I had originally intended that this column would further explore the importance of women in the early church but will offer it in the coming weeks. What blew me off course was a recent column by a regular writer of the National Herald, Mr. Theodore Kalmoukos. His column called attention and inveighed against the bishops and metropolitans for their failure to speak up and address serious matters which could lead to the eventual demise of the Greek Orthodox Church in America. Kalmoukos called them “a scattered village with nine small archdioceses and nine little archbishops” who almost brought the church to its knees.
We mourn yes, we deeply regret the loss of our people from the faith, and we fervently pray that they return. Yet, those who are here are resolved together with our new leadership to correct, pick up and elevate the scope and range of Greek Orthodoxy in America.
Kalmoukos vindicated the many articles I have written for the NH regarding our bishops, and the strong remarks I used characterizing them as being frozen to their accustomed luxurious lifestyles. I repeat that they should be retired, fired or sent to Mt. Athos to atone for their dereliction of duty. These, except for Metropolitan Nathanael, who has worked diligently, seemingly smoothly, to rectify the Chicago Metropolis after years of misgovernance. Hallelujah for Nathanael! If the other bishops were employed as first-line responders, they would be the last on my list to call.
The Hellenic College / Holy Cross (HCHC) situation is dire. So far, the only appointment to the school is a chaplain. No comment here. My twisted recommendation is to appoint a non-Orthodox Christian person, an accomplished, experienced, retired and successful former university president; pay him or her up to $500,000 per year for at least a three year contract to clean up the Augean mess of many years, hire experienced professors and instructors, and ratify a scholastic program with the important consultancy input and approval of the HCHC College Board of Directors and in direct communication and approval of Archbishop Elpidophoros.
Please read carefully. With a non-Orthodox Christian in absolute charge of HCHC, he or she, from day one, would be in a position to set our seminary and college in order without the interference from bishops who love to whisper, hint or outright demand favors; or the wealthy, who would have him or her hire a daughter, son, godson, priest or in-law to the faculty. An outsider would have no allegiance to Greek friendship ties, koumbaroship [wedding or baptism sponsorship]or any Orthodox family relationships to interfere with the planned college resurrection. The president, he or she, would be responsible only to the HCHC Board of Directors and in direct communication and approval of the Archbishop.
Please note that today, many Catholic colleges and universities, formerly presided over by religious priests and nuns, are now under the direction of Catholic laypeople. Would the Orthodox be willing to try this initial approach? It seems that our clergy were equal to the dynamic responsibility of leadership at HCHC, but were driven off by in-fighting, criticism, and derision by their peers or the gaggle of bishops. So why not a Christian outsider?
Our intrepid Archbishop has been traveling extensively to become knowledgeable of his spiritual domain, interviewing his bishops, ascertaining their strengths and weaknesses, reviewing the order and extent of their control of their dioceses; and in the process, helping to raise considerable funds for the beleaguered St. Nicholas Shrine. These efforts are commendable, necessary and welcomed.
However, as I have previously written, there is a learning curve involved for the Archbishop to understand and learn the where, how and why our beloved Church got to its current condition. In the meantime, our Church with our new Archbishop is finally beginning to experience a well-needed breath of fresh air; after two Archbishops and 25 years of doing nothing toward furthering the expansion and reach of the Greek Orthodox Church, while in fact derailing and in effect, almost annihilating our gem of the Faith.
To those naysayers, I am fully aware of the task, the unending need of the Archbishop to attend to and correct the huge failures of others. As a member of the Faith, I have the right to call attention, as do my fellow worshippers, and to voice my conscience and concerns.
I humbly offer these comments to our esteemed Archbishop, as time is of the essence. We people in the pews have been waiting patiently for 25 years for such a figure as you to lead our Church in America. It is time to rectify the sordid educational conditions at HCHC Seminary and College. Next on the calendar should be the St. Nicholas Shrine, then the retirement of the debt on the Archdiocese Spiritual Home. We know your plate is full, as many areas are crying for redress, reform, and redemption. Yet, we believe our fellow worshipers will rally and support you in your sacred effort to heal the wounds of our Greek Orthodox Church of America.
Nick Karakas, Naples, FL
Mr. Nicholas Karakas, a prominent businessman, and philanthropist, is well-respected for his many contributions to the Greek American community and for his benevolent philanthropic pursuits and has received numerous commendations for accomplishments in business, education, community service.
Presently, Mr. Karakas serves as the chair of the Greek Professorship Advisory committee at the University of Missouri, St. Louis and is responsible for raising $550,000 to fund the Professorship chair for Greek Studies at the same institution. In 1998, he was awarded the Presidential Gold Cross of the Order of the Phoenix, the most notable commendation conferred by the Hellenic Republic, for his contributions to the causes of Hellenism and to the culture of his native land.
He is also co-founder of the Karakas Family Foundation, an organization that awards scholarship grants to needy college students. Currently, by the twenty-first year of its existence, the Foundation has awarded over 350 scholarship grants to young students and for the last twelve years has donated money to winners of the national St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival sponsored by the Greek Orthodox Church. Mr. Karakas also served as President of the Orthodox Christian Laity and is responsible for the establishment of the Mathew-Dickey Endowment Fund, an organization dedicated to the service of 40,000 children in inner-city St. Louis. Finally, he is one of the founders of the Hellenic Spirit Foundation, comprised of a benevolent group of Greek Americans who organize various social events ranging from community service to musical performances and educational programs.