Dear Mr. Kalmoukos,
After reading your interview with Fathers Jonas and Kaloudis of Holy Trinity Chicago, we feel compelled to reply. Miraculously, it appears that someone has interceded at the 11th hour to save Holy Trinity, and we are all truly grateful for that. However, we also feel it is important that the community understands how the situation became so grave in the first place. We were all members of the HT Parish Council (PC) at the time the community acquired the Deerfield property and have firsthand knowledge of what transpired between Holy Trinity (HT) and The Hellenic American Academy (HAA).
Changing demographics and declining church attendance led to a decision to relocate the Parish. The Deerfield property was purchased with approval of the PC, General Assembly and Metropolis. Some insist Deerfield was purchased solely for the school, yet the church hired a realtor and negotiated to sell the church and school buildings.* An architectural model revealed at the Socrates School Centennial clearly shows a church on the Deerfield site.*
Another falsehood is that $12 million was borrowed by HAA against the church. The church took out a loan to purchase Deerfield, using its properties as collateral. The loan was refinanced through a low interest bond purchase for educational institutions by MB Financial so the loan was transferred to HAA and guaranteed by the HT properties, just like the original loan. $12 million in bonds were available, however only $6 million was borrowed. The agreement between HT and HAA allowed HAA to use Deerfield for 10 years with no obligation to make rent or loan payments.* Despite this, HAA paid $2,500,000 toward the loan. Each side happily contributed what it could, because while we were separate legal entities on paper, we were one united community.
As part of the plan Fr. Kaloudis asked us to hire a young, bilingual Priest, with whom he would work for two years, preparing him to become Proistamenos. The Metropolis assigned Fr. Sotirios Malamis, who was ordained to the Priesthood at Holy Trinity. Fr. Sotiri’s addition created a sense of hope that the Parish was one step closer to fulfilling its plans. Enrollment at the school was increasing. We began Sunday Liturgy in Deerfield, and many former parishioners began attending. There was a sense of renewed interest and optimism.
Under the leadership of Jim Logothetis, both church and school were “in the black”, disproving the theory that this venture was not financially feasible. With things going so well, what happened to bring us to the troubled state in which we find ourselves today? Very simply, Fr. Kaloudis decided that he would not allow Father Malamis to become Proistamenos, and with a small faction decided that the church would not move. While they had every right to change their minds, those decisions had consequences leading to the loss of Fr. Malamis. After waiting five years, instead of the two he was promised, the Metropolis reassigned him to a nearby Parish that had recently opened a day school, and many families followed him there. This was a massive failure of Hierarchical leadership.
Fr. Malamis’ departure and the circumstances around it created doubt and uncertainty. Enthusiasm and support declined, as did enrollment, reducing tuition revenue, placing the school in a perilous financial position, unable to contribute toward the mortgage. The church refused to fulfill its obligation to make payments and rejected settlement proposals, leading to the current, avoidable, situation.
The current PC, rejected offers that provided a viable path toward saving the church. One offer, endorsed by the Metropolis, was to divide the loan, with HAA assuming 2/3 and HT 1/3.* More recently, the Foundation for Hellenic Education and Culture (FHEC) offered to buy the Deerfield property from HT for $4 million to allow the Academy to stay there. Unfortunately, the PC gambled on a $5.4 million offer from a developer (Gilbane) that was contingent on re-zoning. The Parish Council with the approval of the Metropolis Council, evicted 300 students and 35 teachers in the middle of a school year, to cause maximum disruption. By the Grace of God, FHEC purchased a nearby building and the school relocated over Christmas break. Gilbane was not able to secure re-zoning as everyone, except the HT PC, had predicted and withdrew its offer. The Academy had moved, and no longer needed nor had the ability to purchase Deerfield. Based on this, we are particularly disturbed by Fr. Jonas’ statement suggesting Academy members sabotaged the deal so that the Academy could buy the property at a low price. Fr. Jonas also states that HAA President, Jim Logothetis refused an invitation to meet with HT President, Stanley Andreakis. This meeting was only requested after a lawsuit against Mr. Logothetis had been filed, and his attorneys advised him against such a meeting.
This lawsuit against HAA and Mr. Logothetis is particularly disturbing because of the horrible message it sends. Who, in their right mind, will step up and lead, knowing some future group can accuse them of wrongdoing, slander their good name and expose them to a massive financial loss? We will be left with churches filled with well-intentioned people who will never have the fortitude to make ambitious plans, to take a measured risk, or to act in moving the church forward. If Chicago’s Greek community had acted this way in the past, they would have never undertaken the financial burden to build churches and schools.
The lawsuit alleges Mr. Logothetis had a conflict of interest in presiding over both the PC and HAA Board. If Mr. Logothetis had a conflict in serving both institutions, wouldn’t the one attorney who represented both sides, Constantine Kaloudis, also be conflicted? There was no conflict. We were one united community with a common, ambitious goal. The conflicts arose when the plan was abruptly and unilaterally altered.
It is regrettable that it has come to this, especially since this was avoidable. We pray that no other Parish will ever have to experience such a trauma.
*for more information and supporting documentation, please visit www.HolyTrinityDeerfieldTruth.org.
Dr. Steve Ballis
Dr. Spiro Karras