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The Continuous Drama of the School of Theology


Source: The National Herald

Analysis by Theodore Kalmoukos

The main administration building of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek-Orthodox School of Theology in one of the most prominent areas of Brookline Massachusetts. (Photo by TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos)

I have dealt with Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology several times, highlighting some of their serious and deep-rooted problems, not limiting myself to observations but also proposing ideas and possible solutions for reflection and dialogue.

All these efforts stem from love and interest, primarily for the School, and consequently for the Church and our Greek-American community, as they are directly influenced by the School, being the breeding ground for priests.

Undoubtedly, the School has suffered immensely in recent decades, starting under the Αrchiepiscopate of Iakovos, with constant experiments and the dismissal of capable professors such as the world famous Florovsky, Romanides, Mavrakis, to name a few.

The late Archbishop of America and later Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras (Spyrou), along with our pioneering Greek immigrants, with their vision and sacrifices, not only managed to establish the School but also purchased, even in challenging times, this gem of Boston, which their present successors seem incapable of maintaining.

The resignation of President George Cantonis after three-and-a-half years in office once again indicates instability at a higher administrative level in the School. I remind you that he had given this resignation once before due to problems caused by Archbishop Elpidophoros but later withdrew it. This time it is final, as he emphasized in a recent interview with The National Herald on November 10, 2023, citing health reasons and the official announcement.

Nevertheless, the departure of Cantonis, the resignation of the Theological School’s Dean, Fr. George Parsenios, and the dismissal of professors, especially those with academic and institutional tenure, reveal the extent of the unhealthy mentality prevailing. While Cantonis may have acted as the ‘executioner’ of the professors, everyone knows that he could not have done so without the support of Elpidophoros. Period. The question is, who were they replaced with? Of course, the United States Justice system has been called upon to decide on the matter. It’s a pity that things have reached this point.

Regarding the search for Cantonis’ replacement, the details have been extensively covered by TNH from the composition of the search committee to the three final candidates. One of them, Demetrios Logothetis, withdrew his candidacy after meetings with various institutional bodies of the School. Two candidates remained: the priest James Katinas, an employee of the School in the development sector, and Demetrios Katos, former Dean and professor of Hellenic College. Katos was finally voted in as the new president of Hellenic College – Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.

In a previous article, I had written that the person who will be chosen to replace Cantonis this time must be capable, devoted, and dignified, with knowledge of theology and the church, certainly with love and respect for the Greek language and heritage and also familiar with the Greek-American community and its realities.

The low number of students in both schools, Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology totaling 160, with 40 studying online remotely, and 60 in the student body of Hellenic College, up from 40 the previous year, according to Cantonis’ interview, should concern all institutional officials of the Church and the School. Let’s not forget that numbers have their own language and dynamics, defining events and situations precisely and unequivocally, leaving no room for any kind of dispute or spinning.

The annual operational cost of $14.0 million, as stated in Cantonis’ interview with The National Herald should also raise serious concerns.

Moreover, considering that all these years Hellenic College has struggled to establish its identity, usefulness, vision, and goals, I believe there are two options: either to become the most unique and outstanding Center for Greek Studies in America or to make the brave decision to close it. The current situation cannot continue because, on the one hand, it costs a lot of money, and on the other hand, it is shameful to our Community. Only the Theological School should remain, which must regain its momentum – the education and shaping of Greek Orthodox clergy with ethics, dedication, dignity, and sacrificial spirit, rather than producing cold-hearted professionals (επαγγελματίες).”

A campaign should be launched in the Greek American Community to find new, capable, and balanced students to study and become ordained. Attention should be given to the quality of those admitted, as well as those graduating and being ordained.

The mentality of the School needs to change and there must be more outreach to the Community, from which it should draw not only financial support but also young individuals with character, not just amassing numbers for the sake of bragging about an increase of the number of students. Undoubtedly, most problems in the parishes stem from the School, due to problematic, poorly-educated, and ignorant clergy who graduated in recent years. There are, of course, some bright exceptions that continue to uphold its prestige and allure.

Special attention should be given to those converted to Orthodoxy who come to be ordained in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, possibly motivated by the good salaries paid by Greek-American communities. Also, particular attention should be given to those ordained as celibate, as the ‘Archimandritism’ of the celibates has caused much trouble in the Church. If they choose celibacy, then let them go to monasteries, not in the world close to children, young men, and women. Understand?

According to Cantonis’ interview, the School has approximately 100 to 110 employees, including professors. Looking at the official website of the School and knowing faces and situations, I wonder if all of these employees are necessary, or if the School is carrying empty wagons that do not provide essential services but are merely on the payroll. The School is not the refuge of the incapable, the unsuccessful, and the loafers.

Furthermore, the Board of Trustees needs restructuring, starting from the vice chairman and extending to its members. As for the vacant position of the deanship due to the resignation of Fr. Parsenios within two years of his arrival, this is another serious issue of instability.

The person who will be selected should be the most suitable with training, character, and knowledge of the Greek Language and love for Hellenism. Of course, the latter has been completely abandoned by the ‘Americanized’ Elpidophoros.

I emphasize once again that it is a matter of persons. I am afraid that if the usual rhythms and mentalities continue, we should expect to see ‘the end’ as the Messianic hope created by the appointment of Elpidophoros to the Archdiocese of America has been exhausted between Facebook, Twitter, and plastic smiles.

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  2. Cato the Elder on

    I agree that Hellenic Collage should be closed. It is a failure by any reasonable standards and should no longer be a drain on the assets of the Archdiocese.

    The best course would be for Holy Cross to merge with St. Vladimir to create a world class theological school. St. Vladimir is considering a move from its current campus in Yonkers, NY. Holy Cross occupies real estate in Brookline, MA that could house the combined school until an appropriate location elsewhere is found. Selling Holy Cross’s real estate and combining the two schools in a facility in a new location with new independent leadership would be a win-win solution.

    The Assembly of Bishops should take the lead in this. It will require the likes of Mr. Kalmoukos and TNH to stop trying to use the Orthodox Church to promote modern Greek language and culture in America.

    Pat. Bartholomew has encouraged the Assembly to stop thinking in terms of “what is mine and what is yours” and, instead think along the line of “what is ours.” If the Patriarch is serious he can instruct Archbishop Elpidophoros, as the presiding hierarch of the Assembly and all of the bishops under the Patriarchate to approve this merger.

  3. The mentalities of SVS and Holy Cross are totally at odds. Holy Cross still must service the Greek American parishes in the U.S. SVS’s focus is THE AMERICAN CHURCH and converts. Of course, there are still plenty of Slavic families, but Russian & other languages are no longer needed.

  4. Cato the Elder on

    “The mentalities” of SVS and Holy Cross are at odds. “The cultures” of the two institutions are different.

    The same old, same old. Time to get past the past and look to the future. SVS and HC already have student exchange programs.

    The reasons for and benefits of a merger outweigh the differences and challenges.

    “THE AMERICAN CHURCH” is the only Church the Assembly of Bishops is supposed to be uniting and bringing into canonical order.

    It includes, for now, Greek American parishes as well as other jurisdictions that may be even more “ethnic” than the Greek Archdiocese. A recent prospect to lead Holy Cross reportedly took a pass at the opportunity because it wasn’t “Greek” enough. That is the complaint of The National Herald and diasporists in Astoria, NY.

    They’ll have to get over it.

    We need American priests to serve in American parishes, while parish by parish those who don’t understand English will continue to be served in languages they understand until they learn English.

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