Our Man in Trenton:
Assemblyman Peter Eagler

[Spring/Summer, 2002]

by Archpriest Thomas Edwards

   Bright and early on the morning of January 7, 2002 some members of Holy Apostles Church in Saddle Brook, NJ and Holy Assumption Church in Clifton, NJ boarded a bus that took them to the State House in Trenton. The occasion was the swearing in of the new members of the 102nd New Jersey State Assembly.

   The Holy Apostles and Holy Assumption parishioners were among the forty invited guests of New Jersey State Assemblyman, the honorable Peter Eagler, Subdeacon and Junior Warden of Holy Apostles Church. Assemblyman Eagler had won a decisive victory over a 15 year incumbent. His victory in the November 2001 election was all the more remarkable given that he did not compromise his sanctity of life position which some nay-sayers had predicted would work against him. Assemblyman Eagler won because of his record, his genuine concern for people, and his proven patriotism and religious faith.

   A lifelong resident of Clifton, NJ, Peter Eagler, had from his early years a keen interest in both the Church and the political process. He has been a long time member of the Clifton City Council and for the last several years has been elected to the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders where he presently serves as Freeholder Director (for the second time) and, as such, is the highest ranking official of the Passaic County government.

   For the last twenty-five years he has been employed by the Garden State Parkway Authority. He became a well-known figure in the New Jersey religious and ethnic communities during his tenure as Director of the Garden State Arts Center Ethnic Festivals. If ever an individual was eminently qualified for a particular position, Peter Eagler was without peer in his ability to work with such diverse groups as the Irish, Polish, Jewish, Slovak, and many other ethnic, racial, and religious groups. Being himself of mixed pan Slavic-Hungarian ancestry, Peter is familiar with everyoneís language and religion as well as their traditions, foods, dances, etc.

   Peterís ability to work with the African-American community is well known through the state and he is so much admired by New Jerseyís black population that he usually receives more of the "black vote" than the Afro-American candidate. Peter is a highly respected speaker in the "black churches" where he is welcomed with open arms as a sincere and committed Christian who transcends racial and ethnic divisions.

   Born into a family of strong Roman/Greek Catholic Faith and active as a youngster in the life of his parochial school and parish church, he has felt equally at home in the Roman/Greek Catholic and Orthodox Churches. In the mid 1970ís while in college, Peter began attending Holy Apostles parish, which in those days was conducting divine services in a Veteransí hall in Garfield, NJ. From day one of his reception into the Orthodox Church, he became a "parish leader" by his example of hard work, dedication, and extraordinary service not only to his parish, but other institutions within the Diocese of NY and NJ and the Orthodox Church in America.

   He was an early and longtime supporter of the New Skete communities and was something of the late Bishop Basilís (Rodzianko) right hand man with the Holy Archangels Broadcasting Center of Washington, D.C. He was tonsured a reader and then a subdeacon by Archbishop Peter and is often called upon to serve the Church in this capacity In addition to his parish council work, he has organized a variety of parish fund-raising and social programs. He is active in many parish works of mercy and is a leader in visiting the sick and shut-ins, bringing them a variety of homemade goodies, flowers, icons, and other reminders that they are not forgotten.

   In addition to this Orthodox Church activities, Peter is well-respected and greatly admired within the Jewish and Moslem communities. While not compromising his own strong Orthodox Faith, he is supportive of the works of mercy and charity undertaken within not only churches, but also synagogues and mosques (Paterson, NJ has twenty-five mosques). With the recent tragic events in our country, Assemblyman Peter Eaglerís election to the State Assembly is perhaps providential given his strong church ties and ability to work so well with the Muslim communities. While it is the responsibility of our President and Government to fight the war on terror and provide for our homeland security, it falls to someone like Peter Eagler to work for peace on the grassroots level.

   Because of the tremendous responsibilities that he now carries, special prayers and a blessing were extended to him at the end of the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday following his swearing-in at the State House in Trenton. But even before this, prayers were said for him during a luncheon held at St. Vladimirís Orthodox Church in Trenton. Through the generosity of Fr. Paul and Matushka Mary Shafran, Peterís family and friends gathered at the Trenton Church and Daria Hall to celebrate the joy that a good and righteous Orthodox Christian is now "our man in Trenton."

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