Michael Psaros, in his interview with The National Herald last Friday, September 10, aptly described the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine as a miracle. It was a miracle of resurrection that was experienced by those present when the church was illuminated last weekend for the first time, making Orthodoxy and Hellenism literally shine in New York, in America, and around the world. After all, this is exactly what St. Nicholas will be, a Pan-American and Global shrine.
Of course, it will be basically and mainly an Orthodox Church, a Place of Worship of the Living God, like all the churches and their sacred altars in which the name of God is praised, glorified, and worshiped, and in which His people are gathered and become a Church.
At the same time, however, it will be a sacred and historical point of reference for the entire American Nation, as it will forever remind us that it is a holy and sacred place, because it is watered with blood and the tears of three thousand ‘new martyrs’, people who set out the morning of September 11, 2001 to go to work to provide food and care for their families, and never returned.
That is why the value of this sacred building is truly priceless and cannot be measured in dollars, even in the millions, because there are some treasures in life that are "more valuable than silver and gold." And this is exactly the value that the organization Friends of Saint Nicholas took so seriously, causing its members put their hearts and souls into it, because such projects need ‘soul’ for them to be achieved. And they really did exactly that: they put their souls into it.
One stands impressed before the great achievement of the Friends of Saint Nicholas. Mr. Psaros said in his interview with TNH that, “we have raised approximately $60 million since January 2, 2020. We raised almost $45 million between January 2nd and April 1st of 2020. In January 2020, the Spanos Family of California, demonstrating unparalleled philanthropic leadership and vision, donated $10 million. At one point in April and May of 2021, we raised $1 million a week for almost ten consecutive weeks.”
That is a good summary, at least in financial terms, of the feat of the Friends of Saint Nicholas, which, as is well known, has taken on the responsibility of completing the Church of Saint Nicholas. And to put it bluntly, as always, if this organization had not been set established, and without leaders like Michael Psaros, Dennis Mehiel, and Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Father Alexander Karloutsos, after construction ceased a few years ago, nothing would have happened. We would have still been mourning and grieving over the waste, the gap of twenty whole years, as if the building were haunting us, doing so much harm and damage to the reputation of our Greek-American community and the Greek Orthodox Church not only in the United States, but also around the World.
The collection of the required amount of money for the completion of the Church of Saint Nicholas is undoubtedly another sign for how far we have come from the gray gloom and misfortune into which the Church and our Greek-American community in America had fallen. It proved once again what I have emphasized many times in my articles, that our Omogenia has inexhaustible strengths and capabilities, which with the appropriate clerical and lay leadership and vision are released and truly work wonders, as we are currently experiencing with the ‘miracle’ of St. Nicholas illuminated and shining in the darkness.
The Friends of Saint Nicholas are making history, and historians will write about them. When the organization was formed and I saw that Michael Psaros and Fr. Alexander Karloutsos were participating, I said to myself that Saint Nicholas would finally be completed, and soon, as they display ability and effectiveness in whatever they undertake.
The reality is that over time, without the participation and mobilization of Fr. Alexander, there would have been no Leadership 100 fund, no Faith: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism, no Patriarchal visits to the United States, no Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation, no access to the White House and many higher governmental, state, and institutional officials across the country, nor much else to promote Orthodoxy and Hellenism in the United States.
Here is how Mr. Michael Psaros put it in his interview, regarding Fr. Karloutsos: “The extraordinary service and leadership of Father Alex Karloutsos is the Alpha and Omega of the entire undertaking. Father Alex played a foundational, inspirational, and leading role in this effort for the past twenty years. The lighting of the National Shrine belongs to Father Alex and Presvytera Xanthi.”
And so, St. Nicholas will become what the title of this analysis proclaims, a Pan-American and Global Shrine, joining other great and historic shrines around the World. And this radiant shrine will spotlight our Orthodox Faith and our Hellenic Genos, and be a point of reference and remembrance of the martyrs of the 11th of September of the year 2001.