Orthodox Patriarch Makes Historic Visit To Queens
In Greek, "Patriarch" means "father leader". The Eastern Orthodox "First Among Equals", Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and New Rome, made a historic visit on Wednesday, March 17 to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Flushing. Why was this historic? Patriarch Bartholomew is the Greek equivalent of the Pope, and as such religious father to all Orthodox Christians on every continent in the world. On Wednesday morning he was just that: father to all the children of the Greek Orthodox parochial system of New York City. More than 1,000 children, parents, educators and parishioners filled St. Nicholas Church, leaving standing room only. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, attended along with Metropolitans, ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Greek Patriarchate and Orthodox clergy. His All Holiness honored Rev. Paul Palesty, pastor of St. Nicholas, for his 25 years of service to the Greek Orthodox Church with a unique Byzantine gold cross and a censer for liturgical (religious service) use.
"This is a Patriarchate that loves you like a Mother and realizes your obstacles," said His All Holiness, whose Greek title is "Panayiotate". "I welcome you, our children to visit us in Constantinople. You have an incredible education in Orthodox faith. You are the recipients of a Greek tradition that is thousands of years old. Greek ideals are embedded in the democracy of the United States. Your schools belong to a vibrant church known throughout the world. Children, you have heroic immigrant parents and grandparents who persisted and overcame tremendous obstacles. You are our future of the Greek Orthodox faith, language and culture."
Patriarch Bartholomew’s visit gave support to the St. Nicholas Church new construction campaign. The building project was authorized by the church General Assembly in June 2003. Palesty described the campaign. "Our schools will enjoy new classrooms," he said." The Doulaveris Pre-School will be housed in the main building. We will have a separate professional size gymnasium, Fellowship Hall and auditorium. The parish will have a new library to house our parish archives and important volumes for our schools and parish. The community will double. This project will benefit the present membership and future generations. We are the link between our forefathers, who established this church, and those who will benefit from the ministries of our parish after us."
The Greek Orthodox Shrine Church of St. Nicholas is the largest and most active parish in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The community has grown to more than 1,800 families. Some 30,000 Greek-Americans refer to St. Nicholas as their parish. St. Nicholas Church has 25 active organizations and ministries.
Schools attending included D & G Kaloidis of Holy Cross Church, Brooklyn; Argyrios Fantis Day School of SS. Constantine and Helen Church, Brooklyn; St. Demetrios Greek American School of St. Demetrios, Astoria; Jamaica Day School of St. Demetrios, Jamaica; School of the Transfiguration, Transfiguration Church, Corona; Soterios Ellenas Day School of Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church, Brooklyn; Greek-American Institute of Zoodohos Peghe, Bronx; Three Hierarchs School, Three Hierarchs Church, Brooklyn; and St. Spyridon School of St. Spyridon Church, Manhattan, and William Spyropoulos Greek American School and Doulaveris Pre-School of St. Nicholas Church, Flushing. Maria Makedon is the Direct Archdiocesan District Director of the Greek Orthodox archdiocese education system.
Athena Kromidas is the principal of William Spyropoulos, the host school. There are 500 children who attend the William Spyropoulos Day School. The Greek Afternoon School has an enrollment of four hundred students. Five hundred twenty-five young persons attend Sunday School. The Evlavia Doulaveris Pre-School has more than 70 students.
Catherine Tsounis is an adjunct professor of Modern Greek at St. John’s University and a frequent contributor to this newspaper.