Savvas, Jerusalem

After that, I went to Greece to go to Mount Athos. In a bus full of monks, I asked the first person I sat next to if they knew Father Philoumenos because I needed to see him. He replied with, “Yes I know him, I am Father Philoumenos.”

We arrived at Mount Athos, and I stayed in Father Philoumenos’ home. Across the valley was where Father Paisios lived. I had been discouraged to go see him by many pious people, however I persisted. I would go and sit outside his house every day, waiting for him to come out and see me.

On my last day there, I said farewell to the monks I was staying with and set off to my next destination, disappointed that I hadn’t seen Father Paisios. During the journey, I realised I hadn’t taken any pictures with the monks I was talking to outside his house, so I went back and waited to have a coffee with me was Father Paisios!

Saint Paisios of Mount Athos
Saint Paisios of Mount Athos

He had a child-like purity about him, always laughing and extremely humble. I could tell that he read me like a book. I could feel that he knew me straight away and he was a saint. It was a big thing for such a saintly man to come down to my level.

I was very confused at the time, trying to find my identity within the church. He guided me to discover who I was personally and within the church. The love he showed me and how he spoke to me was perhaps the biggest life lesson I have ever received, and I will never forget it.

Following this trip overseas, I loved it so much that I went back to Jerusalem at the end of 1989. I stayed at St Savvas for four months. While I was living there, because I spoke English, I was charged with showing visitors around and getting them to venerate the body of St Savva, which emitted a beautiful and sweet aroma.

I saw many miracles during my time there in the form of strange and unique synchronicities. For example, there was a man there from Germany who was interested in learning about the Orthodox faith and was seeking a German theologian. At that moment, a new group of visitors walked in, and among them was a priest-monk who was a German theologian.

Of course, that could be pure coincidence, however these things happened every single day there and it became normal for me to experience unexplainable coincidences like that. It was as though every time someone was seeking answers, they would be guided towards the path that led them to those answers.

One of the churches in the monastery was dedicated to St John of Damascus, who wrote the funeral service that we hear today. It was a really old and run-down church, and I asked the Abbott if I could restore the church back to its former glory.

Icon of Saint John of Damascus
Icon of Saint John of Damascus

I worked very hard for two and a half weeks and made the church look beautiful the way it should look.

When I eventually returned from my travels, I received many blessings from St John. I got married and ended up selling my shop, working different jobs during this time. I was an iconographer, a bus driver, a sales manager, and I did renovations.

A friend at the time, who was a funeral director for Andrew Kennedy, told me they were looking for a worker. He gave me a phone number to call, and I disregarded it and completely forgot about it.

Two weeks later, I found the phone number in my pocket and called it, thinking it was a client. When the funeral director picked it up, I decided to just go with it and met up with him to discuss the job.

This was the beginning of my journey as a funeral director. I wasn’t looking for this job, it just came to me after a series of coincidences and synchronicities.

With Andrew Kennedy, I learnt from the old guard. I learned everything about the industry. It was a completely different world back then. These men prided themselves on their morals. If they were too busy, they would even refer clients to their competition to ensure the family had closure.

Raphael Demirgelis (Right) and Ocean Funerals team member Nicholas (Left)
Raphael Demirgelis and Ocean Funerals team member, Nicholas

These days, most companies are all about volume and have no focus on allowing families to have closure. They drop the prices, thinking they are doing people a favour, but the whole process is rushed, and there is no compassion there.

When I started my own funeral business, my focus was, and still is, the family. By combining what I learnt from the old funeral directors with my spiritual experiences overseas, I can provide an unparalleled service in this industry. People only have one opportunity to send off their loved ones, and it is my mission to ensure that it is done in the proper way.

Ocean Funerals team honouring the deceased
Raphael Demirgelis and the Ocean Funerals team honouring the deceased

When it comes to funerals, the wishes of the family are at the forefront of my heart and mind. I always allow them to take all the time they need to mourn the loss of their loved one. I see my customers as people, not just numbers, and I always make sure that they have seen off their loved ones in a beautiful and proper manner.

My experiences in my spiritual life have highlighted the importance of my mission. I share this story with you so you may see my perspective and understand how I provide my services with the love and compassion God has shown me.”

This article is brought to you by Ocean Funerals:

Phone: 9553 9007

Email: [email protected]

Website: Ocean Funerals

Facebook: Ocean Funerals

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024